Evangelism ALWAYS involves sharing Biblical facts with lost people. We must tell them about sin, judgment, grace, and forgiveness. We must tell them about Jesus Christ and His perfect life imputed to believers; and His atoning death applied to our account. We must tell them of the necessity of turning from sin in repentance and placing their faith in Christ as LORD of their life. We must tell them about the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, and his promised return. But in sharing the gospel---where do you start?
It depends on where the person is at spiritually… On Wednesday nights we have been studying the life of Paul. Its interesting to note the difference in approaches when he shares the gospel with Jews, versus when he shares with Gentiles (and pagans). When sharing with Jews, he has a starting point. Supposedly, they already believed in the Old Testament. They understood the concept of Yahweh the one true God and they had some idea of the coming Messiah. Paul was able to “reason with them” from their own Scriptures--and argue that Jesus Christ was in fact the long awaited Messiah. Paul could point to fulfilled prophecies and explain that Christ came to pay for sins as a “suffering servant” rather than to punish the Romans as a political king.
But notice what Paul does in Acts 17 when he is in Athens trying to share the gospel to pagans. He has to start WAY further back. In fact he goes all the way back to creation in verse 24, yet by verse 30 he is preaching Christ and the resurrection. And he does it masterfully! Paul’s sermon to the pagans on Mars Hill is one of the greatest sermons ever preached and offers us an example of how to start from square one in sharing the gospel.
Can you see the similarities between Paul’s day and ours? We know some lost people who have a certain amount of reverence for the church and God’s Word. They may take their hats off when they come in the church building, they may believe the Bible is God’s Word if you asked them. They have nice things to say about Christians---they’re often times very sweet people. But they’re also sinners who need a Savior. With these people we have a starting place---the Bible. If they claim to believe the Bible, then you can approach them by sharing the gospel “based upon what the Bible says.” And they may listen. NOW---try walking up to an atheist and telling them “what the Bible says.” They’re likely to scoff because they could care less about the Bible. They don’t even believe in God. They are more like the pagans in Athens and we may have to go back a little further with them. Read Acts 17:17-34 and notice how Paul tells the pagans about:
God’s Power (He is Lord & Creator. He cannot be contained. He has no needs)
God’s Sovereignty (He decided where and when we would live. We should seek Him, but as sinners--we don’t)
God’s Nearness (Though we seek Him not--He is near to all of us)
God’s Personal Knowledge of us (We are only alive because he allows us to be. Our life ends when He says it does), and finally
God’s Salvation (Repentance and faith in Christ--Judgment is coming!)
In talking to someone about Christ, you may have to elaborate on some of these themes, but notice how Paul starts with a somewhat vague concept of the Creator God and He makes it more and more personal with each step…leading up to his proclamation of salvation in Christ alone. And notice how Paul doesn’t shy away from preaching judgment to sinners. (They’ll never understand the good news, unless they know there’s bad news.)
Paul shared the gospel. He encouraged the lost to turn to Christ. But he left the results up to God. Wednesday night we talked about some of the results of sharing the gospel. For Paul--some ridiculed him (v. 18), some analyzed him (v. 18), some showed interest (v. 19-20), some made fun of him (v. 32), some procrastinated (v. 32), AND SOME WERE SAVED (v. 34). We will see the same results in our evangelism. The secret is to not let the negative reactions deter us. We may get made fun of 10 times, but God may be planning to save the 11th one we witness to. Will you be faithful in the ten rejections for the sake of the one? Aren’t you glad someone was faithful and persevered in your case?
Speaking of Evangelism…I met with Tim Smith this afternoon about our upcoming revival (September 10-13). Tim & I visited and prayed together, asking God to bless this time in our church. Tim wanted to know what I wanted him to preach on--and he told me what he was thinking--Strangely enough it was the exact same thing (Coincidence? Hardly). The first night of the Revival will be “Youth Night.” It’s a Sunday night (which is our regular Youth meeting) and we are hoping the teenagers will pack the place with kids. Mike will lead music. Tim will preach the gospel. God will be glorified. On Monday night Tim will focus on God’s Unreachable Holiness. Tuesday night will be Man’s Absolute Depravity. Now, you should look at the two of those and be very discouraged--if you’re lost. God’s standard is perfection, yet your heart is depraved. How then shall we be saved? Wednesday night, Tim will talk about the Glorious and Total Sufficiency of Jesus Christ to bridge the gap--pay for sin--change the heart--and grant eternal life. All four nights Tim will end by clearly presenting the Biblical gospel of repentance and faith. I ASSURE YOU---YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS THESE MESSAGES! These 3 doctrines were MAJOR themes in the preaching of the Puritans…and God used their preaching to IGNITE a revival in colonial America known as The Great Awakening. The preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield saw multitudes of conversions. Bars closed down for lack of business. People who NEVER CARED about Christ were suddenly awakened to their lost state and were saved. Complacent Christians were set on fire for Christ. The Lord did a work. Oh, that he would do it again in our day!
Be in prayer for the Revival. I assure you Tim is taking it seriously. He turned down another engagement in December to focus on our meetings. I look forward to what God might do…IF WE ARE PREPARED. Be in prayer for the lost. Be in prayer for yourself. Be in prayer for me, and our church. Be in prayer for Tim. Invite neighbors, relatives, co-workers, and friends. Come every night focused on God. I have no doubt that Tim’s preaching will give you a greater love and reverence for God the Father--it will lift up and magnify Jesus Christ and the Cross -- and it will be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Be in prayer for lives to be changed. And pray that one of those lives is yours.