Sharing Jesus Part 1 – Starting a Conversation

This is the first of several short articles about sharing Jesus in a normal and natural manner that is not dependent on a specific ‘method’. As believers, many of us want to share Jesus with others, but hesitate out of nervousness and even fear. On the other hand, some of us aren’t nervous or fearful, so we charge right in using a particular method we found somewhere or were taught by someone. My friends, it doesn’t have to be so hard. How hard is it for us to talk about other exciting things in our lives? Sharing Jesus can and should be as natural as talking about a new house, car, smartphone, or even having just been married to the man/woman of your dreams. Having said all that, let’s begin.

Sharing Jesus Part 1 – Starting a Conversation

Here’s the scenario.

God has placed in your heart a desire to share Jesus and the message of the gospel with a relative, friend, co-worker, or even someone you just met (it happens). You know it’s a real because 1) God has given you a burden to reach the lost around you and 2) you asked God to point you in the right direction. And although you’ve studied various ‘methods’ of personal evangelism, you don’t know which one to use, or how to start. You are afraid of using the wrong method. How do you proceed with this important task?

Well, like the title of this blog post suggests, start a conversation, after having asked God to open a heart to hear a hard message!

Now what that conversation might sound has a lot of possibilities, depending on the specific situation, your relationship with this person, and what you know about his/her level of spiritually. Never mind all that for now, just start the conversation with a few things in mind as you press toward the final goal of the discussion – the point at which it’s time for your conversation partner to consider responding to the message of the gospel you are about to share.

First of all, you need to identify and understand the root problem before you offer a solution. Jesus didn’t come to earth and die on a cross for ‘your best life now’, or any variation of that theme. He came to die for the sins of God’s people (See Matthew 1:21). Our ultimate goal is to share the Christ who died for our sins, I don’t know anyone who wants to hear they have a sin problem.

Does that sound tough, or what? Yes it does, but remember that you have already prayed that God open a heart to hear. The problem of sin IS the main issue the message of the gospel addresses. We have all sinned, Christ died for those sins, and that ultimately deserves a response. Never fear, you don’t have to quote Romans 3:23 at the start of the conversation, but you do need to somehow take the topic of the conversation to the main issue..

Actually, you don’t even need to use the dreaded “S” word, not yet anyway. You can start this most important conversation just like you might start any other conversation. Just choose a hot topic from the news. If you don’t listen to, watch, or read the news it’s time to start. Think of something ‘bad’ that was reported. There’s plenty out there. It could be local crime, dirty politics, another mass shooting or terrorist attack anywhere in the world. Pick one.

You might ask, “Did you hear about what happened at/in ________________?” “Why do you think that guy did that?” Just ask about something specific everyone probably knows about and ask a “Why do you think…..” question. You’re sending the message that you are interested in a thoughtful response, the other person’s opinion.

The answer most likely will be on the lines of “He was nuts…….just plain mean……he hates, etc., a specific possible reason. Take the reason given and ask another “why do you think” question. “Why do you think he’s nuts, mean, hateful, etc. That’s a different level question that goes to the motive for the ‘act’. You might get an answer or you might not.

What you would like to hear is something like “Well, I don’t know for sure, but maybe there’s something inside that caused him to …….” If you get that response, you can take the conversation to a still deeper level by asking another question along the lines of “What do you think that ‘inner’ problem might be?” Or, if you didn’t hear something about an inherent human problem, suggest the possibility of an ‘inner’ issue. The entire goal of the conversation is to agree that there’s an ‘inner’ problem with all of us humans.

At this point it’s time to identify and name the problem. People attribute bad acts to psychological problems, growing up in a bad home, hanging out with the wrong crowd, and even genetics. The Bible calls our problem ‘sin. This is the moment in the conversation to bring that up. The conversation has officially begun!

The discussion might continue, or be left for thoughtful consideration. The problem has been identified; the next part of the conversation will be to understand the problem. We’ll address that in the next article.

Do you see where this is going? Some have called this the “Colombo” technique (Think Peter Falk and all his question asking). All you are doing is having a friendly conversation with the goal of taking the conversation to the main problem we all have – sin. You don’t really have to open a Bible until you get to the part where you suggest that “The Bible calls our problem sin.” That’s the time to read directly from its pages (Romans 3:23 for example). Reading text from the pages of scripture leaves little or no room for receiving a “that’s your opinion” response.

So that’s how you start a conversation with an unbeliever. It might only take a single conversation to get to the main issue, or it might take longer. You asked God to open a heart before you began the conversation and you continued to pray during the conversation. Now pray that God, through the Holy Spirit, would water the seeds you planted.

At the right time, you might hear “Remember what you were telling me about. . .” (The door has just been blown wide open.), or you can ask about the last BIG conversation. Just move at a perfectly natural pace. Remember that the goal of personal evangelism is, as Alistair Begg defines it:

“…to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him.”

May God add his blessing to your sharing Jesus with a lost world!

P.S. It’s quite possible that you might be sharing Jesus with one person, and someone else will stop you one day and share that he/she overheard you talking and met the Savior because of it. It happens. I know this one.

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Gospel Invitations

We use them all the time.

“Come to Jesus today. It might be your last chance.”

“You just need to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.”

“Open / give your heart to Jesus.”

“Ask Jesus into your heart.”

“If you pray this prayer, you will be saved.”

Has anyone ever found anything resembling one of the above (or others) in the New Testament? All I can find are commands or statements about repenting and believing.

If ‘gospel invitations’ we use have no scriptural basis, why do we use them?

I really want to know.

Recognizing a “different” gospel – a practical exercise. . .

In a  previous post  we suggested using a “3 S” model for recognizing a “different”, or false, gospel.

1. What is the teaching’s SOURCE of truth?

2. What about the SAVIOR?

3. What are the requirements for SALVATION?

While some false gospels recognize the Bible as the ultimate source of truth and acknowledge Jesus as the Savior, they present the requirements for salvation (what one must believe) in attractive but sometimes incomplete manner.

Using the words of Jesus and Paul, followed by those of a very popular west coast Pastor, we offer you a challenge. Examine them both and put on your spiritual thinking cap.

Jesus, at the beginning of his earthly ministry said:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

The Apostle defined the gospel message quite clearly:

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:1-4)

In the video that accompanies the “40 Days of Purpose”, the popular west coast Pastor (Rick Warren) leads his listeners in prayer at the end of the first session. The prayer goes like this:

“Dear God, I want to know your purpose for my life. I don’t want to base the rest of my life on wrong things. I want to take the first step in preparing for eternity by getting to know you. Jesus Christ, I don’t understand how but as much as I know how I want to open up my life to you. Make yourself real to me. And use this series in my life to help me know what you made me for.”

Warren goes on to say:

“Now if you’ve just prayed that prayer for the very first time I want to congratulate you. You’ve just become a part of the family of God.”

On page 58 of “The Purpose Driven Life” Warren gives perhaps his most complete gospel presentation. He states,

“Right now, God is inviting you to live for his glory by fulfilling the purposes he made you for . . . all you need to do is receive and believe….

First, believe God loves you and made you for his purposes. Believe you are not an accident. Believer you were made to last forever. Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you. Believe that no matter what you’ve done, God wants to forgive you.

Second, receive. Receive Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior. Receive his forgiveness for your sins. Receive his Spirit, who will give you the power to fulfill your life purpose.”

Again, he offers a sample prayer,

“I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity, “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.” He promises, “If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God! You are now ready to discover and start living God’s purpose for your life.”

Based on what you have just read, do you think that Rick Warren presents a complete gospel message, a “different” gospel, or something in between? You can keep your thoughts to yourself, or you can share them here. Perhaps we can have a good discussion!

No Other Gospel

“6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV)

In the above passage, the Apostle Paul is speaking to four local churches he had planted during his first missionary Journey in the Galatian cities of Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Not long after he had planted those churches, false teachers arose in Galatia asserting that in order to really be a Christian, one had to also follow Mosiac Law. Paul was astonished that believers in Galatia had departed from the gospel of faith alone that he had preached to them and had turned to ‘another’ gospel that was really not the gospel. In fact, Paul accused those believers of turning away from Christ himself, not just the message of justification by faith.

Paul also had some very harsh words for those who would preach ‘another’ gospel. He first says in verse 8 that if he (Paul) or his companions preached a different gospel that they should be ‘accursed’. In verse 9 he broadens the group of those that should be ‘accursed’ to include anyone who would preach a different or false gospel.

The word ‘accursed’ literally means ‘devoted to destruction’. The term was used in the Old testament in connection with the fall of Jericho. It was a term used for the city of Jericho itself and for one Achan, who had stolen an ingot of gold, a quantity of silver, and a costly garment during Jericho’s demise. When Paul states that those who preach a ‘different’ gospel should be ‘accursed’ he is pronouncing that they are deserving of condemnation.

Since preachers of false gospels deserve condemnation, we need to be able to spot a ‘different’ gospel and avoid it, along with its purveyors, like the plague. First, let us define the true gospel according to Jesus and Paul.

Jesus, at the beginning of his earthly ministry said:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

The Apostle defined the gospel message quite clearly:

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:1-4)

So what are the marks of a false gospel?

Well, the list could be quite long, and would become even longer if we named some of today’s false teachers, many of whom appear regularly on ‘Christian’ TV. Rather than get into the weeds however, allow me to suggest three questions that can be asked of any teaching that you might come across.

1. What is the teaching’s SOURCE of truth?

2. What about the SAVIOR?

3. What are the requirements for SALVATION?

If you can remember three key words, SOURCE, SAVIOR, & SALVATION and what they mean, you will be well on your way to being able to spot (discern) just about any ‘different’ gospel on the street

What is the teaching’s SOURCE of truth?

Is the ultimate source of truth for the teaching you are listening to the Bible or something else, such as the teachings of Ellen G. White for Seventh Day Adventists, the Book of Mormon, or a human institution outside of the Bible. If the Bible is not the ultimate source of truth there’s a problem.

What about the SAVIOR?

Another way to ask this question is “Who is Jesus according to this teaching/teacher?” Is the Jesus of this teaching the Jesus of the Bible? Is he the eternal Son of God and equal member of the trinity, or is he just a good man, great teacher, a man who somehow attained ‘godhood’? Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus was ‘a god’, not God. Mormonism teaches that Jesus is the creator and savior of mankind, but that he is one of many gods, a created being and elder brother of Lucifer.

What are the requirements for SALVATION?

This question gets to the heart of Paul’s argument in the book of Galatians. If anything is added to Christ’s death for OUR sins (substitutionary sacrifice), there is a ‘different’ (false) gospel. In the case of the Galatians, it was adding the keeping of the Mosaic law. For Mormons and JW’s salvation is based on believing the ‘right’ things according to their respective doctrinal statements and having achieved a certain level the ‘right’ works.

Sinners are in fact justified (declared righteous) before a holy God by works, just not human works, but the perfect work of Christ on our behalf.

If you are reading this, by now you are probably thinking about other religions or even Christian denominations that might be categorized as teaching a ‘different’ gospel. If you are, I encourage you to apply the three “S” questions. If you still have honest questions, leave a comment and perhaps we can shed more light or point you in the right direction for a satisfactory answer.

“He will save his people from their sins.”

The above words were spoken by an angel of the Lord to Joseph concerning Mary, his betrothed. Here is the full context from Matthew 1:18-21:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Emphasis mine)

Those 7 emphasized words,he will save his people from their sins” perfectly describe the reason Christ came to this earth. If you are reading this, you might be asking yourself (and me) “What else is new?” After all, we who profess Christ know that Jesus died so that we who believe might have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus was crucified to make our salvation possible.

But is that all there is to this short passage? Is there a deeper meaning to these few words? Let’s break it down and see.

“He will save. . .”

This is the Christ child’s great business in this world. It is He who will save and He alone. This is an emphatic statement. He WILL save, not just make salvation possible. He will save perfectly and completely. Those whom Jesus grants eternal life will never perish (John 10:28). Jesus is God and God cannot fail in any of his purposes.

“He will save his people. . .”

Who are his people? In the first instance they are lost sheep of Israel. In the second instance, they are sheep not of the house of Israel that Jesus claimed were his. (John 10:16).

What are some characteristics of his sheep?

1. They are the ‘believing ones’ of John 3:16 – all those who believe Christ suffered the just punishment and wrath of God for their sins.

2. They were those chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, chosen from the beginning for salvation and appointed unto salvation. (Eph 1; 2 Thess 2:13; Acts 13:48)

3. They are those given as a precious love gift to the Son and who will come to the Son when the Son calls them, never to be cast out (John 6:37, 38).

4. They are those who are unable to come to Christ on their own, but are drawn by the Father to the Son and whom the Son will raise up on the last day (John 6:44, 66).

5. They are those in whom God has begun a work and will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6; Rom 8:29, 30).

“He will save his people from their sins.”

This refers not only to the sins fallen men commit, but also the taint of what is called ‘original’ sin, the sin we are born with as a result of the of the sin of Adam, in whom we all sinned (Rom 5:12), and which makes us ‘by nature’ children of wrath (Eph 2).

This my friends, is why Christ came to this earth – to save his people from their sins. All the rest of what we do during the Christmas season pales in comparison.