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HOW TO LEAD OTHERS TO JESUS

[The following transcript is taken from a four tape cassette sermon series titled "What is Evangelism?" given by Pastor Greg Laurie. In this series he gives some of the clearest instructions on personal evangelism I've ever heard. Just consider this one sermon transcript a wonderful foretaste of that series. This series and his companion book "How to SHARE your FAITH" are available online at: http://www.harvest.org. Click on it, then click on "Books" and scroll down the page till you find "How to SHARE your FAITH". To find the four cassette series "What is Evangelism?" click on "Tapes" instead of "Books", and scroll down the page until you find that title. Both the tape series and the book are worth every penny spent. You might say the book brings together all the essential facts in the four tape series in a concise, easy to understand manner--a virtual How To on personal evangelism. From the back flap of Greg's book we read "I WAS SWEATINHG, SHAKING, AND THINKING, "THIIS ISN'T GOING TO WORK!" Is that how you feel when it comes to witnessing? You're not alone. Statistics tell us that: 95 PERCENT OF ALL CHRISTIANS HAVE NEVER LED ANOTHER PERSON TO CHRIST. So how do you learn the skills of helping a person pass from darkness to light? YOU'RE HOLDING THE ANSWER RIGHT IN YOUR HANDS. Greg Laurie has not just written a book. He's put down on paper what really works when you share Christ. Not only that, but these brief, fast-moving chapters are actually fun to read.

YOU'LL FIND THE PRACTICAL...
*How to build a bridge
*How to avoid arguments
*How to use Scripture properly
*How to present Jesus as the only way

ALONG WITH THE PROBLEMS...
*What if they say no?
*what if they say yes?!

No slick fixes here. Just a readable, enjoyable collection of first-person stories that will fire you up and give you firepower. STOP FEELING GUILTY ABOUT NOT SHARING YOUR FAITH. Relax, take a deep breath--and take this book home. It really works!" [To order by mail write Harvest Ministries, PO BOX 4000, Riverside CA 92514-4000. How to SHARE your FAITH ( BLLIV5) is $8.00, made out to Harvest Ministries. A good companion booklet is How To Live Forever, which is geared specifically for the non-believer as a witnessing tool. (It is $5.00). The WHAT IS EVANGELISM four cassette tape series can is also available for $20.00 at this address.]

If you desire to order the book in bulk for your congregation I suggest calling Harvest Christian Fellowship at: 1-800-821-3300 and speaking with them. Once you read it, you'll want to provide copies of this book for your congregation, I guarantee you.]

"Let's turn in our Bibles now to Acts chapter 8. And we're sort of in a series, in a series, in a series. Of course our larger series is call A Foundation For Living. I apologize, we didn't have the notes available for this week. And that is because I didn't get to it in time. And I could give you my excuse, and you might be impressed by it. My computer crashed. Ever have that happen? No fun. Lost a whole bunch of sermons. I wanted to take a gun to that thing, honestly. But I'll get this weeks' and last weeks' next Sunday morning. Our series is the Foundations For Living. We've been looking at the church together. We've been looking at how the early church was an evangelistic church, and we're in a little mini-series, in a series, in a series, and the title of this message is "How To Lead Others To Jesus." And our text is Acts chapter 8 that we'll read in a moment. But in our last message we pointed out that God wants to use us to share the gospel with others. And you remember that to do this you do not necessarily have to have great theological skills or even public speaking abilities. Rather what is needed is a willingness, an openness, to put it quite simply, an availability. Because you can learn theology in time. We've been studying it, for all practical purposes, together on Sunday morning on this series Foundation For Living. In time you can become more effective in communicating your faith. But that willingness is what it needs to start with, where you would say, "Lord, I want to be a laborer in the harvest." We looked in our last time together, in the story of Philip, which we're going to look at once again, and noted how God led him to go to a city of Samaria and preach the gospel to them. And he was preaching to a great crowd of people. Then the Lord redirected him to go and bring the gospel to one empty searching man from Ethiopia, who had gone to Jerusalem searching for God. [And this Ethiopian is credited with bringing Christianity to Ethiopia!] And it just reminds us that you never know when you get up in the morning what God has in store. He may have you share the gospel with one person, or he may have you share with a whole room full of people. You never know. You just need to be open. Now for many people the idea of speaking in public is a terrifying thought. I've read a number of surveys that say that the fear of public speaking is on the top of most people's list. I've read one study that I found hard to believe that revealed that people are more afraid to speak in public than they are to die. That's hard to imagine. "Well, all right, we have a choice, we can die or speak publicly." "Kill me." It's that fear of rejection I suppose, fear that people aren't going to listen to you. I've had all those things happen to me, by the way. And it's something that many of us don't want to do. In fact, after I became a Christian, I had this fear that God was going make me preach one day. And I thought he was going to do it at a really inopportune time. I envisioned him calling upon me, maybe in the supermarket or something, and I'm waiting in line and the Spirit of God would speak to me and say, "Preach the Gospel really loudly" you know, and I'd have to turn around to the people behind me and say "I see that some of you have bread that you're buying today, but Jesus said, 'I am the bread of life'..." I don't know what I'd say, you know. But I was afraid it would happen to me. Well one day it did. And I was a young Christian. I'd had that opportunity to lead that lady to the Lord that I told you about in our last message. And I was just going to church and studying the Bible. I was not teaching in any capacity. In fact, basically I was doing graphic arts to support myself, and just wanted to live the Christian life. Well I went down to a baptism at Big Corona Beach one day that was being sponsored by Calvary Chapel. As it turns out I got the time wrong and I got there after it had ended. And there was a group of Christians sitting out there meeting, and singing songs. And I walked over and was looking for the leader, the pastor. There was no one apparently in charge. I just sat down, and after we sang a couple songs together someone else would say, "Let's sing this" and we'd sort of stumble through that song. And I thought, "We'll, who's this?" There was no one, and then the Lord began to impress upon my heart that I should share a little something from the Word that he had shown me that morning. I was so nervous. Then I finally said "----I----would----like------to----share-----something..." "Yeah, go ahead." And so I said a few things and after I was done I felt so good. I said, "Oh God it's so great to be used by you. Lord, if you ever want to call upon me, I'm available, it's so wonderful!"---because it was done, it was over with! I was relieved. And, as I was sharing my little mini message, a couple of girls had come up and approached the group and saw me speaking and someone leaned over to me and said "These girls want you to baptize them." "I'm not a pastor, I'm just a Christian here at this meeting. I don't even know how to baptize someone." "Oh please, would you baptize us." And others went "Yeah, do it! Do it!" Then I think, 'How'd I get myself into this thing?' And again, just sensing the Lord telling me "Do it!" I said, "OK, well, let's go, come on." And we all got up and were walking down Big Corona Beach making our way over to this little side cove called Pirate's Cove that's sort of a rocky area with a little beach down there. So we're making our way along, we had about thirty people, I'm walking in front of 'em with these two girls, and I thought "This is insane!" So we got down to the beach and we got into the water and I said, "OK, let's go out and I'll baptize you." And I had no idea how to do this. I had never studied the technique of baptism. You know, I'd watched Chuck Smith do it, and I remember something with holding the nose, you know, so I got 'em out in the water and kind of tilted them and held their nose to the best of my ability and we were all done and I said "Oh Lord, you're so good, it's so good to be used by you. Lord if you ever want to call on me, I'm available." I can hardly wait now to go and tell my friends what the Lord did. And then as we were done I looked up on the rocks there, (it formed sort of a natural amphitheater) and they were watching, and as clear as day the Lord impressed upon my heart to preach. This is the moment I dreaded. This is what I had feared would come upon me, and there it was. You know what happened? God gave me a boldness that was not my own. And I began to speak to these people. And next thing I knew, I was saying, "And if you want to accept Jesus, you come down here!" And some people came down, and we prayed, and they gave their lives to the Lord and I baptized them. It was a crazy day, I'll tell you!

You never know what God has in store. I certainly didn't know the Word that well. I was not a great theologian then. I don't claim to be one now, either, but...I was really, really new in the faith at that time, but I was available, and I sort of limped through it. God can use us. And here's a story in the Bible that tracks in a similar way, how one thing led to another. We read it before, but let's read it again. It's Acts chapter 8 and we'll start in verse 26. "Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying 'Arise, and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza'"--this is desert--"So he arose and went and behold a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candice the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all of her treasury, had come to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning and sitting in his chariot and reading Isaiah the prophet [ordinarily men didn't own scrolls of the Bible, they were kept in synagogues--so this man was wealthy.]. "Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go near and overtake that chariot.' So Philip ran to him and heard him reading the Prophet Isaiah and said, 'Do you understand what you're reading?' And he said, 'How can I unless someone guides me and shows me the way', and asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this, 'He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before a sheerer is silent, so he opened not his mouth, and in his humiliation his justice was taken away. And who shall declare his generation, for his life is taken from the earth?' So the eunuch answered Philip and said, 'I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?' Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning at this Scripture preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road they came to some water. The eunuch said, 'Hey, here's some water. What would hinder me from being baptized?' Philip said, 'Well, if you believe with all of your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' So he commanded the chariot to stand still, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and he baptized him. Now when they had come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away so the eunuch saw him no more and he went on his way rejoicing." We'll stop here.

You know, in our last two messages on evangelism, we pointed out some essentials. You may remember them, but let me refresh your memory:

  1. We noted that any evangelism must come from a God-given burden. And if you do not have a burden for the lost people, a compassion for them, a care for them, then all of the techniques, training, the rest of it, will be of no avail. It must start with a God-given holy compassion for the lost people.

  2. We must go to where people are. [Remember in Wilson's "Principles of War: a strategy for group and personal evangelism" this principle comes under the heading of "Mobility"? Go back to the lead article in this section titled "What is Evangelism?" on this web site and look up that principle. This is what Pastor Greg is talking about.] You remember that Philip went down to Samaria. And being a Jew he would have had a natural prejudice against the Samaritan people and they toward him. But yet God was telling him to overcome his prejudice, his hang-ups, and go to these people and bring the gospel to them. He went to where the people were.

  3. Thirdly, he was open to the leading of the Spirit of God. The Spirit said 'Go and overtake the chariot.' He was open, his antenna was up, so to speak. As the Scripture says, "Be instant in season and out of season", or 'Be on duty at all times.'

  4. Having sensed that leading he was obedient. He could have refused, like Jonah did and gone in the opposite direction. But instead he obeyed. And it reminds us that God will usually lead us in line, one step at a time. I've rarely had the Lord give me a blueprint of what was ahead. It's usually just one thing. And don't expect him to show you what the next thing is until you've taken that step to do the 1st thing. And as you're obedient at one thing he tells you what to do after that, one step at a time. Fifth--

  5. Philip was tactful and clear. "Do you understand what you're reading?" he says to this man from Ethiopia. And now the sixth principle--

  6. Philip adapted to the situation. He adapted to the situation. Here was this visiting dignitary from Ethiopia searching for God, reading aloud from the book of Isaiah. Man, you talk about a Divine setup. You know what those are--those are those moments that are just orchestrated by God himself that you sort of just stumble into. And in my life they always come when I least expect them. Usually when I'm out doing normal day-to-day things, and something will just open up. The Bible says the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. So we just say in the morning, "I commit my day to you." The other day this week actually something like this happened to me. I was with my wife in a department store, and we're walking around and she's looking at dresses and this kind of thing and you know, that to me, a fate worse than death, to stand there and look at these things. I'm just being honest. So I was just wandering off on my own, and I went through one section with men's clothing. I'm just looking around, I'm not really stopping and looking at anything. And I come around this one counter and this girl says, "Are you Greg Laurie?" And I said, "Yes I am." And she said, "I can't believe you're here!" And she looked like she'd seen a ghost or something--"I can't believe you're actually here!" "Well, yeah, I'm here." "Well, you know, I can't believe it!" And I said "Why can't you believe it?" and she said, "We were just talking about you a few minutes ago, just a few minutes ago! Here you are! My friend and I were talking! Come on over!" and she brings over this other girl. This girl walks over and...but this other girl didn't believe that I was me. "Awh, you're not Greg Laurie." I said, "No, I am." She said, "No, you not!" I said "It's right, I'm his stunt double." So I showed her my drivers license and she believed it. I had to show her that. And so we were talking and they said, "We were just talking about you, you know, how she needs to get right with the Lord, and then you come along and we were talking with a friend over here, he works in another department, he's living in an immoral lifestyle, and he was saying it's OK to be a Christian and live like that, you know. If you could just talk to him. We think he'd really listen to you." And I said, "Well, OK,..." She said, "We're going to go get him." I said, "OK, but tell him what he's gettin' himself into, alright?" "Tell him that I'm a pastor and you know, tell him what the Bible says, so he doesn't feel trapped." "OK, we'll tell him, we'll tell him." And so they go over and get this guy and they bring him back and they said, "This is Greg Laurie, he's a preacher!" "Oh, ok, nice to meet you." And they said, "Tell him, tell him! Oh, by the way, he's a homosexual!" This guy's standing there going Oh--. And he says, "I don't really think this is appropriate to talk about this here." He was obviously not happy that these girls brought him over to me, and "I don't want to discuss this--" and I just stood there and waited, and then he said, "Let me just say this really quickly. I believe that I can live this way and still be a Christian." And, well, this was a Divine setup. Now I'm not going to tell you what happened after that until a little later in the message. It's kind of a cliff-hanger. Because I know some of you nod out sometimes, so when I see it happen I'm going to throw it out there--Back to that store! We'll get back to it in a moment. I just wanted to sort of share it to point out it was a Divine setup, OK? Now let's come back to this [Philip in Acts 8] and we'll see what happened.

    So Philip adapted to the situation. He took time to assess the situation. Here's this guy, reading from Isaiah 53. And Philip did what every believer should do. He became all things to all men. 'OK, here's what I need you to do.' He built on what was already taking place. This is where we need to be sensitive in sharing the gospel. Sometimes I see people and the way they speak, they come up like they're anomatronic figures. They get this sort of glazed look over them and say "The Bible says this and the Bible says that..." Wait! Snap out of it here. It's OK to talk with a person, to converse with them, to get to know them a little bit, find out what they think, and see the best way to bring the gospel to them. Because as I'll talk with a person and they'll identify certain things, I'll see little bridges that can be built, little doors of opportunity that I could walk through--"You mentioned this, and here's what the Bible says." So that's what Philip was doing. He was adapting to the situation. And we need to realize that though everyone is essentially the same, and as we pointed out in our last message--everyone is empty, they're lonely, they're guilty, they're afraid to die, yet we all may be at a different state in life. So I like to try to adapt to the situation. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 9, verses 19 to 23 from the New Living Translation, "I have become a servant to everyone so I can bring them to Christ. When I'm with the Gentiles, who do not have the Jewish Law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the Law of God, I kept the Law of Christ. And when I'm with those who are oppressed I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ." Listen, "Yes I try to find common ground with everyone, so I might bring them to Christ. I do all of this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings." I especially like that one statement when he says "I try to find common ground with everyone, so I might bring them to Christ." You see, Jesus said, "Follow me and I'll make you a fisher of men." And when we go out fishing, we use different kinds of bate, right? Now some of you may be great anglers out there, and seasoned fishermen. I'm not in your ranks, I've fished a few times, but you know, of course, you use different kinds of bait for different kinds of situations. You can use live worms, you can use insect larvae, fish eggs, frogs, even leeches. I'd hate to hook a leech up--ooh--but different things you use to catch fish. And then you have these guys who are into fly-fishing, going up for the trout in fresh water lakes. And I'm told there's a real art form to doing that--where you have fly and various types of flies for various types of situations, little hooks with feathers and things on them. And they'll sort of flick the wrist and you got to get that lure right in front of that fish and just sort of snag him at the right moment. It takes a lot of patience and it's a great payoff when you pull one in, and so forth. But you use different kinds of bait for different kinds of fish. Now in the same way, as we share the gospel, we might bring out different aspects of it to speak to a person's situation. To someone, perhaps, who is filled with anguish, you might speak to them of the peace God can bring. But then if you're speaking to someone on their deathbed, you would address the subject of death and the certainty of heaven for the one who puts their faith in Christ [or dwelling as immortals in the kingdom of heaven, with Jesus, wherever that ends up being headquartered. Cf. Revelation 21] Another person may be plagued with personal guilt and you may speak to them along the lines of God's complete forgiveness. These are the various types of bait to hook us [or those we're talking to] into eternal life. And we can look at Jesus, who was the master communicator who never dealt with any two people in exactly the same way. There was that woman at the well and she had spent a lifetime trying to fill a void in her life with relationships with men. And to her Jesus spoke of her deep spiritual thirst. Then there was a man who was an expert in theology and had a great intellect. And yet with him Jesus spoke in almost childlike terms as he told Nicodemus "You must be born again." But then there was a lonely outcast named Zacheus who had no friend to speak of, and to him Jesus offered personal friendship, and said, "Let's have a meal together." To a woman caught in the act of adultery Jesus offered her complete pardon. My point is, he didn't deal with them in the same way. He adapted to their situation and appropriately applied the truth of the Word of God. I would rather take the time to effectively communicate with one person then to briefly communicate with a bunch of people in passing. I've seen people do this, you'll walk along with them, and they'll say something to everyone. "Hey God bless you." "Hey, Jesus loves you." "You're going to hell!" [That one's a winner for turning people off!]--you know, these quick little quips. And they think that's so effective. "Oh man, I'm always witnessing, I'll tell you what, it's great, isn't it?" You know, I don't know how great it is. I think God wants sharp-shooters, not machine gunners. It's not how many notches we can put on our Bible, how many people I spoke to in a given day. A sharp-shooter, meaning I took the time to speak to, to communicate with. And that's what we see Jesus doing. He had time for the multitudes, but isn't it always amazing how he would seek out a woman at the well or take time for a Nicodemus or a Zacheus? And we should take time as well.

  7. ) Now the seventh principle we see in Philip's life in his effective communication of the gospel--and this is a really important one--he knew Scripture. Verse 35, "Beginning at the Scripture" the Bible says. This, of course, is an essential of any person who wants to lead others to Jesus Christ. What if Philip had not been a student of the Bible when this question was asked? "'Of who was the Prophet speaking?' the Ethiopian asked, 'Of himself or another?'" If Philip wasn't a student of Scripture he'd say, "I don't know." "It's a good question though." "Can I get back to you?" But fortunately Philip was well versed in what the Bible taught. And that is why we're told in 2 Timothy 2, "Study" or "Exert yourself to be approved to God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth." When we don't have the answers it can be embarrassing. Now I'm not saying we need to have the answer to every question. But I am saying that we need to study and prepare ourselves as effectively as possible. And if we don't have the answer, let that propel you back into the pages of Scripture to find it for the next time that question arises. And in our next study together, we're going to grapple with some of those big questions that are often fired our way as Christians--such as--"How can God allow suffering?" [To order Pastor Greg Laurie's complete 4 cassette tape series CLICK ON http://www.harvest.org and then on "Harvest Store", scroll down and click on "Search". On the left title bar click on TAPES, then scroll down to "What is Evangelism?". Also be sure to order Greg Laurie's new book "How to SHARE your FAITH." Instead of clicking on tapes, click on BOOKS and scroll down until you find that title.] Or "How can you Christians say Jesus Christ is the only way to God? That's narrow." Or "What about the person that's never heard the gospel, will God send them to hell? [And this is a subject that some denominations differ on their Biblical interpretation on, making it somewhat of a secondary doctrine, but hotly contested by some as being primary gospel knowledge. I'm sure of this, Jesus will reveal the ultimate answer to this question when he returns.] These are questions we've all heard many times, and we'll look at the Biblical answers to them.

    But Philip knew the Scripture, and he was about to bring out the truth of the Word of God, reminding us of the importance of what we're told in 1 Peter 3:15 that says, "Set Christ apart as Lord and always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you, with gentleness and respect." And why is it important to share the Scripture? Because the Word of God will not return void. God says in Isaiah 55, verses 10 to 11, "The rain comes down and the snow from heaven and they do not return there but water the earth and make it bring forth fruit and bud that it may give seed to the sewer and bread to the eater. So shall my Word be that goes forth out of my mouth, it shall not return unto me void, God says, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing which I sent it." Now, I think it's obvious that it needs to be an appropriate passage for an appropriate situation. We're told in Proverbs 25:11 "A word that is fitly spoken is like apples of gold and frames of silver." I have no idea what that means, but I like the sound of it, don't you? I think the emphasis is on the appropriateness of a word that is spoken fitly, that is relevant to the situation. But listen, God's Word will not return void. And anyone who shares the gospel needs to use the Word of God. But you might ask the question, "What if the person doesn't believe in the Bible?" What if they say, "I don't believe the Bible's inspired by God." Should we say, "Oh well, then OK, forget it, I won't mention the Bible again."? Well, that would be like you were in a battle with someone and you pulled out your sword and they pulled out theirs and as you prepared to engage they said, "Oh, by the way, I don't believe you have a real sword, OK?" "You know, your sword is like your truth and I don't accept your truth, so I don't think your sword is real." OK, you know, whatever. Poke 'em with it and see what happens. The point is that your truth, so to speak, is sharp. So someone might say, "I don't believe in the Bible." Well that isn't going to stop me from quoting it because I know that God's Word has a way of penetrating and sticking with a person. Billy Graham once said "Time and time again in my ministry I have quoted a Bible verse in a sermon, sometimes without planning to do so in advance, and to have someone tell me afterward it was that verse which the Holy Spirit used to bring conviction of faith to him." And then he concludes by quoting the passage, "Is not my Word like a fire, and like a hammer that shatters a rock?" God will use his Word, so study it, know it, and listen, memorize it--so you can pull it up out of memory and the Holy Spirit will quicken it to your mind.

    And what is this message that we are to deliver? Jesus tells us to go and preach the gospel. What is the gospel message? Well first of all it's powerful. And that is why we don't want to do anything to hinder what it is. We don't want to candy-coat it. We don't need to gloss over it. We don't need to soften it or harden it. We don't need to take away from it and we don't need to add to it. We need to proclaim it in its simplicity and in its power, and stand back and watch what God will do. Paul said "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes." Now, what is the gospel message? Well, the very word "Gospel" means Good News. And before I can fully appreciate the Good News I have to first know the bad news. You've all heard that expression "I have some good news and I have some bad news"? I hate it when people say that to me. Because the first thing I'll say is, "Alright, what's the bad news? Come on, give it to me." You probably heard about a doctor who called a patient in and said "I have some good news and some bad news." The patient said, "Oh, what's the good news?" The doctor said "You have only three weeks to live." "That's the good news!? What's the bad news!" "I should have told you two weeks ago, I'm so sorry." How can people appreciate the Good News about God's love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ if they don't understand the bad news about sin and judgment? And this is where I take issue with the way some people present the gospel. They offer Jesus as though he were some kind of a wonderful additive in your life. "Hey, accept Jesus Christ, your teeth will be whiter and your clothes will be cleaner and your life will be better and everything will be great." Now, there is some truth to that. I don't know if your teeth will be whiter, but certainly your life will be better. We'll say, "Jesus will make you a happy person, he'll fill the void in your life and you'll go to heaven when you die--all you have to do is ask him in." Well, that's very appealing. "And he'll make you successful too" some will say. Now, here's the problem. It is true that Jesus will do all of those things, but what about the person that says, "Well you know what, I can see that you used to be a miserable person. I can see that it has made you a happier person, and I am glad you've found God. But you see, I'm not a substance abuser, I'm not living in some horrible life. I live a pretty good life, and I'm pretty happy with the way things are going." "Oh, really? Hey, that's OK, you know, we all have to find our own path." Hey ding dong, snap out of it! We all don't find our own path. There's only one way to know God. It is through Jesus Christ, and in our next message together I'll tell you why that is important to believe. But you see it's not just about being happier. It's not about just being a little more fulfilled. It's about not going to hell [no matter what your eschatological belief about hell is--ever-burning fire that is in existence now, or the Biblical teaching of gehenna fire that is ignited at the end of the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:12-15.] We forget about that! And it's also about, if you reject this offer of God you will face a certain judgment. We don't want to say that to a person, now do we? "Well, it might offend them." Yes it might. And it just might offend them enough to give 'em a chance to start thinking about life. And if I don't deliver the whole truth of the gospel I'm not proclaiming the gospel. It's Good News and it's bad news. And before I can appreciate the Good News of forgiveness, I need to know the bad news about judgment.

    Back to the story in the department store. We're all standing there. And this fella who's living in this immoral lifestyle says, "Listen, I, you know, I believe in Jesus Christ." And he said, "My God is a God of love, and I believe that my God would not send someone to hell for doing what I'm doing." He says, "Now I think if you're an ax murderer, that's wrong. I think if you steal, that's wrong. But I don't believe if two consenting adults agree to do something, that that can be wrong. How can you say that's sin?" Well, my response to him was, "Because God says it's sin." I know it sounds simplistic, but that really is the bottom line answer--"Because God says it, OK?--first of all." And then I said, "And, you say that, you know, you believe in a God of love. Well, I believe in a God of love too. But when you say My God, you're implying that you can sort of remake him in your image. You can't throw out the things about God that bother you and keep in the ones you like. There's only one God. And if you make up your own god, he won't be able to save you in that final day." And I said, "You say being an ax murderer is wrong. Why is that wrong? What if I say being an ax murderer is right? Why is your truth more significant than my truth?" "And what if this person over here says something is right that we both disagree with? Why is she wrong and we're right? Who determines that? Do we reach it by consensus?" I said. "No, we need a higher authority, and it's the Bible. That Bible tells us what's right and it tells us what's wrong." And I went on to say some of the things that the Bible said, "Well I don't believe that, that God would say I can't do this one thing, I'm gonna keep doing it, and I don't care what happens." And I said, "Well, I have to put it to you bluntly," this is hard to say this to someone, cause you want to share that loving happy message, you know. I said, "Listen, you continue living that way, and you'll face judgment for it. Are you ready to give all eternity up to live that way?" I said, "I can make a logical case of why you shouldn't do it. I could mention AIDS, and you know people that have died from AIDS." I'm sure he said "Yes, and I'm really afraid of that." I said, "God wants you to live your life out knowing him, but you're going to throw it away. But the most important thing is not just the fear of AIDS. God says "Don't do it" cause he has a better plan for you." And I spoke to him of God's plan and purpose. He didn't make a decision for Christ, but he said he was going to come to church, and so we need to remember him in prayer. There's a lot of people like that out there. They need to know they've broken the commandments of God. Well they say, "Well, you know, I don't think I'm a sinner," Well "What do the 10 Commandments say? Thou shalt not kill" "I haven't done that." "Thou shalt not commit adultery." "I haven't done that." "Thou shalt not bear false witness, you ever done that?" "Do not take the Lord's name in vain. You ever done that? You shall not covet. You ever done that?" "Well of course." Well the Bible says if you offend in one point of the law, you're guilty of all of it." But then, here we were separated from God in our sinfulness, unable to reach him with morality. Unable to reach him with good works or even religion. And God seeing our retched condition did the ultimate for us. In Romans 5:6 it says, "When we were still without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Scarcely for a righteous man one will die, yet perhaps for a good man someone would die. But God demonstrated his love toward us that yet when we were yet sinners Christ died for us" because there is no other way to reach or satisfy the righteous demands of God. Only in Christ, and here's what it comes down to, the cross. Any accurate presentation of the gospel comes to the cross. You can talk about loneliness, you can talk about hope and life beyond the grave. Those are all true. But it comes to the cross. Listen Jesus died on the cross for you. That's where the power is.

    I once was over at Billy Graham's home, and we were having a conversation, and I said "Billy, if you had it all over to do again, are there any things that you would emphasize as a younger preacher that maybe you're emphasizing now?" And his response surprised me. First of all he said, "Number one, why are you calling me Billy? And number two, why are you even in my house..." That's the end of that story. Actually, before I even finished the question, he said with such confidence "The cross of Christ, and the blood, that's where the power is" he said. And I remember that. I made a note as a preacher. "The cross of Christ and the blood", that's what he would emphasize more. He said, "That's where the power is." We need to remember that as Christians. You can tell that story. You see, you may not be the greatest intellect of all time or some great theologian but you can tell the story of what Jesus did on the cross, and of how he died for that person, and shed his blood for them. There's power in that message, I'm telling you. I've watched it time and time again transform people, because God anoints, he blesses it, he uses it to penetrate the defenses that people put up.

    So what is the gospel? A good summation is given to us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, where he says in verse 1, "Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you have received and which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved." Here it is. "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." There it is. Imbed that deeply in your mind. The gospel in a nutshell is "Christ died for our sins and was buried and raised on the third day." That's the cornerstone. Someone once asked the great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon if he could put in a few words his Christian faith. He said, "Yes, I can give it to you in four words, Jesus died for me." And that's what it comes down to. And remind that person you're speaking to, "Jesus died for them. He shed his blood for them." The apostle Paul was a brilliant person. He was known for his great skills of oratory. He was known for his grasp of culture and languages. And if anybody could have intellectually convinced a person of the validity of something it was certainly the apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. But yet here is what Paul said when it came to preaching the gospel. He said--1 Corinthians 2:1--"When I came to you brothers I didn't come with eloquence or superior wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing else among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Then Paul also said--1 Corinthians 1:17, "God did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of human words, lest the cross be deprived of its power." I can actually hinder the message of the gospel by complicating it. It's that simple, powerful yet profound message that can change lives, that changed your life, changed mine.
  8. You know another interesting thing I point out about Paul when he did preach the gospel--is how he uses his personal testimony. As you read through the book of Acts and you would see Paul addressing a group of people, or speaking before great leaders in Rome, so often he would tell his own story, how he used to persecute Christians, and he was there on the Damascus Road and the Lord appeared to him and so forth... And you know, everybody has a personal testimony who is a Christian. And the great thing about a testimony is it is bridge that you can build to a person. You see, you can essentially let them know that you weren't always the way you are. You know, they look at you and say "What are they? Where do they come up with you people? Where do you come from?" "Well, listen I wasn't always this way. There was a moment when Christ came into my life. In fact, let me tell you the way I used to be." And you tell them, and they say "No way! You were that? You did that?!" "Oh yeah, but here's what Jesus did for me." And often when I share my testimony I'll say things like, "You know, this is the way I used to view Christians" and I'll describe how I viewed them, which was not in a very favorable light. And the person I'm speaking with will say, "Yeah," That's how they probably view me at that moment. "And this is the way I used to think." "Yeah" Because that's probably the way they may be thinking at that very moment. "But here's what happened to me." You see, you can show them what's taken place, and it's a great bridge.

    But here's an important thing, when you share your testimony, never glorify or exaggerate the past. And I do see this done sometimes. You know, you'll have someone come and give a testimony in church and "the gorier the better!" "The more dramatic the better." And I've heard people get up and talk about their life before the Lord and all the horrible things they used to do, and as they're describing it, it almost seems to me like they had more fun before they were Christians than they're having now. "And we did this, and we went over and did that!" And they get all worked up, and I'm thinking, "Something's not right here." Or you'll see those people that will say, "Let me tell you that I gave all of these things up, and I had it all, I had the success and the fame and the fortune, but I gave it up to follow JAYSUS!" "I've MAYDE such sacrifices for heem! I've given up so much to take his old rugged cross, hallelujah!" And you listen to that and I think to myself "Shut up!" That's wrong. Why? Because, don't tell me what you've given up for God. Tell me what God gave up for you. If you see your past as some glorious thing, you haven't seen it for what it was. You were an empty, guilty person headed for judgment and all you gave up was eternity separated from God. That was no sacrifice. It's what God did for you, what he gave to you. So when I share my story I say, this is the way I used to be, but here's what it was like on the inside. But here's what Christ has done for me. You want to emphasize that. And tell them what Christ can do for them. And everyone has a testimony. You have one. Now granted, some have dramatic testimonies, they were delivered from a life of crime, or drug abuse or alcohol abuse or this or that. You may say, "Well, the problem is I never did any of those things. You know, I actually never rebelled against my parents and I went to church every Sunday. I did have this struggle with hostess Ding Dongs for about two weeks, kind of got strung out on them, you know, maybe I could share that. You know, I was down there on the streets with a brown paper bag wrapped around those things..." You know what? That's your testimony. Not your hostess addiction, but your life was changed by God too. You see, for the person who came from the lowest of the lower, the person that lived a relatively moral life, the effect is the same. We're all sinners, separated from God, going to hell [or eternal death, the 2nd death. Cf. Revelation 20:14-15], Christ died for us, we put our faith in him, and we were forgiven. And just as there are people out there that come from the lowest rungs of the ladder of life, there are those that are coming from a different place altogether. And so some cultured person who was living a relatively good life would listen to someone who maybe came out of a life of crime and say, "Well, I'm glad they found religion. That's one less person I'll have to worry about." "Now it seems like it's improved their life. But I don't live that way, I'm a good person." [I have actually had a person I work with say almost those exact words!] But you say, "Listen, that's what I used to think too. But here's what Christ did for me." See, they need to hear your testimony. Everyone has a story to tell.

    But whatever it is, we always make a bee-line to the cross. Christ died for us. He paid for our sins, he rose again from the dead. God can use you to do that. You know enough of this message to share it with others. There is no reason that you cannot be used by God. The question is, will you be available? The Bible says, "He that wins souls is wise." God wants to use you. Let's make ourselves available to him today, and throughout this week, that we might be instruments that he would work through. Let's pray."

"Lord, we thank you for your Word, we thank you for this challenge to preach your gospel. Again, burn into our hearts this burden. Help us to go where people are and be open to the leading of your Spirit and obey him. Help us to be tactful and clear. And Lord, help us to adapt to the situation, and help us to know your Word, and seize the moment. Lord, we feel inadequate, we feel that we don't have what it takes. But yet, there's power in your message. So give us a new boldness to share the truth of what you say. And use us to lead others to you, we would pray, in Jesus name we ask, Amen."

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