I remember reading in the Houston newspaper about a young man who took his lunch break by going down to the pier and fishing. He hoped to catch something, but usually the fish was not big enough to keep. On this occasion, he hooked something really big and, some 12 hours later, pulled in a record Sting Ray. Needless to say, he was really surprised but not disappointed.
I have had this same experience, only fishing for menâ€¦
The first time I can remember this event happening was as a university student. I was sharing Christ with a young man in his dorm room while his roommate worked at his desk. When I asked the student, â€śWould you like to pray now to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?â€ť He replied with an emphatic â€śNo.â€ť His roommate, though, looked up from his work and said, â€śWell, if he doesnâ€™t, I sure do!â€ť He prayed to receive Christ and got into a Bible study that very week.
Another time, I was flying up to Colorado Springs and shared Christ with the person sitting next to me. I was on the aisle seat and he was in the middle. He was a PhD in chemistry with a large oil company and, for some reason, thought that lifted him above all others in terms of his understanding that there was no God. (I know a number of PhDâ€™s in the sciences who are devout Christians. In fact Dr. Lacy, who holds a similar position with Shell Oil, sits on our board of directors and goes on mission trips with us.) He had a great time pointing out the fallacies of my testimony as I shared the bridge illustration on a napkin. When I got to the end, I took a deep breath and said, â€śWell, despite all youâ€™ve said, are you ready to repent and accept Christ as your Lord and Savior?â€ť He laughed and said â€śNo.â€ť A businessman in the row just in front pushed his seat all the way back and said, â€śWell, I do!â€ť and he prayed right there. I gave him some follow-up material and later sent him some Daily Quiet Times Alone With God that I printed up. He wrote back to say he had joined a church and was thankful for my witness.
Just this week we had a similar eventâ€¦
We went to the house of one of the members of the church whose husband was not a Christian but open to the gospel. When we arrived, her married daughter was also there, and later her daughterâ€™s husband joined us. We had a nice dinner, and then I pulled out the Four Spiritual Laws (published by New Life Ministries) and asked if I could share with them how I became a Christian. They all assented, and I passed out the 4Laws in Russian. Each, in turn, read a page, and then I shared a short example from my life on the Gospel's truth â€“ culminating in my trusting Christ. One of the reasons I like the 4Laws is that it doesnâ€™t allow you to â€śchoke.â€ť Many share Christ, but then decide not to ask â€śThe Question.â€ť The 4Laws includes this in the booklet so you either have to stop before the end or plow through. Now I know the 4Laws by heart, and when you get to the end it has the sinnerâ€™s prayer followed by the question of â€śDoes this prayer reflect the desire of your heart? If yes, then pray it through again to the Lord.â€ť
Now, I have heard this booklet enough times in Russian to know where the person is in reading the tract. Thus, the standard format is for them to read the question. At this point I stop them, and then either ask them the question or turn to the another person in the room and ask it to them. I was about to turn to her father and ask him when I heard her say, â€śDaâ€ť (Russian for â€śyesâ€ť). That is not in the booklet! El and I looked up, and with tears streaming down her face, the daughter re-read the sinnerâ€™s prayer and was born again right there before our very eyes!! We remained longer for fellowship, did initial follow-up, and answered questions from her husband and father concerning grace versus works until almost 11pm that night.
Like the young man from Houston, my short fishing excursion brought in an unexpected catch and kept me out later than expected, but I could not be happier.
This brings me to an issue I have with what passes in so many circles as personal witnessing. The Witness as presented in Acts 1:8 is a universal manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. If you are a believer, in order not to witness you must quench the Spirit of God, for that is what He likes to do (John 15:26); and, if given full rein, He will do this week-in and week-out through believers (John 15:27; Revelation 22:17). Every Christian is empowered to witness by three things:
First: The indwelling Holy Spirit â€“ Acts 1:8
Second: The Gospel Message itself â€“ Romans 1:16
Third: The living Word of God. â€“ Hebrews 4:12; I Peter 1:23
Unfortunately, the witness of most Christians has become a self-indulgent soliloquy where they, in a precocious manner, tell their â€śstory.â€ť The problem with this is that their â€śstoryâ€ť is often so unique that, although the hearer is impressed, there is little room for personal application. The church assists this deception by promoting the â€śPowerful Witness,â€ť (usually a Muslim, drug dealer, Satanist, mafia member) who descended into Hell and ascended up to Heaven where Jesus finally appeared to him and he was saved, resulting in innumerable speaking contracts, book deals, and DVD sales. This, of course, leaves the average Christian with only his â€śweakâ€ť testimony, and who would want to hear that?
Contrastingly, the Witness of the Holy Spirit, centered around the Word of God, is universally applicable and dependent, not on the powerful nature of the story (nor story- teller) but on the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Gospel message and the power of the written Word of God. It is no wonder that there is so little fruit when men and women in the church are being encouraged to replace the power of God for salvation with their stories or the stories of others.
Another problem with the â€śstoryâ€ť is that it begins, ends and is centered around the story-teller and not the Lord. Notice the emphasis in 1 John 5:11-12: "And the testimony is this, that God" â€“ The testimony is about God, not man. "has given us eternal life," - Our part is very simple; we have experienced the testimony as true. "and this life is in His Son." â€“ Our responsibility is a clear presentation of the gospel from the Word of God "He who has the Son has the life;" - We may not fix the gospel; it is about being born again in this life, serving the Lord and then going to heaven. "he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life." â€“ This life is exclusively in Christ and, thus, the testimony also includes the fate of all those, in all ages, for all times, who fail to respond to the gospelâ€”the fate of an eternity in Hell under the judgment of God.
Still another problem with the â€śstoryâ€ť approach is that a good story is an end in itself. This is contrasted with the witness which always ends with â€śThe Question.â€ť You have not witnessed unless you have asked the question, â€śWould you like to pray now to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?â€ť As Charles Wesley was so fond of saying, â€śThe devil does not mind you teaching the lost theology as long as it doesnâ€™t change their lives.â€ť In other words, as far as the devil is concerned, you can share truth all you want (even he believes in one God â€“ James 2:19) just so long as you do not call people to repentance through their new birth in Christ.
Lastly, your "storyâ€ť will not produce a negative response or persecution which is another reason it is so popular. Who wants to be persecuted when, instead, they can be a one-act play? When you simply share life/spiritual anecdotes, which may or may not call for any action on the part of the hearer, neither the world, nor the flesh, nor the devil becomes concerned. However, when you begin calling men to repentance through faith in Christ, all three take a keen interest. Do you want to be persecuted? Then begin giving a solid, clear presentation of the gospel from the Word of God followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior.
I will close this little blog, then, with a little multiple choice test on witnessing. This is one of those â€śmatchingâ€ť tests which can be so tricky.
Below are five questions. These five questions are followed by five answers. Place the letter with the correct answer next to the number of the corresponding question. Good Luck!!
I. Why are more people not receiving Christ in our church? II. Why are we not baptizing more secular people in our church (as opposed to the children of members)? III. Why are we today not experiencing persecutions that seem so common in both Scripture and the biographies of great Christians? IV. Why are so many people receiving Christ in Africa, and yet Europe seems to be fallow ground? V. Why are so many Koreans and Chinese receiving Christ, yet Japan seems to be such fallow ground? VI. Why are so many people receiving Christ in the Baptist churches but not in Bible churches when their beliefs are almost identical? VII. Why do some churches seem to be always reporting conversions to Christ, yet another church in the same town hardly ever sees adults come to Christ? VIII. How is satan able to deceive the church into thinking that the Holy Spirit, the Gospel and the Word of God are impotent in certain cultures (like Muslim, Hindu, Russian, etc.), and, therefore, satan is able to promote the false teaching that one needs to have spectacular mystical events such as the so-called appearances of Christ, so-called descents into hell, so-called ascents into heaven, and other false spiritual manifestations, in order for people in these religions or cultures to be saved?
A. Because people are not sharing a clear presentation of the gospel, from the Word of God, followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior. B. Because people are not sharing a clear presentation of the gospel, from the Word of God, followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior. C. Because people are not sharing a clear presentation of the gospel, from the Word of God, followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior. D. Because people are not sharing a clear presentation of the gospel, from the Word of God, followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior. E. Because people are not sharing a clear presentation of the gospel, from the Word of God, followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior. F. Because people are not sharing a clear presentation of the gospel, from the Word of God, followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior. G. Because people are not sharing a clear presentation of the gospel, from the Word of God, followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior. H. Because people are not sharing a clear presentation of the gospel, from the Word of God, followed by an invitation to repent and accept Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior.
By His mercy, II Corinthians 4:1 Rev. John S. Mahon Grace Community Int. - Tyumen, Russia
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