Making the Message Clear
One of the remarks I hear from people who have heard about Christ from another student is: "I never understood Christianity like this before. Now its clear!" They are talking about the misconceptions that once clouded their minds. Most people see Christianity as a religion of dos and donts, most of which they perceive as impossible to follow. They do not see Christianity as a relationship with Christ. Our job is to make the truth of Christianity clear.
Principle #1: The Positive Approach
As we look at the way Jesus communicated the gospel, we will see that He talked about four specific principles. The first principle He wanted to make is found in John 4:10-14 where He visited with the Samaritan woman:
"Jesus replied, If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask Me, and I would give you living water. But sir, you dont have a rope or a bucket, she said, and this is a very deep well. Where would you get this living water? And besides, are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his cattle enjoyed? Jesus replied, People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life." John 4:10-14 (NLT)
Jesus knew that this woman had serious moral and sexual problems. He could have been critical of her, but instead He chose to be positive. How? By offering her something that, deep down, she really wanted satisfaction, and a solution to her restless life.
The message of evangelism is a positive message. Yes, we need to make the issue of sin and separation from God clear, but the way that we begin the conversation about the gospel is by being positive.
Here are some Scripture passages that will help you think positively when you talk to others.
Principle #2: Defining the Problem
Jesus shows us His second principle in sharing the gospel:
"Go and get your husband, Jesus told her. I dont have a husband, the woman replied. Jesus said, Youre right! You dont have a husband for you have had five husbands, and you arent even married to the man youre living with now." John 4:16-18 (NLT)
The second principle is very important: People are sinful and separated from God.
People are not always going to feel comfortable when we talk about sin and morals. But unless the problem of sin is understood there cannot be any real understanding of why Christ died on the cross. Nor is there an understanding of repentancea willingness by anyone to turn from a self-centered life-style and let Christ be their Savior and leader.
Lets think about this. How would you define "sin" ?
This definition of sin may be helpful to you:
We were created to have a personal relationship with God, but by our own choice and self-will we have gone our own independent way and that relationship has been broken. This self-will, often seen as an attitude of active rebellion towards God or a lack of interest in Him, is an evidence of what the Bible calls sin.
What do you see in this definition that clarifies the problem of sin?
The consequences of sin are devastating death and eternal separation from God.
Heres the issue: God is holy and people are sinful. A great gap separates the two. People are continually trying to reach God through their own efforts such as a good life, philosophy or religion, but they always fail.
Jesus cared enough to help the Samaritan woman see her dilemma.
Principle #3: Gods Solution
In verse 20, the Samaritan woman asks Jesus a religious question. This is common. (At the end of this chapter there is a section on how to answer questions as we share our faith.) How does Jesus respond?
He lets the woman come to her own conclusion.
"The woman said, I know the Messiah will come the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." John 4:25 (NLT)
The woman had already been thinking a lot about religious matters, and she knew that this one called the Christ was the ultimate truth. She had no idea she was talking to him but she was interested in him. So Jesus pointed her directly to himself (v. 26). He was the message. He was saying, "I am the way to God."
Why, in your opinion, is it absolutely essential that we make Christ the center of our discussion in our evangelism?
In evangelism it can be easy to get off the track and talk about issues that really dont lead people to Christ. We can talk about philosophies, theology, politics, ourselves, our church denomination, none of which get to the issue of receiving Christ.
Making the Solution Clear
In 2 Corinthians 4:5, Paul said "We dont go around preaching about ourselves; we preach Christ Jesus, the Lord. All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us."
Christs death on the cross, His resurrection, and the fact that He is the only way to God are the basics of our message. We put our faith in Christ based on these truths. (See 1 Timothy 2:5,6; John 4:6; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5.)
Principle #4: Asking for a Response
In John 4:26, Jesus gives the Samaritan woman an incredible opportunity:
"Then Jesus told her, I am the Messiah!" John 4;26 (NLT)
What do you think he is saying?
Jesus was, in essence, asking this woman to accept Him as the Christ, the one she talked of in verse 25. He was saying, "I am the Savior; will you believe in Me? Will you receive Me?"
It appears that the Samaritan woman did. And at that moment, she became a child of God, as promised in John 1:12 (NLT): "But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God."
Dont be surprised if asking people to receive Christ seems a little difficult. We are asking people for a decision, and some of us dont like to do that. Also, Satan, the enemy, is furious when we ask people to receive Christ, and he is going to try to make it difficult for us.
But no matter how difficult it may seem, asking and inviting people to trust Christ is so important that we just have to do it. Its the question that can change a persons life . . .for all eternity.
Here are the key truths to remember when asking people to receive Christ:
Faith is an act of our will, not just intellectual agreement with the truth.
One way you can help make your message clear to others is by using toolssimple booklets designed to help you share Christ. You will find that many evangelistic booklets are patterned after the way Jesus shared the truth in John 4.
Tools and materials are designed to be your servant. They dont control you. You control them. You will find that they make things clear and help you to stay on track.
As we share our faith we always want to be available to answer questions. Evangelism is not cramming information down peoples throats. It is helping people understand spiritual truth.
The key to answering questions is knowing when to stop and camp on a question and when to move on and explain the message of knowing Christ. In our story in John 4 Jesus stopped and answered some questions (vv. 20-24), and others he passed over because he knew that the woman really wasnt that concerned about the answer (v. 9).
If you arent sure of an answer to a question, be honest and tell him you will try to find out.
Assure the person that most of his or her questions will be answered as you continue to explain how to become a Christian. And you will find that nearly all questions do take care of themselves as you help people understand how to receive Christ.
Letting the Holy Spirit Work
How much do you think we should encourage people to receive Christ? If a friend says, "Yes, I want to receive Christ!" then explain to him how he can talk to God through prayer. Help him by explaining to him what prayer is (talking to God), and suggest what he might say. Then pray with him.
If your friend says, "No, Im not ready to receive Christ," answer any more questions he may have and continue to be a warm and available friend. Many people receive Christ further down the road as the Holy Spirit makes their need more obvious to them and as we continue to be available.
Remember to share Christ, trusting the Holy Spirit to use you, and then leave the results to Him.
Putting It All Together
Christs discussion with the Samaritan woman in John 4 followed a logical progression of four specific principles.
1. Be positive. Gods love is positive. (v. 10)
2. Define the problem. Sin is the reason we do not know God. (vv. 16-18)
3. Gods Solution is Jesus, the Savior. (v. 25)
4. Whats your response? (v. 26)
Look for an opportunity today to talk to someone about Christ.