1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
Eagles Communications’ Vantage Point, Sep-Oct 2006 issue has a good article - “Evangelism in 21st Century Singapore” by Dr Gordon Wong. I like to share some of the thoughts from it.
Learn to share our faith, with gentleness and respect; and trust in the sovereignty of God in changing the person’s heart.
What amazes us about Jesus’ ministry is that He did not come across as One who hard sell the Gospel.
• People were free to come and free to go; to listen and believe what He says, or reject it entirely.
• Jesus did not show impatience when people reject the Gospel, nor did He coerce anyone into believing it.
• Yet we see the fruit of His labour, quite beyond our imagination - the Gospel was proclaimed and bore fruit beyond our wildest imagination.
• Jesus says, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (v.27)
Jesus respects man’s choice and believes in the sovereignty of God in changing lives.
Look at the way Jesus deals with this keen seeker.
• If we were out to sell the Gospel, we would have grabbed him.
• Jesus, knowing what is best for this young man, allowed him to walk away.
• This was not because Jesus did not care for him.
• The Bible says Jesus looked at this young man and loved him (10:21).
He loved him (verse 21), and respected his decision to walk away.
• Some things cannot be forced through.
• Jesus’ call to “Come, follow me” in verse 21 is always, and will always be an invitation.
• God loves you today, but He will leave it to you to make the choice.
It’s amazing to see how Jesus can let this man off, when he’s so close and so good in many respects.
• He was a very religious man. Luke’s account tells us he was a synagogue ruler (Luke 18:18), a person placed in charge of the synagogue.
• He had kept the commandments from childhood. He has been to church since young.
• Unlike the Pharisees who simply came to test Jesus, to undermine him, this man comes with the desire to ask a sincere question.
• He was a seeker of God, wanting to know the truth.
• He has great respect for Jesus - falling on his knees before Him and calling Him ‘Teacher’.
Actually, from man’s point of view, he really ‘qualifies’ to be accepted by God.
• Have we been as devout as him, keeping the commands since his childhood?
• Can we be entrusted to take up a religious position like him, running the synagogue as ruler?
• Are we so eager and humble to know the truth?
• Do we honour Jesus as our Teacher and seek Him for help?
All these things seem to make him a prime candidate for eternal life, don’t you think?
• It would be nice to have such a person in the church – he’s rich, religious, and reliable.
• But sadly, he was not prepared to put his trust in Jesus.
• He has another god – wealth. And he wants to be righteous by his own efforts.
• Jesus says we cannot serve God and money. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. It’s either one or the other.
• Matt 22:14 "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
Jesus said in verse 21, "One thing you lack..." – He has no room for Christ!
• A watch may lack just a spring, but it would not move.
• A car may lack a plug, but it would not work.
• A human may lack a heart, but without the heart nothing is right.
If you have not trusted Christ as your Saviour, pray and acknowledge Him today.
• Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
• Don’t make money, position or fame your life ambition.
• You will miss the true blessing of life. People suffer because they refuse to embrace God’s mercy and grace.
And so this young man walked away, and Jesus allowed it.
• God honours human freedom. He treats us with ’gentleness & respect’. Appreciate the freedom God has given us – to worship Him, and serve Him, if you are willing.
• Ultimately, we must make the choice ourselves. It must come from his heart.
• Your parents can’t make that choice for you; not your friends.
• Not pastor, not anyone. You must choose to serve Him, on your own.
The disciples were taken aback. Who then can be saved?
• If this man, being so ‘good and religious’, cannot be saved, who can?
• Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (v.27)
• We have to believe in the power of God to change lives.
The way any person comes to faith is ultimately a mystery which lies in the sovereign hands of God.
• It is our responsibility to preach the Gospel clearly, and with gentleness and respect.
• It is not our responsibility nor is it actually within our ability to secure a decision. That must be left in God’s hands.
We share our faith, with gentleness and respect; and trust in the sovereignty of God in changing the person’s heart.
We may have this impression that to fulfilled the great commission means we have to behave like passionate salesmen pushing a product, trying to meet a quota.
But that isn’t the picture Jesus gave us.
• We read in the OT about Daniel and his 3 friends, exiled in Babylon.
• They live and work in a foreign country where the religion is different from theirs. The people do not worship their God.
• Daniel and his friends are the minority, subjected to the laws of a government which does not share their religious convictions.
Serving in the palace, he was given a chance to interpret the King’s dream – Dan 2:10-19
• (We read in 2:14 Daniel do things with wisdom and tact; in 1:19-20 he and his friends excelled in their duties and their character is without blame.)
• Only Daniel was able to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The king is impressed and begins to say kind words about Daniel’s God - Dan 2:47.
• But there is no record of Daniel pressing home the advantage, and challenging the King to forsake Babylonian idols immediately and trust Israel’s God.
This is lifestyle evangelism in action.
Later in Daniel 6 we see another great testimony.
• Daniel’s enemies wanted to get rid of him, so they asked the King to issue a decree that no one is to pray to any god except to the King.
• Daniel continued his usual practice and prays 3 times a day.
• The King has no choice but to throw him into the lions’ den, but God kept him alive.
• Then the King wrote to all the peoples - Dan 6:25-28
Isn’t that great? Daniel has in a way, evangelized the land.
• He was just doing the ‘Christian’ thing – he worship God and pray regularly.
• His Christian lifestyle became a testimony.
• Daniel evangelized the land, but not in a way we usually understand evangelism - he did not really preach. You see, we can all be such an evangelist.
Why are we usually afraid to be evangelistic?
Gordon Wong in his article shares two observations and I think it’s very true.
• There are at least two major obstacles we face and feel.
• The first has to do with the fact that we live in a society that emphasizes freedom of choice, and the right to hold one’s own private opinion.
• Consequently, most of us feel a natural discomfort in trying to persuade someone to change his or her opinion about something as sensitive as religion.
• In our minds, we associate evangelism with an aggressive sales pitch, and we cannot imagine ourselves acting like a salesman who refuses to take "Let me think about it" for an answer.
But that is a really very narrow way of understanding evangelism.
• We can evangelize very much like Daniel and Jesus - giving firm advice, showing concern for their welfare, trusting and relying on God to do His work.
• In the long run, patient respect rather than impatient coercion is more likely to bear fruit at a later time.
The second problem has to do with what we think an evangelist is.
• When we think of someone who is an evangelist, we picture a person who not only presents the gospel message clearly, but does so in a way which results in many of the hearers making decisions for Christ immediately.
• The measure of an evangelist is his ability to convict people to raise their hand, stand up and make a commitment to follow Christ.
• This focus on the results is why many of us do not see ourselves as evangelists.
• We think of evangelists as someone whom God uses to effect "successful" conversion.
In the OT, we see often how a prophet can proclaim God’s word passionately and still meet little or no apparent "success".
If we really took this to heart, many more of us would "discover" that we can evangelize.
• The things we say, the way we expresses our trust in God, our concern for the lives of people around us… all adds up.
• It’s the multi-medium presentation of the Gospel.
The chief characteristic of an evangelist is not the ability to achieve a higher proportion of positive responses of commitment.
• Rather, it is the ability to express the Gospel clearly, to share one’s conviction with gentleness and respect.
• Rev Maak Hay Chun, in a conference in SBC 2004, said, “How many of us can be like Billy Graham? We’re failures compared to him. We’ll never match him, in terms of reaping the harvest.” But God may have given us one talent (cf. Parable of the Talents). Our failure is to see ourselves as ‘failure’, as nobodies, and bury God’s gift.
People are tired of manipulative and aggressive sales tactics.
• That is why some had this wrong perception of an evangelist, as someone who manipulates his audience into giving away their hard-earned money or forsaking cherished family traditions.
• A good evangelist will neither pressure someone into making a quick decision, nor speak disrespectfully of a person’s differing religious belief.
It a joy to be an evangelist, to see lives changed because of us.
• "It’s not just what you say, but how you say it."
• If this is true, then our manner of presenting the Gospel is itself a testimony of the God who loves us and gently cares for us.
Matt 5:16 "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
May He find us faithful in the way we testify of His grace.