She asked if God could ever forgive her…

One faith sharing memory from about 2 years ago stands out among many others. It was another night with our street witnessing team from church and we were at a local outdoor mall. My wife and I approached a group of 4 teenagers and engaged with them about their faith. They were cordial and we had a short, pleasant conversation. We encouraged the non-believers in the group to consider Christ and the believers to look for ways to deepen their existing faith. Then, off they went.

I didn’t think too much of the encounter initially. It was positive but nothing extravagant or unbelievable. Then, suddenly, one of the girls turned back to us and told her group that she would catch up with them. She had a concerned look in her eye and had a question for us that took me by surprise.

She said she had done something really bad and was unsure if God would forgive her for it. She started getting tears in her eyes as we inquired about what she had done. She went on to say that she had cheated on a past boyfriend. With the tears still welled up in her eyes, she asked “Could God ever forgive me for that?”

I was so glad to explain to her that the Bible states that God forgives all our sin simply if we ask Him for forgiveness. If weconfess (which she was doing), I told her that God promises to forgive us. In fact, I went on to tell her, that “as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far He removes our sin from us. From New York to LA. He takes your sin away.”

As she prepared to leave and rejoin her friends. She was filled with joy as she smiled and gave us both hugs. “Thank you so much,” she said.

Forgiveness. That is the Gospel. That is the good news. David said in the Psalm 32, “Blessed is the one whose sins are forgiven. Blessed is the one whose sins the Lord does not count against him.”

I never want to forget that the Gospel is good news. Yes, an individual must understand that they are sinful and that their sin will lead to death and ultimately hell. But Jesus came with Good News. In Luke 4:43, Jesus states, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God…that is why I was sent.”

And that is why we have been sent, too. To preach the good news. While we witness, let’s not forget to include God’s forgiveness in our story. Admit that you are a sinner who needed a Savior. A Forgiver. And then ask if the listener has been forgiven. And watch what God does. Remember, the Gospel is the power of God that brings salvation!

The Harvest is Plentiful…at Biggby

I took a class at a local church recently that taught evangelism. I was so pleased to hear that there was a local church offering such a class and looked forward to it very much. At the class, I learned a great deal that helped me in my witness for Christ. The main strategy that the Pastor taught was called the “3 Questions” approach.

The idea of this approach is to engage with someone about the Gospel by asking them 3 questions. You can begin the conversation by stating that you have a few spiritual questions for someone. Most people will oblige to this without hesitation. The questions are as follows:

  1. If you were to die today, have you come to a place where you are certain that you would go to heaven?
  2. If you were to die today, and God asked you why should He let you into heaven, what would you say?
  3. Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God, cover to cover?

The first 2 questions were originally coined by Dr. D. James Kennedy who started the ministry Evangelism Explosion. His church was about to fold before he began using these questions to engage people with the Gospel. He and his church members began talking to people in their community in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His church ended up growing from 17 to 2,000 people in 12 years of ministry. His church became the fastest growing church in the nation and his evangelism training is now used around the world.

The reason the Pastor at my class added the 3rd question was because in his experience, if someone believes in the Bible, you can use very simple Scriptures to explain their need for Jesus. If they don’t, it is much more difficult and can require a different strategy to convince them of their need for Christ.

These questions enable you to get right to eternity and how someone believes they can get to heaven. Many people answer that good works will get them there. However, this approach enables you to explain how God’s grace, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, is the only way to heaven.

Our homework assignment for the class was to use the 3 questions to start Gospel conversations with people. I ordered a drink from Bigby and because the coffee shop was slow, asked the barista if I could ask her a few questions for a class I was taking.

She came over from behind the desk after finishing up something and engaged with me at my seat. I shared the questions with her and she expressed that she was not certain that she would go to heaven. I forget exactly how she answered the second question, maybe citing good works in her life, but she was clear that she was unsure about her eternity.

I took the opportunity to ask her if she would like to know how she could be certain that she was going to heaven. She said “yes” emphatically. I explained to her that she, like every other human, has sin in her life. I then explained that Jesus died so that her sin could be forgiven and if she put her trust in Him, she could have eternal life. I asked if there was anything holding her back from putting her faith in Christ. She said “no”. I shared a prayed for her to follow and she did so joyfully. Then she said, “Thank you so much, you have no idea how much I needed this today.”

Truthfully, I do know how much she needed it and it was not just for that day! My prayer for her is that she finds a church and someone to help her become a true disciple of Christ. Would you join me in praying for her when you think of her?

Jesus said in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest.” Verse 36 states that Jesus looked at the crowds with compassion and saw them as sheep without a shepherd.

I want to pray today that you would have the same compassion as Christ for those around who have yet to hear the good news He offers! I pray that the Lord of the harvest would send you out. Let my short story be an encouragement to you. There are people out there ready to accept the Gospel. Nothing is holding them back, they just need a messenger.

As Romans 10:14 says, “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” Let’s make Him known today, because the harvest is plentiful at coffee shops and anywhere your feet step today!

Will Jesus be ashamed of us?

I recently was talking with a student about following Jesus. He is still on the fence about believing in Jesus. He says that it is hard for him to believe in something he has not seen. He has come to the youth group where I pastor for about a year, and we have had many conversations about his faith.

He has gone through some difficult things that I think hi-jacked some of his faith that he has as a young child. Throughout our conversations, he has shared different reason why he is apprehensive about committing himself completely to Jesus. I have appreciated his honesty very much.

Recently, I was asking him if anything would hold him back from giving his life to Jesus. He stated, “Peer pressure.” I asked him to expound. He said, “All my friends would be like, ‘who is this guy, he’s all about Jesus all the sudden.'” He continued, “It would not line up with the way I act now, and I just don’t wanna have to endure what would come along with being a Christian in my friend group.”

Again, you have to appreciate his honesty. And I am glad that he is counting the cost. Follow Jesus comes with a cost. There are two sides: the world and Jesus. And you can’t be on both sides.

There are two portions of Scripture that come to mind in regard to my conversation with my young friend. First, Proverbs 29:25 states, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” Right now this student is in that snare. It seems safer to be accepted by his friends, not make any waves, not experiences any mocking or jeering. But this thought is truly a trap, like an imaginary fence keeping him from the safety of Jesus.

The next Scripture that comes to mind is Jesus words in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Jesus doesn’t want closet followers. He wants us to confess him before those around us. He states that if we deny Him, He will deny us.

That is a tough thought. Being denied by Jesus. We want to think of Jesus as the cuddly, accepting everyone, ‘come unto me’ guy…but His admonition here carry a different tone. Yes, He welcomes us in, but He wants us to welcome Him in too.

While this is true of our salvation, it is also true of our testimony to others and evangelism. We need to keep confessing Christ to people daily through our actions and words. Let’s not try to make ourselves famous (and potentially leave Jesus out), let’s try to make Jesus famous.

As I close, I am reminded of Peter. If you remember, he denied Jesus right before Jesus was crucified. And not just once, but THREE times! Thank God for his grace as he reinstated Peter and gave him courage again to confess Him to those around him.

If you have been ashamed of Jesus lately, or hiding your faith- let me encourage you to draw from God’s grace and make him famous today. Let’s pray together, “God, let them see You in Me.”

The day I broke a couple up…

This has to be my craziest story while I was out sharing about Jesus with people. The times when people were converted are obviously crazier because of the miracle of salvation, but this one was just CRAZY.

I was at a mall near my house with a small group from my church, and after we had prayed for a while, we went out to share our faith with people. The first couple I went up to was sitting at a table just off the food court having a quiet conversation by themselves.

I approached them and asked if I could share a bit about what God was doing in my life with them. The woman quickly replied that she was not interested. I responded by asking if she would share her religious thoughts with me. I assured her I would only listen and not try to argue anything. She reiterated her previous position, and added, “Politics and religion should not be discussed.”

Typically, I may have left this couple alone at this point. But apparently I was feeling extra courageous and turned my attention to the guy sitting across from her. I asked, “Could I share with you?”

This is where things took a turn. I honestly could not have wrote a crazier plot twist…

The gentleman sitting at the table looked at me, then at the woman and stated, “Honestly, I did not know that about you. I did not know that you did not have any faith. And that is a deal breaker.”

With that, he stood up and walked away. I repeat. He walked away. I was dumbfounded. And there I was, standing next to this poor girl who just got dumped.

I quickly apologized and assured her that my goal was not to break them up but just to share about Jesus with them. (As if I needed to clarify that I did not come over to break up the couple.) To my surprise, her countenance turned very gracious instead of defensive. She gathered her things and walked away.

I later found the guy in the mall and asked him what that was all about. He stated that he had been going online to look for dates and knew he should not have been. He said my coming to the table was confirmation that he should not have been out with that girl. We talked a little further and I found out about his faith. He was raised as a believer and still had strong faith, but had not been attending church regularly. I reminded him that Scripture encouraged us not to “forsake the gathering” and to find a church that he could call home

Now, I can’t say that I won any converts that day at the mall, but I guess I helped this guy from being in a relationship with an unbeliever. My advise would be to let her down a bit more graciously next time!!

I think stuff like this can only happen when we take a step of faith and get outside our comfort zone. I encourage you to be bold. I was bold that day, more bold than I usually am probably! If I would have just let the table after the girl tried to shut down the conversation, the rest of the story would not have unfolded. Be bold, take a step of faith. Heaven’s currency is faith!

She said Hitler should go to heaven…

It never ceases to amaze me what I hear people say when we begin to engage about spiritual matters. But today may have taken the cake. It took dinner too I think. 

I was at work doing training for a new job when I met a lady named Nancy who was a volunteer. She was a friendly woman, probably in her 60s or 70s and we began a pleasant conversation. After a while I felt it would be good to turn the conversation toward spiritual things. This is something I practice often because I believe the message of Jesus and the destination of others’ souls to be important enough for the spiritual to be brought up whenever possible. 

I asked Nancy if she attended a church. She said she did not currently, but grew up Catholic and had knowledge of the faith. However, she admitted that she did not have much knowledge of the Bible. As we moved through our conversation, she made it clear that a major sticking point for her when considering Christianity is believing in a God who sends people to hell. “How could God send someone like Ghandi to hell?” Nancy asked. This question of how a loving and merciful God could send people to hell is one that I have heard often, it is a sticking point for many people, not just Nancy.

I asked Nancy if she thought everyone should go to heaven, to which she said yes. I inquired about Hitler. Surely not the man responsible for the death of 11 million innocent lives I thought to myself. But indeed, when she said everyone, she meant everyone. She said that everyone is justifying their actions and will realize their errors after death. Should God punish our sincere efforts while on earth to do what we each thinks is good?

This is really a form of relative truth which maybe people are turning to today. If it is true for you, then it is true. When I encounter this perspective I often use the “color of the chair” illustration. I look at the nearest chair. For example, if the nearest chair is blue, I will say, “If I say the chair is red and you say it is blue, are we both right?” Usually the person will concede, the chair is blue, that is absolutely true. Then, I can argue for absolute truth.

I was astounded by Nancy’s viewpoint. Even Hitler should achieve heaven, because he really did not know better! Dear Lord, I am glad she did not have a career in the judicial system!

I was not able to convince Nancy to drop everything and follow Jesus but I am hopeful that I helped her understand absolute truth and that there could be eternal consequences for our sins.

Where does my passion for evangelism come from?

As I begin blogging about evangelism, I think a good place to start would be to answer the question, “Where does my passion for evangelism come from?” The simple and short answer would be, “God”. But allow me to share a bit further.

I was raised going to church and knew God from a young age. However, it was not until the summer between my junior and senior year of high school that I took personal ownership of my faith. It was shortly after I had begun truly getting to know God that I began to feel broken and burdened for those that did not know Him.

I can recall one evening sitting at the front of the room near the alter after youth group had already been dismissed. I was crying and barely knew why, but I felt as though God was changing who I was and redirecting my passions. Not long after, I specifically remember laying in bed late one night, weeping and feeling such sorrow for people who did not know Christ the same way that I did. I imagined flying a plane over a distant, unreached people group and dropping Bibles down. Not sure what kind of evangelism that would be! Interestingly enough, I recently met a missionary who was evangelizing two villages in South America who have never been engaged with the Gospel and even have witches living in their midst. Maybe that is a small fulfillment of what I imagined nearly a decade ago.

Strange imagination or not, it was clear to me that an ache to reach the lost was being birthed within me. This growing new passion continued as I recall driving into church and again, crying because of sorrow for people who were spiritual lost. I would imagine people suffering in hell with no Savior to rescue them. The reality of that sobering thought still motivates me today. In fact, it is a thought that each of us should not shy away from but rather meditate on often as a motivation to share our hope with others and be part of someone else’s rescue.

During my senior year, I gathered the courage to call one of the popular guys on the football team on the phone and share about Jesus with him. I vividly remember, with tears rolling down my face, sharing with him that only God could satisfy him and all other pursuits in life would leave him empty.  I have had other contact with him since, but have yet to hear that he has placed his faith in Christ. Seeds have been planted however, and I still have faith one day he will believe. He is someone to continue to intercede for in prayer. 

That interaction sparked a habit I have formed of sharing my faith with anyone that God sends my way. When I first meet someone, my mind now immediately ponders where they will spend eternity rather than where they live, work or go to school. In future blogs, I will be sharing all kinds of stories with you of experiences I have had sharing my faith with people and the lessons I have learned.

My motivation to share my faith has been simplified to two thoughts over the years. Really, two realities. Heaven and Hell. Both places are real. In fact, more real than earth because they are eternal while earth will one day be destroyed. And every person, so special and unique, will spend their forever in one of those two places. The truth is, I know the secret to get to heaven. And it’s my responsibly and my privilege to make that secret known to those around me. That’s why I evangelize. And I pray this blog is an inspiration for you to go out and do the same!

Why do you evangelize? I would be curious to hear what motivates you. Drop a comment below!

In Christ,

Jesse