Nothing Kills the Flesh like Witnessing

My pastor told me that he was on vacation once and he met a gentleman who told him that he did a lot of “street witnessing”. The man explained that he made it a point to regularly share the Gospel of Jesus with the people he encountered. Then he made this statement, “Nothing kills the flesh like street witnessing.” I have found that statement to be very true.

It is very hard to be selfish when you are telling others about Jesus. There are reasons for this. You are not talking about yourSELF, or making the other person feel good by talking about them, but rather you are making the object of the conversation, Jesus. The devil and your flesh (the sinful part of you) don’t like Jesus because He comes destroy Satan’s work, subdue your flesh and awaken your spirit. Thus, the flesh gets upset when you talk about Jesus.

Just this morning I walked into a McDonald’s on my way to a counseling appointment. I had driven for about 45 minutes and needed a potty break! As I stepped into the restaurant, a woman caught my eye and the Holy Spirit whispered, “She is why you are here.” As I went to the restroom, the fight commenced between my flesh and spirit. People might think that it is easy for someone like me to talk about God with people, but it’s not. It is usually a battle. Phrases like, “I don’t want to,” “This will be uncomfortable,” “What if she gets offended,” immediately rush into my mind. That is where I use the truth to combat the lies of the flesh. I respond, “The Gospel is God’s power unto salvation,” and “You love me by obeying my commands.” I remind myself that by faith, something wonderful could happen.

I stepped out of the bathroom and asked about the game she was playing on her computer. Then, sat down. I proceeded to tell her I felt God had prompted me to come talk with her and asked how she was doing. She closed her laptop and shared that her friend was suicidal and she was going to talk with him today. We prayed together for her friend and she was very grateful. She then encouraged me for my boldness!! I don’t get that every time I witness. Then, I found out she had faith in Christ and I encouraged her to give go all the way with Christ and life her whole life for him. As I got up to go, she said, “You made my entire day!”

It is true. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Even after encounters life these, I can feel my flesh gripe and complain. But I encourage myself in the Lord and praise Him for positive encounters. Here’s a couple tips on how to kill the flesh:

  1. Keep an eternal perspective. The flesh is focused on the temporary. The Spirit is focused on the eternal. When you can step back and remember that you have the ability to introduce someone to the “spring of water welling up to eternal life,” it makes witnessing easier. Your minutes of discomfort could save them from an eternity of discomfort.
  2. Use Scripture. One of my favorites is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We have to remind ourselves that our flesh is good for nothing. Our flesh is what gets us into trouble, the thing that led us into sin and away from Christ in the first place. But now, through Christ, it is dead! Let’s keep it that way through reminding ourselves of Scripture.
  3. Pray. Pray for opportunities, pray for boldness, pray in the Spirit. Paul asked the Ephesians to “pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…as I should.” Pray this over yourself, ask your church to pray it over you.

I love how even the Apostle Paul shows us the struggle is real. If witnesses was easy for anyone, surely it was for him. But here he is, saying, “pray for me to keep preaching as I should, it’s not easy to keep denying this flesh, I need your support.”

Kill that flesh and watch God use you in miraculous ways today!

Dealing with Rejection In Witnessing

If you have lived for any length of time on earth, you have dealt with rejection. Getting turned down for a date, not making the cut for a try out, getting passed over by a prospective job, or being laughed at by friends or family. Rejection has a way of hurting like few things do. However, when we are rejected for your faith, Jesus gives us special promises that can be great encouragements to us.

There are a series of statements found in 1 Peter 3:14-15 that help us with rejection. “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” First of all, Peter encouraged us to remember that the blessings in our lives for doing the right thing and following God are not contingent on people’s opinions. The verse goes on give us further courage, “Do not fear their threats, do not be frightened”. Sometimes when people reject you, it can literally scare you. But Scripture says “The fear of man will prove to be a snare.” So, we can avoid that snare by fearing God and not man. In one of Paul’s letters, he states, “If I was living for the approval of men, I would not be a servant of God.” Peter actually hits on this concept with his next statement, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” Why does he make this statement here? Because we can easily make an idol our of people’s approval. But Peter says, keep Christ on the throne of your heart and not what people think of you. Peter finishes by saying, “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.” This is exactly what we are called to do, make know Christ and prove His significance to all who are willing to hear.

And sometimes, when we share, people don’t like it. I can recall several times where I have been rejected for my faith. I will share a few stories here which hopefully will comfort you and help you in your witness.

My senior year of high school, many of my peers knew of my faith. I was leading the Christian club and had the opportunity to go one morning to go on the video announcements in front of the whole school and invite them to a Christian outreach event. As I walked into the lunch room that day, a classmate who I knew fairly well shouted, “Jesse, you’re nothing but a Jesus freak!” I was not able to respond but as I reflected, I thanked God for two things. One- he had notices my fervor for Christ and two- that I was being persecuted for righteousness.

Several years back I felt a prompting from God to share a Scripture with a gentleman across from me at Starbucks. I was hesitant but meditated on the Scripture and prayed for the courage to approach the man. I finally walked up to him and asked, “I was praying and felt God would like me to share a Scripture with you, can I share it with you?” The man looked at me and said simply and firmly, “No.” And that was it, I walked out of the Starbucks. While I felt discouraged afterward, I was glad that I acted on my faith instead of letting an opportunity pass me by. I rarely feel guilty for stepping out in faith, but have feel guilty plenty of times for passing up open doors God is giving me for the Gospel.

A number of weeks ago, I was at the mall and approached a young man and handed him a little pamphlet with the Gospel and a testimony contained in it. We had a very short encounter and I told him that I simply wanted to encourage him in his faith. The conversation did not go much further so I proceeded about my walk. A few minutes later, I received a text message on my phone from a gentleman who identified himself as the young man’s father. I initially thought the young man was in his adult years but realize now he could have been a teen. This is a copy of the message:

Certainly, the text took me back at first glance. But I quickly was reminded that Jesus’ name brings up these kinds of emotions in people. I do not have any anger toward this friend of mine, I love him. We can be amazed that such a simple pamphlet could create such a response. But we must keep in mind that the battle is spiritual. This simple Gospel seed has “stirred the hornet’s nest.” Thus, I pray that the blinders of the enemy are taken off his eyes and if he has been hurt by a church or believer, that he would be healed.

Here are 3 simple truths that I remind myself when faced with rejection when witnessing:

  1. We are getting just a taste of the rejection Jesus experienced. Remember, Jesus was ultimately crucified for the message He preached. And John the Baptism beheaded. I’m thankful I have not experienced these yet but feel closer to Christ when I am rejected for him.
  2. The only failure in evangelism is not sharing. This was an idea presented by Dr. Bill Bright who started campus crusade for Christ on college campuses. Our only duty is to share the good news, the individual’s response is out of our hands. We don’t save, we just share.
  3. Jesus said we are blessed if we are rejected for him and have a great reward in heaven because of that persecution. Blessing and heavenly rewards are pretty great consolation as we endure a few moments of emotional pain.

I pray that my words have encouraged you to be bold with the Gospel. I am willing to be rejected by everyone if it means one person can spend an eternity with God and I hope you are too! Remember, Jesus said, “If they hated me, they will hate you.” The cross will always be an offense to sinful humanity, but it is God’s power for salvation!

Christmavangelism

Christmas and evangelism. This might be one of the first years I realized just how ripe this season is with evangelism opportunities! And, when you think about the Christmas story itself, we are reminded how dearly God loves the sinner and the lost. And He wants us to have the same heart as He does.

First, let’s re-consider the Christmas story through the lens of evangelism. Two things have struck me this year about the story of Jesus’ birth.

  1. The way in which He was born.
  2. The fact that it was God COMING to us.

First, Jesus’ was born into humble circumstances to say the least. After Mary and Joseph’s 90 mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the exhausted couple was not greeted by Joseph’s relatives but instead relegated to a barn to deliver the Messiah. Then, Jesus was laid in the animal’s feeding trough as His first crib. I bet the cows and sheep were surprised. Going back for a little more the animals must have said to themselves, “Oh dear, that’s a human baby, I ain’t eating that!”

The way in which Jesus was born should teach us a very simple truth. He came for everyone. He came for the commoner. The dirty one. The sinful one. The lowly one. The one who has been cast down or cast out. No one is too far gone for Jesus. Jesus is not about position, wealth or power. His life on earth was very “normal” and even lowly. And He comes for those of us and around us who have no qualifications to receive His grace.

Second, Jesus came to us! I read a Scripture this morning in Church that I love:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 6:9

The words unto us clearly display God’s heart for the lost. Jesus is a gift from God given to us. We just have to receive it. He gave His Son. People who don’t know Jesus often think He wants them to be “good” and “religious”. And it sounds like a lot of work to them. But little do they know, He just wants them to receive, believe, and love Him.

Let’s share that truth with people this holiday season. There is a gift available to them. All they have to do it take it! And what does that gift contain? As Isaiah shares, they receive a counselor, a father, the spirit of peace and God himself. All of these blessings are contained inside this child born unto us.

So, here a few practical ways to engage with those in your life you would like to reach with the Gospel this Christmas:

  1. Invite them to a Christmas service. Friends and family are more willing to accept an invitation to Church this time of year.Take advantage and invite them!
  2. Use the season as a way to start a conversation. Ask your co-worker if what they do for the holiday. You could ask if they go to church on Christmas or Christmas Eve. I was asked to share the prayer at my work’s holiday dinner. This was a great opportunity I had to share my faith during the holiday season.
  3. Include the Gospel in your Christmas cards. We just received a Christmas card from one of our friends who did this. It was a great way to share Christ, along with a nice family picture.
  4. Give an unexpected gift. This could be to someone not expecting to get a gift from you. Or a gift with an unexpected Gospel-theme to it. For example, one year, I gave my boss the gift of a Billy Graham devotional. Little did I know that when he received it, he shared with me that he loved Billy Graham and used to watch him on TV as a child! This could also be a gift that does have have direct spiritual significance but catches someone’s attention because they had no expectation of getting a present from you.
  5. Pray and ask God for your own creative way to use the season to be evangelistic. God will give you great ideas I guarantee it!

God bless you as you look for ways to use Christmas to be evangelistic. Happy Christmavangelizing to you!

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!