This is War!

I witnessed many a hard fought match when I was a college tennis coach. Two competitors, bashing shot after shot, each point hotly contested. Hours later, after lots of sweat, emotion and a handful of game-changing points, the match concluded – one player victorious, the other galiant in defeat. In tennis terms, we’d call a match like that a war.

In the spiritual realm, especially in the arena of personal evangelism, you and I are in a war. Not the kind that results in temporary glory or defeat. Rather, you and I are smack dab in the middle of a spiritual war where the eternal state of the souls of men and women hang in the balance. Sound serious? You bet!

Interestingly this spiritual war taking place on the battlefield of personal evangelism is not simply a war being waged against us. It’s a war that also takes place from within. Let me explain.

Evangelism is hard because there are forces working against us. Those forces fighting against our personal witness to others includes opposition from within and opposition from without.

The opposition from within is our flesh. In Galatians 5:16-17, the Apostle Paul wrote > “I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

John Starke wrote in a Gospel Coalition blog entitled Why don’t I evangelize? > “There are lots of ways to justify not practicing evangelism: I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I’m not very persuasive. I’m too shy. There are lots of unspoken reasons as well. I suppose the most common is fear.”

In fact, we could add many other excuses including, “I don’t know how to start a witnessing conversation and if I did I wouldn’t know how to answer questions. I don’t want to “turn off” my friend. I don’t want to get into an argument. I don’t think they’d be interested.” Sometimes we give up before we even start because we say it’s too hard.

The war waged us against us from the outside emanates from both the devil and his minions, and from the world – that system of belief, attitudes, and actions that opposes the things of God.

1 Peter 5:8 states, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour {by the way, that’s you and me}. Ephesians 6:12 adds, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Yes, the enemy of our souls would do any and everything within his power to keep us from sharing the life-giving message of the gospel.

Finally, the world is against God and hence against us sharing the good news of Jesus – “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

In this Age of Tolerance and Relativism, it’s certainly not politically correct to proclaim absolute truth and declare Jesus the only way to heaven. Yes, the world system opposes the things of God. For example, the world says Look out for no. 1, while Jesus says Love your enemies, serve others and give your life away. My father used to say to me, echoing a common worldly theme, “Larry, the meek shall not inherit the earth!” Well, Jesus Himself said in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

The world system that opposes our Christian witness says in so many words, “How arrogant, bigoted and narrow-minded of you to say there’s only one way to heaven through Jesus. Absolute truth – come on! Jesus, God in the flesh? Who are you kidding?”

There are real spiritual reasons we don’t engage in personal evangelism. Yes, when we declared allegiance to heaven by trusting in Jesus we concurrently declared war on hell and hell fights back pretty hard. Yes, there are weapons formed against us, but God has also equipped us with armor to fight the good fight of faith.

Here’s just an example of resources for fighting this war against:

* Our flesh – “For God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).

* The devil – “He (God) who is in you is greater than he (the devil) who is in the world.’ (1 John 4:4)

* The world – “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (1 John 5:5)

Yes, we’re in a spiritual war and our testimony to people about God’s grace found in Jesus Christ is one of the battlefields to be sure. But the next time you feel like giving in to those forces working against you and not engaging or reengaging in this area of personal evangelism, remember God has given us ample resources to be the witness He wants us to be – the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, the gospel, and prayer. In upcoming blogs we’ll address in greater detail those incredibly powerful resources God has given us to do our part fulfill the Great Commission. Until then, keep fighting the good fight of faith!

What is our message?

In the midst of the information age and the advent of 21st Century technologies, we are literally bombarded with messages on a daily basis. Frankly, it takes much work to sift through and determine what messages are important, what messages to engage, and ultimately what messages to act upon. Yet, one message is singular, transcendent, powerful, and life changing. In fact, amidst the noise and clutter of a message-saturated world, it is simply the most important message of all.

What is that message? It is the gospel of Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul articulates the gospel message when he wrote, “For I deliver to you first of all, that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried and that he rose again on the third day according to the scriptures.”

The gospel is about Jesus’ life and what He accomplished on our behalf. Namely, He paid our sin debt, providing a means of forgiveness so that through faith, we could be reconciled to God and receive the gift of eternal and abundant life.

The three main components of the gospel message are the Scriptures, substitutionary atonement, and the resurrection

When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian Church, the Scriptures referred to the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). The letters comprising the New Testament had not yet been compiled. And when we think about understanding and articulating the gospel message, we’ll be more grounded when we understand the foundations of the gospel message as first revealed in the Old Testament.

Jesus declared in Matthew 5:18 that He came not to “abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill.” Talking with two men on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27, the Lord “…beginning at Moses and all Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Finally, Jesus reiterated this truth to His disciples in Luke 24:44-46 just before His ascension, adding in verse 46 : “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ (Messiah) to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”

Substitutionary atonement is first illustrated for us in the Garden of Eden after the fall when God clothed Adam and Eve with tunics of skin — the skin representing a slain animal. Adam’s and Eve’s covering of fig leaves was an unacceptable sin covering, for atonement was found in God’s provision rather than man’s efforts. Substitutionary atonement, ancient Israel’s means of forgiveness found throughout the Old Testament, is particularly highlighted in Leviticus 17:11 where the Scriptures state, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Additionally, Isaiah 53 is a powerful messianic prophecy of the Suffering Servant’s sacrifice on behalf of mankind. Substitutionary atonement finds culmination in the person of Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

The concept of resurrection is also found many places in the Old Testament. For example, Daniel 12:1-2 states: “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (See also Hosea 6:2, Psalm 16:10, Psalm 49:10, Job 19:25, and Isaiah 26:19). Jesus, in rising from the dead on the third day, demonstrated His authority and victory over sin and death.

As Ambassadors for Christ, “we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Therefore, understand the message, thank and praise God for the message, and share the message!

“Sing to the LORD, bless His name. Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” Psalm 96:2

Evangelism is a Team Thing

I’m a huge sports fan!  The Florida Gators and New York Yankees are my two favorite teams.  Now you’re probably not a Gators or Yankees fan, and you might not even like sports, but there’s an important principle from the sporting world that applies to us as Christians.

Teamwork is critical in both team sports and even individual sports.  A common thread in award acceptance speeches given by champions of individual sports is the idea that the team helped achieve victory.  In athletics it takes many people working together in order to accomplish the goal.

As in the sporting arena, so it goes in the arena of evangelism.  For it seems to me that evangelism is a team thing.  It is neither exclusively a God thing, nor a me thingEvangelism is a we thing.

Jesus said to his disciples at the beginning of his earthly ministry, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  And just before ascending to heaven at the end of His earthly ministry He stated, “Go and make disciples of all nations…and I will be with you always.”

One of the mysteries of the gospel is that while God is all-powerful and is the author of salvation, He chooses to use people like you and me to bring other people to Himself.  For we, the church, are integral to His redemptive plan.  In fact, the Lord commands us to be actively involved in His redemptive work.

The implication of this reality is that we can neither shirk our personal responsibility to witness nor feel overwhelmed that we have to do the work of evangelism alone.  Because God in His Grace is sufficient to enable you and I to do our part in the evangelistic endeavor!  The Apostle Paul wrote “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,  who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant…” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

Additionally, research indicates that the average person will hear the gospel message several times before making a decision to trust in Christ.  In my own life I categorically rejected the gospel message on multiple occasions over a period of several years.  Yet God brought me to himself in 1987 through the witness of many people and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Not only are we partnering with God in the Great Commission, we as believers are also co-laboring together in God’s field. One sows, another waters, but God gives the increase.

As children of God, we’re all part of the same team, the Church.  As we work together in fulfilling the Great Commission, have confidence that the Lord is bringing His game plan of redemption to fruition.  For Jesus said, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

So press on and be faithful in doing your part on the team – proclaiming the gospel boldly in word and deed – and know we have the victory – together!!


Evangelism is a Heart Issue

“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.” (1 Peter 3:15)

This key verse regarding the witnessing endeavor packs a punch. The prerequisite for what we share and the spirit in which we share is in alignment when Christ is on the throne of our hearts.

Evangelism is a heart issue!

Central to God’s redemptive plan in delivering people out of bondage to sin into freedom in Christ is HIS heart to seek out and save the lost.  In Luke 19:10 Jesus said, “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” – that’s you and me at one time, and now those people we interact with on a daily basis in the marketplace who have not yet trusted in Jesus.

The parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15:1-7 illustrates well the heart of God for the lost.  In it, we see a picture of a shepherd taking initiative to look for a lost sheep, searching until it is found.  Upon finding it he rejoices.  This beautiful picture illustrates God as the Initiator who seeks out sinners and the joy He takes in their repentance!  Jesus explains in verse 7 that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

How about your heart and mine?  Are we aligned with God’s heart in His passion for the lost?  Are we conscious that people need the Lord?  Today, there are people in your sphere of influence and mine that need Jesus and the reality is that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The Apostle Paul is a prime example of one whose heart beat for the lost.  In Romans 10:1, he wrote, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.”

In fact, earlier in Romans 9:1-3, Paul expressed the intensity of his heartbeat for the salvation of his Jewish people –  “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh…”

Do you hear the intent of his fervor? Do you feel it?

A great place to begin growing our heart for the lost is to simply surrender to the Lord in prayer, committing our witness and evangelistic endeavors to Him.  Something along the lines of Lord, give me Your heart for the lost and give me the faith to follow where you call me to go.

Once we’ve ‘set apart Christ as Lord,’ we will be more apt to go where He calls us to go, do what He calls us to do, and say what He would have us to say…with fresh courage…to those with whom He calls us to share!

What does this look like in practice?  What’s the next step for you and for me?  I don’t know.  But God does.  Remember, when our heart is aligned with His, we should follow where He leads, walking by faith.  When God call called Abraham to go in Genesis 12, Abraham followed, leaving behind all he knew for an unknown destination God promised to give him.  When Jesus called first disciples, saying ‘follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus didn’t explain what He meant.  They simply followed.  And when the Lord calls us to go and make disciples of all nations, the ‘going’ looks different for you and for me.  Yet the underlying principle of following remains the same – set apart Christ as Lord.

Wait!  Can you hear it…that still small voice?  It’s the Lord and He’s calling us to go.  Where?

He’ll show us later!  For now, just take the next step – with Him.  Remember, it’s a heart thing.

Parable of the Lost Sheep animated clip

Evangelism is a Process

Evangelism is a process, not an event!

Paradoxically, “the process” is made up of separate events which God uses in an individual’s journey to faith.

Jesus’ parable of the soils in the Gospels (Luke 8:4-15, Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20) sheds light on this reality. We’re called to sow gospel seed, which is the Word of God, and that takes time.  The soil is the condition of a human heart, as Jesus explained, and is where the seed lands.  As one bible commentator notes, “The soils do not represent individual moments of decision as much as a lifelong response to God’s Word.”

I was in college the first time I heard the gospel.  My initial responses were outright rejection of that message.  However, people kept coming and the Holy Spirit kept working on my heart.  Four years passed between the time people began witnessing to me and the day I trusted in Christ.

By understanding that evangelism is a process, you will gain confidence and be able to balance the urgency of sharing Jesus while respecting people enough to give them time, space, and margins to process the truth.

I remember years ago I was at Brooklyn College talking to students about Jesus. I was sharing with an orthodox Jewish student and I asked him, “Have you ever heard this [gospel] message before?” Perplexed, he said, “Never in my life!” He certainly needed time to begin processing the gospel message, previously unknown to him.

We don’t know the condition of a human heart and we may not know a person’s previous exposure to truth or Christian witness.  God does! Yet, we’re asked by God to engage and sow gospel seed.

One sows, one waters, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

This summer my family and I are gardening for the first time.  Biting into our first spring onion was thrilling! We’ve been learning that the process of gardening is important.  When you’re gardening, you have to plant seeds at the right time, you have to water just enough, you have to tend your garden regularly and you have to believe that your hard work will yield a harvest.

Giving too much information too soon, or sharing all your Biblical knowledge and everything you know about Jesus and the gospel is counterproductive in witnessing.  It’s possible to nullify seed that’s been sown.  A reasonable amount of water is necessary for growth as in a light summer shower or controlled watering.  But a deluge from a big storm or a fire hydrant will wash the seed away.

We don’t have to overdo the process and upload everything we know in one sitting or event! Instead, we sow and water as the Holy Spirit leads, while leaving the results to God. Research has shown people who trust in Christ typically need several exposures to the gospel message before believing in Him.

Even Paul, though saved in a moment on the Damascus Road, heard the gospel in Acts 8 from Stephen’s testimony even as he consented to Stephen’s stoning.  Paul’s persecution of the church wasn’t due to lack of gospel understanding but rather because of it! He simply rejected the truth until his conversion in Acts 9. One other note – there may have been believers who tried to share with Paul and who may have even been praying for his salvation (see Matthew 5:44).

Every person is on a journey, including you and me. And evangelism is a process.  So enjoy the journey, understand the process, and trust in the Lord as you sow and water – leaving the results to Him!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


Shall we begin?

I like physical training.  I’ve been working out since my youth.  But to be honest, I also like when a workout is completed.  The satisfaction I derive includes all the immediate benefits of a relaxed mind and body, and longer-term benefits such as the decreased risk of various health problems.  A physical training routine is also a huge victory in another way – for most of us it’s a victory over laziness!

Personal Evangelism is like personal fitness training in many ways.  If I did it when I felt like it, I wouldn’t do it very often.  Yet, when I take the initiative, step out in faith, and share the good news of Jesus, it’s not only a personal spiritual victory for me, it blesses the heart of God!

Yet, to whom much is given, much is expected.  As the children’s bible chorus goes, “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine!” (see Matthew 5:14-16)

The Great Commission is not optional!

At the heart of the Great Commission is Jesus’ command to “go out into all nations and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).  God’s Kingdom Building Program requires His children, namely you and me, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).  And if you believe in the bible, you believe people need to trust in Christ to be forgiven of sin, to experience the abundant life Jesus promises, and to go to heaven.

We have to admit, however, that gospel proclamation is challenging.  And we shouldn’t be surprised!  You see, we are sinners and in our own humanness or flesh we are weak.  And this weakness will drive us to avoid confrontation, potential rejection, and other realities associated with personal evangelism that can cause us to fear the process.  Additionally, our enemy, the devil, hates Jesus and His followers.  The enemy doesn’t want us to share with the unbeliever and doesn’t want the unbeliever to hear the truth that sets men and women free.  Finally, the world system opposes God, so to share the gospel of God is certainly not PC in the worlds’ eyes.

So in light of the conflict between the mandate of the Great Commission to proclaim the gospel and the opposition to gospel proclamation, how then shall we overcome?

In a word – Initiative!  Initiative: the act of taking the first step.   Initiative comes from personal commitment that flows out of a heart that loves God and loves others.  That commitment reflects God’s heart to proclaim the gospel in word and deed.

Heart > Commitment > Initiative….or in other words – ready, set, go.

When it comes to evangelism, we all will struggle with heart, commitment and initiative issues.  We are in a spiritual war.  Yet Jesus has achieved the victory!  He said He would build His Church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it.  And He also gives us the privilege of participating with Him — or “co-laboring” if you will — in His Kingdom Building Program called the Great Commission!

Many believers recognize this mandate from the Lord and want to engage in personal evangelism, yet feel discouraged and ill-equipped.  The goal of this blog is to provide biblically-based principles that will encourage and equip you, the Christian, to more effectively share Jesus with those with whom you come into contact, whether in your family, a neighbor, a coworker or even a stranger at the market.

And what will be the win?  Well, others will be blessed, the heart of God will be blessed, and you and I will grow closer to the Lord in the process!  Now that’s what I call victory!

As popular Christian writer Bill Bright says in his book, Witnessing without Fear:  “Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God.”

Wherever you are on your faith journey as a follower of Jesus, in the area of personal evangelism, today is a new day with new challenges, new opportunities, and new blessings that await.  Shall we begin?