Episode #28: Making Heaven Rejoice – The LKN Faith Podcast
“In the same way, I tell you, there is more rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:10
The goal of making disciples of Jesus requires demanding and persistent effort.
Disciple-making is time-consuming. We must move out of our comfort zone. Bringing people to faith in Christ can be a lonesome task. Some folks consider our teaching others about Christ to be improper or politically incorrect. Our efforts may result in little or no recognition.
Effective evangelism depends, to a great degree, on how much we are in contact with non-Christians, i.e., the world. Our tendency is to “hang” with family and the brothers and sisters in Christ rather than reach out to the lost.
Let me share an example: One high school disciple received criticism from church teen leaders for playing football for his high school on Friday nights rather than attend the teen group meeting. And, at school lunch, this boy chose to sit with the non-Christians while the Christian teens huddled together in a corner by themselves. By graduation, over 100 classmates of the football player had visited our worship services. In addition, four captains of different high school teams, a head football coach, and other friends and family, had been baptized into Christ.
This young man, who was following the example of Jesus by eating with the sinners (Matthew 11:19), had brought numerous people to faith in Christ. The youths who sat in the corner at lunch time brought no friends to Christ during the same time period. This story illustrates the challenge faced by disciples in reaching out to the lost.
This football-playing disciple also graduated near the top of his class and went to study at a leading university where he continued to make disciples. For evangelism to take place, no substitute exists for our daily, godly walking in the world and sharing our faith as we have opportunity, which was a key factor in the life of the football player’s outreach.
Evangelism is very difficult, if not impossible, if we are holed up together talking to ourselves, or even studying the Bible, without interaction with the lost. Some of us spend time studying our Bibles, talking about evangelism, but we are not interacting with the lost. We are like those people who get their sport urges out by playing games on the computer: with no lumps or bumps. Likewise: with no pain, there is no gain for the Lord.
For guidance in evangelism, it came to my attention that John chapter 4 demonstrates how Jesus went about reaching out. We must remember that Jesus “knew the mind of man” (Matthew 9:4, 12:25, & Luke 6:8). We must assume that he knew what he was doing. Should we not learn from his example? In Matthew 28:18-20, we read that Jesus’ last command was “to go….make disciples …baptize…and teach.” Let us look at how Jesus approached a lost woman.
1. Jesus establishes contact with the Samaritan woman at the Sychar well (John 4:1-8): Jesus demonstrates his command “to go” as He teaches in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus “goes” to the well where he encounters a Samaritan woman.
Normally, Jews would not have interacted this woman. Why? Because women were considered inferior by Jews. Even worse, she was an unclean, mixed-race Samaritan with whom all contact was prohibited. A Jew would never drink from the same cup of such a person. None-the-less, our Jesus establishes contact with the woman by making a request of her in verse 7: “will you give me a drink?”
Notice that drawing water from the well was an everyday event. Asking for a drink was a common request, such as when we are shopping at Food Lion and ask an employee for the location of the catsup. Or, while pumping gas, we seek out the attendant regarding how to turn on the pump. Or, when we converse with a parent as we wait together for our children to come out of the school. In some way, we must establish the contact with people just as Jesus did with this woman. We must “break the ice”.
We need to keep two basic principles in mind: First, we must realize that there are always people about us, if we wish to reach out to them (John 4:35-38). Second, most people, if not all, at some time in their lives, have a desire to know God even if they do not show signs of being interested.
Therefore, we must be praying and looking for the harvest which is about us. Yes, we may be rebuffed or ridiculed. But what does it really matter if we are rejected or made fun of? We must remember that such treatment for helping others find salvation is minimal compared to the pain, suffering, ridicule, and rejection suffered by Jesus for us.
2. Jesus aroused the Samaritan woman’s curiosity: With his kindness and a request, Jesus draws out a response from the woman. Note that he uses no Biblical texts, religious jargon or an invite to his synagogue. He is gentle and makes an interesting statement, which hints at something satisfying and fascinating she had never experienced when Jesus said: “if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (verse 10).
From her reply, the woman is confused, but interested. Using the topic of water, Jesus goes on, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (verses 13-14).
Jesus’ words were RELEVANT to this woman. Drawing water from the well to meet the needs of thirsty people was an everyday, monotonous task. As well, his comments were a snapshot of her moral and spiritual condition. She was always thirsty, always missing something, never satisfied, empty, dry, disillusioned, and often depressed. Jesus’ words touched a cord, as the woman responds, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw” (verse 15). Though perplexed, she is interested in hearing what Jesus had to say.
Turning to ourselves, how can we create interest or bring people to a point where they are asking us questions or seeking our help? Unless our friends get to this stage, it is unlikely that they will listen to us when we attempt to share the Gospel with them. Our goal is to make them curious about Christ! Three words: REALITY, INTEGRITY, and TESTIMONY motivate people to engage us in conversation.
In today’s world, many people are looking for that which is “real.” Our own lives show the truth or falseness of what we are saying. We are all witnesses to Christ one way or another. We cannot help proclaiming (or denying) Jesus by who we are as well as what we say. Our lives are louder than our words. One fellow said of an elder, “He lives what he says; I can tell that he follows Jesus.” On the other hand, one famous atheist wrote: “His [Jesus’] disciples have to look more saved if I am to believe in the Savior.”
Do we act “saved”?
Someone observed that “…it is the body of Christ, when deeply united in love, and not the individual Christian, that can most of all make people hungry for God. An infectious happiness is found among Christians who really love one another as well as loving the Savior. The love within the church is crucial as for effective discipleship to take place.” One scholar noted: “People are no longer converted to doctrine.”
Today, the real “draw” is our way of life where friends and neighbors see that we stand out in a good way, that we live differently from the world. We have a special ‘aroma’ (2 Corinthians 4:17-19). Perhaps, part of the reason we fail in our evangelism is that “we have presented Christianity (the system) and not Christ (the person). We have to present to the world a living Christ, fresh, always life-giving and nourishing… it can only be experienced in a loving, forgiving, sharing, and liberating fellowship.”
Many folks are seeking INTEGRITY. People can be suspicious of authority and leadership. In 2 Corinthians 4:2, Paul speaks to integrity when he wrote, “Therefore, we have renounced secret and shameful ways …we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
When we do not walk the talk, we create problems for evangelism, especially for thinking people. Therefore, it is essential that we pursue wisdom, discernment, faith and initiative as we go about evangelizing and making disciples.
The third key is TESTIMONY. Our personal experience in Christ plays a key role in our outreach to the Lost. If we have a consistent life in Christ and present the Gospel, people can have an interest in knowing our personal experience with Jesus. Paul spoke of his experiences several times (Acts 22:4-16; 26:9-18), as did the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:16-18. Not to mention John: “we have heard…we have seen… we have looked…” (1 John 1:1-3).
Such testimony carries its own authority and conviction. Most folk will be motivated to learn about Jesus by our lives along with a simple telling of what the Gospel means to us. Our story will go a long way in bringing faith to people. Some of us stumble in our evangelism as we continue to raise questions that people may not ask, such as ‘the correct version of the Bible.’ These concerns can be pursued later. We may face questions and issues which have seemed irrelevant in the past, but are of fundamental importance today such as: Is there a God? Was Jesus born of God? Can I trust the Bible? Can a gay person get to heaven?
3. Jesus touches a sore spot in the Samaritan woman’s life: When Jesus notices that this woman, though confused, was curious enough to ask for ‘this water.’ Jesus, with gentleness and sensitivity, directed the conversation toward the crucial area of the woman’s life. “Go, call your husband, and come here” (verse 16). Jesus spoke to her greatest need. She responded with a deceptive answer: “I have no husband” (verse 17). To this, Jesus responds directly: “You are right…this you said truly” (verse 18).
Why was it important for Jesus to speak to her marital status? Her marital status was the critical; her marital history mattered. Remember the Savior’s response to the rich young ruler’s question? The ruler’s central issue was his possessions. His wealth mattered the most to him. We might compare Jesus’ approach to the Samaritan to his interaction with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22). Because Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman’s marital history, she said to her community, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did” (verse 29).
In our personal evangelism, we may not have complete insight into people’s lives like Jesus. So, we need to pray for guidance and insight as we interact. And the cost of following Jesus must be put forward as he never allowed compromise. Jesus discouraged those followers who were not serious about being his disciples. Remember that Jesus said, “Unless a man is willing to deny himself and take up his cross daily…” (Matthew 10:38). Obviously, we must be sensitive to those with whom we are speaking, but Christ is to be first in our lives or not at all, which is a very difficult teaching in today’s world.
4. Jesus sidesteps the Samaritan woman’s diversion: Faced with a topic which was a little too personal and particular for her comfort, the woman tried to change the conversation with an impersonal, general question: “Sir, I perceive that you…where men ought to worship” (verses 19-20). In a way, the woman was questioning Jesus’ authority to challenge her.
During the first century, as today, different ideas existed about worship and religion, especially as where to worship. Jesus gently, and in a few words, answered her confusion regarding where to worship and returned this Samaritan to a spiritual topic. “God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (verse 23). For our Savior, it was not the time to delve into interesting biblical topics unrelated to her urgent personal need.
5. Jesus brought the Samaritan woman to faith: Jesus had answered the woman concerns, but she comments, “I know that the Messiah is coming…when he comes, he will show us all things” (verse 25). This remark seems to be indicating that she has found Jesus interesting, but has no need to act now. One day in the future, when the Messiah arrives, the Messiah will tell her what she needs to know. It seems that the woman was looking for an excuse.
How often do we hear reasons for not following Jesus such as: ‘when I have passed my exams…when I retire…when I have checked out some other churches…when the vacation season is over…when the children are older…’?
At that moment, Jesus told her, “I who speak to you am he” (verse 26). Immediately, the woman’s attitude changed as she realized that Jesus was the Messiah. She was face-to-face with the promised Messiah! No more questions from her.
With that realization that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, this Samaritan was off and running to tell others and to bring her friends and neighbors to meet Jesus. Because Jesus requested a drink at the well that day, this Samaritan started a new life filled with joy, forgiveness and love. This was a life that she had not enjoyed previously. Within hours “…many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (verse 39). From one woman’s faith, many people came to have faith. Can the same be said of us? What has been the impact of our coming to faith in Christ?
This woman’s response to learning that Jesus is the Messiah should challenge us. We must not overlook that she immediately ran off to tell her friends and family about her experience, just as Philip ran to tell Nathaniel when he had found the Messiah (John 1:43-51). And the Samaritan woman, as with Peter and Andrew upon meeting Jesus, immediately chose to follow the Lord (Matthew 4:20-22). Amazingly, this woman’s initial group of Samaritan contacts found faith, and their faith led to a larger response to Jesus. The woman’s response to Jesus in a word, “snowballed,” (verses 39-42).
This Samaritan response brings to my mind a Colombian family whom I’ve known for several years. When the Silva Garcia’s heard the Gospel, they repented, believed and were baptized into Christ. Then, they were taught about what it means to follow the Savior on a daily basis. Today, most of the couple’s two extended families have come to faith in Christ. This couple, despite having to work at their jobs and raise their children, have continued to share their faith.
Now along with many relatives, two congregations have been established. This present-day couple demonstrates that, in the 21st century, Jesus can cause events similar to the one that happened at the Sychar well in Samaria some 2000 years ago.
In REVIEW, we learned how Jesus reached out to a lady in an everyday circumstance. After which, the Savior aroused her curiosity with a simple request. This one request led Jesus to speaking to an important concern in the woman’s life. When she tried to change the subject of the conversation, the Lord brought her back to the point of concern. Finally, Jesus’ efforts resulted in her making a commitment that changed her life.
I have found that an urgency is needed when we are helping folks to find Christ. “People are to seek the Lord while He may be found and call upon him when he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Each opportunity to speak with someone is important. People can be open, or are willing to learn about Jesus, but we can choose not to give them the time, or we may feel that we are too busy to help. Maybe we choose to ignore them, thinking that they are not interested.
When visitors present themselves at our worship services, we should reach to them and determine their spiritual needs as best as we can. The fact that they came to worship with us should alert us that they have a need.
Once I worked with two young men who seemed open and interested in studying the Bible. Bible studies were not started with them, and I was not able to “work them into ‘the fellowship’.” Likewise, a lady visited services on a number of occasions; she established no relationships with sisters in the church, and she did not study the scriptures. She became disinterested.
This tract describes just one way of interacting with folks with the goal of encouraging them to study the Bible and to learn about Jesus. The studies should lead to faith in Jesus Christ, followed by baptism and further teaching. Each person is different and approached based on their particular background and circumstance. Hundreds of men, women, and youth have become disciples of the Savior with a similar approach as herein described.
Let us work together to give the angels lots for which to rejoice! In addition, we show our gratefulness for our salvation and love for God and our fellowmen. AMEN!
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