A respected Christian businessman related recently that he wanted to share his faith with his peers but was reluctant to do so. He said, “I’d appreciate it if you’d write a blog relating how you personally strike up a conversation with non-Christians and provide a simple outline of what we could say if the opportunity presented itself.”
Most of us have two fears about sharing our faith with others. First, we don’t want to offend people and possibly lose the opportunity to influence them in the future. We don’t want to go too far too fast. Secondly, we don’t know exactly what to say if friends are willing to listen. It’s one thing to invite people to come to church. It’s quite another to try to personally lead them to Jesus.
I may not be the best person to ask about witnessing because I’m not an aggressive evangelist. There are those who feel comfortable bringing up salvation with a complete stranger and some do that well. I don’t. However, I do look for an opportunity to strike up a conversation about eternal matters with people I know. The Apostle Paul said, “Knowing what it is to fear the Lord we try to persuade men.”
I begin by asking, “Where do you think you stand spiritually?” Some personal evangelism training courses suggests we ask, “If you died tonight do you think you’d go to heaven?” I don’t feel as comfortable with that question as simply asking, “Where do you stand spiritually?”
People will often respond by saying, “I think I’m in pretty good shape. I’m a spiritual person. I believe in God and try to do the right thing…most of the time.” Then they will go on to discuss some of the good things they have done to merit God’s favor. Almost always, if I listen and commend them for their good deeds, they will ask me, “Where do think you stand?” Or, “Would you agree with me?”
That opens the door for me to discuss Biblical principles about salvation. I will say, “My understanding of the teaching of the Bible is that our relationship with God is as simple as A,B,C and D.”
A – Admit I am a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I can compare myself to others and feel smugly righteous. But when I compare myself with God’s law I fall woefully short.
I am in need of forgiveness. (If the opportunity presents itself I list the Ten Commandments and point out that most of us have broken almost all of them…repeatedly.)
B – Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be forgiven. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Salvation is not something we earn, it’s a free gift of God granted to those who believe in Jesus. Jesus paid the price for my sin by dying on the cross. When I put my trust in Jesus’ death to save me I’m promised, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Leighton Ford, an associate evangelist with Billy Graham, told of an imaginary man who died and stood before the gatekeeper of heaven. St Peter said, “You have to have a thousand points to get into heaven. What good things did you do on earth to deserve eternal life?”
The man responded, “I was a boy scout when I was young. I tried to do my best. I helped old ladies across the street. I didn’t cheat in school.”
“That’s good”, the gatekeeper responded. “That’s two points what else?”
The man responded, “I was always faithful to my wife. I seldom missed work. I tried to be generous with local charities.”
“Excellent!” said the gatekeeper, “That’s two more points but you still need 996 more points to get into heaven. What other good deeds have you done?”
By this time the guy was really sweating it. He reviewed every good deed he’d ever performed. The gatekeeper again awarded two more points but cautioned, “You still need 994 more points. Anything else?”
The guy responded, ‘”can’t think of any other good thing I’ve ever done. I guess I’m going to have to throw myself on the mercy of God.”
“That’s good!” said the gatekeeper. “That’s 994 more points. You come on in.” The trouble with that illustration is that you can’t wait until you die to place your trust in Jesus. Now is the time to admit you are a sinner and put your trust not in your good deeds but in Christ’s perfect sacrifice for you on the cross where, the Bible says, “God laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 puts it like this, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
C – Confess your faith in Christ to others. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
When couples get married they stand before a group of people and promise to love their mates until separated by death. When we yield our lives to Jesus Christ we publicly, unashamedly tell others what we have done. Jesus promised, “If you confess me before men, I’ll confess you before my Father who is in heaven.”
D – Demonstrate your commitment to Christ by repenting of your sin and being baptized into Christ. After Simon Peter informed the residents of Jerusalem about Christ’s death and resurrection, they were convicted of their sin and asked, “What shall we do?” “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).
To repent means to change directions. I have been walking away from God, living for selfish ends, but I now change course and follow Christ. That doesn’t mean I will live a perfect life, but I’m walking in a different direction and when I stumble and fall I will get back up and continue that journey.
Baptism becomes the benchmark, the public demonstration of the inward transformation that is taking place. Baptism illustrates that just as Christ died, was buried and then raised from the dead, I die to sin, I am buried with Christ and I rise to walk in newness of life.
A young boy exclaimed as he came out of the baptistery, “Wow! I feel brand new!” Exactly. The Bible promises, “…for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal. 3:27). And, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come.”
I believe my life is right with God not because I’m perfect but because I have trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior. Therefore, my sins are forgiven and I’m confident I’m going to heaven. Are you?