Archives for October 2013

How to Witness as a Winner

olympiad-260782_500webSince witnessing from a spirit of dejection and defeat won’t help anyone, all Christians should know how to witness as winners. After all, nobody wants to be like someone who is caught up in their own problems, living a life of misery. Jesus described His message as “good news,” and He called us to be “overcomers” (Rev. 2-3).

Being a winner doesn’t mean living a life of perfection. It means that despite our struggles, we trust in God to see us through it all. Winners don’t moan, complain, gossip, or hate. Instead, they maintain a mostly positive and joyful attitude by faith. John wrote, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4). We also hear from the Apostle Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

At this moment, your problems may seem greater than your faith. You may be surprised to know that is normal. Why? Because the problems are meant to help you increase your faith. Just as a runner can’t win a trophy if he or she doesn’t first run a challenging race, neither can you be victorious if you don’t have serious challenges to overcome.

With that background, I’ve come up with a four-step process to help you know how to witness as a winner.

1. Identify the Problem

The problem that many of us face when it comes to witnessing—or anything in life—is that we let excuses hold us back. For example, you may have told yourself that you’re an ineffective witness. If so, please know that I’ve “been there.”

I’m not into bashing Christians, if only because that leads to self-inflicted injuries. However, sometimes we need to examine ourselves. I feel that there’s a lot of truth to this tweet that I sent recently:

Some people know enough about Jesus, not to become Christians, but to become angry at Christians.

Sadly, many Christians, including myself, are part of the reason why some unbelievers have never come to Christ.

I used to brood over depressing truths like this. As you can imagine, the guilt and sorrow didn’t help me gain victory, nor become a more effective witness. By the same token, I wouldn’t expect it to benefit you if I used the rest of this blog post only to lament about how most of us are failing to lead unbelievers to Christ.

I now know that God is more gracious and forgiving than I had realized or expected. I’ve also learned that if I make the effort, I can find a silver lining in even the darkest cloud. You should also look for the silver lining once you’ve identified an excuse or problem.

2. Find the Silver Lining

As I had mentioned, Jesus described His message as “good news.” Therefore anyone who, when being honest with him or herself, considers the Bible’s message to be mostly negative has gotten it wrong.

Unfortunately, many Christian leaders unnecessarily spread negativity. For example, some tell us to expect rejection and persecution, even beyond what most of us actually experience in life.

Christian teachers who don’t understand grace say, either directly or indirectly, that we must prove our obedience in order to be saved. Really?… I confess that this is impossible for me. In fact, it’s impossible for anyone. Nobody can prove to God how “good” they are. Therefore, anyone who asks us to do so is essentially telling us we’re going to Hell. We should be teaching people to rely on God’s grace, not on their own works.

Again, I’m learning to be more positive-minded, both for psychological reasons and because I’m understanding the Bible better than before. Thus, before sending the above tweet, I thought about what positive lesson I could learn from it. As a result, I followed it with these messages:

This puts responsibility on us to be Christ-like. We are partners with Jesus in leading people to God!

Since the role of Christians is essential, we can have confidence that we will be glorified together with Christ if we are faithful.

However, we will cast down our crowns because the glory really belongs to Jesus!

Since God will judge (yet not condemn) Christians who will have been poor witnesses, will He not also reward the faithful witnesses? Accountability works both ways because God has promised to reward us for every good thing that we do. Jesus doesn’t deliver believers from damnation into some kind of neutral zone, but to enter into His eternal glory and joy!

I’m not suggesting that any of us deserve anything from God—only that we should expect to be rewarded if we trust in Christ and serve Him faithfully. Imagine how great a reward could await anyone who helps lead even one soul to Christ!

Instead of only being afraid of failure, we should put our eyes on Jesus, and on His ability to fulfill His purposes in us.

3. Trust in God to Help You

God is able and willing to help you fulfill all His purposes in your life. If you’re a Christian, you’re part of God’s Church, which is the body of Christ and the vessel that He has chosen to spread the gospel. This truth is illustrated in my infographic on God’s Plan of Salvation.

The fact that God has chosen us should give us confidence, yet not make us prideful. As the Lord Jesus told Jews who took pride in their physical descent, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Matt. 3:9). We see another, more positive side of this in Luke 19. As Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt, a large crowd of His disciples joyfully sang praises to Him. When the Pharisees asked Jesus to rebuke His disciples, Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Lk. 19:40).

This should give you an idea of how much God desires spiritual children to worship Him and be His witnesses – so much that if we Christians weren’t here He would raise up stones to take our place! Imagine that. The Lord may be looking at you right now thinking, “I’m glad _Your Name Here_ knows Me, and that I didn’t have to raise up a stone instead.”

Think about it. You are the only person who can:

  • Praise and worship God the way you do…
  • Overcome your personal hardships…
  • Be the unique witness that you are…
  • Touch the lives of people in your family and social circles.

There’s nothing any of us can do to earn God’s favor. He has forgiven us, and He accepts us the way we are.

God so desires to raise up spiritual children that Jesus laid down His life for us. Therefore, you can be certain that He’s on your side, willing to help you.

If you haven’t been living a victorious and joyful Christian life lately, why not resolve to begin this moment? You’re a reason why Christ gave His life. As I had mentioned from the start, faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

For every negative fact or experience in life, there are many more positives, if only we would take notice of them. If you ever have difficulty seeing a positive side, you can easily find many motivational truths in the Bible.

I don’t believe in pretending that unpleasant truths don’t exist, but in focusing mainly on the positives so that we can confidently face reality and make the best of our circumstances. We should also be aware that some of what we perceive to be negatives are utterly false, are only possible outcomes, or are beyond our control. As we focus on the positives and banish fears and worries by faith, we’ll bring bring positive outcomes into being. To put it in biblical language, we’ll bear fruit for God.

I can write only so much here about how to live a victorious Christian life. For further reading, I recommend the book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith.

If we are to be the most effective witnesses we can possibly be, we must also learn to recognize…

4, The Greatest Witnessing Opportunity

Thumb-Up-150webDo you know an unbeliever who has recently run into difficult times? Maybe they sometimes appear to be sad, but you don’t know why. A friend, family member, or acquaintance may have suffered physically because of an illness or accident; become the victim of an ugly divorce; lost a loved one; or experienced some other tragedy. There doesn’t necessarily have to have been a “tragedy” since anyone could feel battered and abused by life itself.

Imagine what it must be like for anyone to go through life without knowing anything about God’s love, comfort, or hope of eternal salvation. Think about the loneliness, pain, fear, and frustration that this person you know may be feeling even now.

As I had mentioned, God has chosen to depend, not on angels, but on us Christians to preach the gospel. Our Lord identifies with all who are in need, including unbelievers. Witnessing isn’t so much about Christian bumper stickers and gospel tracts as it is about caring for needy people. This means we should focus especially on people like the ones I just described. Such people are almost always aware of their weaknesses and failures, and therefore seldom need anyone to point them out. Though they may never say it out loud, they need someone who will accept them as they are and come alongside them to offer comfort and help. If you can do that for them, they might be willing to listen if you talk to them about Jesus and what He’s done for you.

Remember that Jesus told us He would say to His sheep, “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, that you did for Me” (Matt. 25:40). Any unbeliever can become a brother or sister of Jesus by becoming born again.

Have you also struggled with understanding the Bible’s message as being truly good news? Is there an excuse you’ve made for not having a burden to tell people about Jesus? How do you respond when that excuse comes to mind?

How to Use GPS – God’s Plan of Salvation (Infographic)

Gods-Plan-of-Salvation_1000

 

You may use a GPS device to navigate the roadways, but the most important “GPS” is God’s plan of salvation. His plan for your salvation involves not only faith, but also works. The question that people asked after they heard Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost was, “What must we do to be saved?” (Acts 2:37). Salvation is a miraculous work of God, but that doesn’t mean all we need to do is accept it in a passive manner.

The papacy in Rome used to proclaim that salvation was only possible through the Church. Protestants reversed this by saying that salvation could only be obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. I am a Protestant, and I agree in substance with the Protestant position. However, I also think we should give the Church credit where credit is due. This was the inspiration behind the above infographic, God’s Plan of Salvation.

You’re probably familiar with the traditional view that is held by most evangelicals. Countless people have come to Christ after seeing the simple illustration of how Jesus bridged the gap between mankind and God (see the top half of the infographic). This picture confronts unbelievers with the stark choice of either accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ. That’s the decision that God has put before each of us, and Jesus is indeed the only way to God. However, as useful as the image of Jesus bridging the gap has been, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Can you think of what is missing from that picture?

As you may have guessed, the Church is absent from that picture. Seldom does anyone come to God without first hearing the gospel from a Christian. The Apostle Paul wrote:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

The lower picture helps us put everything in perspective, including the world, the Bible, the members of the Trinity, and Heaven. This picture also highlights the importance of the Church, especially the current generation of Christians. The call to receive salvation through Jesus Christ is also an invitation to join His body, the Church. Jesus wants people to sit at His feet and get to know Him, then go forth and do good works in His name. He has much unfinished business in this world.

Anyone looking at the top picture could get the mistaken impression that all mankind has fallen away from God. This was mostly true in the distant past, before the Church came into being. However, this is now highly inaccurate since all true Christians live in a restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ. God is at war with the powers of darkness that enslave mankind, not with people.

Mankind is not gathered in one enormous, anti-God alliance, as the top picture seems to indicate. Instead, mankind is spiritually divided between the world and the Church. The world is captivated by selfish desires, sensual lusts, and materialism. People hunger and thirst for spiritual fulfillment, which can only be found in Christ.

On the other side is the Church, which consists of people who have repented of sin, received Christ by faith, and seek to follow His ways. As is often pointed out, the Church is full of flawed people. Still, even unbelievers can witness the occasional sparkle of God’s love and grace shining like a diamond through us, even if we often feel like ordinary “rocks.” Further information can be found on the infographic itself.

This goes far beyond the question of what kind of graphic to use in slide presentations or how to present the gospel to an unbeliever. The issues addressed in this article are of critical importance to all Christians, and to understanding our mission in the world. S. Michael Craven recently discussed this topic in Why Is Christianity Losing in America? Here’s an excerpt:

The Pauline epistles, particularly Romans and Galatians, consist of precise statements of what Jesus achieved in his saving death and how that achievement could be appropriated by the individual. We often refer to this as the “plan of salvation” and it is, of course, true and essential to Christian understanding. Unfortunately, if this is all we believe, we only have part of the gospel leaving us with very little in terms of truly knowing Jesus’s mission and, subsequently, that of his church. This reductionist understanding was never the intent of those working to reform the church, but the Reformation would set the stage for the bifurcation of the gospel. Eventually we came to think of personal salvation as the “good news” apart from its crucial modifying phrase: “of the kingdom,” leaving us with a nebulous religious term (i.e., the kingdom) that fewer and fewer Christians would even understand.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and the infographic about God’s Plan of Salvation. I invite you to share it on social media, and on your Christian website if you have one. Please provide a link back to this article. As always, feel free to share your thoughts below.