“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:56) The context of Paul writing those verses is evangelism. He had just asked them to pray for his boldness in sharing the good news. Paul encourages his readers to be wise in the way they act towards outsiders. He encouraged them to “make the most of every opportunity.” He recognized what we often fail to remember: that every encounter, every chance meeting that we have with another soul is an opportunity. Our speech needs to be full of grace and answers for those who are searching. And they are searching. Some of the people that you work with and that you know by casual acquaintance are seeking for the truth and ready for the gospel. Not all of them, but some of them. The soil of their heart (Matthew 13:1-8) is ready for the seed of the gospel to take root. Are you looking for places to sow the seed of the gospel? If ever we should be followers of Christ, it should be in the area of sharing our faith! And yet sometimes we are resistant to act.
The story of Jonah is very telling. He is a man of God that is called in the first verses of the book to go to a specific group of people and warn them of God’s coming judgment. Jonah knew of the coming judgment on the Ninevites because God had told him. But the Ninevites didn’t know so they had to be told. Rather than obey God’s command to share His truth, Jonah ran the other way. And God dealt with him. Don’t miss that. Whenever we are resistant to obey God there are consequences. A fish may not swallow you, but you will experience consequences. We see in chapter 3 that Jonah finally acquiesces to God’s command and warns the Ninevites. The revival is miraculous. Jonah has a very simple message and the response is dramatic because God had prepared them to receive it. Don’t miss chapter 4. Jonah is put on display as a selfish prophet because he is more concerned with his own comfort that “120,000 that don’t know their right hand from their left.” That means those that are still young, ignorant and need to be warned. God ends the book asking Jonah, “Should I not be concerned?”
So are you more like God or like Jonah in your concern for the lost? Are you focused more on your own comfort and life than telling others of the coming judgment and the grace that is offered on the cross?
The Grave Danger They Are In
Honestly, do you really have a concern for their souls that will push you beyond your discomfort, awkwardness, and the lack of confidence? In 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Paul writes that He has given us the message. “We implore you!” he writes. That means he was pleading with them, begging them to be reconciled to Christ! Paul’s love for those he wrote to compelled him to write and beg them to be reconciled to Christ, to begin that relationship that offers forgiveness of sins and deliverance from eternal death. Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In that sermon, he outlines specifically and graphically the dangers and horrors of hell. That sermon had a dramatic affect on its hearers as the reality of hell and eternal punishment became clearer to them.
I think the reason that we are not as bold in pleading as we should be is that we don’t really see clearly the danger the lost are in. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 reads “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.” Hell is a punishment that never ends – conscious, unbearably tormenting (described as in a lake of fire) agony with no hope of deliverance or relief. It’s hard to image or to think about anyone having to experience hell. If we see hell rightly, it should break out hearts and call us to action! D.L. Moody said, “I cannot preach on hell unless I preach with tears.” When D.L. Moody spoke about hell he could not do so without brokenness because he had an understanding of their eternal punishment. A healthy exercise to give us more compassion for the lost and a greater sense of urgency is to find those sections of Scripture that speak of the eternal punishment of the lost and meditate on them in your Quiet Time. Memorize them. Begin to pray that God would give you a greater understanding of the reality of hell. This will lead to a greater compassion for the lost and an increased sense of urgency. Someone once said, “Lord, strip away the things that don’t matter, even the good things, so that what is left are the things that will still matter 10,000 years from now.” The one thing that matter is the eternal destiny of those around you.
You Know the Message
Sometimes I hear Christians say they are hesitant to share the gospel because they don’t know how or they may not be able answer all the questions. I would suggest to you that you know the gospel. I believe that if you are a Christian, you know the gospel. You can’t be a Christian unless you know and understand the gospel. It’s what you believe if you are born again. I remember first sharing my faith very shortly after becoming a Christian. The excitement of being forgiven for my sins and having eternal life was something I wanted to share with everyone I loved.
I didn’t have the answers to all the difficult questions – I just simply presented the good news that Jesus died for my sins. I’m not saying that studying the gospel isn’t helpful in preparing for witnessing. I’m not saying that studying apologetics (learning about defending the faith) is not profitable. But I believe that if someone is truly seeking the truth and their heart is open to the gospel, they want to hear the gospel and are not focused on debating. All that we have to do is present the gospel in a clear and concise manner and answer their questions as simply as we can. And there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” to a question that someone has. If they are looking for God they will find Him.
It is important to be able to share it with clarity and at a moment’s notice. Can you give your testimony in 30 seconds? D.L. Moody once said that he could write the gospel on a dime. You need to have the ability on the fly to share how God saved you and clearly explain the process you went through to become a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ. Can you explain the gospel to someone in a few sentences? If someone asked you how they could be saved, what would you say?
I would encourage you to remember three words that will help you to explain the way to be saved. Turn. A person needs to understand that they are a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that the result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Death is separation – separation in their relationship with God and sin also causes separation and heartache in their relationship with others. To be saved they need to turn from their sin in repentance. (Acts 3:19) Trust. A person secondly needs to trust that Jesus Christ did everything to earn their salvation on the cross. That He suffered in their place and took on their sin and the punishment they deserved. That there is nothing they can add. It’s more than just believing facts about the gospel-it is trusting in His deliverance. The word believe used when presenting the gospel has attached to it the concept of trusting and relying upon His death. Follow. This third element of what we present communicates that they are expected to actually follow Christ. Any person who really believes will have their life dramatically changed and will follow Him. Jesus often told people to count the cost before deciding to follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:25-33). This is not how a person is saved, but it is Jesus’ expectation and needs to be presented as someone considers trusting Christ.
What We Really Need
I believe the most essential skill that a Christian needs in sharing the gospel is the ability to build a rapport with others. If you have a concern for the lost, understand what awaits them, and have an understanding of the gospel, you simply need to communicate your love for people and introduce to them the gospel when you have an opportunity (remember Colossians 4:5-6). I have found that if you have the ability to be friendly and carry a conversation, God will open up doors in your conversation for the gospel. All you have to do is look for them. What you have to do is have conversations and start seasoning them with the salt of the gospel.
Here are some exercises on being friendly and carrying conversation. You need to remember to show a genuine concern for them and not just see them as a target for the gospel. These take very little time out of your day and will help you to be more outgoing and encouraging:
- Start by greeting people you don’t know. Wherever you are, develop a habit of saying “Hi” to people wherever you are. Ask them how their day is going. You will be amazed at how this simple greeting will encourage others and start conversations!
- The next step is to look for opportunities to initiate conversations. After greeting someone, and you find that you have a few moments with them (maybe waiting in line), let your conversation be guided by two concepts:
- “What can I learn about them?” You can come up with an almost infinite number of
- “What can I learn from them? I try to have an attitude that every person I meet has questions as you seek to learn everything about them from their family life, profession, interests, skills, history and spiritual story some skill, interest, experience, knowledge or perspective that I can learn from and that can be a benefit to me. As you learn about them, pursue areas in which you can learn something from them.
- If you find that you develop the ability to be friendly and carry on a basic conversation, look for open doors to bring up the Lord or to share something from the Bible. People will often share struggles or make comments that can naturally provide you a way to turn the conversation to spiritual things. Just by sharing a thought or spiritual encouragement you may find the person responsive to talk about spiritual things. Not always, but sometimes.
Time for Action
I would ask you in your Quiet Time to begin to pray that the Lord would help you to develop your ability to start and carry conversations and allow you to have a spiritual conversation with someone on a regular basis. Begin to pray for three people that are lost. Let Pastor Joe know who they are and he will pray with you for them and for you to be an effective witness. I am asking you to work on making this a new pattern in your life. This doesn’t take any more time out of your day, it just makes the time you have more profitable. It allows you to “make the most of every opportunity.” I wonder how many spiritual conversations we miss simply because we fail to be friendly and care enough about others to bring our faith into the conversation. I want to encourage you to have a goal of trying to have a conversation in which you bring up spiritual things at least every two weeks. You may just make a comment about your faith or share something from the Word. It may turn into a two hour conversation or it may last 15 seconds. We need to be more engaging with those around us out of our concern for their souls. They may not realize what awaits them after death, but if we know, we need to be more purposeful and do all that we can to “make the most of every opportunity.” Charles Spurgeon once said that, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”