sharing the gospel

If you’ve ever been to a candlelight Christmas Eve service, you’ve seen a single candle be brought down from the foot of the cross, and light the candles of the first people in each of the rows. From there, the flame is passed down the rows from candle to candle until there are hundreds of lit candles glowing and lighting up the room. This is a good picture of how the Gospel, which originated at the cross, has through the past 2000 years been passed from person to person changing lives.

Unlike the candlelight service where everyone’s candle will soon glow with a flame, as we share the Gospel with others, comparatively few will accept it. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

God knows this, and yet asks us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15b) We don’t know who will accept it - sometimes it’s the last person we would expect. Also, it’s a process, and we don’t know what phase of the process we are being used for. “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” (Mark 4:37-38) “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:6-7)You may share the gospel with an individual and seem to get no response. Maybe years down the road someone else will also share the gospel with that same person and they will believe and be saved. Or you may share the gospel with someone whom God has already been working on and they fully believe it to their salvation. All to the glory of God!

To continue in comparing sharing the Gospel to planting seeds, Jesus explains that there are four types of soil that it may land on. “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13: 3b-8)

If a person has hardened their heart, the Gospel won’t penetrate it. The enemy steals it away (in case they should become more open to it down the road). If someone is early in the process of their heart being prepared, they may initially seem to embrace it, but it will be short lived. For others, there is enough depth to receive the Gospel, but it’s growth will be limited by the pursuit of riches and the cares of this world. Finally, there are some who’s hearts have been either so protected or so prepared by the Lord, that when they hear the Gospel, they receive it and it flourishes. Many more will become saved because of them. Be encouraged - as you read this there are people out there who are ready to hear the Gospel and be saved. “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (Mark 4:35b)

Jesus told Peter, a former fisherman by trade, that he would become a fisher of men. There’s much to learn from this comparison to fishing. People have the best results if they hire a fishing guide. Let the Holy Spirit guide you to the right people at the right time and provide you with the right words when you need them. Don’t be discouraged if you initially get no results. God may be teaching you patience or motivating you to seek Him more earnestly. As with fishing, remember if it’s not working here, try it over there (don’t get stuck trying to convince one person). Fish typically get caught during times when they are hungry. God knows when people are in need and open to hearing the Gospel. We need to be faithful to speak to others as God guides us and leave the results to Him. If God gives us instruction, we need to fully obey, not partially (based on our own understanding). When Jesus first met Peter, He told him to put his NETS (plural) back out for a catch. After arguing from his perspective, he partially obeyed and put down ONE net. He caught so many fish that his net tore. Jesus knew how many fish He was sending Peter’s way when He asked him to put down his NETS. (see Luke 5:4-8 and thanks to Pastor Dwight LaPine for this insight).

Maybe the two biggest challenges you’ll face are knowing what to say, and having the courage to say it. God calls us to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2a) and “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15b). A friend was awoken in the middle of the night with a phone call from an older relative in the late stages of a terminal disease. He was asked, “what do I have to do to get to Heaven?” He was caught off guard and didn’t know how to answer him. When I was newly saved, a friend in a vulnerable moment following drug rehab told me how empty he felt. All I could tell him was I wished I had a booklet with me that would explain to him how to be saved. That moment passed and I never again saw him with a heart that was open to hear. We never know when we’ll need to be ready to give a clear answer. Now is the time to become so clear on what they’ll need to hear. Work with it until it is written on your heart and mind and becomes second nature to talk about.

The second big challenge we all face is the fear of what others will think. It’s human nature to want to be liked and not rejected. The enemy knows this and may play off of this fear in order to keep us quiet. God commands us to not be ashamed of the Gospel or of Jesus Himself. Paul declares, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16a) If we had medicine that would cure a serious illness, would we be ashamed to tell others about it? Why then are we ashamed to tell of God’s soul-saving cure? “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 29:6) If Einstein was still alive and he was a friend of yours, would you be ashamed to let people know? Why would we then be ashamed to let others know we have a friend who is infinitely more wise than Einstein?

Regarding evangelism, some say it’s enough to just be a kind and loving person. While it’s important to reflect God’s character, without knowing the details of the Gospel what is it that they will believe for salvation? “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14b) We are ambassadors of Christ, bringing the gospel to the unsaved (as someone did for each of us).

Don’t rush them to “make a decision”. When they are ready - when they really hear it and understand it - it will happen. If they aren’t ready, you don’t want them to prematurely think they are saved. That will only make them religious and not have an alive spirit born in them. Having the false sense of being saved might stop the searching process and they may never actually get saved! You could compare it to thinking that your seatbelt is fastened when it isn’t.

For those who are not yet ready, it could be for one of these reasons:

• They see themselves as good and not a sinner
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
• They’re involved in a sin that they want to keep from God
“Turn from these useless things to the living God (who made all things).” (Acts 14:15b)
• They fear not being in charge of their life
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
• Fear of disagreeing with what their family believes
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15a)
• They’re still processing what they’ve heard
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Remember - the results are in God’s hands! And when it does happen, it’s a miracle to rejoice over.