Sharing our faith is a difficult subject for me. Evangelizing is not an aspect of Christianity that I embrace. I often treat my spiritual life like it is wholly esoteric.
Meanwhile, Christianity is a practical faith that requires outreach and compassion. So today we discuss sharing our faith – Jesus style!
SHARING OUR FAITH LIKE A CHILD
Jesus tells us: “….unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 3-4 NIV).
A technician moves a probe over a toddler’s chest; she points to the screen and says, “There is your heart!”
Eyes wide, he looked closer and asked, “Do you see Jesus in there?”
A preschooler listens to a sales representative boast about the amenities of a timeshare. The child wonders if this woman is confused about who gave us all these beautiful things.
Approaching the stranger, the boy asks, “Did you know God made everything?”
Don’t you envy the pure heart of a child?
When do we stop speaking from the heart, particularly about faith? Unfortunately, we seem to think it is better to miss an opportunity to share our faith than to appear foolish or naïve.
SHARING OUR FAITH: MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Several years ago, a co-worker told me her boyfriend wanted her to move in before committing to marriage, and she wasn’t sure what to do. Although she didn’t ask for my opinion, I sensed it was the reason she engaged me that day.
So, what was my response? I listened and commiserated, but didn’t direct her to the Bible. That missed opportunity to discuss our mutual faith and what God’s word said about her situation makes me cringe, even today.
Someday, I will answer to God for caring more about an awkward moment than about my friend’s walk with the Lord.
I’d like to say that since that day, I have never missed an opportunity to share biblical advice or that I witnessed to every friend and acquaintance who doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Sadly, that is far from the truth.
Where is my passion for lost souls?
Shouldn’t I have a sense of urgency regarding their eternal destiny?
These are difficult questions to answer, so I turned to the Bible for direction, expecting to find evangelizing tips from Paul or some of the women who walked with Jesus.
Surprisingly, my research took me right to Jesus. There were many instances when he shared one-on-one. So let’s explore these interactions and learn how to apply them to sharing our faith.
SHARING OUR FAITH: NICODEMUS
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and spiritual leader in the Jewish community. Well educated in Jewish laws and the Scriptures, Nicodemus held a prestigious position, lived a life of relative ease, and believed he was right with God. Therefore, Nicodemus usually sleeps like a baby, but not tonight.
Disturbed by this Jesus person who’s garnering quite a following, Nicodemus sits and ponders what makes this man so special. What bothers Nicodemus the most is that this man who claims to be the Messiah may be telling the truth.
Nicodemus decides to visit Jesus and ask some questions. Since it’s political suicide for a man in his position to meet with Jesus, he goes immediately, while it’s still dark.
In John 3: 1-21, we eavesdrop on the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Curious, but skeptical, the Pharisee questions this man who performs miracles.
Dumbfounded when Jesus tells him he must be born again, he exclaims, “What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again” (John 3: 4 NLT)?
I can hear Jesus sigh as He clarifies, using references to Scripture, such as Ezekiel 36: 26-27: “being born of water and the Spirit.” Still, the scripturally-educated Pharisee is still confused.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things” (John 3:10 NLT)? The Message translation says that Nicodemus is using questions to procrastinate, to avoid accepting the truth. The encounter seems to end abruptly, with Nicodemus still on the fence about Jesus as the Savior.
Fast forward, and we find Nicodemus defending Jesus in the presence of other Pharisees (John 7: 45-50). Additionally, after the crucifixion, Nicodemus offers to help with Jesus’ burial. (John 19:39) No more hiding in the dark.
SHARING OUR FAITH: THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
In John 4: 1-42, we find Jesus in Judea. However, Jesus knew the Pharisees were getting angry, so he decides to return to Galilee.
When other Jewish men made this trip, they took a long way around rather than travel through Samaria. There is tension between the Samaritans and the Jews for various reasons, but in part, because the Samaritans are not “pure” Jews. However, Jesus is not a racist, so he traveled through the region on his way to Galilee.
Weary, Jesus stops at a well in Samaria. To avoid the afternoon heat, most women come in the morning and evening to get water from the well. However, today a woman approaches the well in the afternoon, probably not expecting to see anyone.
Imagine her surprise when this gentleman speaks to her! Jewish men don’t talk to women in public, and a Samaritan woman is a double whammy. She calls him out on his impropriety. His response was something like, “You’re right; I don’t need your water; I have water that quenches thirst permanently.”
Now, he’s caught her attention. Not being the spiritual type, she takes this literally; she is hoping for a way to avoid daily walks to the well. After all, her unacceptable lifestyle forces her to come in the heat of the day to get water, therefore escaping the scornful looks from the other women.
I bet Jesus is thinking, gee, first Nicodemus and now this woman! Doesn’t anybody recognize metaphors? Changing the subject, Jesus steers the conversation in another direction, toward the woman’s sinful lifestyle.
Amazed at his insight, she wonders if he is a prophet? At the very least, he is a religious man; perhaps she can distract him from her sin with a theological question about the correct place to worship. He responds to this inquiry: authentic faith and attitude matter, not the place of worship.
She’s wondering why his answers are different than those of other “religious” folks. Suspicious, she puts him in his place, saying, “I know the Messiah is coming – the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us” (John 4:25 NLT).
Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah” (John 4:26)!
Is it Jesus’ revelation, or the fact that the disciples are arriving – with disapproving looks – that causes her to run off and forget her water jar? However, she doesn’t keep this encounter a secret but tells others about this man who claims to be the Messiah. Not only does she share the news, but she half-believes Him.
This woman is immoral, but not gullible, so her interest in what this man says causes curiosity among the townspeople, thus many come to check out this Jew who doesn’t talk like a Jew or even walk like a Jew – after all, he walked into Samaria!
Jesus sees the opportunity and need; therefore He stays a couple of extra weeks to minister to these people, and many are saved.
SHARING OUR FAITH: THE RICH MAN
In Luke 18: 18-23, a rich man approaches Jesus, seeking assurance of his eternal destiny. Already knowing this man’s heart, Jesus looks askance and says, “You know the commandments” (Luke 20a NIV).
I can see the man straightening his shoulders and proudly telling Jesus, “Yes, and I follow them to a T.”
And what is Jesus’ reply to this self-righteous answer? Something like, “That’s great. All that’s left to do is forsake your comfy life and inheritance, and you’re all set.”
Give up all his money? Is that what Jesus said? Love God more than anything else? You’ve got to be kidding, what kind of requirement is that?
I envision the man walking away with shoulders slumped, sad at the outcome.
However, he is unable to give away his money even to save his soul.
SHARING OUR FAITH: ZACCHAEUS
Then there is Zacchaeus, a Jew, who aligned himself with the corrupt Roman government, spending his days collecting taxes and lining his pockets with stolen money. Intrigued when he hears that Jesus is coming through Jericho, he makes the trip to the city and climbs a tree for a better view. (Luke 19: 1-9) Perhaps he will see one of those miracles people talk about.
As Jesus walks by the tree, He senses the man’s presence and, more importantly, his interest, and Jesus tells Zacchaeus to “come on down” Subsequently, Jesus invites Himself to this tree climber’s home.
I can hear the gossiping about Jesus’ affinity for the scumbags of the world, but Jesus pays no attention to the naysayers. A man’s life is about to change for eternity. Zacchaeus not only believes but promises to return the stolen money – times four!
WHAT DO THESE EXAMPLES TEACH US ABOUT SHARING OUR FAITH?
Jesus didn’t force himself on people.
All but the woman at the well came to Jesus seeking the truth. Jesus doesn’t tackle people in the street or impose himself into their lives; instead, he answers their questions. Even the woman at the well, who was shocked to be spoken to by Jesus, asked questions and stayed engaged. And, when she left, Jesus didn’t chase her down.
Jesus made himself available.
Jesus was approachable. After all, he spoke with Nicodemus at night, and accordingly, Jesus reached out to people that others avoided, e.g., the Samaritan woman and Zacchaeus.
Engaging people outside the church and making ourselves available to talk, commiserate, and answer questions is an essential aspect of sharing the gospel. Jesus made time for seekers, so what right do we have to make them feel like a bother?
Also if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. (1 Peter 3: 15b, 16a)
Jesus treated people as individuals.
Jesus quoted Scripture when speaking to the well-read Nicodemus, let the Samaritan woman know she had value by addressing her, enlightened the rich man about the correct path to salvation, and acknowledged Zacchaeus’ presence while others ignored and rejected him.
The salvation message is simple and the same for everyone, but when sharing our faith using different techniques is imperative to connect with a variety of people with complicated and unique histories.
It’s easier to reach someone when you understand their struggles, fears, and weaknesses. Are you offering friendship, or merely forging ahead talking about your religion? Care about their earthly lives and foster trust, then discuss their eternal destinies.
Jesus took advantage of opportunities.
I am ashamed to say that I might have kept my head down and pretended not to see the man in the tree. Of course, Jesus had every right to ignore the Samaritan woman; after all, it was improper to speak to a woman in public. Instead, Jesus seized these moments; because he cares about people’s spiritual health enough to share the truth.
You may think that opportunities like Jesus encountered don’t come our way. But is that true? Maybe the truth is that I’m too busy, or think it’s too much of a risk to engage others. Or perhaps I’m distracted by something fun or exciting.
Not, Jesus, he loved these chance encounters and didn’t allow distractions to keep Him from His mission.
I wonder, why don’t I?
Jesus spent time with people.
Quoting a verse or throwing out a proverb was not Jesus’ style. Tracts and altar calls are valuable evangelizing tools. But, in the above examples, Jesus used no such tools. He didn’t use a cookie cutter approach; rather, he took time and answered people’s individual questions.
Note that after the woman at the well told others about Jesus, he delayed his trip to Galilee and stayed a couple of extra weeks to minister to the Samaritans. How many people are in heaven today due to the extra time Jesus spent in this “heathen” area of Israel.
Sharing our faith takes time, and I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I am too busy.
Jesus didn’t squander time.
Although Jesus was generous with His time, He didn’t waste this precious commodity by debating nuances of the faith. Jesus knew when to quit.
Notice in the above examples, that Zacchaeus knew he believed right away; however, Jesus gave Nicodemus time to contemplate their discussion. Of course, rejection happens, like that of the rich man and Jesus let him go.
“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you” (Matthew 7:6 NLT).
Sharing our faith doesn’t always bring a positive response. Know when it is time to move on.
Jesus strategized for optimum exposure.
Now, this may sound jaded, but it’s not. Individual evangelism and discipleship impact the world and Jesus knew that these separate talks had explosive power.
After all, Nicodemus influenced the Jewish leadership, the woman at the well got the ball rolling in Samaria, and I’m sure the rich man concluded that Jesus was crazy and shared his outrage with the elites. And then, there is Zacchaeus. Don’t you wonder how many people were inspired to find out more about Jesus when this corrupt tax collector returned his ill-gotten gains?
When sharing our faith, what may seem like a small gesture or private matter can make a difference in the world.
SHARING OUR FAITH: FOLLOWING JESUS’ EXAMPLE
Following Jesus’ example is not easy, and I grapple daily regarding sharing my faith with others. Beating people over the head with the Bible is not my style, nor is it, in my opinion, an effective way to reach others.
However, I pray for God’s direction, so that when I meet Jesus, I will know I did my best with those he brought into my life.
COMMENTS AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
What about you? I would love to hear your perspective on sharing our faith. Also, please share the Scriptures that help you witness and evangelize.
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Blessings until next time.