An Evangelism Story

I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise and the unwise.
– Romans 1:14

An encouragement with practical helps.

Most Fridays I work from home instead of going into town where my office is. Not last Friday. I was behind on things and needed to get caught up and have access to my printers, so I went to the office. About the middle of the day, I was getting hungry. I went to the store to get some lunch meat and cheese to make a wrap back at the office. When I got back to the office, there was a man I had never seen before raking leaves in front of the building. I greeted him with a smile and went in.

I was putting away my things and preparing to make my lunch. It had only been a couple of minutes since I had come in and I heard a knock on the door. It was the man I had seen earlier. He asked if he could ask me a favor. He went on to explain that he was trying to get a job and he needed to get home so he could go get his ID. He told me how he had been trying to find work and the other man that worked there was the only one that had helped him out. (He was talking about the owner of the building. Apparently, he had paid him something to rake up the leaves around the building.) He told me that he felt like he had already done so much for him, he hated to ask him for anything else. I asked him where he lived and he told me. It was across town. I told him I would give him a ride and asked for just a couple minutes to put my things away and get my coat.

I put my stuff up quickly and rummaged around in my office but I didn’t have any more tracts. I hurriedly pulled one up on the computer and printed it out. I hurriedly texted a couple of brothers to ask them to pray. I grabbed my coat and stuck the tract in my pocket. I went out to the street and we got in my truck. I asked him his name and told him mine. As I pulled away from the curb I knew that we could spend the time in idle chit-chat or I could use the time to witness to him. He had already asked me what kind of work I did there and I had told him. In order to put myself thoroughly in the soup from the outset, I told him, as we were pulling away, that I was also a pastor. I told a little about our church, described where it was by the landmarks he knew, and invited him as best as I knew how so that he would know that he was welcome to visit.

I asked a couple of questions and he told me that he had been in prison for ten years and recently got out. He told me he had four children and twelve grandchildren in another state. He talked about his struggles and how hard it was as he was trying to get his life together. I told him I had seven children and knew that it can be hard to keep above water sometimes. I told him I would be praying for him and that I would tell the church and we would all be praying for him.

He had mentioned God a couple of times and kept talking about trying to get his life together. I told him that I did not believe in accidents. I believed God had brought us together that day. I asked him directly, “How is your relationship to God?” He admitted that it was not very good. He went on to talk about how he was trying and he needed to do better. I told him that no matter who we are, we can never do enough to make ourselves acceptable to God. I couldn’t do it and neither could he. I told him that sometimes people think we need to clean ourselves up in order to pray to God and be forgiven. I told him that one of the amazing things about the Gospel is that we don’t clean ourselves up in order to come to God. We come to him as we are, confessing our sins, repenting, and trusting only in Jesus Christ. I told him God cleans us up by washing us in the blood of Jesus Christ who died that sinners could be forgiven. I explained the Gospel to him as well as I could in a couple of minutes.

I asked him if there was anything specific we could pray for him about. He mentioned work again and that he really needed a job. He asked me to drop him at the corner, so I pulled over. I said if he had just a minute I wanted to pray with him before he got out. He agreed. I took off my hat, bowed my head, and called out to God to have mercy on him, to open his eyes to Jesus Christ and to find forgiveness in him alone. I asked God to manifest himself to him by opening the door for him to get the work he needed.

With tears in my eyes, I invited him to church again and told him I would be happy to see him there. I had never seen him before in my life and may never see him again. God knows. I came back to my office and prayed. I hope the Lord saves him. I hope that my motives were right and I left a blessed memory (Proverbs 10:7) where he will know that he needed help and he met a man on the street named Jeff who helped him and cared about him. I pray he will come to praise and glorify God because of it.

Why tell this story?

I do not tell you this story to make myself look like a hero. I could tell you about many failures. I have not done as much I should in life. A year or so ago I was leaving my office to get to church for the Wednesday service. While walking to my vehicle, I met a man that asked me for help and I told him I was sorry but I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have anything, not even a dime on me. I got into the vehicle and immediately felt a weight of rebuke on me. I pulled out and went down the street to find the man, determined to do what I could for him and to share the Gospel with him. I drove all around two or three blocks and didn’t see him anywhere. I have no idea where he could have gone in such a short time. I drove away knowing I had neglected my responsibility and an opportunity.

I tell this to encourage and I want us to encourage one another. I was overwhelmed by the encounter I had that Friday. I have had others that didn’t go that well. I couldn’t seem to think of good things to say or couldn’t get the conversation to go right. Honestly, every one of us knows enough to have the conversation I had. I had not prepared beforehand. In fact, I had been distracted with my mind overwhelmed all week long. I know it wasn’t the greatest evangelism encounter in the last 100 years, but I believe the Spirit helped me in one of the most powerful ways I’ve experienced in a long time. I don’t know all God’s purposes in it, though I know they will be accomplished.

A few lessons learned along the way

Let me try to encourage by sharing some things I see in this encounter and others that will help us in our personal evangelism. These are just some practical things I’ve learned. My goal is to help someone get started. I am thinking mostly about cold-contact evangelism on the street where the encounter may be a one-time event.

     • We have to be willing to do it. We have to be willing to talk to people and especially the kind of people society teaches us to avoid. The example I have given is where someone came up to me to ask for help. I have found that people who really do have a need are much more open to talk to. People that come up to us may only be looking for a handout or may even be trying to swindle us with a fake story, but it is an opportunity handed to us to witness the Gospel to them.

     • It takes humility to connect with people. If we think of ourselves as better than them on some level, we will be condescending and they will know it. We have to be sincere in what we are doing.

     • We must be willing to listen to what they are saying, empathize with them, and respond to what they are saying. In other words, we need to have an actual conversation as far as we can and not give them a door-to-door salesman’s pitch. This goes along with the previous point and we must be concerned about the people we talk to. Evangelism is not a quota to meet.

     • We can have a hard time turning conversations sometimes. We initiate contact and quickly get sidetracked and struggle to bring the conversation to the Gospel. One way to help this is to step right in it early on. Tell them your first name, and that you are a Christian, and invite them to church. Give them a tract or card. This way you have at least put the conversation on a certain track quickly and also committed yourself to it.

     • We can sometimes get an opening to talk further by telling them we’re going to pray for them and then asking them if there is some specific need we can pray for them about. Again, we must be sincere and not trying to use a gimmick. We should be prepared to pray for them if we can right there. It’s a way of disarming a person and sometimes it opens the flood gates.

     • If we have listened, there have probably been a few cues we can use to bring the conversation to the Gospel. I noticed how the man I met kept talking about trying to get his life together and I used that to talk about how we cannot get ourselves together before God. It led easily to the Gospel and our need for repentance.

     • As a general rule it’s probably not a good idea to give money to people on the street. If someone tells me they need gas, food, or something like that, I usually offer to go get it for them. Few take me up on that offer. Some have. There is no playbook for how things are going to go. We should at least try to get something of the Gospel to people in every encounter.

Our job is to sow the seed and trust God for the results. Some people will refuse to talk or take anything from you. Some may want to argue with you. Some may be indifferent. Some may seem interested and give you openings to talk further. Remember we have successfully evangelized when we have made the Gospel clear to another person. We should always be inviting them to church. We also have to be willing to follow up. We have to be willing to receive them when they show up at church. We certainly must pray for them that God will work effectually in them.

The rest of the story

So what happened to the man I talked to that day? He came to our service the Sunday after I had met him. I was encouraged by that. I had a fairly long conversation with him after service that was mostly disappointing. He told me a lot of things about himself and his life. I don’t know if they were true or not. He may have been partially honest with me, completely honest, or lying about everything. I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since.

We also have to realize we are going to have disappointments. Sometime we may invest in a person over a long time only to have them fall away. It can be painful. I pray for him. I am concerned about him. I have no idea what will happen with him. I am thankful that I at least had the opportunity to give him the Gospel and I pray God will use it to his salvation even if I never see him again.

The World’s Trouble: Chapter 9

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
– Hebrews 9:27

Chapter 9

By our sins we are guilty before God and we need our sins to be covered. We don’t need the kind of covering that a child uses when they’re supposed to clean their room and instead they cover their toys with a rug. To the child the room may look clean, but a more discerning eye sees the problem has not been dealt with. We need the kind of covering for our sin that is a doing away with our sins permanently. We need them covered and remembered no more.

In the Bible we are taught about such a covering called atonement. Atone generally means to cover and is used in the Bible to describe the complete putting away of our sin and reconciling us to God. Because of our sins there is a breech between us and God that cannot be mended without doing away with our sins. In the atonement God provides, our sins are done away and we are reconciled to him.

The Bible teaches the atonement in a few different ways to reveal a fuller picture of what it means to receive atonement for our sins. There are two main categories of teaching on the atonement in the Old Testament—types, or figures, and prophecies. These teach us about the nature of the atonement and what it does.

Types in the Bible are figures or representations where one thing is a picture of something else. For instance, if you’re familiar with the life of David at all then you’ve seen David as a type of Christ. Certain events or even certain conditions in David’s life are representative and teach us about Jesus Christ, the Savior. Likewise, there are figures for the atonement.

The first type of the atonement we meet with in the Bible is in Genesis 3:21 where God took “coats of skins” and clothed Adam and Eve.

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
– Genesis 3:21

God had created Adam first and then created Eve from Adam. God brought them together as husband and wife and placed them in the Garden of Eden. They were created in a sinless state and, as husband and wife, they had no clothes or coverings on their bodies and they were “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Their nakedness represented their sinless state, intimacy of relationship, and vulnerability before God. They had nothing to hide. However, Eve sinned when she took and ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She also gave to Adam and he ate after her.

Upon eating the fruit, their eyes were opened, i.e. they gained the knowledge/experience of sin they previously lacked. They were no longer sinless and they immediately tried to cover their bodies because they were now ashamed.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
– Genesis 3:7

They made themselves small coverings of fig leaves, but these were not adequate. After pronouncing the curses because of sin, God slew the animals and made clothes out of their hides to cover Adam and Eve.

This type teaches the need for a covering. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves because of the shame of sin, but man cannot cover his own sin no matter how hard he tries. His covering is not acceptable. God mercifully covered them with an acceptable covering as a picture of the covering they needed.

The next major type of the atonement is in the blood of the Passover lamb in Exodus 12:1-30. God was going to bring a plague of the death of the firstborn on Egypt. He had Moses warn the Israelites that this plague was coming and he gave them instructions to be delivered from it. Each house was instructed to take a first-year, unblemished lamb for their house. They were to kill the lamb and eat it in a certain way. They also had to take the blood of the lamb and smear it on the door posts and lintel of the door of their house. God sent his angel throughout the land of Egypt that night, and every house that did not have the covering of blood experienced the death of the firstborn of the house.

Israel was taught that a covering of blood was required to save life. The instructions were specific about the lamb and what was done with it. Just any covering would not do and they were not free to come up with their own plan. When the covering God provided was on the house, the angel passed over that house and life was saved. They learned that the covering protected them from the judgment of death.

The next types of the atonement are found in the law of the offerings in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7. These were the animal sacrifices required by the law to cover sin, restore fellowship, and to make clean what had been defiled. The law contained detailed directions for what animals could be offered in different situations. They specified how the sacrifices were to be killed and the steps for burning on the altar. When these were done properly, the sinner was told it was accepted and atonement was made for him. His sins were covered.

These sacrifices were a type of the atonement because they were not the actual atonement but only pointed to it. In other words, these sacrifices weren’t actually effectual at covering sin.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
– Hebrews 10:1-6

These animal sacrifices taught that sin required the shedding of blood for remission (Hebrews 9:22). The fact that they had to be repeated continually showed they weren’t an adequate covering but that a better covering was needed.

Another type of the atonement covering was figured in the Day of Atonement when the high priest would go into the holy of holies in the tabernacle annually to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:1-34). The holy of holies was separated by a thick curtain and no one was ever allowed to go behind that curtain except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement. In order for him to enter, which is a type of coming into the presence of God, he had to have a covering of blood and the smoke of the incense. We could plunge deep into all the details of this, but it suffices our purpose here to recognize that once again we are taught that we must have a covering to come into God’s presence and not die in judgment.

Types are figures that point us to the antitype, or the reality. This quick survey of some types of the atonement teaches us the need for a real covering. The one covering we need and the one covering that is acceptable is not anything we can make or contrive ourselves. Beside types, the Bible also teaches us about the atonement through prophecies and that’s what we want to consider in the next chapter.

This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.

The World’s Trouble: Chapter 7

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
– Hebrews 9:27

Chapter 7

Have you ever wondered why there are so many ways, so many religions, and even so many denominations claiming to be Christian? Many claim to be the one and only way while others merely claim to be a way. I have heard some say all religions are equally valid or invalid. Some take the proliferation of religions and denominations to be a sure sign that God doesn’t exist. That would be like going to an open-air market in Mexico and seeing many different vendors selling Louis Vuitton knock-offs for cheap and concluding that Louis Vuitton doesn’t exist or there is no such thing as a genuine handbag.

Famous designers of jewelry, bags, clothes, and shoes have their products counterfeited all the time. The existence and availability of these counterfeits in no way disproves the existence or value of the genuine. Why do people counterfeit Saddleback leather bags yet no one counterfeits brown plastic Kroger grocery bags? I have yet to see someone selling knock-off plastic grocery bags out of the trunk of their car. You have to have three basic realities for counterfeits to exist.

  1. The genuine original has to exist to be copied.
  2. The genuine original has to have value.
  3. There has to be a market. In other words, people have to want or need it.

While Kroger bags satisfy the first, they fail miserably on the latter two. From this we can supply a couple of answers to the question of why so many religions/denominations exist. First, God exists and there is a true way to Him but many find something objectionable so they seek counterfeits. Why do people buy knock-off Rolex watches? Because they want the look, feel, and brand recognition but they don’t want to pay the cost for the genuine. Of course, they ultimately find out they get what they pay for when the fake doesn’t work as well or last as long.

Second, the proliferation of religions illustrate that people want something more. People find that earthly things don’t provide lasting satisfaction and they want something more. People want some way to assuage their guilt and have peace of mind. People have some sense of eternity or their soul and are concerned about the afterlife. Thus, there is an abundant market for false religions and denominations. Rather than disproving the existence of the genuine, they point to the fact there really is a way but people find something about God or His way objectionable. We need a test. We need a method for finding the true way.

When agents are trained to detect counterfeit currency, they spend time studying the counterfeits, but they spend more time studying the genuine. They are always comparing against the genuine to see if they have a false bill. They do spend time with counterfeits, learning to recognize common faults in them. No one agent is ever going to encounter every possible counterfeit bill, but he doesn’t have to because he always has the genuine to compare against.

Likewise, we can’t examine every possible false way. I have tried to acquaint you with some common ones but we are far from looking at all of them. It’s more important for us to have the true way as a standard of measure for all ways we encounter. In Chapter 5, I brought up Colossians 2:8

Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
– Colossians 2:8

Paul warned about false philosophies they would encounter and gave “after Christ” as the standard of measure. So all ways should be tested against the way Christ taught. If they do not align, then they are to be rejected. Christ is the genuine. He must be the center and ground of the way or it is false. The problem with all other ways is that they are Christless. They may present a false christ but a false christ is no christ at all. Any message, philosophy, or way that claims salvation without Jesus Christ alone is false. Do not be deceived by it. Do not follow it. Do not be taken away by it. That is what Paul was saying.

The Bible is plain: “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Shedding of blood means the death of Jesus Christ on the cross in the place of sinners. It’s simple, but it’s foolishness to some and offensive to others (1 Corinthians 1:23). It’s easy to see then how there would be counterfeits made. People want to go to Heaven but they don’t want to humble themselves, repent of their sins, and leave off everything to trust completely in Christ alone to save them (Acts 4:10-12).

Naaman the Syrian was a leper, and there was no cure for leprosy. He came to Samaria to see Elisha, the prophet of God. Elisha told him to wash seven times in the Jordan River and he would be cleansed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:10). Naaman was furious with Elisha’s message. He thought it too simple, too mundane. He expected some great happenings and showings. Finally, his servant persuaded him that if he was willing to do some great thing had Elisha requested it, why should he not rather be willing to do so simple a thing as washing in the Jordan. Naaman listened and was healed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:11-15).

If Naaman had found a false prophet, he would have been told to participate in some elaborate ritual or ceremony. Naaman would have been very glad with such a word and would have followed it straightaway. But what would have been the problem with this? It would not have healed his leprosy. In the end, the only effectual cure was the way God spoke through His prophet. Likewise, the only way of salvation is what God has provided through His Son (John 3:16-21; Acts 4:12).

From this perspective, it’s easy to see how false ways proliferate. In the rest of this book though, I want to focus on that one, true way, Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus have to die? How does His death do anything to affect our standing before God?

This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

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