SHARING THE GOSPEL

Our Lord Jesus Christ was pretty clear in His final instructions to His disciples: He expected them to carry the Message of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and God’s grace to the far corners of this fallen world. He told them to start at home and then radiate out to include their extended family, then their neighbors and co-workers and friends, and then to strangers. He also told them He would be with them — and us —  every step of the way. 


1 Cor. 9:16 (NIV): For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Matt. 28:19-20 (NKJV): “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

Acts 1:8 (NASB): “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”


SCENARIO ONE: You’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop, steaming rich black coffee (or heavily sugared mild blend, if that’s your thing) resting next to your laptop computer.

You’re writing a book destined to be read by hundreds of thousands of Christians — maybe millions — around the world on the perils of Hell, the eternal destination of everyone who spurns God’s offer of grace. 

You’ll call the book Erasing Hell, but in this moment, at this place, you look up as a boisterous group of young people enter the shop, laughing, joking, backslapping one another as they queue up to place their order, mostly for coffees that resemble milkshakes.

You feel a sudden urge to close your computer and go minister to them. You know that if you take your Holy Bible seriously — and, if you’re Francis Chan, the pastor and author writing this book, you do — you assume that many of these young people are destined for Hell. (Kindle edit., Chap. 3, loc. 4306)

Should you continue to write your book and sip your coffee, or should you drop what you’re doing to minister to the other customers?

In Forgotten God, Chan writes an answer to this quandary by noting that too often we try to lead the Holy Spirit when we should be listening to Him. “Sometimes,” Chan writes, “this is exactly how the Spirit leads us. There can be two equally good choices that God lets us choose between.” (Kindle edit., Chap. 4, loc. 2879)

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SCENARIO TWO: You’ve just received emergency hospital treatment to correct two blocked arteries that led to a mild heart attack, and you’re being transported to the Intensive  Care Unit for observation. 

The nurse who was assigned to your care tells you it “never” happens that a nurse stays with a patient from receiving through recovery, yet here she is with you, and she opines: “Things happen for a reason.”

As you process this, she asks how you stayed so calm  throughout the procedure, which she notes was “far from routine.” 

You tell her you placed the outcome in the hands of your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and that many people had been praying for you … and for the skill of the medical team, including her!

If you’re Joel Rudicil, president of your company, you send a text to your wife and ask her for prayer support because you’re about to tell your nurse about Jesus Christ. You even show the nurse your cell phone, where she can see those prayer requests. (Rudicil, Heart Attack, unpub. e-mail, April 2020)

As you tell her what the Bible says about heaven, the purpose of Easter, and how to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, she tells you she wants this gift from God, so you hold her hand and pray with her for the Holy Spirit to come into her heart, forgive her of all of her sins, and begin to remake her in the image of the Savior.

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SCENARIO THREE: This one is you. What would you do in these situations?

In one situation, you are doing the Lord’s work. You’re writing a book that will circulate throughout the world, urging readers to take the Lord’s warning seriously: that Hell is real and it’s the default destiny of anyone who refuses to take the Lord’s offer of Grace paid for by His Son’s death on the cross.

Should you stop your work, right now, and minister uninvited in the lives of those around you? Could that nudge, which seems so Godly in one sense, be a distraction that keeps you from doing God’s will?

What would you do?

In another situation, you’re recovering from an emergency heart procedure, and the Lord has provided you with an opportunity to share your faith with someone He has been working with, someone who just needs a counselor, an advisor, to help put the pieces together.

This is not the only nurse you’ve spoken with, it’s just the only  one who is on the verge of a breakthrough. 

What would you do? 

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GOD DOESN’T LEAVE US hanging when we’re faced with opportunities to share the Gospel with those He has placed in our path.

He has told us in His Word there is a three-step rule to follow: one, be prepared to testify (1 Peter 3:15); two, look for an opening to share (Matt. 4:19); and three, pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene and work on the lost person’s heart (Matt. 9:38, 1 Thess. 5:17).

Being prepared to share means developing a brief testimony of how God’s loving grace has changed your life, given you a peace you didn’t have before, and is available to everyone who wants it. 

Praying is obvious: Even a quick “Lord, help me” in the moment suffices, but it should supplement a more committed prayer during your devotions, when you ask the Lord to grant you opportunities to speak His name.

Looking for the opportunity is the real skill. Sometimes, it’s obvious, and sometimes, it’s not.

Referring back to Forgotten God, Chan says sometimes the Holy Spirit calls us to do “a particular thing,” and the choice we have is whether or not we’ll obey. What we decide, he says, “is no small matter.” (Ibid. Chap. 4, Loc. 2879)

The Lord could have you exactly where He wants you, and a seemingly God-honoring diversion could look attractive. Maybe recall Nehemiah’s answer when he was prompted to leave his job overseeing construction of the Jerusalem wall: “I am doing important work and cannot come down.” (Neh. 6:3 CSB)

Let God determine your purpose and timing.

Jesus promised to be with us throughout the process (Matt. 28:18-20)

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POSTSCRIPT: MANY CHRISTIANS carry witnessing material with them.

It could be a business card giving the location and times of service for their church, a pamphlet outlining the plan of salvation, or even your personal card, giving them ways to contact you with questions. 

However you proceed, know that Jesus warns us not to be ashamed of the Gospel (Luke 9:26; Rom. 1:16).

Evangelist William Fay, in his workbook, Share Jesus Without Fear, gives us this teaching: “Creating witnessing opportunities is His (Holy Spirit’s) work. Our part is to be obedient, to act on these moments that God is creating.” (B&H Publ., Nashville, Tenn., p. 11)

Carry the material … Pray for guidance … Look for opportunities … Share the Gospel.

 PRAYER

Our heavenly and merciful Father, we bless Your name and give You all the praise, honor, and glory. Fill our hearts with zeal for the Holy Spirit, we pray. Prepare our minds and our tongues to speak Your name to a wounded and hurting world. Open our hearts to the suffering and confusion that lies around us. Give us a burden for sharing the Gift of Salvation with those You give us. You promised to be with us to the close of the age, and, Lord Jesus, we claim that promise, for You told us that without You we can do nothing. Glorify Your name as we share our faith with others, and we lift this prayer in the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

GOD DESIRES COMMITMENT

As we slip past the Easter weekend, which marks the greatest event in human history — the rising of our Savior, Jesus Christ, from the dead —we are moving toward the next big event on the Christian calendar: Pentecost and the presence of the Holy Spirit. With the ammunition of a risen Savior, a loving Father, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are well armed to do battle by sharing our faith — the story of forgiveness and redemption, the granting of peace and joy, and the promise of eternal life — with a disbelieving world. We can do this if we’re fired-up for the Lord, not “lukewarm” as are so many so-called Christians.


Daniel 12:3 (NCV): The wise people will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who teach others to live right will shine like stars forever and ever.

Revelation 3:16 (ESV): So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.


OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST does not like lukewarm, uncommitted, lackadaisical, worldly Christians claiming to represent Him and His message of redemption to the world.

Instead, He wants us to be as committed to the saving power of the Gospel as He was committed to dying on the Cross for our salvation.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus said to the church in Laodicea that their lack of passion and zeal for the Gospel was annoying. He wanted them fired-up for the Good News! He wanted them to sing His praises!

Instead, He found the Laodiceans to be, like many Christians today, indifferent to the message of salvation. Too many Christians, He is saying, occupy the pews on Sunday morning, then return to their secular lives after the Benediction.

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EVANGELIST WILLIAM FAY calls this indifference “living in the middle.” Here’s what he writes:

“Trying to live in the middle is living a lie. The truth is, either you follow God, or you follow Satan. Either you are in a relationship with Christ, or you’re not. You are either God’s child or God’s enemy. … No one is in the middle. … Those who have chosen to reject Christ are condemned.” (William Fay, Share Jesus Without Fear Workbook, B&H Publishing, Nashville, Tenn. 2019, p. 13)

In his book Crazy Love, pastor and author Francis Chan says this about lukewarm Christians:

“As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.” (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, Chapter Five, Kindle edit., Loc. 793)

Chan writes that Jesus is clear in His denunciation of indifferent Christianity. He says that Jesus “wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a ‘Christian’ without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.” (Ibid., loc. 820)

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THIS BRING US to our most important question: So What?

Where are we in this equation? Are we sold-out for Jesus Christ or are we indifferent, casual, part-time Christians who neither follow our Lord with passion nor share our faith with those He places in our lives?

If we are committed to following Jesus, really following Him, then how committed are we to sharing the Gospel message with others? 

How often do we pray God will give us an opportunity to share? How prepared are we when given that opportunity to share what we believe to be true, that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Or that Jesus Christ has forgiven us and transformed our lives?

When we do share the Message, how often do we pray afterward for the people we talked to, give them our names to answer any questions they might have, or follow up with them?

How many of us actually know how to do any of this … or really care to learn?

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POSTSCRIPT: Our Lord has given us both a commandment and an encouragement to do this very thing. 

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives us the commandment, known as the Great Commission, to go into all the world and tell people to do “all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus also has given us encouragement. In our text source today from Daniel 12, He tells us those who teach others the message of salvation “will shine like stars forever and ever.”

He tells us in His Word what He wants from us. It’s this:

“Come, Follow Me.”


PRAYER

Our Heavenly Father, forgive us for our lack of commitment to Your commandment to tell others about Jesus Christ, the Good News of the Gospel and our salvation. Forgive us, please, for our failure to share the story of forgiveness, compassion, and love with those we meet. Our excuses, which seem so real to us in the moment, vanish into thin air when compared with reality, that those who don’t know You or who know of You but have rejected Your offer of grace, are doomed to an eternity of pain. While that should burden our hearts, Lord, somehow we can live without the trouble. Forgive us, Lord, and change our hearts to care for those You call. When You give us that chance, that moment to share, may we call on Your power and speak from our hearts to their hearts. Lord, we pray our words, like seed on rich soil, will fall on open hearts. For this, we thank You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

AN EASTER MEDITATION

SHINING FAITH

But [the angel] said to [the women], “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” — Mark 16:6 (NKJV)

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matt. 5:16 (NASB)


LIGHTING A SINGLE CANDLE in a very dark space makes a difference, but if you light 20 to 30 candles, the difference is amazing! 

Likewise, when we join with others to share our faith story, the results can be profound.

It is easy to remain focused on ourselves. We are busy with our own personal cares, our desires, our things-to-do list, our jobs, our families, even our health, finances, and entertainment. 

But part of love, the real love that Christ calls us to feel, is bearing a concern for the well-being of someone else, especially for that person’s eternal destination. 

If we want to see people in our lives become part of God’s kingdom, then those of us who claim to be God’s followers must be willing to share our faith stories.

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GOD CALLS US to be a witness to the world, a light in the darkness.

He also calls us to be an encouragement to other believers — those we find in our worship, our Bible studies, Christian service, and mens’ and womens’ fellowship groups — to spur them on toward love and good works. 

Consider today how you can be an encouragement to another believer … and a light to a darkened world looking for answers. 

Pray that God will show you what He wants you to do, which is different from asking Him to bless what you’ve decided, on your own, to do for Him. 

As we close our eyes, let us pray God’s plan for our lives; as we open our eyes, let us see where God is working in the world … and then let’s join Him where He’s already at work. AMEN

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May God’s rich blessings be with you.


*Note: This meditation is an adaption from a You Version Bible Plan, “Inspire Others to Share,” Day 2. You can see the original here.

A Personal Story … GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS

God often answers our prayers in ways we hadn’t expected with a result that far exceeds what we imagined. Yes, I know, that’s what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20. Well, he was right! What follows today is a personal story illustrating that point.

 God often answers our prayers in ways we hadn’t expected with a result that far exceeds what we imagined. Yes, I know, that’s what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20. Well, he was right! What follows today is a personal story illustrating that point.


Psalms 34:18 (NCV): “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.”

Psalms 46:1 (CEB): “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.”

Ephesians 3:20 (NIV): “[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”


GOD HAS NOT PROMISED US a smooth path when we receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts. 

That’s the prosperity gospel, and it is a false teaching. However, He does promise to walk with us through our earthly travels.

In one of the lowest points of my life, when I felt deep emotional and physical pain — from disharmony in my family and a twist in my back — I heard the Lord’s voice.

I had reached out to Him from my depths, begging Him to relieve my suffering, when I asked, “Lord, are You trying to tell me something?”

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HE SPOKE TO ME, telling me He wanted me to start a men’s Christian-based fellowship in the neighborhood where my wife and I had recently moved. 

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” — Jeremiah 29:12 (NKJV)

“Now?” I asked, incredulously, wondering if He was unaware that I was reaching out because of my emotional and physical pain, not because I was looking for more work.

He said, “Now.”

“Who would I invite?” I asked. Since we had just settled from another state, we didn’t really know anyone.

He said, “You know.”

So, I thought. 

I barely knew of two men in our neighborhood I could invite, plus one man I had met a few months earlier during a walk, but I didn’t recall his name.

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HAVING LEARNED OBEDIENCE, I immediately left the comfort of my ottoman and hobbled over to my desk, where I opened my computer. As I moved, I felt the pain in my back and the hurt in my heart.

I searched a name directory for our neighborhood and located the “mystery man” from several months earlier.

After praying for God’s direction, I typed out an e-mail inviting the three men to join me in forming a neighborhood Bible-based fellowship.

I left the format open, although I encouraged each man to consider the group his own, with shared responsibility for leading discussion.

Once I sent the e-mail, I was done with the venture.

Or, so I thought …

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THE NEXT DAY, as I opened my tablet for devotions, I read an e-mail from “mystery man,” proclaiming he was “all in” on forming a group! His exact words: “Ward, I’m in!” As a bonus, he sent along an agenda to help us organize.

He was the only one of the three to respond, but it only takes two or three gathered in the Lord’s name, and we already had two.

As the next few months evolved, I watched the Lord’s hand at work in my life.

My back pain went away, and I could stand up straight and resume active exercising. The emotional strain was healed through understanding and forgiveness.

Our men’s group faced various setbacks, probably because Satan challenged us, but, with the Lord’s help, we plugged away.

“But truly, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.” — Numbers 14:21 (NET)

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 THREE YEARS LATER, our men’s group has reached some 50 men — more than half of them active — a much healthier turnout than either “mystery man” or I could have imagined. Both of us credit the Holy Spirit for our group’s growth and vitality.

Yes, that’s a true Ephesians 3:20 testimony, where the Lord can bless us in ways beyond our ability to ask or imagine, and He definitely was building Christian encouragement into the lives of men who hungered for His Word.

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TO BE HONEST, I would much rather tell this story by saying it started on the mountaintop, when I was filled with the Holy Spirit and glowed with light and glory.

Instead, it started in the valley, when I wondered if my life meant anything.

Pastor and author John Ortberg says this connection between our lowest moments and greatest gain is not uncommon.  “Often our mountaintop moments are connected with our lowest valleys.” Ortberg, Faith and Doubt, Kindle edit., p. 69. 

The only action I took to relieve my suffering was all that I really had to do … I reached out to the Lord. He heard my prayer, and He blessed me to do His will.

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POSTSCRIPT: SO, WHAT STARTED as a plea for grace ends up with a song of praise.

Doesn’t it always?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. — 2 Corinthians 1:3 (NLT)

For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” — Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV)

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PRAYER 

O LORD God, we are so grateful for Your loving grace and tender mercy, Your faithfulness, Your patience, and Your forgiveness. Help us to stay in prayer throughout the day, O Lord, giving thanks in all situations, and praising Your loving kindness. In the redeeming name of Jesus Christ we pray. AMEN 

Meditation … LIVING WITH GOD On EARTH Or In HEAVEN

When you accept God’s gracious gift of salvation, offered through His grace and your faith, your eternal life begins at that moment. That should bring you great peace and joy. Each day on earth, we should thank Him for our health and our lives, but we should hunger for the moment He calls us home to be with Him … in Paradise.

When you accept God’s gracious gift of salvation, offered through His grace and your faith, your eternal life begins at that moment. That should bring you great peace and joy. Each day on earth, we should thank Him for our health and our lives, but we should hunger for the moment He calls us home to be with Him … in Paradise.


Psalm 84:2b (NCV): “My whole being wants to be with the living God.”

Philippians 1:21 (CSB): “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 


 THIS SEEMS SO WRONG, YET IT’S SO COMMON — EVEN IN CHURCH.

You go to worship the living God and praise His holy name when there, right in front of you, is an esteemed brother or sister in Christ.

Gathering to worship the King!

You give a hearty greeting, like, “It’s good to see you!” and the person responds, “It’s good to be seen. Sure beats the alternative.” Then he or she chuckles.

“Really?” you say, “and, just what do you think IS the alternative?”

“Death,” the other person replies, looking at you as if a spider is climbing down your cheek. “You know, pushing up daisies. Right? Don’t you get it?”

“Sure, I get it,” you want to say, “but do you?”

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 THIS IS IN CHURCH, mind you, and it happens nearly every week. 

It’s ridiculous. Here’s why: If you are a believer, God promises you an eternity in Paradise with Him. So, if you are done with this world, you’re happily in place in the next.

If you’re a believer. 

The apostle Paul, who testified to having seen the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2), said he would rather be in Paradise with Jesus in his glorified body than remain on earth in his “weak, dishonorable” body.

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THIS IS SAD TO ME. Let me explain.

In November 2010, the most amazing event happened to me. Mid-month, on a Wednesday evening, I received the Holy Spirit into my heart.

Immediately, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, went to work on me. One pastor described the transformation process this way: While we think we need a minor tune-up, the Lord is working on a transmission overhaul.

God reaches out for us. We are His special creation.

Big time changes. Heart change, attitude change, habit change. Out with the old; in with the new. 

Scripture backs that up. Check out 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (KJV 2000)

Or read Colossians 3:10 (NLT): “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

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SINCE MY CONVERSION, my peace and joy come from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. I take seriously His statement in John 14 that He was going to His Father’s house to prepare a room for me so that where He is, I may be also (John 14:2-3, paraphrase).

Because of that joy, it strikes me as supremely odd and disappointing when those joining me on Sunday morning to praise the Lord and worship His mighty name take the same position regarding their life-and-death cycle as do those who skipped church that day for an outing on the golf course or just to sleep in. 

“Sure beats the alternative!”

True enough if the alternative is that place reserved for the ones who reject the Lord’s saving message; however, no where near true if the alternative is to be with the Lord in His Father’s house.

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THAT BRINGS US back to you, really, the most important person in this message. 

How do you envision your destiny? Do you see yourself enjoying God’s promise of eternal life right now, as you exist in this world, only to see it bump up in glory when the Lord calls you home … or do you see that every day you’re on this side of the ground is a good day because, you know, it beats the alternative? 

As God’s children, we are citizens of Heaven.

There’s nothing wrong with loving the life the Lord has given us and thanking Him daily for His gifts of grace. The problem is when we hold onto this part of eternity because … deep down … we don’t really trust Him to deliver on the post-death part.

Our two text source verses above, Psalm 84:2b and Phil. 1:21, testify to man’s desire to be with His maker. We can lay claim to that desire just as we can lay claim to the Lord’s promise.

It’s in John 10:10 (NASB), the “b” part: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

With Christ, your eternal life starts the day you receive Him into your heart. When this life is over, you’ll join Him immediately in His arms. 

QUESTION: Now do you think this life really beats the alternative?

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PRAYER  

O Blessed Redeemer, how mighty is Your name, how majestic is Your power, how great is Your love. We thank You and bless You for Your goodness and mercy. Empower us, O Lord, to serve You through our lives, then, when our walk is done, please call us home and let us rest in Jesus’ bosom with the other saints. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen