I had asked for you to be alert for opportunities to bear a witness during this week and to be prepared to share one or two of those with us this evening along the line of some of the principles we have been talking about in witnessing. Who has had such an opportunity?
John: [Note: some portions of the taped audience comments are unintelligible.] I met a lady who had been raised as a southern Baptist and her 15-year-old boy had run away. She and her husband had never agreed on their children going to Sunday school. They never went to Sunday school. I offered to be of some practical assistance as far as maybe help in getting her boy lined up with Young Life and into a Bible class. And besides, sharing the Good News with her.
Ray: What do you mean “sharing the Good News with her”? What did you say to her about the Lord?
John: Well, she made the opening that her son had never gone to Sunday school; never had the advantage of learning about God and about Jesus Christ. So I agreed with her that this was really important and what a wonderful thing it is to know that the Lord loved us so much. That we aren’t complete without God as revealed in Jesus Christ and that God never intended for us to live without this completeness...
Ray: Now that was your witness wasn’t it? It wasn’t inviting her to Sunday school, although that grew out of it. The witness was what you said about Christ because this is what witnessing is. Now, what class of people did this woman belong to? The defeated. The morally defeated. The ones who were discouraged, who had a problem, some pressing circumstance that opened up their heart and life. Therefore, the indicated character of Christ that you were to present was that of one who could mean a need, one who could fill the vacuum and satisfy the thirst and the hunger of life. As the Lord himself put it in John 16, it would be to lift Him up as the one who has ascended to the Father and therefore is able to meet every need of the human heart.
Dale: I had two experiences mostly in the “seed sowing” area. One was a call from our salesman in Washington. He had just got out of the hospital and was home in bed. That opened up an opportunity to say I’d prayed for him, remembering him in my prayers and he thanked me. I’m looking forward to talking further with him. I’ve talked with him several times about business and I’ve never had a chance alone with him.
The other opportunity was with the night guard. He was coming out of work; there was no one around. We started talking and it grew out of what McDougal had said about his ear and about the Lord coloring the veins different colors. The Lord used this in our conversation of what a great mind put our bodies together. This lead into a witness of how Christ can control our lives and just then someone else came in and he seemed uneasy so I didn’t pursue this further.
Ray: Now did anyone have an actual experience of leading someone to Christ? (no one answers) Well, I did (laughter). Mine was rather unique because it grew out of my work as a pastor, not one that would fall largely in your areas of experience, perhaps, but that’s just it; we each will meet particular contacts that will arise out of our particular vocation in life.
I had a couple come to me who wanted to be married. In talking with them about this, I found that the young woman didn’t know the Lord and she was very open and interested. I’ve often found in previous experiences like this, there is hardly any other comparable time in life when people are more willing to talk about spiritual relationships than when they’re facing marriage. Somehow the responsibility of this makes them realize they need help. And this girl was very open. So after a bit of time I said to her, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if right here, on the very eve of your married life, you would receive the Lord Jesus into your heart and life? And she said, “Yes, it would.” So it was a very simple matter to bring her to that place.
Now I want to talk about that aspect. Last time we talked about approaches—how to open the door to a conversation on themes of this sort. But now often times, far too often, I think, Christians discover that they can converse in general about Christ and talk about what he can do and what he has done and what he is able to meet in human life, but that’s as far as it goes. They never seem to get down to, “Will you receive him?” or helping someone to see that this is the necessary step and it becomes, therefore, a general witness without being specific or culminating in an actual confrontation of that individual with the Lord Jesus. None of us should ever make the mistake of thinking that an open heart or an interested attitude is sufficient. It never is sufficient. A person is never a Christian until he has Christ. “He that has the Son has life, he that has not the Son of God, has not life.” (I John 5:12)
So, it’s to that end of bringing people face-to-face with Jesus Christ, we must always aim our witness. Now you’ll be surprised, once you learn this little trick, how easy it is to transform a general witness into a specific one. There are many approaches to this, but I think perhaps the best I have ever seen one work and one that is widely used these days, is that developed by Campus Crusade in their work. I feel this is an excellent way of turning the tide, of bringing a person who is open and ready for this, already prepared by the Holy Spirit to an actual point of decision for Christ. Now they gather this all together under the heading of “The Four Spiritual Laws” and I would very much urge you to memorize those four spiritual laws because you’ll find this a very easy approach. It isn’t very difficult if, once you have gotten on to the subject of Christ or Christian things, to say, “Have you ever heard of the four spiritual laws?” And, of course, their answer will always be one of interest and they’ll answer, “No I haven’t. What are they?” Then you simply say (someone in the audience interrupts, “What are they Ray?” (laughter) That’s what I’m coming to. (laughter) Can’t wait, can you? That’s what I wanted.
You say, just like in physics there are physical laws, in chemistry there are laws. In every aspect of life there are laws that govern our relationship so in the spiritual life. There are laws that govern it and let me give you the four spiritual laws. The first one is:God loves you and has a plan for your life.
You’ll recognize this perhaps, some of you, that these four spiritual laws, at least the next three are sometimes referred to as the “plan of salvation” which is a term I totally and completely abhor. Too often, I’ve found that people think they have witnessed by explaining the plan of salvation and that if we get someone to understand the plan of salvation that they’ll become a Christian. But nobody was ever saved by understanding the plan of salvation. In fact, the plan of salvation never saves anyone. It’s Christ who saves. It’s the Person who saves, and to explain the plan of salvation may be helpful in clearing up some intellectual difficulties, but until a person comes into a personal encounter with Christ he’s not saved. To make him feel that he is by understanding the plan of salvation is only to cloud the issue.
So the first of the spiritual laws is: God loves you. He has a plan for your life. This is beginning on a positive note. It doesn’t talk about sin, it talks about love, God’s love first and you can develop this as much as you like and as much as the time permits or as much as the interest of the person warrants.
It’s an obvious truth, isn’t it? God loves the individual that you’re talking to. He’s proved it by giving His Son on the cross. He’s proved it by the care that He’s exercised in that individual’s life; the supply of his needs in, oh so many other ways. And almost invariably, whenever you’re talking to a heart who has been prepared by the Holy Spirit, they are quite ready to recognize that God loves them, but the thing they don’t always recognize is that He has a plan for them. And this is another positive note because it suggests that each individuals‘ life has meaning, it has purpose, it is not a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” as Shakespeare said. It is not something empty and vacuous, meaningless. It has purpose. God has a plan for you. I sometimes develop this further by saying, “Look, everything you touch, that man makes, is made according to a plan. Isn’t it?” Nothing that you can touch in this room, made by man, but what did not originate in the thinking of an individual and was not made for a specific purpose and designed in the mind of a man first. Now, if this is true of us, how much more is it true of God, who designs all the intricate things of the universe to a plan and if you are part of that universe, obviously, God has a plan for your life. That’s law number one or principle number one if you want to call it that.
The second one is: Man is sinful and separated from God’s love; therefore he can’t experience His love and His plan. Now this brings you to the subject of sin, but only after you’ve established the fact that God loves that individual.
You say, the second law at work in the universe is that something has entered in that cuts us off from experiencing this love of God and missing the plan of God. And it isn’t very hard to develop that either. You simply say, “Look. Up to now, in your life, have you seen any real purpose? Are you satisfied with what you’ve become and what you are? Do you feel that you know the fullness of God’s love?” And almost invariably with a prepared heart, the answer is, “No. I haven’t. I’m looking for this. This is what I want.” The reason, you see, is because this principle that we label “sin” has entered in.
Now I don’t like to dwell much on that word “sin”. The reason why, is because it’s so greatly misunderstood. It has been distorted. It has been perverted. So that what you mean by it is one thing, what they mean by it is quite another and you’re talking on two different wavelengths when you talk about sin. Therefore, I like to use a much more meaningful word such as “rebellion” or “independence” or some similar term that catches this idea: “I want to live my life. I want to be my own boss. I want to run my own affairs.” Everyone‘s conscious of this within them and to help them to see that it’s this that is cutting them off from God’s plan makes them aware perhaps for the first time of what you mean when you say, “You’re a sinner.”
Now that’s law number two. Law number three is:Jesus Christ is God’s provision for sin. Jesus Christ in his work and in his person has dealt with this problem. That’s what the Cross is all about. It has already been taken care of. There is nothing that you need to do about this, it has been done. Enlarge on that as much as you like.
Then the fourth one is the obvious one.We must receive the Lord Jesus as our Lord and Savior, by a personal invitation. He’s waiting for you to invite him in. He’s standing here. He’s with us in the room. He’s with us in our conversation together. He’s waiting for you to say, “Come in, Lord Jesus.” And you can quote a verse likeJohn 1:12,“As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” OrRevelation 3:20, I use that one the most frequently; it’s such a beautiful verse.“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hear my voice and open the door, I will come into him and sup with him and he with me.” You see that brings you right down to the point, doesn’t it? And you say, “Would you like to have this personal experience? Would you like to open your door to the Lord Jesus? Would you like to receive him as your Savior.” Anything that you want to say that brings it to the point.
Now, if they say, “No. I don’t think so. Not just yet.” Well, don’t press the point with it. This is a matter that cannot be pressured. It must be made by the individual at his own will. And it’s tempting to sort of argue with them and press this home and say, “Well, now you’ve got to do this. If you turn around and go out of here, you go right out into hell, right into the darkness. (laughter) No. Don’t say that. The Lord has been dealing with that individual perhaps for 15 years to get him to this point. He’s not going to quit now. (audience question) Yes, it is a time to remind them that decisions must be made, but if you’ve gone along with the Holy Spirit like this, and the person is really prepared, you don’t need to worry. I’ve often times made the matter very clear, told them how concerned I was for them and how much I was praying that they would do this and how easy it would be and assured them that this was something they could settle in their own heart, they didn’t need me to be there. They could settle it themselves. And I walked away and left them. Sometimes I’ve told them I’ll come back in ten minutes. I was talking with a boy on a plane once when we got to this point. I said, “I’m going now to wash my hands. Now you settle this with the Lord here, if you like, and when I come back you tell me what happened. When I went up there I didn’t wash my hands, but stood there praying and when I came back he gave me one look and said, “It’s all over.” And it was. Another time, recently, a fellow came into my study and it got to this point and I asked him about this and he said, “No. I don’t think I want to do this.” Even though he was weeping when he said this. And I said, “All right. When you settle this yourself and when you do, would you call me and let me know?” The next morning he called me on the phone and said, “I settled it all.” And it was settled.
You see? This is something that only the individual alone can do. Therefore, just to express your concern and your desire to be of help is as far as you can go in this. To try to press it further is to run the risk of being a doctor at a stillbirth. Having what was described in that original article I read to you, as a false confession of faith not really resulting in a transformed life.
Do you have any questions on these four spiritual laws?
(Question: Do you have a verse that would clarify in their minds the fact that God does have a plan for you?)
Ephesians 2 has several verses that indicate God’s plan for our lives.John 3:16 is very good,“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” So obviously he has a plan that someone should come to life. Pass from death unto life. A verse I often refer to is,“I came that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”John 10:10
[more audience interaction]
“Eye hath not seen nor ear heard the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”I Corinthians 2:9 All these suggest a plan for the life, even such a verse as the “hairs of your head are numbered.” The “sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without your father knowing.” It also indicates that any living creature is within the scope and purpose of God’s programming and planning.
(Question: If a guy wants to argue, should you just forget your witness and just argue? (laughter)
There is a place for discussion of religious themes, but if it’s an argument where he just wants to bat you down, I think this is pretty profitless. I think this comes under the injunction of Paul to Timothy to not to give yourself to vain disputing over words. Don’t get caught up in this sort of thing because, as the Apostle says, it gets you nowhere. Argument usually reveals that the pride of the individual’s life is not yet broken and they are not ready to listen. But not always. If it’s not just an argument, but a mutual discussion of themes in which there’s an intelligent desire for understanding, this could be very profitable. But it’s the kind of thing that probably leads to a witnessing eventually.
(Question: What about the people who are perfectly happy with their lives? They don’t seem to need a relationship with Jesus Christ…)
Well, do you remember we talked about the morally indifferent? (No, I missed that one.) Well in that verseJohn 16:18, the Lord indicates that there are 3 classes of people and that the Holy Spirit is committed to bear a witness to them if Christ be lifted up in the proper form to them. The first class was this morally indifferent, “Those that believe not in me.” He said. To that class the Lord is to be lifted up as the one who is the inevitable one. You talk to an indifferent person quite differently than you would to one who is broken, or sorrowful or in defeat or dispair.
(Audience: My own brother acts perfectly happy. He acts like he doesn’t need anything at all…)
Well, the best kind of witness for this type of person is the one that sort of makes them face up to what’s eventually going to happen. You’ve all probably heard the story of the man who said to the young man, “What are your plans for life?” He said, “Oh, I plan to go to college.” “Well, what then?” “I plan to go into work.” “Well, what then?” “I’d like to get married. Have a home. A good degree of comfort. Make my way in my profession. Enjoy life.” “Well, what then?” “I suppose I’ll grow old someday and retire.” “Well, what then?” “Well, I’ll die.” “Well, what then?”
You see? That brings them face-to-face with the fact that life isn’t just an endless treadmill.
(Audience: There’s a friend of mine right here in town. She’s a Unitarian and she seems to be perfectly happy to be just a good, ethical woman. She says her reward is right here.)
Well, remember that the Holy Spirit is the one who must prepare hearts. We can only move in upon ground that he has already plowed. Now if he hasn’t plowed the ground, don’t try to drop seed on it. You can try and if it doesn’t get anywhere, wait awhile. It doesn’t mean the case is hopeless by any means it just means that it isn’t prepared and ready yet.
Oftentimes this kind of person will go along for a considerable period of time and then some moment of catastrophe or disaster or pressure strikes. Then they’re suddenly as open as they can be and that’s the time to move in.
(Audience: Someone mentions that oftentimes these people are just watching you and in times of trouble, they seek you out…)
I’ve learned through long experience that you can’t write anybody off. You never know when the Holy Spirit is going to awaken something even with just a chance word and this facade of indifference and unconcern is just that, a facade. Oftentimes behind it is a very hungry heart. But if you’ve probed a bit and not found it there. Then just bide your time awhile. Keep praying.
(Audience: What about somebody that you run into that‘s intellectually superior to you?)
Oh, that doesn’t make any difference. (laughter) “The world, by wisdom, knew not God.” It is the witness of what has happened in you; of Christ in you that is the witness not what you say about him. It isn’t your clever intellectual arguments that mow down all opposition that ever wins souls. It is the evidence that you have received someone and know that a change has occurred in you. Oftentimes God delights to use an uneducated, almost completely ignorant person to reach the most intellectual of all.
This is God’s way. What does he say in I Corinthians? What does it say? It has pleased God to set aside the high and the mighty and to choose the humble and the low and to work through them. The Lord Jesus said, “I thank thee that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes.” And this can often be the most effective form of witness so by no means let apparent intellectual superiority discourage you in any way. It has nothing to do with whether a person will understand and believe the Gospel or not.
“The world by wisdom knows not God.”
Try to think through now carefully on those four laws. How would you apply them? And next time will go on to study what goes on after a person has received the Lord.