Breaking the Ice

Mark 16:15-16

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last Sunday in my sermon we talked about one of the things we won’t be able to do in heaven.  Remember what it was?  Aside from not being able to sin or to get sick or to die in heaven, I said that one other thing we won’t be able to do there is witness to an unbeliever since there will be no unbelievers there.  Do you know what that means, my friends?  That means that once your unbelieving friend or neighbor or co-worker or family member leaves this world behind, there are no more chances for that person to be saved, to spend eternity in the glorious presence of God.  Instead they will be forever separated from you and the Lord, in a place that the Bible describes in multiple ways as the complete and polar opposite of heaven.

For that reason, Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher of the 19th century once said: “If there be any one point in which the Christian church ought to keep its fervor at a white heat, it is concerning missions.  If there be anything about which we cannot tolerate lukewarmness, it is the matter of sending the gospel to a dying world.”  And yet in many respects these days, Christians have lost that white hot fervor for missions, both at home and abroad, which is why I’m spending 3 Sundays focusing upon this important subject of witn essing.  And one of my goals through these 3 sermons is to ignite in each one of us a passion for the unreached and uncommitted people who are within our circle of acquaintances so that we will do all that we can to rescue them from that eternity of separation from God that we mentioned a few moments ago.

So how do we do it?  I firmly believe that most, if not all of us, here today want to be able to speak to others about Jesus.  We want to be used by God to make an eternal difference in peoples’ lives.  But because we’ve never done it before or been taught how to do it, we’re somewhat reluctant to try.  And if that describes you, my friends, then boy, have you ever come to the right place today.  For that is exactly what we’re going to be talking about this morning in my sermon.

But before we get to those practical ways whereby we can witness, I want to go back to something that I started talking about last Sunday in my sermon and that I said I would finish up this week.  I want to help you understand that every time we share the Gospel of Jesus with another person, it is a winning situation.  Let me explain.  When you think about it, there are really only three responses that a person can give to our witness.  They may receive it with an open heart and come to trust Jesus as their Savior.  They may reject it as foolishness and want nothing to do with it.  Or we may end up planting a seed that will bear fruit later on through someone else’s faithful witness.  Now we have no problem seeing how the 1st and 3rd responses are winning situations.  But what about the 2nd response, the one that we fear the most, the one that causes most Christians to clam up when the opportunity arises to share Christ with another person?  Well, the Bible makes it very clear to us that even though that rejection might be a losing situation for the other person, it is still a winning situation for us.  For 1 Peter 4:14 says: “Count it a blessing when you suffer for being a Christian. This shows that God’s glorious Spirit is with you.”  In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus put it this way: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Those passages indicate that God has a special place in his heart and special blessings reserved for those who experience rejection when they share the Gospel with others.  Like I’ve said so many times: “God never calls us to be successful in our witness, just to be faithful.”  We are simply to do it and leave the results up to him.

So how do we do it?  How do we break the ice and even bring up the subject?  Well, that’s what  I want to spend the rest of my time talking about today as we consider some practical ways whereby we can get people to thinking about things that matter for eternity.

   One way we can do this is through THE TOMBSTONE EXAMPLE.  Ask them to identify the 3 basic items engraved on a tombstone.  The answer, of course, is the deceased person’s name, date of birth, and date of death.  Then you might say something like this: “I can make you a guarantee.  I guarantee you will be dead a whole lot longer than you will be alive.  Agree?”  When they say yes because what else can they say, then you might say, “Since that is true, doesn’t it make sense while you’re still alive to start thinking about and preparing for what will happen when you die and what lies beyond this life?”  Dwight L. Moody, one of the greatest preachers of all time, used to say that if he could get a person to think about eternity for five minutes, he could lead that person to Christ.  Now that’s not always easy because one of Satan’s greatest ploys is to get people to think only about this life, to focus on college or their job or their home or their bank account.  But the tombstone example can definitely get them thinking about that which matters the most.

Another way to accomplish that goal is through the 150 YEARS FROM NOW EXAMPLE.  Ask the person: “What will really matter in your life 150 years from now?  Will it matter that you drove a fancy car or lived in a big luxurious house or worked at a high powered, high-paying job?  No.  The only thing that will matter for you 150 years from now is whether you knew the God who created you and his Son who died for you because there are only two destinations waiting for you when all is said and done with this life.  And I care enough about you to help you get to the right one.”

Here’s something you might want to try with a younger person like maybe a high school student.  We’ll call it the WHAT THEN? APPROACH.  After showing an interest in them by chatting about life in general and their life in particular, ask them what they’re going to do after high school.  Typically, they’ll say something like, “I plan on going to college.”  At that point you start asking the question “What then?”  “Well, after I graduate from college, I suppose I’ll get a job and start my career.”  “What then?”  “I guess I’ll probably get married and have some kids.”  “What then?”  “I guess I’ll work hard until I retire and maybe do some travelling.”  “What then?”  “I guess I’ll get old and maybe go to the nursing home.”  “What then?”  “I guess I’ll die.”  You see how it works?  The goal is to bring people to the point where they start thinking about eternity because this life is so short in comparison.

Here’s another very simple question to ask a person to open a door for witnessing: DO YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS IN YOUR LIFE?  Just watch their eyes light up when you ask that question because not only does everyone have problems these days, most people love to talk about their problems.  And if you show an interest, they’re going to be more than happy to share their problems with you.  But as they do so, at some point you’ll need to interrupt them and say something like this: “Boy, you do have problems, don’t you?  Well, what if you had a choice between a future that would be totally free of all problems, sorrow, tears, and pain, or a future that would be full of nothing but problems, sorrow, tears, and pain?  Which would you choose?”  Obviously they would choose the former.  And there is your open door to share the Gospel with them, to tell them about Jesus who came into our world to make possible for each and every one of us that kind of future.  In fact, you might even want to commit to memory and share with them Rev. 21:4 where John describes that future with these words: “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

That brings us to two of the easiest questions you can ask people to get them thinking about eternity and spiritual matters.  The first one is this: IF YOU DIED TONIGHT, ARE YOU 100% SURE THAT YOU WOULD GO TO HEAVEN?  Recently I read about a man in Australia who would walk up to people and ask them that question.  Then he would hand them a Gospel tract that explained salvation to them.  That’s all he would do.  But he tried to do it to ten people each day, and he kept at it for forty years.  Now that is either foolishness or faithfulness, depending upon how you look at it.  For at the end of those forty years, he had not heard of one single person who had come to faith in Christ through his efforts.  Eventually though a pastor discovered several people who became believers because of the seeds this man planted.  So he investigated further and found that the number of saved people actually reached into the tens of thousands.  That is how powerful this question is.  It gets right to the point and makes people think.  And from my own personal experience, most people are going to answer that question by saying no, they’re not 100% sure that if they died tonight they would go to heaven.  Which simply opens up the door for you to share with them how they can be sure, and that of course is through faith in Jesus Christ.  Like 1 John 5:13 says: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Closely related to this question is another great icebreaker that can get people thinking about spiritual matters.  And it goes like this: IF YOU WERE TO DIE TONIGHT AND FIND YOURSELF STANDING BEFORE THE LORD, AND HE ASKED YOU, “WHY SHOULD I LET YOU INTO MY HEAVEN?” WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?  Now most people typically answer this question by saying something about how good they are.  They’ll say, “Well, I guess I’d tell God that I’m a pretty decent person.  I’ve never murdered anyone.  I’ve never stolen from anyone.  I’ve never cheated on my spouse.  And I’m sure a lot better than many so-called Christians that I’ve run into during my life.”  Notice what they’re doing.  First of all, they’re playing the comparison game.  They’re holding themselves up to people that they believe are much more sinful than they are.  There’s a big problem though with that way of thinking.  And the problem is, that’s not what God does.  He doesn’t compare us to the jerk in the office or the sex offender down the street or the Hitler’s and Osama bin Laden’s of this world.  Rather he compares us only to himself.  And he says, “You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy.”  Well, compared to his absolutely pure, perfect, and exquisite holiness, how do you compare?  Not very well, right?  Neither do I.  And you need to help that person to whom you’re witnessing to see that.

But there’s another problem with their self-righteous attitude toward salvation.  And that is they’re singing Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “I Did It My Way.”  They’re expecting to get to heaven on the basis of what they’ve done when the Bible makes it abundantly clear to us that that is absolutely impossible, that heaven is a gift that can only be received by faith in the One who earned that gift for us.  And that One is Jesus.

Now I’m going to have a little bit more to say about this 2 weeks from today when John Duncan and I do a little skit that I’ve written up to help you see even more how you can deal with a person who has this type of works righteous, self-righteous attitude.  Then we’re going to take a look at 10 very practical things that we can do once the ice has been broken and we find ourselves in an actual witnessing situation.  Until then, may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus at all times.