1 Peter 3:15
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Dear Friends in Christ,
This morning I’m going to bring to a close a 3-part sermon series that I’ve been preaching on how to more easily, naturally, and effectively witness to our faith in Jesus Christ and thus hopefully make an eternal difference in the lives of other people. In this brief series of messages I’ve been trying to be very practical with you about this area of the Christian life that most believers shy away from. So we’ve looked at the most common excuses that people give for not witnessing and answered them. We’ve looked at some great icebreakers we can use and questions we can ask to get people thinking about spiritual matters. And this morning I want to get real practical one more time by examining what I’m calling in my sermon title “The 10 ‘Be’s’ of Witnessing.” You’ll find all of these on the insert in the bulletin if you want to take it out at this time.
First of all, Be yourself. Understand that you are not Billy Graham. You are not Charles Stanley. You are not the Apostle Paul. You are you. You are a person who has been uniquely gifted by God to reach some people with the Gospel but not all people. This is true even of pastors. I have heard of pastors who have succeeded me in congregations where I once served who were somehow able to get people to come to church that I tried and tried to get there, but without success. Likewise, when I have taken on a new congregation, by the grace and goodness of God, I found myself able to reach certain people that the previous pastor had been unable to reach. It all goes back to that passage in I Cor. 3:6 that I quoted a few of weeks ago in my sermon where the Apostle Paul says: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Some of us will plant seeds, some will water seeds that others planted, and some of us will have the great joy and privilege of seeing the end result and final fruit of all those efforts. The key is to just be faithful in sharing the Gospel and to just be yourself.
Secondly, Be concerned. When you look at other people, whether it’s someone in your work place or your neighborhood, your school or even your home, look at them through the eyes of Jesus. See them as ones for whom Christ gave his life on the cross. And understand that their eternal destiny is at stake here. In other words, if no one ever speaks to them about Jesus and helps them to understand why they need a Savior like Jesus, they will spend an eternity of separation from him in a horrible place rather than that glorious eternity in his heavenly presence that all of us are so looking forward to.
Thirdly, Be interested. Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone, but instead of it being a dialogue between two people interacting with each other, it was more of a monologue with that other person speaking only about himself or herself? Well, I can assure you that that is not the way to lead someone to Christ. As much as we might want to tell our story or talk about ourselves, we need to refrain from doing that and instead show a keen interest in the other person. We do this by #1, Asking questions about them – their family, their job, any challenges or problems they might be facing and that you may be aware of. And please understand that you ask these questions not to be nosy and certainly not so that you can tell other people about it. Rather you do it because you are genuinely interested in what’s going on in their life.
And after you’ve asked a question, then secondly, listen attentively. Zone in on what the other person is saying. Look them in the eye. Nod your head. Empathize with them. That means you do your best to feel what they’re feeling. For as you do this, you will reveal yourself as one who truly cares about them and you will gain their confidence for that time when you show them that you not only care about what’s going on in their lives now, but also what will happen to them beyond this life.
Fourthly, Be there. It’s one thing to ask questions and to listen attentively. But it’s an entirely different matter to actually be there for the person if and when they need you. This might mean receiving a phone call from them in the middle of the night. It might mean offering them some financial assistance if you’re able to. It might mean making some sort of sacrifice for this person so that they will see in you and receive from you the love of Jesus that you’re talking to them about. Somebody once said, and rightly so: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” We can have the greatest doctrine in the world, the greatest theology, the greatest music and worship experiences to offer people. But if we don’t practice what we preach and live out our faith in a loving, caring, Christ-like way, I’m afraid we’re going to see little or no fruit from our efforts. James, the half-brother of Jesus, speaks of this in the 2nd chapter of his New Testament epistle when he says: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds… Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed.’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” So be there.
Then fifthly, Be genuine. Don’t just talk the talk of the Christian life; walk the walk. Non-Christians can spot a fake Christian a mile away. And you’d better believe they’re looking. I know because I hear it all the time. People tell me things like: “I don’t go to church because I know how some church members are. They act so holy and righteous on Sunday morning, but then I see how they live the rest of the week. I hear the language they use and the dirty jokes they tell. I see how much they drink. They’re nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.”
Now admittedly, that is not a good excuse for people to have nothing to do with the Lord. For why would you want to deprive yourself of all that he has to offer you just because there might be a few hypocrites in the crowd? But it is still a stinging indictment against the body of Christ of how important it is that if we’re going to call ourselves Christians, and if we’re especially interested in helping others to become Christians, then we need to be genuine. We need to take seriously the life we live and the example we set.
Then sixthly, Be ready. Our text for today says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” You see, if we actually follow through on all the preceding points that we’ve talked about this morning, it is quite possible that sooner or later someone is going to ask us why we are the way we are. And that is going to create for us what has been described as “the critical event.” The critical event is “one person giving witness to another person so that person may have an encounter with Jesus Christ.” Sometimes we need to initiate the critical event. Other times the person will. And when that happens, we need to be ready to give an answer to them about the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ and the difference that hope has made in our lives. But I think we also need to be honest with them. We need to tell them that while being a Christian doesn’t guarantee us an easy road through this life, it does guarantee us a wonderful, pain-free, problem-free life in heaven, made possible only through faith in Jesus Christ.
That takes us to the 7th “Be” that we want to look at today: Be tactful. When I read from our text a few moments ago, I didn’t read the entire verse. Here’s what it says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Have you ever found yourself in a situation where some well-meaning but very judgmental people were practically beating you over the head with a Bible as they were trying to “win you to Christ”? Believe it or not, I’ve been there before. It happened during my 2nd year of college when we had some young, upstart 1st year students come to our campus and start holding prayer meetings and Bible studies to which they always invited me. Now there was certainly nothing wrong with that, but I had a very busy and difficult schedule that year. Plus I was working every evening. And when I didn’t show up and didn’t show up for their prayer meetings, they finally came to me and told me that I was going to hell because I wasn’t attending. Well, that really made me want to go, right? So learn to be tactful. Remember, you’re not Arnold Schwartzenegger. You’re not the “evangelator.” Rather you are to be a winsome witness for Jesus.
Then the 8th “Be” is: Be patient. Understand that you may not see results immediately. Remember what I said a couple weeks ago in my sermon? The evangelism experts tell us that it takes an average of 7.6 times for people to hear the Gospel before they’ll respond to it and commit their lives to Christ.
And as you are patient, Be prayerful. Regularly hold the other person before the Lord in prayer. Ask God to break down any walls of resistance that are there. Ask him to bring other godly influences into their life who will substantiate and reaffirm what you’ve been saying. Ask him to do whatever it takes to wake this person up and bring them into a life-changing, soul-saving relationship with Christ.
Then the 10th and final “Be” that we want to look at today is this: Be dependent on God. That’s one of the things that Jesus emphasized so strongly with his disciples in Matt. 10 when he gave them this rather ominous warning but also these words of assurance. He said: “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Now let me ask you something, my friends. Do you think God has changed since then? Do you think that the same God who gave those disciples the right words to say when they were called upon to witness to their faith under very adverse circumstances can do the same for you? Boy, I sure do. In fact, I have no doubt about it because I’ve experienced that myself many times throughout my ministry and I’ve had others share the same thing with me. So be dependent upon God. Witness in his strength and power and he will not let you down.
Let me close then with kind of a weird story. It’s about two robins who were sitting in a tree talking one day. The first one said, “I’m really hungry.” The second one said, “Me too.” So they flew down to the ground and found a nice plot of land that had just been plowed. It was full of worms. So they ate and ate until they could eat no more. The first one said, “I’m so full I don’t think I can fly back up to the tree. Let’s just lie here and bask in the warm sun.” The second one agreed and no sooner had they fallen asleep than a big fat cat snuck up on them and gobbled them up. As that cat sat washing his face after his meal, he thought, “I just love baskin’ robins.”
My question for all of us today as we close is this: Are we going to be “baskin’ robin Christians” who have eaten so much of God’s good food that we just sit around and bask in the warm sunshine of his love? Or are we going to take that food we’ve been so generously given and share it with all the others out there who are spiritually starving and maybe don’t even realize it? Let’s pray:
Father, we come to you at this time and pray your blessing upon us as individuals and us as a congregation. Ignite us by the power of the Holy Spirit and inspire us through the love of Christ to carry your Gospel message to those who know you not and to those who once knew you but who have long since drifted away. Help us to be more than just baskin’ robin Christians who are more than willing to feast on the rich food that you offer us in your Word, but to do no more than that. Instead, empower us to take that food and share it with those who are spiritually starving so that they too might come to know the Savior as we know him and thus discover the satisfying and eternal difference that he can make in their lives. In his name we pray.