Greg Laurie - When and Where to Share the Gospel
You know I think it is safe to say that we can assume certain things about all people no matter who they are. No matter how old they are or young they are. If they are men. If they are women. Where they live. These things are true of every person.
1. Everyone deep down inside they are empty. Why is that? Well the Bible actually says that God made his creation. That is us. Subject to emptiness you might say that we are sort of born with a hole in our heart. In fact the Bible says God has set eternity in our hearts. We are born with this sense that there is more to life than what we are experiencing now. Everyone is empty. I am talking about the guy cruising down the boulevard in the brand-new Bentley. I am talking about the movie star. I am talking about the person no one has ever heard of. I am talking about the intellectual. I am talking about whoever. Wherever. Everyone is empty deep down inside.
2. Everyone is lonely. There is a deep loneliness inside of us. I think that is really when you get down to it a loneliness for God himself. That is why when people get married and even when they have children they think that is going to fill the void in their life and it doesn't. You know when you are single you say, "If I was married I would be happy". Then you get married. "Man, if we just had children we would be happy". Then you have children. And you say "If we could just get rid of these children I will be happy. Maybe I married the wrong person. If I married another person I would be happy". And on it goes. There is this loneliness really for God himself.
3. Everyone is guilty. We have a sense that when we do something wrong well it is wrong. God has built that into us. It is sort of like the fire alarm. I don't know about you but at my house I have a smoke alarm. It always goes off at 3:00 in the morning. Usually it is because it needs a battery. Never because there is smoke. Why is it always 3:00 in the morning. Not 3:00 in the afternoon? But anyway it is very sensitized. God gives us the conscience. Now we can harden our conscience. But we are born with a conscience. We know that we are guilty. We feel guilt because we are guilty because we have all sinned.
Here is another thing that is true of every person. Everyone is afraid to die. There is a universal fear of death. We may laugh at death. We may make jokes about death. We may never talk about death. Deep down inside we are aware of our mortality. We are aware that one day this life will come to an end. Everyone is empty. Everyone is lonely. Everyone is guilty. Everyone is afraid to die. Here is the good news. God has a solution to all of those things. First of all Christ can fill the void in a person's life when he himself comes and takes residence inside of them. Christ can be that forever friend that will never leave you or forsake you as he himself said. Wherever you go in life you know you are not alone. You know that God is with you. Christ of course can forgive the sin that produces the guilt. You get to the real issue instead of the mere symptom.
Finally if you put your faith in Jesus Christ you can know that you will live forever. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection, and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever believes in me shall never die". Yeah. That is what we know about everyone and we have the answer. We have got to get the Gospel to people and we need to get on with this. Not hesitate. Not procrastinate. But engage people. Listen. The good news is only good if it gets there on time.
You know I remember the first time that I had the opportunity to pray with someone to accept Jesus Christ. I have to tell you I was not prepared for success. In fact I was prepared for failure. I was just a kid about 17 years old. I heard the pastor say that we should go into all of the world and share the Gospel and we should engage even strangers with the message of Jesus Christ. I thought oh man I don't know if I could do that.
One day I decided to try. I was armed with a little booklet called the four spiritual laws. It looked very much like this one. I was so young in my faith that I hadn't even memorized the contents of it yet. I was walking along the beach down in Newport Beach, California. I saw a lady sitting on the beach. She was about the age of my mom. I thought well maybe she will take pity on me. So I walked up and I started to talk to her. You know my voice started shaking. You know when you get nervous and your voice shakes and you can't control it. That was me that day. I was like, "Hi, how are you"? She said "I am fine". "Can I talk to you a little bit"?
Remember I am a teenager. I have hair hanging in my eyes. Use your imagination. By the way I used to have an amazing wave of blond hair. I would do this all of the time. Now the wave is gone and all I have is just beach. It is kind of sad. There I was on the beach. Speaking of beaches. I asked her if I could talk to her. She said go ahead. I said I want to talk to you about Jesus. She said go ahead. I literally started reading the little booklet. "OK. The four spiritual laws. Copyright 1964. Any way, law one: man is sinful. Law two..". I went through the booklet. As I am reading through the booklet I was thinking I really want this to be over with. I am so embarrassed. I know this isn't going to work. I am almost done. I am thinking oh this is just a train wreck. Why did I even do this? But I have got to finish now. She is just listening patiently. I really didn't even want to make eye contact with her.
At the end there was a little question in the booklet I was holding that said "Is there any good reason why you should not accept Jesus Christ right now"? I read that. I said is there any good reason why you should not accept Jesus Christ right now? I realized it was a question. I looked up at her and she said no. "You said no. Does that mean you want to accept Jesus Christ right now"? She said yes I do. I thought oh no. I hadn't planned for success. So in the most reverent tone I could muster I said let's just bow our head for a word of prayer. I saw the preacher do that. Right. She closes her eyes. I am frantically searching this booklet like what do I do now. I found a little prayer. I said just pray this prayer after me. So I prayed the prayer. She prayed it out loud. Listen. To show you how small my faith was still even as I am praying the prayer I am thinking this isn't going to work. But you know what? At the end of the prayer she said "Something has just happened to me". I said "Yeah, something happened to me too".
Here is what I discovered. I discovered that God could use a nobody to reach somebody else. I mean I didn't have any great gifts. I just was a young kid who heard that I was supposed to go share my faith. I wasn't a preacher. I wasn't raised in a preacher's home. I just started reading the Bible for myself and I realized God could use me. And listen. God can use you too. We overcomplicate this thing called evangelism. We get all up tight about it and get all tied up in knots over it. I think we need to just realize that we are just one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. So I want to encourage you to look for an opportunity to share your faith because you might find a person you would think would never respond would indeed respond and put their faith in Jesus. That will be the greatest day of their life and you know what it will be one of the greatest days of yours as well.
Let's look at a text together. Acts 16. If you don't know where that is, it is right after acts 15. This is the story of Paul and Silas in a Roman dungeon. Prisons are bad today but man prisons in the first century hellholes. And why were Paul and Silas put in prison? Because they preached the Gospel. They were put under the control of a Roman guard that was especially cruel. We read in Acts 16:23, did you get that? They have been beaten. They have been whipped. They have had their legs fastened in stocks, spread apart to cause excruciating pain. Put in the most unsanitary horrific environment imaginable. And at midnight Paul and Silas started singing praises to God. And the other prisoners were listening. By the way this phrase others were listening could be translated they listened with pleasure.
Have you ever heard a song on the radio and you listen with pleasure. This is my favorite song. You turn it up. Or a worship song. Oh I love that. I want to hear that again. They were listening with pleasure. I don't know if Paul and Silas were doing like a little two part harmony. Probably not. It is just that they were singing songs to God at midnight. A mighty earthquake comes. Shakes the foundations of the prison. The walls come crashing down. All of the prisoners are free. The Roman soldier sees what is happening. He pulls out his short sword and he is ready to pierce it into his body because the penalty for losing a prisoner was death. He thought I might as well just kill myself right now. He is ready to thrust his sword into himself. Paul stops him and says stop don't kill yourself. We are still here.
How easily Paul could have said go ahead and kill yourself you dog. After the way you treated us. No Saul didn't say that. Paul didn't say that. Because Paul used to be Saul. Saul of Tarsus was one of the most violent men who ever lived. He hunted Christians for sport. He enjoyed torturing them and executing them. He knew what cruelty was all about. He thought if God could reach a cruel guy like me he could reach a cruel guy like that. Don't kill yourself he said. We are still here. I love what happens next in this story. Acts 16:30. So this hardened jailer could not believe his ears or his eyes. He was so moved by this and the powerful testimony of Paul and Silas rejoicing before this he was ready to believe right on the spot. He said what must I do to be saved.
Guess what just happened. They earned the right to preach the Gospel by the way that they lived. That is what we need to do. We need to earn the right to get the audience. We need to earn the right to start the conversation. Here is the key. Once you have earned the right make sure you have that conversation. Because sometimes we just drop the ball here. We like live the life. We are godly people. We are a fantastic representative of Jesus. Someone asks us what is it about you? Well I just believe in good wholesome family values. Really? That is lame. You believe in the Bible and Jesus Christ has come and changed your life. That is why you have this new value system. Don't chalk it up to family values. Tell them what you really believe. Being that good example opened the door.
This is a reminder that we are called to go preach the Gospel. I know you choke on the word preach because you think the word preach means yell right. When you think of preach. Preach!!! Guess what? You can preach quietly. Preaching just means proclaim the Gospel. When you talk to somebody, you don't have to yell at them. It is not like you are a preacher in a stadium. Hello! How are you today?! Good to see you! God bless! What are you doing? Just talk to them. Hey how is it going? Engage them in conversation. Once we have earned the right to share our faith we have to verbalize our faith.
Romans 10 asks the question, how will they hear unless someone tells them? That is why this series is called tell someone. How will they hear unless someone tells them? Then in 1 Corinthians 1:21 it says, "Since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, God was pleased," listen, "Through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe". The primary way God chooses to reach other people is through people like you and specifically through the verbalization of the Gospel. He wants us to tell someone.
Let's say you were a brilliant scientist who somehow got cancer. So you dedicated your time and your efforts and your considerable intellect to finding a cure. After years of study and work and experiments and so forth you found a cure. A single pill that could be taken at one time and cancer would go away almost immediately. I wish someone would find that cure. How awesome would that be? Let's just say you were that person. You found the cure to cancer. All a person has to do is take this pill. What would you do? I hope you would shout it from the rooftops. Would you say, "I am not really comfortable talking to strangers". Yeah that may be. But this is kind of a big deal. So can you kind of get over yourself and your discomfort and actually share this good news with other people?
Listen folks, we have something even better than the cure for cancer. We have the cure for death. We have the only hope through Jesus Christ. We must tell others. We have already talked about the who should share the Gospel and who we should share it with and where we should share it. Short answer. Whenever. I wish I could tell you that God wakes me up every morning and speaks to me audibly. When I see preachers say God spoke to me audibly I don't believe them. He doesn't speak to me audibly everyday. "Good morning, Greg. Your mission should you decide to accept it". Cue the mission impossible theme. "You are going go today to a gas station at 11:02 and there you will find a man named Josh Smith pumping gas. Your mission should you decide to accept it is to engage josh with the Gospel. This message will self-destruct in five seconds".
That is not how God speaks to me. It is usually I get in my car. I am driving. All of a sudden a little light goes on. They call it an idiot light. It means I am low on fuel. I think I will get gas. So I drive over to the gas station. No audible voices. I am just pumping gas waiting. There is some guy pumping gas in his car. I say how is it going? It is going good. How is it going with you? Oh by the way his name is Josh. A lot of times I find I just walk into these things. We call them coincidences but I call them providence. I believe that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. That is what the Bible says. So when you get up in the morning you say Lord guide my steps and lead me. I want to be ready to share the Gospel.
We know that Jesus has called us to go into all of the world to preach the Gospel. We don't do a great job of that in most cases. One of the reasons we give or maybe I should say excuses is well what if I share the Gospel with someone and they reject what I am saying. Well that is always an option and to be candid with you that will happen. But maybe one of our real concerns is what if I share the Gospel with somebody and they want to accept Christ. See I think sometimes our greater fear is one of success than it is of failure. Because if you share Jesus Christ with someone and they want to believe in him now you are there to follow up on them and help them to grow in their faith. You need to be an example for them.
I think a lot of times we don't like that because that means we are going to have to be a well good example. But that is part of sharing the Gospel. In a way you need to earn the right to be heard. We are to be both salt and light in the world. What does that mean? Well in the first century the people Jesus gave that statement to originally the salt was used as a preservative. They would rub it into meat to preserve it. So we as Christians are here to stop the spread of evil in the culture. But there was another use of salt and that of course is to stimulate thirst. Sort of like when you go into the movie theater and you buy those giant bags of popcorn. By the way why do those have to be so big? And then you are thirsty. They probably over-salt it. And the cokes are like the size of a barrel. It is ridiculous. Salt stimulates thirst.
I think if a man or a woman is really walking with God their very lifestyle will stimulate thirst in others. The best question a nonbeliever can ask you is what makes you different? Why are you happy? What is this joy that I see in you? Then that opens the door for you to share your faith. So sometimes people say well I think I just want to just be a good example. I believe in lifestyle evangelism. Not in confronting people with the Gospel. Well actually the Bible tells us we are to do both. We are to be a good example and we are to share our faith. It is not one or the other. It is both - and.
Billy Graham once said we are the Bibles the world is reading. We are the creeds the world is heeding. We are the sermons the world is needing. You know it has been said that Christians are walking epistles written by God and read by men. Listen. You are the only Bible some people are ever going to see. So what kind of example are you? Listen to this. Some people are going to actually develop their whole opinion of God based on you - his representative. You say well that is too much pressure. Hey sorry. Deal with it. God has called us to be his examples in this very dark world. But listen to this. Jesus said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go therefore into all the world and preach the Gospel". That means we need to proclaim the good news. Of course that is what Gospel means.
You know when I was a kid I used to be a paperboy. I had a really cool bike by the way. It was a Schwinn stingray. Banana seat. Small front tire. Big slick tire on the back. And best of all I had a stick shift on my bicycle. It was sort of a forerunner to my Harley. Well anyway I get on my little Schwinn stingray bicycle with the stick shift. Put my bags on and load them with papers and cruised through the neighborhoods and threw those papers on to front lawns. On to front porches. I got pretty good with that little sideways swipe. Clearing the hedge. That sort of thing. But here was the thing. I was a paperboy. My job was to deliver the news. My job was not to write the news. My job was not to make the news. My job was to deliver the news.
The same is true for us. We are just delivery boys and girls. Our job is to bring the Gospel to people. I don't need to add to it. I don't need to take away from it. I certainly should never edit it. I need to give the whole Gospel to as many people as I possibly can. Who do I take that Gospel message to? Jesus said, "Whosoever will believe, let him believe in me". Whosoever qualifies. So who would that include? Basically everybody. The Bible also says that we are to be instant in season and out of season. Or as another translation puts it. Be on duty at all times. I am to take the Gospel to whosoever whenever. But where should I do it? Jesus said, "Go into all of the world and preach the Gospel". That means wherever. I am to go to whosoever whenever, wherever I can. That is the message he has called us to bring. That is the good news this culture needs to hear.