Greg Laurie - The Refreshing Power Of Telling Others About Jesus
Well, how many of you out there are fishermen? I'm not much of a fisherman myself. Years ago, I was in Alaska, and I went on a little fishing trip for king salmon. I was with very seasoned fishermen who knew what they were doing. I didn't even know how to bait my hook. Well, anyway, well, we're all just waiting for a bite, and one friend of mine kept saying, "I just got a hit, I just got a hit," and he hadn't got a hit. And I asked the guy who was with us, our guide, "How will you know when you get a real bite"? He says, "You'll know". And then it's like, almost right after that, "whoom," my pole moved, and I start reeling away, and I got a big king salmon on my line.
I was so excited, and I worked at... this went on for a while, for, you know, maybe 20 minutes I'm reeling away. Finally, we get that fish right at the side of the boat, and the guy gets his net in there, and he misses it, and the fish breaks away. And then, of course, when you tell someone that story, no one believes you 'cause we all talk about "the one that got away," but in my case, that really happened. But I'll tell you a story about a fisherman who got a beast of a fish, it's called a muskellunge fish, ever heard of those? So this guy is testing an outboard propeller on his little boat on a lake in Ohio, and as he's cruising along, he sees this massive muskellunge fish, right near the surface, so he casts his line in the direction of the fish a couple times. The fish disappears.
So the guy goes back to testing his motor. Half hour later, the fish appears again. It's right near the surface. So this guy grabs a leather glove, gets right behind the muskie, grabs up behind the gills and is wrestling it onto the boat. The fish was so big, another fisherman nearby came and helped him get this beast of a fish on his boat, and when it was all said and done, it weighed more than 53 pounds. Had he caught it properly, if you will, with a rod and a reel, it would've set the record. So this is what makes me laugh. This fisherman was interviewed afterwards, and "How did you pull this off, catching this fish with a glove, by hand"? And his response is, "Well, I was at the right place at the right time, and I guess I was just fool enough to grab it".
You say, "Greg, what are you talking about? Is this a message on fishing"? Yes, it is. It's a message on fishing for men. Jesus said, "Follow me, and you will be a fisher of men". A literal translation of that is "Catch men alive". I suppose we need to be at the right place at the right time and be fool enough to grab it. I wanna talk to you in this message about how to lead a person to Christ. Now, this is where the rubber meets the road, and frankly this is where it falls apart for many people. They just don't know how to get started, and even more, once they've got started, they don't know how to finish. They don't know how to make that invitation for a person to come to Christ.
So let's see how Jesus did it in John chapter 4. Turn there with me, if you would, and I'm starting in verse 3. We read, "Jesus left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But he needed to go through Samaria". You might underline that. That's an important statement. "He needed to go through Samaria. And he came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Therefore, Jesus was tired from his journey, and he stopped by a well. It was around the sixth hour". That would be 12 o'clock noon. "And a woman of Samaria came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, 'Give me a drink.' For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to him, 'How is it that you, being a Jew, would ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?' For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. And Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, "Give me a drink," you would've asked him, and he would've given you living water.'"
This is a perfect example of how to build a bridge to a person. Now, this wasn't a moral woman, as the story reveals. She had been married and divorced five times, and she was living with some guy at the moment. This is a woman who was ostracized from the rest of the community. She would not have been an educated woman. She didn't know what the Bible said. And so she was living this life that was in opposition to what the Bible teaches, but Jesus does not start with that. He appeals first to her spiritual thirst. So often, we wanna go right to the lifestyle of the person we're talking to, and I think, in effect, get the cart before the horse. We do need to get to that, and I'll talk about that in a moment 'cause I believe in telling the truth to people, however, Jesus starts by building a bridge. Jesus starts by appealing to her spiritual thirst. He reaches out to her, bringing me to some points now that you might wanna write down.
The first point is simply this: If you wanna evangelize Jesus style, that's what I'm gonna call this, "Jesus style," 'cause that's what it was. If you wanna evangelize Jesus style, it begins with a burden. Again, verse 4, "He needed to go through Samaria". As a matter of fact, he did not need to go through Samaria. It was actually way out of the way. He was leaving his country. He was goin' effectively to another country that was populated by people that were known to be the enemies of Israel. So Jesus leaves his comfort zone, if you will. Jesus leaves his people, goes to this other place, not just to a woman who was a Samaritan but an immoral woman who was a Samaritan. So, when you wanna share your faith effectively, it starts with a God-given concern. You have to care about the soul of a person who is not yet a believer. My friend Craig Groeschel puts it this way. This is the mission statement of his church, quote, "We will do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ". I like that statement, "We will do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ". Craig is effectively saying, like, "Well, we'll do anything. We'll go way out of our way to reach people that don't yet know the Lord".
Second point, if you wanna evangelize Jesus style, you need to use tact. Isaac Newton said, quote, "Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy," end quote, and that's a very great way to say it. Here's a classic example of someone being tactful in the Bible, and his name was Philip. By the way, he's the only man identified as an evangelist. Philip the Evangelist. So Philip was having some great meetings. People were coming to Christ. Miracles were being performed, and an angel of the Lord says to Philip, "Go to the desert". That's it. "Go to the desert". He could've said, "Uh, no thank you, I'll stay right here". But, no, he goes to the desert. I wonder if Philip's thinkin', "What, am I gonna preach to lizards? What am I gonna do in the desert, exactly"?
So he's just literally standing in the desert, waiting for directions, and then he sees, like, this caravan coming his way. It was a large caravan. As it got closer, he could see these were important people. In fact, what he was seeing was a man from Ethiopia that served under the queen. He was like a foreign dignitary. If it was happening today, they have a stretch limo with the little flags of his country on the car with the secret service guys running on each side. So here comes a foreign dignitary, but he's in a chariot, not a stretch limo. And this man from Ethiopia is reading from Isaiah 53.
Now, he didn't have a Bible. They had a scroll. The very fact that he had a scroll says a lot about how important he was 'cause everything was written by hand in those days. There were no printing presses yet. He's reading the scroll of Isaiah, which was given to him. Apparently, this important dignitary from Ethiopia went to Jerusalem, searching for God. He didn't find God, but they gave him a scroll of Isaiah. So he's reading from Isaiah, "As a sheep is led before her shearers and is quiet, so he opened not his mouth". He's literally reading aloud from the scroll. Philip is standing there sayin', "Okay, Lord, I think I know what I'm supposed to do next". So the guy is cruising by. There's Philip. "Hey, how's it goin'? I'm Philip. Just standing in the middle of a desert, waiting for you, actually". Philip says to him, "Do you understand what you're reading"? The man from Ethiopia says, "How can I unless someone shows me the way"? And he invited Philip into his chariot.
Philip steps into the man's chariot, and we read that Philip explained to him what that text means. By the way, Isaiah 53, talkin' about "a lamb before her shearers, being quiet, so he opened not his mouth," is speaking of the death of Jesus, who was "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". So Philip explained the meaning of Isaiah 53, and then we read these words: "After he shared those truths with him, he baptized the man from Ethiopia". And I love the way this story ends. We read that the man from Ethiopia "went on his way, rejoicing," Acts 8:39. But here's the important thing: When Philip saw this man reading from Isaiah 53, he says, "Do you understand what you're reading"? And then man said, "How can I unless someone shows me the way"?
Hey, everybody, Pastor Greg Laurie here with some thoughts about sharing your faith. You know, I think we're reluctant to tell others about Jesus because we feel as though we're gonna somehow fall flat on our face or mess it up, but think of it this way: When someone asks you for a good place to eat, are you reluctant to tell them what your favorite restaurant is? Or if someone says, "Hey, have you seen any good movies lately"? Are you apprehensive about telling them about a film you just saw? Probably the opposite, "Oh, I just saw this great film," or "Oh, I had this great meal at this place". It's called a "recommendation". I mean, what is Yelp? Yelp is a place where we go and basically read the opinions of total strangers and maybe eat in that place upon that recommendation. So think of evangelism this way: It's offering a recommendation, saying, "Here's what Christ has done for me, and I recommend that to you". Don't be so afraid to do it. People are searching for truth. People are searching for hope. People are searching for meaning in life, and you have the greatest recommendation of all. So I encourage you to look for new ways to start evangelistic conversations, and make that recommendation that people believe in Jesus Christ.
So just as Philip entered the world of the Ethiopian, so Jesus enters the world of the woman at the well. He says, "If you drink of this water, you'll thirst again". He's using the well as a metaphor for life. "You'll be thirsty if you drink of this water again". You could write that over many wells of life, if you will. You could write it over the well of materialism: "If you drink of this water, your thirst again". You could write in over the well of fame: "If you drink of this water, you'll thirst again". You could write it over the well of so many things, even religion: "If you drink of this water, you'll thirst again". Now the woman isn't fully getting what Jesus is saying, and now she starts to effectively argue with him, bringing me to my next point: To share the Gospel of Jesus, we must adapt to the situation.
John 14:15, "The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst nor come here to draw". She's being sarcastic: "Oh, yeah, you have water today? Oh, sir, give me this water that you're talking about". Jesus effectively calls her out. He says, in John 4:16, "Why don't you call your husband to come here"? She says, "Well, I have no husband". Jesus says, "True dat". No, he didn't say, "True dat," but he said, "That's true. You've had five husbands, and you're living with some dude right now". She's like, "Whoa, how did he know that"? She says, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet". See, there will come a moment when you're engaging someone, you appeal to their spiritual thirst, but they might ask you a question like, "Well, look, I'm living with my boyfriend or girlfriend," or, you know, "I'm doin' drugs. Would I have to give that up to follow Jesus"?
You might say, "Well, I don't wanna say, you know, yes. That might turn 'em away". No, you need to tell 'em the truth, "Yes, you need to give that up to follow Jesus Christ. You see, sin is keeping you from God". Now, I don't start with those issues, but I'm not gonna avoid them when I get to them. They need to know that sin separates them from God, but the solution is a relationship with Jesus. The problem is sin. The solution is Jesus. And so Jesus engages her and tells her what she needs to do. Acts 3:19, says, "Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, and times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord". See, we need to tell people they're sinners and that they need a Savior. Listen to this, the Bible says, "If you confess your sins, he's faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness". So it comes down to this: If you fess up to your mess up, Jesus will clean your mess up.
Next point, if you wanna do evangelism Jesus style, you don't deal with everyone in the same way. See, Jesus dealt in a certain way with the woman at the well, and then he dealt in an entirely different way with Nicodemus. Nicodemus is in John 3. The woman at the well is John 4. Nicodemus is a religious, devout man. John 4 is about an irreligious, sinful woman, but the answer was the same for both. They both needed Jesus. With the woman at the well, Jesus engages her, draws her in, confronts her about her sin, and tells her the truth. With Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night, Jesus effectively cut to the chase. Nicodemus says, "Teacher, we know you're a great man. No one could do the things that you do unless God is with them". Effectively, Jesus says, "Listen, buddy, let's just get to the bottom line. You need to be born again".
So the point is, we adapt to the person we are speaking to. Sometimes, when I'm sharing the gospel, I start by chumming. You know what chumming is? It's getting some bait and things in the water to get the fish biting. So instead of just going in with a full gospel press, I might just kind of allude to it, talking to a nonbeliever and I might just mention, "Oh, I was just reading in the Bible about that very thing you just mentioned," or, "Wow, God answered a prayer for me recently". I was talking to a young lady the other day and she was not a believer and she told me she's going in to get surgery, and I said, "Would you mind if I prayed for you"? And she said, "Please". And I prayed for her, and I prayed for her in the name of Jesus.
See, it's pretty rare you're gonna find even a nonbeliever saying to you "I don't want you to pray for me" because they acknowledge, probably, that there's a God out there, so it's a good way to get a conversation started. Now, after this woman at the well, here's Jesus. Tell her the truth. She says, "Sir, I think you might be the Messiah". He goes, let's paraphrase: "Girl, I am the Messiah. You're speaking with the Messiah". And then we read these words, John 4:28, "The woman left her water pot, went away into the city and said to the men, 'Come see a man who told me all things I ever did. Could this be the Christ?'"
That brings me to my final point: Telling your story or sharing your testimony is a powerful bridge for the Gospel message. Again, telling your story, also known as your testimony. Now, basically, you just tell people how you came to faith. You know, sometimes nonbelievers don't realize we weren't all born this way. You know, people might think, "Oh, Greg, he's a preacher. He probably was raised in a nice Christian home and learned the Bible from his youth". No, I've told you many times that's not the case. For 17 years of my life, I lived with my alcoholic mother and went through her divorces, seven in total, and then I made my own foolish choices in the early days of my youth, and then I heard the Gospel and gave my life to Christ. So you have a story. Everyone has a story, and it's a testimony.
So this is a way of kind of preaching to a person without preaching at them. Let me illustrate. Here's how I might use my story. I might say, well, you know, I was 17 years old. I was using drugs. My life was empty. And I saw these Christians sitting in the front lawn of my high school campus, singing about God, and I thought, "These people are crazy. These people, you know, fell off the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down. What's wrong with these people? Why do they believe this"? So I'm kind of putting myself in the shoes of the person I'm talking to because maybe that is actually how they feel at the moment. But, then I'll go on to say: But then I tried a new thought on for size: "What if this is true"? And I quickly dismissed it. "It couldn't be true, there's no way it could be true". But again, I thought, "What if it's all true"? And then the guy got up to speak, and he said, "Jesus said you're for me or against me," and I looked at the Christians, and I realized I wasn't one of them, and that was the day I prayed and asked Christ into my life.
Now, see, I'm telling the story. I'm putting myself in the way I used to think, which may be the way the person I'm talking to is thinking at present, and I'm showing them the transition, how I got from A to B, and in a way, I'm preaching to them because I'm telling them what the preacher said, but I'm not pointing my finger at them, but I'm building the bridge. See, that's the point of a testimony. It builds the bridge. Just a few tips about sharing your personal story. Don't glorify or exaggerate the past. Don't glorify or exaggerate the past. You know, some people, their testimony gets more dramatic with the telling. I've heard some people talk and say how they came to Christ. I hear 'em a few years later and, "Wow, a lot more stuff is in that story. Did you just remember that, or are you embellishing it a little bit"? You know, don't make your past sound better than your present.
I've heard some people say, "You know, I used to have it all, and then I was partying, I had money, I had women, I had everything you wanted in life, and it was amazing and then I came to Christ". Now it's, all of a sudden, kind of a downer. Like, wait, your old life was miserable. Why are you making your old life sound better than your new life? Someone might be listening to you and thinking, "I want your old life, not your new life". I love the way that Paul had perspective on his past. Paul was a very accomplished individual, very intelligent, but he dismissed all of it. He said in Philippians 3, "All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ as my Lord, everything I used to think was significant is now insignificant," and then one translation puts it, "It's dog dung". And the word Paul used is that root word, "excrement". "That stuff, it's like poop compared to what I have now". He says, "I've dumped it in the trash so I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him".
Isn't that beautiful? So don't talk about what you gave up for Jesus. Talk about what Jesus gave up for you. I really don't care what you gave up. It's nothing compared to what God has done for you. Talk about how Jesus died on the cross for your sin, how he made the greatest sacrifice of all. It's not about you, it's about him, and you tell your story only to make a beeline to his story, the greatest story ever told. So I have a new acronym for you: "blast," B-L-A-S-T. Now, I read a book recently called "Bless," B-L-E-S-S. And they had an acronym for reaching people with the Gospel, and I read through a little bit of this book, and I liked it, but I thought, "I am gonna come up with my own acronym". So mine is "blast," B-L-A-S-T, and this sort of pulls together some of these things I've said to you:
"B", build a bridge. So when we're talking to people about Jesus, start by building a bridge. I didn't say "burn a bridge". Build a bridge.
"L", lovingly enter their world. Enter their world. Take an interest in them.
That brings me to "A", ask questions and listen. Don't interrupt them. Ask them lots of questions.
"S", share your testimony. We just talked about that. Tell them your story of how you came to believe in Jesus.
And, finally, "T", tell them how to come to Jesus. We're almost done. This is where it breaks down for a lot of people.
How do you get the person from "A" to "B"? How do you get them to come to Jesus? You've shared your testimony. You've shared the Gospel. How do you lead them to Christ? This is back to the guy with the muskellunge fish. He said, "I was fool enough to just reach out and grab it". Will you be fool enough to reach out and pop the question, if you will? It's a little bit like a marriage proposal. I've heard of some pretty amazing and creative marriage proposals; a friend that proposed to his wife underwater. He had one of those little tablets, you know, you can write underwater, and he wrote, "Will you marry me"?
I've heard of people putting it in, you know, skywriting, "Will you marry me"? My wife tells me I never properly proposed. She says we were out having dinner and I looked at her, and we'd been going out for around, I don't know, two years at that point, and I said to her, according to Cathe, "Well, I guess we're gonna get married, huh"? And she says that was my proposal; no getting down on one knee, no "Will you marry me, here's a ring," no, just "Well, I guess we're getting married, huh"? Well, that's kinda weak, but at least I said something. So you might ask, "How do I actually pop that question"? It's as simple as this. After you've shared all those things with a person, you ask them this question: "Would you like to ask Jesus Christ to come into your life right now"?
Maybe God has spoken to your heart, and you have seen your need for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came from heaven to this earth. He was born in a manger, he died in a cross, he rose again from the dead, why? Because he loves you, and he wants a relationship with you. Listen, I'm not talking about religion, I don't wanna be a religious person, I don't think you wanna be one either, I'm talking about relationship with God. Jesus, who died and rose again, stands at the door of your life and he knocks, and he says if you'll hear his voice and open the door, he will come in.
Question: have you asked Jesus Christ to come and live inside of you? You might say, well I think so, I'm not sure. Hey, if someone moved into your house in the middle of the night, do you think you would be aware of it? I'm sure you would. And in the same way, if Christ has come to live inside of you, you will know, and if you don't know, maybe he has not come in yet. He's just a prayer away. All you need to do is say, Jesus, I want this relationship with you, I want you to forgive me of my sin, I want to go to heaven when I die, would you like to do that? Would you like Christ to come into your life? If so, why don't you just pray this simple prayer with me. You can pray it out loud or you can pray it in the quietness of your heart, but this is a prayer where you're asking Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord, pray this with me now:
Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I know that you're the Savior who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. Now come into my life. I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus's name, amen.
Did you just pray that prayer with me? If so, I want you to know on the authority of Scripture that Christ himself has come to live inside of you, and let me be the first to say to you congratulations and welcome to the family of God.