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James Merritt - One On One

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    James Merritt - One On One

If you brought a copy of God's Word, I want you to turn to a book called Acts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts in the New Testament. Acts 8, and let me begin by telling you a story. In 1935, two men happen to meet in Akron, Ohio. Bill was a New York stockbroker. Dr. Bob was a surgeon. They hit it off immediately because they had one thing in common. They were both hopeless alcoholics, hopeless. They were imprisoned to a bottle. Bill had tried everything he knew to quit, but he couldn't. Until he met Dr. Bob. Dr. Bob had gotten sober because Dr. Bob had met another doctor who had given him some novel ideas on how to win this battle and he got sober and he never drank again. Well, during that meeting they decided to found an organization, you've heard of it, it's called Alcoholics Anonymous. Today it's known as AA.

Well, four years later they published a textbook titled "Alcoholic Anonymous" and the 12 steps of recovery was born. AA can now be found, listen to this, AA can now be found in 180 nations worldwide. They've got over two million members. This group became the spark that ignited what's known today as the self-help movement, made up of people who share common problems, difficulties, they come together to confess, encourage, bring accountability, help each other overcome struggles that keep them from living a full and a meaningful life. But they discovered something, these two men did. They came up with this one core principle that they looked back on and realized it was the key to their success. They realized that if they were gonna get people to attend these groups, to be open and transparent, to be willing to admit they needed help, there was one thing they had to practice or it wouldn't work. And that key concept was anonymity. The purpose of this anonymity was to protect everybody and to stress that everybody was of equal value.

So even today we may have some people who are members of AA. In fact, I met a man just not long ago who was walking out the door who let me know he had just joined, in fact, it was last Sunday, he had just joined AA. Even today, from a social media standpoint, if you're a member, you can't blog, you can't text, you can't post about being in AA, you can't share any information in an online form. If you are a celebrity, if you're a well-known politician you are not supposed to let anybody know publicly that you are a part of AA. You've got to remain anonymous. Well, guess what? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and now you've got all kinds of anonymous groups meeting. There are Gamblers Anonymous, I'm not making these up, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous. There's even a group called Liars Anonymous. No joke.

Now they only meet online because they're afraid if they meet in public they'll lie, so they just meet online. I'm not making this up. There's a group called Procrastinators Anonymous. The only problem is they never meet. So you've got all of these groups who are anonymous. You say, why are you telling us this? Because Christianity is exactly the opposite. When you become a follower of Jesus, you're not to practice anonymity. You're to give out publicity. Your job is to let other people know that you are a follower of Jesus. God has not called us to be a member of Christians Anonymous. We're not to keep our core beliefs in Jesus and the gospel and salvation a secret. We're not to be Christians undercover. I read about a little boy that was walking down the street, he had a little scrawny mangy mut, and a man walked by and he said, "Hey son," he said, "what kind of a dog is that"? And the little boy said, "Oh, he's a police dog". The guy said, "He doesn't look like a police dog". He said, "He's in the Secret Service".

Let me tell you something. God's not called you to be in the Secret Service. God's not called you to keep your faith underwraps. That's why we're in a series that we're calling "Who's Your One"? Because all of us have ones. People who are lost who need to be found. People on the outside who need to be brought on the inside. People who are hopeless and helpless but who can find hope and find help in Jesus. And let me tell you what we know. We've known this for hundreds of years. The vast majority of people who come to Jesus, I guarantee for most of you this is your story, the vast majority of people who come to Jesus here's how they come to Jesus.

Because of a one-on-one encounter with a friend, a neighbor, a relative, a coworker, someone who built a relationship with them and told them about Jesus. And today I'm going to share with you a one-on-one encounter that happened 2,000 years ago. I've been on the road where this took place. And it's a beautiful, beautiful picture of what you can do and I can do one on one, because here is the cold, hard truth. Most of us in this room heard the gospel. Most of us in this room responded to the gospel. Most of us in this room say we believe what the gospel has to say, listen carefully. God did not give you the gospel to keep it to yourself. God did not give you a light to put in a closet. God did not give you a Jesus to say nothing about to no one ever and ever. God has given you the privilege of the gospel so you can give it to somebody else.

Salvation is not to be stored, it is to be shared. And not only is every Christian commanded to share the gospel and tell other people about the gospel, God's done us a big favor. He's already equipped us to do it. Whether you realize this or not, if you're a follower of Jesus you have everything you need to be a good, solid, effective witness for Christ. We're gonna see it right here in this passage of Scripture. There are three simple tools God's given every one of us so that we can go one on one with anybody and we can tell anybody about Jesus. Three simple keys, number one. Be filled with the Spirit. Be filled with the Spirit.

Now let me take you to Acts 8 and we'll start the story. There's a man named Philip, some of you, if you've read your Bible, know who Philip was. If you don't, he was one of the first deacons chosen by the Church. But here's what's going on with Philip, it's really an amazing story. He's in Samaria and he's in a tremendous revival. I mean, God has absolutely broken loose. Evil spirits are being cast out of people, paralyzed people are being able to walk, sick people are being healed, and most importantly, people were coming from everywhere to hear Philip talk about Jesus. And I mean people were being saved by the hundreds. So Philip is on this ministerial mountaintop, I mean everything is going fabulous.

And then this happens. "Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go south to the road, the desert road, that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.' So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of the treasury of the Kandake, which means queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship and on his way home he was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet and the Spirit told Philip, 'Go to that chariot and stay near it.'"

Now if you read the Book of Acts this is what's interesting. Up till this chapter, everybody in the Book of Acts that had gotten saved had gotten saved in a mass conversion, they got saved in a big, big crowd. But now, beginning in this chapter, people start getting saved one on one. But that raises a big question. Why would Philip leave this city with crowds hanging on every word that he says, God moving in a mighty way, multitudes of people coming to Jesus, sick people being healed, paralyzed people being able to walk, why would he get on a desert road that nobody ever traveled and go out in the middle of nowhere to talk to one simple person? Any corporate sponsor, any corporate mentor would say, "What are you doing? Look at what God's doing, look at all the crowds that are coming, look at all the miracles that are taking place. Why would you leave and go talk to one person"?

Well, when you read the passage there's only one answer. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He simply did what the Holy Spirit told him to do. By the way, people ask me sometimes, "Hey pastor, how do you know if you're filled with the Holy Spirit"? Well, one way you know is this. You're filled with the Holy Spirit when you're being led by the Holy Spirit and you follow the Holy Spirit. It's just that simple. And Philip was being led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit told him to go and talk to one person. Now, if you don't hear anything else I say in this sermon, hear this. Now this doesn't mean you can leave, it doesn't mean you go to sleep, but I want you to hear this one thing.

The key to going one on one with anyone about the One who can change their life is being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is not going to seminary, it's not learning how to read the Greek New Testament, it's not knowing a verse, a bunch of Bible verses by heart, it doesn't even mean you know how to answer every question. You can have all of that but you will not be an effective witness, in fact, you won't ever be a witness unless you are truly filled with the Holy Spirit. And if you are filled by the Holy Spirit, you'll be led by the Holy Spirit, and you know where the Holy Spirit is gonna lead you? To people who don't know Jesus. He'll always lead you to that person. Because the moment you give your life to Jesus Christ, that moment the Holy Spirit lives in you. And from that moment, guess what happens? You march to the beat of a different drummer than the world marches to.

You listen to a different voice than the world listens to. You look to a different Lord than the world looks to. So when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you go where the Spirit is leading, you watch where the Spirit is working, you trust what the Spirit is doing, then you obey what the Spirit is commanding. Now notice how Philip responds. "Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you're reading?' Philip asked". Philip was so in tune with the Holy Spirit, he didn't complain, he didn't cry, he didn't say to the Holy Spirit, "Do you see what was going on in Samaria? Why did you bother me? Why did you interrupt me? Why did you take me away"? He was so eager to obey the Holy Spirit he runs to this man. There was an urgency. There was an emergency to Philip that he go one on one.

Now here is the big challenge. Be careful what you pray for or you might get it. If you ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and you believe he does fill you with the Holy Spirit and you receive the filling of the Holy Spirit, here's the good news. You won't have to share Jesus with anybody. You'll want to share Jesus with everybody. Can I get an amen to that? If you're filled with the Holy Spirit, you don't have to share Jesus with anybody, you will want to share Jesus with everybody. And listen, here's the good news. When you begin to share Jesus, all of a sudden you know what you realize? You're not sharing Jesus for God. The Spirit is sharing Jesus through you. That's the key. Be filled with the Spirit. Good news, everybody not only can be, everybody should be filled with the Holy Spirit.

That's step one. Step two, be faithful to the Scripture. Be faithful to the Scripture. God has given us a tool to witness. Tool number one, Holy Spirit. Tool number two, Holy Scripture. Here's the good news. It is a battle to witness to people, I admit that. You're out there, it's a spiritual warfare, when you're witnessing to people, it is a spiritual warfare, but we've got weapons. We've got the Holy Spirit, we've got the Scripture. Look what we're reading here. "Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you're reading?' Philip asked".

Now we're gonna learn some very practical lessons, watch this. Did you notice how tactful Philip was? He didn't go to that chariot and grab that man by the collar and say, "Turn or burn". He didn't walk up to that man and say, "You know, you look like a guy going to hell". No no, he was very, very, very tactful. Because here's what I want you to understand. The Spirit of God will never lead you to intentionally be offensive in talking to people about Jesus. Now let me be clear. The gospel is offensive. Did you hear me? The gospel is offensive. The cross is offensive. But the witness should never be offensive. So he goes up to this guy and he just asks a question, I call it permission evangelism, that's what I practice, permission evangelism. He said, "Hey, do you understand what you're reading"? He's reading the Book of Isaiah, "Do you understand what you're reading"?

Now when Philip asked that question he didn't know how the guy would respond. The guy could have said, "Get lost". The guy could have said, "None of your business". The guy could have said, "Leave me alone". Why did Philip ask that question? He was just wanting to know one thing and that's all you need to find out. Okay, is God working here or not? If God's working, I'll keep moving. If God's not, I'll just stop. Well, don't have to worry about it, because we know what happens, right? He says, "'How can I, unless someone explains it to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him".

Now watch what Philip's doing, I'm gonna help you here. Who's driving the conversation? Not Philip. He's letting the Ethiopian drive. When I witness to people, I'm not driving the conversation. I just ask permission. I get on an airplane, a guy starts talking to me, and we start talking about this, that, or the other, and I'll finally just say something like this. "Hey, I got a question for you". If he doesn't ask, I'll go in. "I'm a pastor of a church". Now it's amazing how people sometimes try to find another seat when you tell them that, but I'll say, "You know, I'm a pastor of a church". And I'll say, "Do you mind talking about spiritual things"? I'll just ask a question. If the man says, "Yeah, it's private, it's personal," okay, God's not working. If he says, "No, I don't mind," we're off to the races. That's what Philip did. "Hey, do you understand what you're reading"? He said, "How can I? Will you explain it to me"?

Now watch this, the word explain literally means to guide. All you're doing, listen, all you're doing when you are witnessing you're just trying to guide people to Jesus. You're just trying to guide people to the Jesus of truth and the truth about Jesus. Now here's what I love. This man happens to be reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, that's another way the Spirit was working. You say, why is that so important? Go home today, you got nothing else going, go read the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. You wanna take a guess what the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is all about? It's all about Jesus. When you read the 53rd chapter, here's what you'll find. Verses one and two, what are they talking about? The birth of Jesus.

Verse three talks about the life of Jesus. Verses four through nine talk about the death of Jesus. Verses 10 through 12 talk about the resurrection of Jesus. It's all about Jesus. But specifically, the Ethiopian's reading about the death of Jesus, so here's what he was reading. "This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading. 'He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.'" Now this guy's reading about this and says, "Who in the world is this prophet talking about"?

And all Philip had to do, all Philip had to work with was one chapter from the Bible. And as you'll see, all he did was explain from the Scripture, hey, there was a man named Jesus. He was just like you and me. He was a guy. He was a man. He was Jewish. He died on the cross. But he came back from the grave. And he is alive right now. And he wants to come into your heart and he wants to change your life. And that's all he had to work with, but you know what? That's all he needed. You say, why is that? Remember this verse? "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ". Listen, listen carefully. This really encourages me in my preaching. People are not saved by your witness. They're not saved by your testimony. They're not saved by my sermons. People are saved by the Word of God. It's the Word that does the work. The Word does all of the work. And all God wants us to do is share Christ, just be faithful to the Scripture.

Let the Word of God do the work that only the Word of God can do. Number two, be faithful to the Scripture. Number three, and this is it. Be focused on the Savior. Be focused on the Savior. Now remember, the Holy Spirit's leading the parade, he's conducting the band, so now we come to the part that all of us play in this story. "The eunuch asked Philip, 'Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?'" I mean, you can imagine, go back 2,000 years ago. This guy's not a believer, this guy's an Ethiopian eunuch, he knows about God but he doesn't know God. I don't know how he got this copy of the Bible, of Scripture, but he got it. He says, "I have no clue who he's talking about". Now watch what Philip does. "Then Philip began with that very passage". No, not the New Testament. The New Testament hadn't even been written yet. "That very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus".

Do you understand how amazing that is? He takes a book of the Bible, a chapter of a book that had been written 750 years before Jesus was even born. He takes a chapter in the Bible that was written 750 years before anybody had even heard the name Jesus, and what does he do? He focuses like a laser beam on Jesus. Without a shred of evidence, that anybody in the 1st century, Judaism, anybody was expecting a suffering, dying Messiah. He goes straight to Jesus. Now the question is, why did he do that? He wasn't trained to do that, nobody taught him, he hadn't been to seminary. Why did he do that? Well, I'll tell you why, number one, he was filled with the Spirit. That's why he did it. Because the number one mark of being filled with the Holy Spirit, you know what it is? And I don't mean to be unkind to my Pentecostal and Charismatic friends. I love you to death, thank God for you. The number one mark of being filled with the Spirit is not speaking in tongues.

As a matter of fact, I've got enough trouble just controlling the one I've got, okay? That's not the number one mark. The number one mark of being filled with the Spirit is you talk about Jesus. 'Cause all the Spirit wants to talk about is Jesus. Jesus said this about the Holy Spirit in John 15. "When the Advocate," that's the Holy Spirit, "when the Advocate comes, who I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me". Every morning I get up I'll talk to Jesus. I go to bed, I talk to Jesus. I walk from my green room to this office and I'm telling Jesus, "I love you. I don't love anybody like I love you. Jesus, I wanna be faithful to you, I wanna preach you today".

I want people to see Jesus in my life, I want people to hear Jesus in my voice. Why do I do that, why is it always Jesus? When you're filled with the Holy Spirit, all you wanna talk about is Jesus. When you're filled with the Holy Spirit, you wanna focus on Jesus. So he takes a book, 750 years, written before Christ in the Old Testament, and he talks about Jesus. Reason number one, he's filled with the Spirit. The second reason why he talked about Jesus is not only because he was filled with the Spirit, he was faithful to the Scripture. You say, what do you mean? Pop quiz, see if you've been listening. All of the Bible is about who? All of it. Genesis 1:1, Revelation. All this book is about Jesus. I have people say to me, "You know, I just don't understand the Old Testament".

Get one thing down and it'll start coming alive. It's all about Jesus. All those sacrifices in the Old Testament, they were all about Jesus. The parting of the Red Sea, God came, God through Jesus parted the Red Sea of sin so we could walk across that relationship with God. It's all about Jesus. David slays a giant called Goliath, there's a John out there called Sin and he's infiltrated with the devil, but we can take the stone of the cross and throw it and kill that devil. It's all about Jesus. All of the Bible is about Jesus. So when you go one on one, you just talk about one thing, salvation. You talk about one person, Jesus. And listen carefully. Witnessing is not talking about church. Witnessing is not talking about your small group. Witnessing is not talking about your denomination. Witnessing is not talking about baptism. Witnessing is not talking about theology or doctrine. Witnessing is when you focus on one thing, the death, the burial, and the resurrection and the love of Jesus.

If you're going to go one on one and you wanna be effective, you've got to focus on Jesus. Listen, you can talk about Jesus without the gospel, but you cannot talk about the gospel without Jesus. It's focusing on Jesus. So here's the key. You always keep your eyes on Jesus 'cause here's what's gonna happen. You'll be talking to people about Jesus and they'll say something like this, I'm not making this up. "What do you think about Donald Trump"? Or, "What do you believe about predestination"? Or, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people"? It happens all the time. You know what I always say? I'll say "You know what? Great questions, I'd be glad to answer them. But right now let's focus on Jesus". I just won't let people get me on a side road. We are going to talk about Jesus. Not politics, not philosophy, not theology, just Jesus.

In the 19th century, the greatest most well-known evangelist in the world was a man by the name of Dwight L. Moody. Some of you have heard of Dwight L. Moody. Well, Dwight L. Moody, true story, he was talking to a man one time, he had just met the man on a street corner and they just kinda stopped for a conversation. The man did not know who Dwight L. Moody was. So they were talking and just in the conversation, Dwight L. Moody just said, "Sir, may I ask you a question? Are you right with God, is your soul right with God, do you know the Lord"? And I mean the man immediately looked at him and said, "Sir, that is none of your business". And Dwight L. Moody said, "Sir, it is my business". And the man looked at him and said, "You must be Dwight L. Moody".

Let me tell you something. Everybody's soul is your business. Now you can't talk to them if they say, "Get out of my business," I get that, but their soul is your business. Church family, it's our business to have a one, it's our business to talk about and talk to the one, it's our business to share the gospel with everyone who is far from God that the Spirit of God leads us to. So, all of that said, I want you to do me a big favor, okay? Close your Bibles, put down your iPad, turn off your cellphone, everybody just give me your undivided attention.

I started off with a true story, I wanna end with a true story and we're gonna be done. It is an unbelievable story. Didn't know the story till two months ago, true story. In 1908, John and Jessie Perkins, husband and wife, had been called as missionaries, and they were on board a steamship and they were rounding the coast of Liberia in Africa. Now they knew God had called them to missions, but that's all they knew. They bought tickets on this ship and they just trusted that God would tell them where they oughta land. I'm not making any of this up, true story. So, as the ship made its way around a place called Garraway Point, they just sensed that the Spirit of God was telling them, "Get off that ship".

Now unknown to them there was a young man that lived in that area, his name was Jasper Toe. Jasper Toe was a God-fearing man. He practiced certain religious rituals he'd learned from his ancestors, but he had never even heard the name Jesus and somehow knew there was something missing in his life. And one night he looked up into heaven and he simply said this one thing. "If there is a God in heaven, help me to find you. If there is a God in heaven, help me to find you". That's all he said. As that man stood under the stars, a voice he had never heard before spoke to him and said, "Go to Garraway Beach. You will see a box on the water with smoke coming out of it. On that box will be some other people, and from that box there will be some people coming in a smaller box, and the people in the smaller box will tell you how to find me".

So Jasper Toe traveled seven days on foot to Garraway Beach. He got there on Christmas Day 1908. He doesn't know what to look for, he just knows he's looking for a box. And standing on the shore he looks out and there's this black box. It's a steamship with smoke coming out of it. And it was at that moment that John Perkins and his wife felt the Spirit of God say to them, "Get off right here, this is where I want you to go". So they went to the captain of the ship and they said, "Captain, please stop the ship, we need to get off here". The captain said, "I can't let you off here". They said, "Why not"? He says, "Well, this is cannibal country. I mean, people go in there and they never come back".

John Perkins said, "Well, captain, that may be true, but God's telling us to get off this boat. Please, let us off the boat". So the captain stops the ship, swings the Perkins over the side of the boat into a canoe with all of their belongings, and they row to shore in that little box. Jasper Toe is watching all this take place and he sees these people getting off this big box and they get into this little box. As they approach the shore, they see this one man standing on shore and he's waving at them. Well, they land, problem was, they didn't speak his language and he certainly didn't speak their language. But he motioned for them to follow him, which they did, all the way back to his village. They begin to learn the language of the people in that village, just, you know, trial and error. They begin to learn the language of that people, and one on one they begin to share the gospel. They started the first church in that village and Jasper Toe was their first convert.

Now here is the big part of the story. If you go to Liberia today and people who know the story of Jasper Toe they will tell you that he was one of the godliest men that ever lived, and because Jasper Toe gave his life to Christ he became a pastor, and hundreds of churches today meet in Liberia because of the witness of Jasper Toe. All because two people were filled with the Holy Spirit, led by the Holy Spirit, followed the Holy Spirit, get into a boat with another man who's also being led by a Spirit he doesn't even know, and they meet together, they share the gospel, and the rest is history.

What is the point? Who knows the opportunities awaiting us one on one? If we'll just be filled with the Spirit, faithful to the scriptures, and focused on the Savior, who knows that one person that you may think is inconsequential. It may be a kid, it may be a nine-year-old boy, it may be a homeless man on the street, it may be some woman who's totally hopeless, divorced, whatever her situation in life may be, who knows. But maybe it's the next Mother Teresa. Maybe it's the next Billy Graham. Who knows? That's why we keep asking and we will keep asking, who's your one? Would you pray with me?
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