In a previous post we looked at how before we can turn a conversation toward Christ, we ourselves need to be warmed by Christ. So let’s assume your heart’s affections are stirred by Christ and you desire to joyfully share the gospel with others that they too might find the fullness of joy in Christ. How do you do that?
During the Conversation
- Commit to the Awkward:
- The Gospel is deep and intimate while also being offensive and supernatural. The deck is stacked against you…there is no “easy” way to turn the conversation into the things of God without it being, at some level, uncomfortable
- Once you get to the point of expecting the awkwardness instead of hoping for its absence, the easier it will be to walk into those conversations
- Fear of Man is sinful: Repent, Pray, take courage and make disciples
- Courage: does not mean the absence of tension, courage is doing what is right in the face of tension
- When you read the diaries of soldiers every one of them are fearful of what they face when they step on the battlefield…but they exude courage when, in light of that, they still move towards the enemy
- Ask Don’t (always) tell:
- You can more naturally lead people into conversations about spiritual things when you are talking about their favorite thing (themselves)
- You actually control the conversation more when you are directing the conversation through questions than being asked questions
- BUT: Do not ask questions simply to control the conversation…remember, invest in people with real lives/names/faces
- Like digging a hole, try and consider questions that can carefully move from the surface and slowly work below the surface:
- That may take 5 minutes…that may take 5 years
- Sample Questions:
- What do you think it means to be a Christian?
- How do you think someone becomes a Christian?
- What is your spiritual back ground?
- How would you describe what you believe spiritually? How did you get to that position?
- Who do you think Jesus was/is? Would you mind if I shared with you what I believe to be true about Jesus?
- Are you a reader? What are you currently reading?
- What happens to people when they die? What makes you think you will go to heaven?
- If you could ask God any question, what would it be?
- Why do you think people do what they do? What are your basic assumptions about people? How did you form those beliefs?
- If you could know God personally, would you be interested?
- What do you find either the most attractive or unattractive about Christ? Christianity?
- Have you ever had someone walk you through what Christians believe? Would you be interested in doing that?
- What is it about Christianity that makes you think it doesn’t have any relevance to our world today?
Have you ever been in in a conversation with a friend, family member or stranger and started to hear that little voice, “You should tell them about Jesus…” In the moment, you know you should, but you just don’t know how to. Well the answer to “How do I turn the conversation toward Jesus and the gospel?” may not be what you think. In some ways its probably easier than you imagine; and in other ways a whole lot hard.
So how do you turn the conversation? Let’s break it up into two sections: (1) Before the Conversation, (2) During the Conversation.
Before the conversation:
- Posture: Person not a Project: These people have families, loved ones, scars, delights, and a lot of questions. You’ve got to work hard to listen to people and not simply think about what your going to say next. Look at people in the face, really try and understand them.
- This will keep you away from the superficial turns with superficial wins/losses
- “Speaking of the beach…you know where else its hot”
- “You like reading books? That’s great, why don’t you come to my book study next study morning?”
- This will keep you away from the superficial turns with superficial wins/losses
- This is why Im not going to focus on techniques:
- Techniques focus more on a system than they do a person
- Focus is on people
- Daily/Momentarily Cultivate Christ: If you are not regularly treasuring Christ through the word/prayer/service then it will be difficult to have genuine turns in the conversation
- At same time…you cant wait till you get right with God
- Is/was it difficult to tell your friends about your husband/wife when you first started dating them?
- Ignatius: Apart from Christ, let nothing dazzle you
- Conversation about Christ has to be Comfortable: If its awkward for you to talk about the greatness of Christ with your Christian friend right after church, then it is going to be near impossible to talk about Him to the person that cares very little about Him.
- Talk about Sermon
- Speak up in Community Groups
- “Regular” conversations with fellow believers (husband/wife)
- “Cultural Christians might talk about religion or church in generic terms, but you will rarely hear them use the name of Jesus or speak of His death on the cross or His resurrection. If you raise the subject, you might find that they are uncomfortable and don’t care to talk about the very thing that thrills the heart of those who possess authentic faith.” Wilberforce
- Don’t Remove the Stumbling Block:
- “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (18)…(22-24) For the Jews demand signs and Greeks wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
- We do not want to give people air conditioned rides to hell
- The more palatable you attempt to appeal to the tongue that has no taste for the Gospel, the more you change the recipe that satisfies the longing of the soul
- “How much more would a few good and fervent men effect in the ministry than a multitude of lukewarm ones!” Horatius Bonar
- The Gospel is offensive…if you attempt to remove its offensiveness, you remove the Gospel itself
- Understand what “successful” evangelism is:
- Successful Evangelism is the faithful proclamation of the Gospel
- Means you have to know the Gospel (60 seconds)
- Successful Evangelism is the faithful proclamation of the Gospel
- Jesus wasn’t Unsuccessful when the Rich Young Ruler walked away from him
- Jesus isnt after the numbers of disciples…He’s after your faithfulness
- Salvation belongs to God, not to you
- The end of evangelism is the glory of God, not the glory of your ability to evangelize…let that end drive your evangelism…
- Evangelize like an Arminian and sleep like a Calvinist
- Preemptively Pray:
- Pray before, during, and after
- Ask that the Lord would be pleased to move in the hearts of those you will meet with that day
- ORB: Pray for opportunities, recognition of those opportunities, & boldness in them
- If you are not praying for these things we are left to wonder if you really care to see disciples be made
- “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” Matt. 26.41
In the next post, we’ll look at some ways to think about turning a conversation during the conversation.
A.W. Pink sums up the comparison between Mt. Sinai and the Sermon on the Mount:
“Christ preached this sermon, which was an exposition of the Law, upon a mountain, because upon a mountain the Law was given…but observe the difference: when the Law was given (in the OT) the Lord came down upon the Mountain, now the Lord ‘went up’ into one; then He spoke in thunder and lightning, now in a still small voice; then the people were ordered to keep their distance, now they are invited to draw near- a blessed change!”
What we have here in the Sermon on the Mount is a Word from above…a Word from God. Moses met with God, received the Old Covenant, and delivered it to the Israelites in advance of their entering the Promise Land. In Matthew 5, Jesus, who is God, has invited us near in order to deliver the New Covenant in advance of our entering into the consummated Kingdom of Heaven.
Does the Bible command our joy? The answer…a resounding, “Yes.” Here are a few verses:
- Psalm 32:11 – “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart” Those are commands to rejoice.
- Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” That’s a command to delight in God.
- Luke 6:23 – “Rejoice in that day [that is the day of persecution], and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.” We are commanded to rejoice, to leap for joy even in hard times.
- Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” That’s a present, active imperative. You can’t write a command with more force than that.
Throughout the Bible we are commanded to rejoice, to delight in the Lord. This joy is not based on circumstances or possessions or health or wealth. No matter what situation we are in, in the good times and the bad, we are expected to find a joy that outweighs our circumstances.
So it’s not just that we should pursue pleasure, but we must. Anything less is disobedience; anything less than pursuing pleasure in God is sin. Indifference to the pursuit of joy in God is indifference to God himself, and that is sin.
Here’s the biblical conclusion:
Pursuing pleasure in God is not just commendable, but commanded.
In yesterday’s sermon, we heard a brief example of how the Psalms show us it’s right and good to pursue great pleasure in God. Below are additional verses from the Psalter that further highlight this point. May these verses spur you on toward great delight in the supremacy of Christ.
- You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound (Ps. 4:7)
- Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy (5:11)
- I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High (9:2)
- I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (13:5)
- You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (16:11)
- May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners (20:5)
- I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction (31:7)
- Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart (32:11)
- Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous (33:1)
- My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad (34:2)
- Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his salvation (35:9)
- Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (37:4)
- May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you (34:16)
- I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy (43:4)
- Restore to me the joy of your salvation (51:12)
- Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult! (64:10)
- Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise (66:1-2)
- Let the nations be glad and sing for joy (67:4)
- The righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy (68:3)
- May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you (70:4)
- My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed (71:23)
- Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob (81:1)
- How lovely is your dwelling place,
- O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God (84:1)
- Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted (89:15-16)
- Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days (90:14)
- For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy (92:4)
- Serve the Lord with gladness (100:2)
- May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord (104:34)
- Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice (105:3)
- For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things (107:9)
- Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments (112:1)
- This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (118:24)
- The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad (126:3)
From John Piper’s The Dangerous Duty of Delight:
I am often asked what a Christian should do if the cheerfulness of obedience is not there. It’s a good question. My answer is not to simply get on with your duty because feelings don’t matter. They do! My answer has three steps.
First, confess the sin of joylessness. (“My heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I,” Psalm 61:2.) Acknowledge the coldness of your heart. Don’t say that it doesn’t matter how you feel.
Second, pray earnestly that God would restore the joy of obedience. (“I don’t like to do your will, o my God; your law is within my heart,” Psalm 40:8.)
Third, go ahead and do the outward dimension of your duty and I hope that the doing we rekindle the delight.
This is very different from saying: “Do your duty because feelings don’t count.” These steps assume that there is such a thing as hypocrisy. They are based on the belief that our goal is the reunion of pleasure and duty and a justification of their separation is a justification of sin. Yes, it becomes increasingly evident that the experience of joy in God is beyond what the simple heart can do. It goes against our nature. We are enslaved to pleasure in other things. We can’t just decide to be glad about something we find boring or an interesting or offensive – like God. The making of [our joy in God] is a miracle of sovereign grace.
CS Lewis also gives a helpful perspective of the role of duty when there’s no delight:
A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people) like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits etc.) can do the journey on their own.
May God in his grace give us the delight to joyfully obey all that he commands. But in those times when joy may be less or missing all together, may he give us the grace to use the crutch that we might walk back to health.
Yesterday we took a brief look at John 15:1-11. We could spend a lifetime unpacking and applying the wonderful truths of this passage.
However, people often get sidetracked with verse 2: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
And lets be honest…on the surface, at least, it seems like this might be teaching that a believer can lose his or her salvation. After all, it does say “every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away.” So is this verse teaching we can lose our salvation?
The short answer is, “No.” For a lengthier explanation listen to this sermon.
Now for the longer answer…
Jesus Does Not Contradict Himself
Remember what he said back in John 6:37 – “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And then we have these words from Jesus in John 10:28-29 – “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” If Jesus was teaching that genuine believers can now be “cut off” he would be contradicting himself. Jesus wouldn’t do that.
Additionally, other passages clearly tell us that all who belong to Christ – that is, every person who truly repents of their sins and trusts in the person and work of Jesus – are eternally secure (cf. Romans 8:28-29; 31-39; Philippians 1:6; Jude 24-25, etc.). We are not saved by works; we are not kept by works; we are not lost because of the lack of works. We are saved by the sovereign grace of God who loses none that he saves.
Believers But Not True Believers
It’s also helpful to point out that John (and the Bible as a whole) has a category for believers who are not true believer and disciples who are not true disciples. That is a person can say they believe and even act like a disciple for a while, but they do not endure and thus prove they were never true disciples.
This seems to be what Jesus is talking about in the parable of the soils (cf. Mark 4:1-20); and this seems to be what the author of Hebrews is talking about in the beginning of chapter 6 of that letter. So we conclude that if “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” (1 John 2:2)
Specifically from the Gospel of John we see this at least in two places. One place is found in chapter 8. In verses 30-31 we read this, “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him…”
Then in verse 37, addressing the same people, Jesus says, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.” So in verse 31 they believe, but in verse 37 the words of Christ have no place in them. Here we have believers who are not true believers.
We see another instance of this in John 6:66, which reads, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” Here we have disciples who did not endure in following Christ. Disciples who are not truly disciples.
I believe this is what John 15:2 is teaching us. There are some tangentially connected to Jesus in some fashion, but they do not produce spiritual fruit, and therefore prove they are not truly abiding in Christ; and those not truly abiding in Christ will receive the judgment of God.
In using the metaphor of the vine, Jesus is saying what’s already been said throughout John – a loose connection to Jesus is not enough to save. Salvation and fruit bearing only come as we abide in Christ. And this only comes as the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and opens the eyes of our heart that we might repent and believe in the Son of God in whom we have the fullness of joy.
Lord God, you are the giver of all things, and you have given us this day another day to praise, enjoy, and delight in you. We take our place beneath our great Redeemer’s cross, where healing streams of your mercy continually flow, where balm is poured into our every wound; where we wash anew in the all-cleansing blood, where we rest assured that in Christ you see no spot of sin.
Help us, we pray, to take every thought captive to Christ not being led astray by the philosophies of the world; help us to life as if each moment were our last, that our lives be filled with supremely satisfaction and joy.
We thank you for the temporal blessings of this world; the refreshing air, the light of sun, the rain that falls, the food that renews strength, the provision of clothes, the dwelling of shelters, the sleep that gives rest, the starry cannot of night, the cool wind’s breeze, the flowers’ sweetness, the melody of music, the joyous fellowship of family and friends. Our cup runs over with the finger prints of your gracious favor in our lives. For that we give you praise!
We not only praise you, but come confessing our sins to you. Too often we take your good gifts and neglect you the great Giver. Before we know it we begin to act like we are owed something from the world and from you; we so carelessly turn desires into demands and judge you when you don’t act like we want. Instead of seeing ourselves as being made in your image, we try to recreate you in our image. In all of this and more we have willfully and repeatedly rebelled against your righteous rule in our lives.
We plead for your forgiveness now, not because we have done anything to deserve it, but relying completely on Jesus Christ who has done everything for us. Fill us with your Spirit and unite us to your eternal Son, that his perfection might become ours, his death become our death, and his resurrected life, our eternal life. Oh, we give you praise for the power of the cross and resurrection of our Lord and our Savior, Jesus the Christ!
We pray this would be the message proclaimed faithfully by Wright Wall at All Nations DC. Use this church to make and mature disciples who delight fully in the person, work, and worth of Jesus Christ. We also pray for pastor Brian Lee and Christ Reformed Church. As they minister to the community in and around Logan Circle, give them great boldness and humility to speak God’s Word that many might taste and see that you are good.
Father, hallow your name we pray. Do that here at Restoration Church. Do that here in this great city. And do that around the globe. Cause your name to be treasured, worshiped, revered, among all nations. We pray for the Tatar people of Kazan Russia. Soften their hearts to the gospel, that A and L and the other team members might reap a great harvest and plant a church among the Tatar people; and may that church in turn begin to plant other churches. We pray for S as she continues to labor in Central Asia. Give her grace upon grace that she might persevere in a hard work.
Yes, Lord God, hallow your holy, eternal name. May we cherish you all of our days. May we ascribe the glory you are due. We praise you for your infinite exquisite perfections. Our Triune God, the Father, and Son, and Spirit, eternally perfect, and glorious, and unchanging and just and holy. Oh, Lord we give you praises, and we do so in the name of your Son to whom we are united by your Spirit, Amen.