Witnessing Effectively to Those Most Likely to Get Saved
Having lived in the Northwest almost all my life, I am intimately aware how very hardened it is against the Gospel. It’s not for lack of reason it has been called the Baptist’s graveyard. However true that is, it is also true that there are those in our communities who are, or should be, more likely to get saved than others. These people are the friends, family, co-workers, and school-mates of our church members. These people, more than others, are in consistent proximity to born-again, Holy Spirit indwelt Christians. Consistently, over time, these people should be coming under conviction, trusting Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, being genuinely born again, and getting discipled in our churches.
Normally, however, that is not what happens. Usually a new Christian, excited about Jesus Christ, shares the Gospel with those around him and they reject Jesus. Undaunted, he tries again at some opportune moment, and again they reject Jesus. He tries a third time, and this time they not only reject Jesus Christ, they begin to distance themselves from him. Somewhere around this point most Christians become discouraged with evangelism, and for all practical purposes quit actively trying to win those around them. Often-times they feel they really have nothing more to say. They have already given the person the gospel several times, he understands it, but has made it clear that he is not interested. Consequently, these people who should be the most likely to get saved, become no more likely than those met in cold-calling, door-to-door soul-winning.
When I entered the work force back in the 1980’s, I experienced this same discouragement. As time went on, however, and especially recently, I began finding and applying the Bible’s principles for warring a good warfare in exactly this situation. Our primary weapon is, of course, the gospel.
Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. . .”
But what if they don’t believe? The Bible outlines a complete arsenal to use in tearing down the Devil’s strongholds of unbelief in people’s lives. One of the most powerful weapons I’ve found to use are personal testimonies. In Mark 5:19, Our Lord Jesus Christ endorsed the use of personal testimonies when the Gadarene community rejected Him. I’ve found that a battery of several personal testimonies of the new birth over a period of months often softens a person into reconsidering the gospel. Similar to the use of personal testimonies of salvation, Romans 10:19 endorses provoking to jealousy those who have rejected Him. I have found that the use of stories of answered prayer, and obvious acts of God’s working in people’s lives, provokes people to jealousy and softens resistance. Psalm 19:7 endorses the use of the law in bringing people to conversion. Romans 2:14-15 tells us that the conscience is there to bring a person to such a conviction of sin as to evoke a response. Romans 1:20 tells us that creation is a weapon available to us to use to bring people to God. I love using creation as the world puts so much weight on evolution, and unjustifiably so. People expect science to contradict the Bible, and when it does not, often they are surprised enough to hear you out.
These are just a few of the many weapons we have at our disposal as Christians. Unfortunately most Christians have never been shown these weapons and taught how to use them. They develop the attitude of a customer of mine years ago. Shortly after being hired, he witnessed to his unsaved boss. My friend basically told him that since he was a Christian he had a responsibility to give him the gospel. His boss said “OK,” and my friend proceeded to tell him about Jesus. After hearing him out, his boss nodded and that was the end of it. My friend seemed to feel that he had discharged his duty, and had no more responsibility to witness to his boss. Certainly his boss was responsible for what he did with the message, but I don’t believe Christians have discharged our duty until we have at least made a fair showing with our God-ordained arsenal, in this all-important battle for the souls of those around us. The purpose of this article is to outline what the Lord has allowed me to learn about using two of these weapons, here in the hardened Northwest.
The first weapon I want to discuss are personal testimonies of conversion. Our example in this is our Lord Jesus Christ. In Mark 5:18, and 19, Lord Jesus Christ had just saved and delivered the maniac of Gadera. He was seen sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, and that sight itself brought fear to the Gaderenes who asked Jesus to depart from their coasts. Jesus left them, and the ex-maniac wanted very badly to go with Jesus. Jesus refused however, and told him to stay there and be a witness for him to those who had just rejected Him. The Bible says he published Jesus’ saving power in ten cities, and that all men did marvel. I can imagine how it went:
“You were him!!?” You terrified everyone around here!! My mom used to scare the daylights out of me by telling me that you would get me if I was bad!! Even the soldiers were afraid of you!! What happened to you?”
That person was just about to believe in Jesus Christ.
Over the years I have come across story after story of people whose lives were utterly transformed when they met Lord Jesus Christ. At some point, I became fascinated by these testimonies, and began collecting them. Now, as I interact with my co-workers, I can naturally and casually direct the conversation toward a societal problem, alcoholism, rage, violence, hatred, wife abuse, terrorism, drug addiction, head-hunting, etc, (Granted, head-hunting is not a real societal problem here, but I came across a fantastic story of a chief of a head-hunting tribe in the Philippines who was marvelously saved, and people love to hear it.) and I can tell them a story of someone who was transformed from that lifestyle when they were born again. Even people who don’t want to hear the Gospel will willingly hear a story, especially if it relieves the monotony of unloading a freight truck.
I worked with an atheist for about a year and a half. He was not antagonistic toward the Gospel, he just didn’t believe it, and he really liked his pornography. I hit him with everything I knew at the time. I hit him with creation, prophecy, evidence for the resurrection, evidence for Jesus Christ, all the things that worked so powerfully in me. He listened with wide-eyed interest, but nothing seemed to even touch him. I complained to my wife that I might as well be shooting a BB gun at a battleship. I prayed about it, and one day as we were cleaning out the back room in the store, the Lord directed me to this conversation:
“Brad, do you ever go to church?”
“I’m an atheist, and besides, church is boring.”
“Do you ever read the Bible?’
“Do you ever pray?”
“I’m an atheist.”
“Would you find prayer boring?”
I went through a long list, singing the hymns, obeying God’s commandments, anything I could think of. His pronouncement was always the same, he didn’t do it because it was boring. Then I asked him:
“Ok Brad, is there any way I could change you from disliking all this religious stuff so terribly, to loving it with all your heart? Maybe I could push some button, or hypnotize you, what do you think?”
Brad was certain that would not work, and we concluded that we didn’t have much control over our likes and dislikes. We either liked something or we didn’t, and that was that. I then said,
“Well then Brad, you have a problem. When I was seventeen, I was you. I wasn’t an atheist, but everything that had to do with God bored me to tears. I grew up in a pastor’s home, yet church bored me to tears. I was forced to read a chapter in the Bible every day, and that bored me to tears. I hated prayer, I hated singing hymns, and I loved rock music. I would not obey God’s commandments because I loved my rebellion. Then when I was seventeen, one day I heard the gospel and for the first time I really trusted Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. Literally within 24 hours, all these things that bored me to tears became the most important things in my life, and they have stayed that way for 20 years. You just told me that we cannot change, and yet I did change. I was there when it happened, and I tell you I was changed. It was something that happened to me, I didn’t change myself. All I did was in a simple prayer, put my trust in Jesus Christ. If it wasn’t Jesus Christ Who caused this change, what did?”
For the first time Brad’s impassive facade cracked. He got angry and started asking rapid-fire questions, like:
“What about the people who never heard? Where did Cain get his wife? Etc.”
I rode out the storm, and a few weeks later he told me:
“When you first came here I thought this Jesus stuff was for the birds. Now I think there might be something to it.”
Brad had still not gotten saved by the time I was transferred six months later, but he is a whole lot closer to salvation than he would have been had I given up after his first rejection of the gospel, and had I not used more of the God ordained weapons of our warfare.
There is a principle in the Bible of two or three witnesses.
Deuteronomy 19:15b tells us, (A)t the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
I believe God was, among other things, acknowledging the simple fact that truth is not one-dimensional. If a thing is true, it is seen to be true from every angle we examine. We instinctively understand this, and are more likely to believe something the more witnesses it has. Using this principle, there is a way to use personal testimonies of the new birth that maximizes its effect. First, a personal testimony is effective if it shows God’s power in transforming long-established human nature. Second, that effect is doubled, if we then show that the new birth itself was predicted by God in the Bible, hundreds of years before Jesus Christ came. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself used these two weapons together in John chapter three. Starting in verse 8 we read:
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master in Israel and knowest not these things? We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
Why did Jesus so soundly rebuke Nicodemus for not knowing about the new birth? The new birth was beginning in Israel. There were beginning to be people in Israel whose lives were transformed from sin by the power of God. The fact of the matter was that any spiritual ruler in Israel should have been versed enough in the Scriptures to recognize what was happening. This new birth looked exactly like what the prophets had said would happen in the times of the Messiah.
Ezekiel 11:19 and 20 tells of these times: And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
A better description cannot be made of what happens to people when they repent of their sins and trust Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 tells of the same times: Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 tells of these times also: Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
All the leaders of Israel should have had their eyes open to what was happening in their land, and recognized it for what it was. It was a great evidence that the Messiah had come. This new birth was not something that was going to apply only to the Jews either,
Isaiah 49:6 tells us: And he said, It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be my Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
One of the testimonies I use is the story of a friend of mine, Don Sears. As a young man he was completely controlled by rage and violence. He had a temper that would erupt like a volcano, and would not be satisfied until he or his opponent was bleeding and broken on the floor. He was also an agnostic who had no use whatever for anything religious. God got hold of his heart, believe it or not, in an “Amway meeting”. It was an evangelical meeting, he heard the gospel, walked down the aisle, and trusted Jesus as his Savior. Immediately God changed his life. God took away the anger which had controlled his life for decades. To the degree that before he had despised all things Christian, now he loved our Lord, church, the Bible, prayer, hymns, and other Christians. To this day, his family marvels over the complete transformation that took place. Now that story is very powerful in its own right, however, it gains much more authority when these prophecies are added to it.
“Obviously something happened to Don Sears.” I’ll say “Something very powerful outside of himself transformed his life. But exactly what was it? What exactly happened? Although what happened to him is amazing, it is not unusual. Our churches are filled with stories of similar transformations. There are literally millions around the world today with stories like Don’s. Maybe not as dramatic, but the same kind of transformation happened to them. If we go back one hundred years we find the same thing, literally millions around the world have been so transformed. If we go back five hundred years, the same thing is seen. Thousands upon thousands experienced this. One thousand years ago the same thing, people all over the world experienced this transformation. Take it back fifteen hundred years, and we see the same thing. Go two thousand years back and still the same thing. Many people were experiencing this new birth. Before that however, nothing like this is happened. There were no stories of these kinds of transformations. This all started 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ walked on this planet. Before that happened, however, there was a promise. Six hundred years earlier, God had promised in the Bible that the time was coming when He would begin to do a new thing in the world. God promised that in the times of the Savior He would take out of people their cold stony hearts that did not love Him, and would not obey His commandments, and put in them hearts that would love Him and follow Him. He promised that the time was coming when he would begin to put a new Spirit in people that would transform their lives. He promised that this salvation from sin would come when they repented, and believed on His Savior. (Psalm 2) Of all the promises the Bible has given, no one can deny that this one has been kept. It has been the practical experience of millions of people around the world for two thousand years. For two thousand years people who genuinely trusted Jesus as their Savior have experienced this new birth. You can experience God’s salvation too, the same way Don Sears did.”
This is powerful. A battery of similar stories combined with these prophecies given over a period of several months will bring many people to a spiritual crisis point where they really believe there has to be something to this, and they probably ought to get saved themselves.
An unsaved person’s confidence becomes very confused when a Christian sums all this up with the evidence of another witness, the witness of the conscience.
“Bob, God has shown you three ways that He is absolutely serious about sin. First of all He gave you a conscience. Not the conscience you have now, the one that is seared by years of disobedience, but the tender conscience you had as a small child. The conscience that was so strong you couldn’t look your parents in the eye and tell them a lie. God gave you that conscience. Secondly He sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins. Thirdly, I’ve shown you that He regularly saves from sin those who repent and trust in Jesus for salvation. Bob, if God went to the trouble to create you with a conscience, if God went to the trouble to become a man and die on the cross for your sins, if God regularly goes to the trouble to save people from their sins, why do you think He will overlook your sins on judgment day, if you have rejected His salvation? He won’t. He will send you to a hell that is as real as your conscience, is as real as His death on the cross, and is as real as the very real salvation from sin He has given to millions around the world.”
There is a man in town here who does a lot of business with the men of our church, and was impressed with their genuineness. I witnessed to him about a year ago. He was polite, but very skeptical of anything Christian. For years his doubts had been buttressed by television documentaries disputing the Bible, and the Gospel’s accounts of Jesus. I told him that he had been getting only half of the argument; that he really needed to hear the other side of the story. After I talked to him, I went home and mailed him a creation DVD. Then about every month or so, I sent him a different story of someone who had been born-again. Our church prayed for him for the whole year. A week ago my father, my future brother in law, (both great soul-winners) and I, visited him and witnessed to him again. He seemed to be fighting tears half the time we were speaking, and forty-five minutes later, although his faith was still very weak, made a profession of faith. He said he had read every story I had sent him.
Similar to using personal testimonies of salvation, are using personal testimonies of answered prayer to provoke the lost people close to us, to jealousy. In Romans 10:19 the Apostle Paul says that Israel will be provoked to jealousy by Gentiles who truly know God. Most people desire for God to be an active part in their lives but because they are so attached to their sin they have sublimated that desire so well, they are not consciously aware of it anymore.. If however, day after day, month after month, they are faced with someone who really knows God, and who regularly gets answers to prayers, they find themselves wanting what he has. I had a humorous example of this in one place where I worked. There was a Hispanic gentleman named Chino, who was one of my customers. I had witnessed to him on several occasions, and he had not received Jesus Christ as his Savior. I really had witnessed to him as much as I could expect my Christian boss to allow. I had been given a BMW car some months earlier. It was an older model, but the body really looked sharp. It was interesting how it came about. I did not know it at that time but my car I was driving at the time was about to die, and I was going to be needing a new one soon. Before that happened however, out of the blue, my boss had come to me and said that God had told him to give me the car. Interestingly, my co-worker experienced the same thing. He was a new Christian, and he needed dependable transportation. A man in his church came to him and said that God told him to give him a car. It was a nice Ford, I recall. I had been praying for some time to get another opportunity to witness to my customer, and the opportunity came very unexpectedly. One day as I was driving home I saw Chino’s work van in front of a building, and so I stopped to say hello. He was sitting with his employees by the building, taking a break. We talked for a couple of minutes, and then he said;
“I see I’m paying too much for my materials.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He nodded toward my car and said;
“Look what you are driving; a BMW.”
“Aha!” I thought. “Gotcha!!”
“God gave me that car.” I told him.
“Whaat?” he asked. And I explained that a man had come to me and said that God had told him to give me the car.
“That’s not all,” I said, “The same thing happened to Paul, my co-worker. He needed a car and had been praying about it, and a man came to him and said that God told him to give him his car.”
Chino was speechless, so I told him again about the new birth, how that those who receive Jesus Christ not only get their sins forgiven, but they are made children of God. I told him they become as really God’s children, as they are their physical father’s children. We are literally born spiritually into God’s family. I told him that as really as any other Father, God looks out for His children. He heard me out, and then I drove off. A day or so later he was having a problem on the job-site, and he called my boss to check it out for him. I had told my boss about our conversation, so he was already primed. After they looked at the problem they drove back to the store, and as they were pulling into the parking lot, Chino asked my boss which car was Paul’s. My boss pointed to the car and said:
“God gave him that car,” and gave him the same story I had told him.
“No Way!!!” Chino sputtered. He was silent for a couple of seconds, then said;
“I’m going to go home and start praying!”
Chino hasn’t gotten saved yet, but I am still working on him.
I recently used this weapon again to turn conversation to spiritual matters. Not too long ago I changed jobs, and I have been burdened about the salvation of my new boss. He is a very friendly man, and we talked about a lot of things, but I didn’t feel a freedom to just arbitrarily turn the conversation to Jesus Christ. I needed a stepping-stone to make the turn a natural thing. This man really admires my brother-in-law, David Bond, but confesses he cannot understand him, because David is going to Bolivia as a missionary to start an orphanage. One lunch break, my boss came to chat, and I brought up the subject of David’s impending trip. He began talking about David, and when I got the chance, I interjected that something amazing had happened to David on his last missionary scouting trip to Bolivia. His ears pricked up, and I related the following story:
David and Will Atkinson, (the other missionary who is going with him to start the orphanage) had rented a late model Toyota Land Cruiser to scout some land south of Santa Cruz, looking for suitable property to buy on which they would build their orphanage. They started driving about 11 A.M. intending to make a loop. They would drive south a couple of hours, intersect an adjoining highway, drive northward until they came to another town, and then cross over back to Santa Cruz. According to the map it shouldn’t have taken them more than four or five hours. Twelve hours later they were still driving through mountains looking for that town. As the hours passed, and the miles passed, and no gas station appeared in the narrow winding road through the mountains, their attention and prayers became obsessed with the ever-dipping needle on the gas guage, as it dropped closer and closer to the “E” on the left hand of the dial. About 9 P.M. the red emergency light came on, and they really started praying. They didn’t know it then, but they were still three hours away from any town that had a gas station. They and their wives with them prayed and prayed. That night they prayed that Land Cruiser up and down mountains for three hours on an empty tank until they finally came to a town that sold gasoline. The Land Cruiser did not have an extra gas tank. God answered their prayers in the mountains and kept their vehicle running until they could buy fuel.
After relating that story, I told him that God really answers the prayers of His children. That story successfully bridged the gap. A week or so later, when an opportunity came up, there was a freedom to give him the gospel.
Christian, there are many reasons to strive to get unmistakable answers to prayer, but this reason trumps most others. If you have a few good answers to prayer under your belt, you have a witnessing card you can play again and again to get people to seriously consider our Lord Jesus Christ. Ask God for unmistakable answers to prayer. Also, keep an ear open when a missionary comes around. Missionaries get really great answers to prayer. If possible, when missionaries come to your church, see if you can take them to lunch. In the conversation, ask them about answers to prayer. You will have story after story to use to soften those you want to lead to the Lord, and the wonderful thing is; your unsaved co-workers, friends, family and school-mates will usually be more than happy to listen.