Preaching the Gospel: Personal Responsibility to Witness - John Dennison

Preaching the Gospel: Personal Responsibility to Witness
John Dennison

Most believers have felt like a battle ground at times. Deep inside, the longing to see someone saved clashes against the alliance of nerves, fear of embarrassment and lack of confidence. We want to be witnesses, but often we lose the battle within and fail our Savior. How can we improve? Hopefully the consideration of the Master soul-winner will help.

The Law of First Mention demands that we look for introductory principles in the first example of a soul being saved. The Lord God in Eden skillfully brought Adam and Eve to a realization of their sin and faith in God's provision. How did He do it? What can we learn? If these truths can be traced through the Scripture, we can safely claim them as principles to guide us as we "Go into all the world!"

I. OUR PERSPECTIVE:

Does every believer have to witness or should every believer want to witness?

Is witnessing a privilege or a responsibility? Before His Ascension, the Lord Jesus commanded his disciples, "Go ye into all the world and preach (herald) the gospel" (Mark 16:15). It was not an idea, suggestion or request. The Savior expects and commands His disciples to share the gospel. Not everyone can preach publicly, but all of us MUST fulfill our responsibility to witness.

Our view of witnessing should be far different than a commanded responsibility. The Lord God demonstrated His ability to reach souls in Eden independent of human involvement. The Lord does not NEED us to witness. However, He WANTS to use us! He can find a Philip or a Nathaniel Himself. However, He gives us the privilege of finding a soul as Andrew found Peter. Therefore, His command is not about duty; it is a directive of permission. It is the granting of an opportunity to share in His work. He can catch fish by Himself (John 21), or we can lower the net and be fellow labors together with Him. A proper perspective of the exciting privilege of speaking, writing, sharing, or living a word for Him should motivate us all.

II. OUR PURPOSE:

The Lord God spoke to Adam and Eve, first to bring them to repentance (a change in mind to see sin as God sees it) and then a personal acceptance of the sacrifice (vs. 14). We must keep our objective clear. We are not counting "commitments", "decisions for Christ" or "hearts given to the Lord." It is hard to not look for "numbers" in our results oriented society. However, the Savior said, "Ye are my witnesses." Our goal is to bring people to the person of Christ for a realization of God's Holiness (God is Light) and to the provision of Christ for a recognition of God's Care (God is Love). We are to witness faithfully, and the Lord will be responsible for the results.

III. OUR PRIORITIES:

Our first priority should be to spread the seed of the Word of God. To do so is to imitate the Savior (Matt 13:3). Philip the Evangelist faithfully spread the gospel in Samaria in Acts 8. He fulfilled the commission of the Savior to "Go... and evangelize!"

Our second priority should be to look for specific souls with whom God is dealing. The Lord actively sought and found Adam and Eve (vs. 8). Notice He never sought out the devil. There was no salvation for Him. The Lord knew where to find Adam and Eve in the Garden and when to find them in the cool of the day. Armchair evangelism is not in the Bible. We must "GO!" We need to foster a sensitivity to divine leading just as Philip was lead to the Ethiopian eunuch. We need to be burdened as to where, when and how we can find specific souls in search of peace.

Note which came first. There are no "Troubled Soul Specialists." When we are fulfilling our general responsibility, God grants a specific opportunity. It is always easier to steer a moving vehicle. The Lord will steer you to specific souls when you are already faithfully spreading the gospel.

Our third priority is to follow and support God's method. In the New Testament, public preaching is God's special method. We need to witness so as to prepare people to hear the preached word. Many people have been saved solely through witnessing. However, the pattern is that "They that were scattered abroad went every where preaching (evangelizing) the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached (publicly heralding) Christ unto them" (Acts 8:4-5). Since all preaching work is part of assembly outreach, we should use our witnessing to further this work too.

Our fourth priority is to help souls get located. The first question of the Lord God brings Adam to face his spiritual position. This "locating" occurred before they were brought to the action of accepting God's provision. Pushing "unlocated" souls to action (believing) is premature and leads to false professions or severe challenges to Christian growth after conversion.

Our fifth priority is to try and focus souls on the character of God. Prior to the Lord's presence in the cool of the day, Adam and Eve sensed an unidentifiable problem of feeling the shame of memory and the flame of conscience. However, when they compared themselves with the Lord God, they understood the magnitude of their sin.

IV. OUR PROBLEMS:

FEAR VS. CONVICTION: Adam said they hid in the trees because he was afraid and embarrassed. This was much different than the conviction of his sin when God spoke to him. His fear of consequences was different than his understanding of God's holiness and his need. This problem of fear rather than conviction is most predominant in children. They are afraid of events such as death, Hell or the Rapture and yet have not grasped what sin is and their personal accountability. Focusing them on their sin and God's holiness is essential. The Lord spoke of the punishment of their sins AFTER He spoke of what sin is and their own responsibility. Fear is emotion based. Conviction is Scripture based.
RELIGION: People constantly look for a physical solution to a spiritual problem. Adam and Eve made coats of fig leaves to try and cover their nakedness (vs. 7). They attempted a physical solution to a physical symptom of a systemic spiritual problem. The human mind generally tends to think in concrete terms. Spiritual things such as sin, holiness, salvation and assurance are difficult to grasp. Often souls will resort to physical activities such as baptism, prayers or good works. The LORD GOD never criticized Adam and Eve, and neither did Philip mock or criticize the hybrid of Judaism and paganism in Samaria. Present the truth and souls will eventually see the counterfeit for what it is.
EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES! Human nature is warped by sin and the heart is deceitful. Most will follow the first man and woman and look for another to blame or an excuse to make. Notice the constant repetition of the pronoun "thou" in verses 5-6. In witnessing, we must keep the focus kindly and gently on our personal responsibility before God.
V. OUR PRACTICES:

The Lord God used His own spoken word (vs. 11) to bring about conviction and salvation. The devil works hard to cast doubt on the Word of God. He knows its power. Therefore, we must constantly and accurately reaffirm God's Word to souls. The voice of God through His Word is what brings regeneration in the soul (1 Peter 1:23). Philip followed this original principle by "beginning with the same Scripture" to the Eunuch in Acts 8. The Savior did the same with the lawyer in Luke 10:25-26. There is great value in going over the Ten Commandments and Romans 3 when witnessing to souls. Try to leave as much of the Word of God with them as you can. Sometimes quantity is necessary and a volume of support is needed. Other times, one word in season can make a soul bow to his need.

Using present circumstances and familiar objects in the environment is often important in approaching someone. The Lord God used Adam's physical location in the bushes to begin the conversation that brought him to faith in the sacrifice. Paul used this technique in Acts 17 by beginning with his observation of the Athenians' altar to the UNKNOWN GOD.

Questions are important to beginning and maintaining a good conversation too.

The Lord used mostly 5 W questions (Who, What, Where, When, Why). Yes/no questions tend to produce one word answers with little or no explanation. The Lord used these types of questions to get Adam to tell the Lord what he knew and what he was thinking. We must be sensitive to backgrounds and levels of knowledge and interest. Like the Lord, we must ASK and then LISTEN to obtain this information. Philip understood his audience and preached Christ to the knowledgeable Jews and Jesus to less knowledgeable Samaritans.

Finally, there is great value in using accurate illustrations of spiritual truth. The Lord God used the animal skins to teach a great scriptural truth. The Savior used Parables and Old Testament stories. Illustrations are not the door to salvation but can let light in to illuminate the mind. We need to use them carefully and prayerfully.

Witnessing is not easy or natural for most personalities. Witnessing is a lifestyle to be developed, a goal to be pursued and a work to be invested in. We need God's help in all aspects of witnessing. May God help us to feel more of His passion, to understand more of His principles and to have more of His power in our witness for Him. Oh the joy in our hearts when we can say, "For this child, I prayed!"