For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Personal Witnessing - Stick With the Main Issue (Part 7)

The famous encounter of Christ at the Well has many lessons for us. The Samaritan woman had no idea when she started her day that she would have such an encounter during such a mundane and labor-intensive part of her day. She went to this well every day and nothing out-of-the-ordinary happened. Just another day. You will meet someone today and for them, they were just expecting another ordinary day - filled with routines. But what a difference one encounter can make in a person's life. That day turned into the absolute best day of her life. It still happens in 2010.

This is the 7th posting on Personal Witnessing in this series. We are quoting extensively from Paul Little's classic book on personal evangelism entitled: How to Give Away Your Faith. If you don't already have your copy, click on the title to order your own book. We are just quoting from Chapter 3 of the book.

More on Sin: Our Role is Not to Condemn 
The issue of sin has come up at this point in the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman He dealt with it directly but so tactfully. We can't avoid the issue of sin in such a discussion but we can sure learn from the tact and gentleness and diplomacy of Christ when it's our turn to bring it up.

He didn't bypass the question of her husbands, but he did not finger-pointing or head-wagging in judgment....Most of us...would have been quick to condemn. It's probably because we have the mistaken idea that if we do not condemn a certain attitude or deed, we will be condoning it. But this was not our Lord's way.

Christians cannot be unmoved in the presence of sin that clearly separates from God and is self-destructive. This sin is what brought Jesus Christ here to earth to give life! We must express pain and sorrow.... The rub comes when we feel personally revolted by the filth of sin but want to love the person. Pain and warmth can be expressed at the same time. Sternness and warmth cannot.....

Although we may never have been caught in obvious sins as these women were (John 4 and John 8:11) our own need for forgiveness must never be forgotten....We can never discuss another's sin without putting ourselves in the same position of needing help and forgiveness. What's more, we can never let our own less flagrant sins cease to revolt us while we openly are horrified with someone else's more obvious evil.

A good rule to follow in all of our relationships is the simple quip: "You will catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Not only must we avoid condemning people, we need to learn the art of legitimate compliment. Many people are deeply touched by a genuine compliment. Criticism can be far more natural to our lips than praise, but praise can make others more open to the Gospel.
When you are on the topic of sin - be sure to use the 'we' word to include yourself. Be sure to talk about the sadness of sin in our lives and the better life available where there is no thirst for sin because they've experienced a drink of the Living Water. Be sure to hold out hope to them at all points in the conversation.

Stick with the Main Issue
As the interview between our Lord and the Samaritan woman draws to a close, we note two final principles that apply to our witnessing conversations:

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." (John 4:20-26)

Our Lord did not allow any secondary questions to sidetrack Him from the main issue. The woman asked where she should worship, on Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem, but Jesus steered the discussion back to Himself by shifting the emphasis from 'where' to 'how' one worships.

Though the woman's question was probably valid, our Lord refused to go off on a tangent. Her attitude was similar to the current honest question that many people have, "Which church should I join?" Or, we might be asked about hypocrites in the church, errors in the Bible, why are there so many denominations and a multitude of other questions. Any legitimate question can be a tangent if it sidetracks us from the main issue. Jesus left no doubt about the main issue: Himself.

The central message of reconciliation must never be left out of our witness.
Return to this blog in the next few days for the final posting in this current series.

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