By Dr. Bill Patterson
Beverly, a high school sophomore, had just given her life to the Lord. She dabbed at her cheeks. I asked, “Beverly, what do the tears mean?”
She answered, “I’m so happy. That’s why I’m crying.”
“Would you tell me about it?” I asked.
“You don’t know my back-ground, but, well, I hardly knew my father. He wasn’t in my life much.” She wiped her eyes with a tissue and paused before she continued. “My mother got on drugs and stayed in jail most of the time while I was young. I had to move from place to place, staying first with an aunt, then with my grandmother, then with another aunt, and now back with my grandmother.”
Her words came haltingly now. “I felt like a nobody because I wasn’t like other kids. I didn’t have a mom and dad around, or even a home where I could say I belong. But now, I’m somebody.” Her face brightened into a big smile and she spoke more loudly. “I’m somebody now. I’m in the Lord’s family. I’m a child of the King!”
Beverly was right. She was. And is. And so are you, if you have committed your life to him. What’s more, he wants every person in his family, too. First Timothy 2:4 says that God “wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” It should give us confidence to know every person to whom we witness is a person God wants in his kingdom.
Evangelism and the Trinity
The Father evangelizes. He created the world, and us in it, in order to share his great love with us. Evangelism is rooted in God’s purpose to create a people for himself.
The Son evangelizes. He gave up Heaven’s glory (John 1:1,14) in order to come to earth for the express purpose of saving us (Luke 19:10). He sacrificially gave his life on the cross to pay for our sins. He rose from the grave victoriously (1 Corinthians 15:17-20, 57) in order to show he was the Messiah who came to save people from their sins and foreshadow the victory awaiting believers.
The Spirit evangelizes. He came to indwell believers and grant us power to be witnesses for Christ (John 15:17, 26). He also brings convicting judgment to enable those without Christ to know they need him as their Savior (John 16:7-15).
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit present believers with evangelistic examples to emulate. God gives of himself sacrificially and he spares no effort to show us how deep his love is for us. By word and deed he has made salvation available to all.
The Example of Jesus
The example of Jesus teaches us to evangelize others. To reach the masses, Jesus chose 12 men, trained them, and sent them out to share the good news. The early disciples had already observed Jesus’ broad concern for others. He sought to win Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, Zealots, and even Gentiles. He gave time to rulers but also to beggars and lepers, the outcasts of society. His soul winning led him to common people, to children, to soldiers, to thieves, and to fishermen. No one could say, “Jesus ignored me.” He reached out to all.
Jesus met people where they lived. He called Matthew, who later wrote the Gospel that bears his name, while Matthew was collecting taxes. He won a lawyer on the highway. He won another in a Pharisee’s house. He witnessed to a Samaritan woman beside a well. He led a thief to repentance on a cross. He even looked into a tree to call Zaccheus.
Jesus used various opportunities to bring others into the kingdom. He capitalized on social contacts like wedding feasts, religious festivals, and meals in the homes of sinners. He also used private meetings such as the times he talked with a young lawyer, to Nicodemus, and with Mary Magdalene. He spoke to people along the roads. He even used Peter’s boat to launch out from shore so everyone in a large crowd could see and hear him. From start to finish, he was about his Father’s business—reaching a lost world.
The Commands of Jesus
Shortly before he died, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). The week before his death, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). He also told the disciples the Holy Spirit would testify about him, “but you must also testify, for you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26, 27).
After his resurrection, he gave the disciples what we now call the Great Commission, his imperative to evangelize. Matthew 28:18-20 records Jesus’ words: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Christ’s promise to be with us (Matthew 28:20) is tied to his command to make disciples (Matthew 28:18, 19). As you consider whether to share Jesus with someone, know that you will never give testimony about the Lord Jesus without the presence of his Holy Spirit to guide, help, and empower you.
After his resurrection Jesus must have spoken often about making disciples because Mark, Luke, John, and Acts all record commands similar to the Great Commission. Mark’s version says, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (16:15). Luke says, “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (24:47, 48).
John records these words and actions of the resurrected Christ: “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23). Acts 1:7, 8 sums up the Great Commission Jesus spoke moments before he was taken up to Heaven. “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Disciples’ Response
A serious study of the life of Christ cannot be made without concluding that Jesus sought to reach people and that he gave the task of evangelism to his followers. Those early believers took seriously Jesus’ command to make disciples. They went to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to Asia Minor, to Macedonia, to Achaia, to Rome, and even to what we now know as Africa, India, and China.
When persecutors tried to prohibit early believers from making disciples, the Christians followed the commands of Jesus. Peter and John replied to the rulers’ request that they quit proclaiming the gospel, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts 4:19). They continued to preach the good news with boldness.
It was not only the original apostles who took his command as a personal directive. Though he was not one of the original Twelve, the apostle Paul also obeyed the Great Commission. He stated in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God was making his appeal through us. ”
Believers today misrepresent our Lord if we do not love to see people saved, plead with God for the salvation of others, and plead for people to come to a right relationship with God. We look forward to joining “the great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). Not only do we look forward to Heaven, but we make disciples for Jesus in this world and thereby enable them to join us in Heaven.
Dr. Bill Patterson is a freelance writer in Henderson, Kentucky.
Growing in Personal Evangelism
• Develop a “top 10” prayer list of people who need Christ and for whom you pray daily.
• Ask God to provide opportunities to talk with the people on your list. Ask him for boldness to share Jesus. If they live nearby, think of creative ways to invite them to church or other Christ-centered activities with you.
• Each morning during your quiet time, ask God to lead you to someone with whom you can share Jesus that day.
• If it has been a long time since you have followed Jesus’ command to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), set aside a time of prayer and fasting to ask God for a heart that longs to see people come to know him.
• During your time of prayer and fasting, ask God if there is anything in your life that hinders your efforts of reaching lost people for him. Confess and forsake any hindrances.
• Before entering a grocery store, post office, bank, or restaurant, ask God to connect you with someone you can help along the path of discipleship.
• Since Jesus commanded us to pray for workers in his harvest field (Matthew 9:38), ask God for partners with whom you can team up to pray and witness for him.