Break Down the Walls Andy Raine

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Much of the material is not original.

I have consciously borrowed from the teaching of Juan Carlos Ortiz and Floyd McClung.

 

Other sections represent hours of conversation with honest friends.

 

Please select whatever is good, is true,

is helpful to you………

and think on these things.

 

Andy Raine Date…possibly 1981 in Newton Aycliffe

Copy of Original Draft

 

A PAPER ON EVANGELISM

(1) Not all Evangelists, but all Witnesses  – I have not the calling of an evangelist,  but after years of reaction and reflection care very deeply, and would like to share some interim conclusions of my very own on evangelism.

(2) That Nicodemus – born-again-feeling?  – A person can undoubtedly be “saved”, that is regenerate, without knowing the terminology – they must only know and submit to the Saviour. Charlotte Bronte many years ago remarked about the ‘profane’ Athanasian Creed, and when I read this remark I hunted through the doctrines of the Creed for some objectionable unorthodoxy – in vain until I read the introduction to each sentence: that to be a Christian a person must perforce assent to each of these fine points of orthodox doctrine. To be a Christian we must believe in the Lord Jesus, that alone – and then His Holy Spirit will lead us to embrace truth, progressively, and often by faith. The straight path has only one entrance, that is: the Door of the sheep, Jesus Himself.

(3) The Gospel According to Jesus – Jesus didn’t say to the rich young ruler, “Have you heard of the 4 spiritual laws?” or call to the fishermen by Galilee to follow the Romans road. In fact Nicodemus was the only one man we know whom He told to seek to be born again. The experience, the doctrine, the claims were the same, but always He met them at the point of their need, bringing the appropriate cutting edge…. “Go bring your husband”, “Sell all that you have”, “Let the dead bury their dead”, “What is that to thee?”, “Follow thou me” or whatever.  How often is our presentation of the gospel as vivid and varied as Jesus’ ministry demonstrates? Is our sharing relevant and understood or pre-packaged and always alike, clothed in formulas, references and mechanical prayers? Could our evangelism be defended as obviously exempt from a charge of “vain repetition”?

(4) The gospel of the Kingdom – Jesus and his disciples brought good news, that the King had come. His Kingdom was not of this world but within people. He would be King, but from the inside out – the Kingdom would be wherever He was King – it would grow inside us and when we reach out to love others they would say “what’s this? What is this love?” “It’s the Kingdom”, we reply, “the Kingdom of God is at hand, within your grasp – if you’ll only reach out and receive it, then you can become a love-slave of theKingdom ofHeaven!” Jesus insisted on being King, and Lord – if He’s not Lord of all, then He’s not really Lord at all no matter how often we shout “Lord! Lord!” He wanted to the Lord of the woman at the well’s sex-life, of the rich young ruler’s riches, of Peter’s attention, of Nicodemus’ reason.

(5) What’s the issue? – Jesus always focused on the real issue. We too often follow red herrings. Instead of sharing the good news, we feed the potential convert or new believer the latest controversial doctrine or our current position on an irrelevant issue – or the most interesting prophetic speculations. It’s sad for the new Christian to have to unlearn so much he is taught in his earliest encounters with the faith. It’s like the adults who stopped believing in Christmas, because they “grew out of all that Santa Claus rubbish”. That which we have heard, we have seen with our own eyes, that which we have felt and touched, the Word Who is Life – this we share with you (1 John 1: 3-5).

(6) “If I be lifted up”  Jesus compared Himself, prophesying largely about His death, to the brass serpent high up on a pole which was set up for Israelites to look at when they were bitten by snakes. If they looked at this sign which God had commanded them to set where all could see it, they would be healed. Too often, though, Jesus has been lifted up on the Cross, a sign to all, we obscure that Cross, we preach more or less than Christ crucified. Our job is not to draw men to Jesus, but to lift Him up. If we lift Him up, He will draw all men to Himself. One specific day God gave me understanding. We had spent the day in Philadelphia “witnessing”, trying to share the gospel by approaching people at random – with no result. As the day’s work was due to be over, we met some distance from our bus to worship together. We closed our eyes and sang and danced and exalted in the name of Jesus, and as we did people began to “come from nowhere”. As other Christians on their way back to the bus we saw the crowd they came over to us and began to share the Lord with the folk around us.  The people were hungry to hear – meanwhile we kept lifting up the Lord, and as we did the Lord flashed that Scripture in my mind, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me”. What a difference to preach to or share with someone who is drawn already! You certainly won’t be putting them off – or looking for a way to start a conversation about the Lord! That simple revelation has changed my thinking a lot. I believe the glory of the Lord to be the strongest evangelistic force there is. Worship is more important than evangelism; one is forever, the other will cease – but hallelujah, the greater includes the lesser. If we really worship and the world is exposed to what they’ll not be able to understand – that’s OK. That’s God’s way! He said ‘tongues’ are a sign for the unbeliever, not the believer – because they bypass the understanding. Like Jacob, they’ll know that heaven and earth are not altogether separated, and say in words of their own, “surely the Lord is in this place”. Worship isn’t just singing and dancing, though, – it’s a lifestyle. Our day to day lives must lift Jesus up – and if they do, people will be drawn to Him.

(7) Don’t be wonderful.  John the Baptist said, “He must increase so I must decrease”. That’s right. If we lift Him up they’ll know He’s wonderful, but if we lift ourselves up they’ll soon see we’re not wonderful. We don’t even need to try to be. A few years ago, I heard about a Christian girl who worked in an office and seemed always full of life and joy, praising the Lord and saying how good He was, but the girl she worked with showed no interest at all…until one day that Christian girl came in very upset – there was big trouble and tragedy hitting her life and she confided that if God wasn’t there to understand how she felt and what she was going through, she wouldn’t want to live. Suddenly the other girl in the office was interested…so God cared about people with problems? ..people who couldn’t cope?..who had no desire to go on living? For the first time she had a way of identifying with the Christian girl just when she thought she’d blown her witness.

We need to tell it like it is. We need to warn people that being a Christian is not just love, joy and peace – it’s suffering and caring and being stretched, and ordinary days too. Often it costs, more than we realised it would – but it’s worth it, a thousand times worth it. He’s worth everything, the very costlyPearl of great price.

 

(8) Salt and light. Jesus talked of Christians as the salt of the earth, and as a light for the world. The salt is no good if it loses its flavour; the light is no good if it is hidden. To be effective, salt must not be separate but amongst the food, for example, where it is invisible but its influence pervades the whole. Light must not be blocked by anything, but set apart where it can be clearly visible. We are given two analogies that are almost opposite in their strategy – to show that there are times and situations which require one or the other approach. On the whole, it seems there are two kinds of situations when we are required to actively set our light on a lamp stand and avoid it being hidden. One of those is a direct confrontation in which the world insists upon us conforming to their standards (of darkness) but we refuse to compromise the truth we know. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood their ground and refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzer’s idol. (Dan. 3 especially 16-18). Their light could not be extinguished and shone all the more brightly because of the surrounding darkness. The second kind of situation is one where an encounter is not sustained, but a clear witness can still be given, (like a person walking down a darkened street holding a candle). A light and darkness polarisation is not actually desirable in long-term situations where we can instead build friendships, do our work conscientiously and let people see how we really are on a day-to-day basis. Here we must be salt. Many difficulties can be caused by a wrong handling of these situations. In a long-term situation we have really to earn our right to speak. We must be diligent in maintaining a Christian witness that is consistent, not in the regularity with which we shoot our mouth about it, but in not having double standards, in not doing or saying anything that will contradict the testimony we may sometimes verbally articulate. The single most frequent obstacle to faith in the Christian church voiced by her observers is – “they’re all a bunch of hypocrites”. Usually their objection is valid, at least in part. It is fair to say to someone: I CAN’THEAR WHAT YOU’RE SAYING FOR THE NOISE OF WHO YOUARE. When we do fail and the way we are is in opposition to our testimony, we must learn to be quick to admit our fault, rather than justify our failure in others’ eyes. A heart-felt apology for the hastily-spoken word can sometimes pave the way for a deepened relationship, and earn a hearing in the future. There is wisdom in earning the right to speak. A whisper is attended to more than a shouted address from a propagandist, but you have to get close first before you can whisper. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but you must become a real friend before proving this (Prov. 27:6). There is a time to speak, a time to be silent – to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Many Christians are like the boy whistling in the dark to cover up his fear – they are defensive and speak too loudly, suppressing the fear that the darkness will overcome their little light (John 1:5). They alienate those around by creating an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation, posturing as the wonderful witness, and like the loudspeakers in the cars of political canvassers, filling the air with uncomfortable noise.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to speak, a time to remain silent; a time to be light, a time to be salt. If in doubt, say nowt.  If in doubt – be SALT.

 

(9) A Preaching Tour  – Francis of Assisi once asked a young Brother to accompany him that they might preach the gospel in the neighbouring villages. They walked for much of the day passing through a number of small villages, and the young Brother became almost impatient for them to reach wherever Francis would have them stop to preach. He was much taken aback when soon after this he recognised that the road ahead was leading them to the place they had left from at the start. “When are we going to preach?” he asked. Francis replied that if they had not preached already by their presence, words would have made little difference. Francis intended this sign to always remind the Brother that all of life is a witness, and that we are Christ’s epistle read by all men.

 

(10) Walls – Don’t build walls for the non-Christians to climb over. Often the new Christian is at pains to communicate the change that has occurred in his life. Before, he was outside the Kingdom, now he belongs to God.  He is born again. The implication for his friends is obvious – this change can happen for them too, if they will submit their lives to Christ. Their position has come sharply into focus – they are “outside the Kingdom” and must do something about it ( – give in!). Fine, if they do. And probably without defining their need of conversion it would not have been as readily provoked. But most people are not at that first confrontation with their friend’s testimony themselves ready to fall to their knees and ask to become disciples. If their friend then continues to re-iterate “I am a Christian; you are not” “You need to repent”, “I used to be like that before I got saved”, they find it difficult to talk about whatever their real obstacles to faith are, and are often made to feel guilty or stubborn for not having immediately responded. This “conversion” business becomes a higher and higher wall that they must climb over – the Christian has, unconsciously, in reinforcing his arguments, built it so high that their friend doubts he has the strength or desire to get over it to the other side. The non-Christian grows to hate this wall that has come between him and his friend. The Christian is hurt by the wall between them too, but that wall has been built upon the line between death and life over which he has passed, and in retrospective he values this transition so highly that he has come to almost worship the wall. Yet it is the Christian who can reach through the wall and be with his friend, if he dares. Sadder still is when that wall is built higher and higher between man and wife. The wall is not of God – He never builds barriers, only bridges for us to reach Him and each other. The Cross is a pathway, a sign, He died upon it. He did not hit us over the head with it. The scripture shows us the problem is not new. The new Christian desires more than anything to share his new-found life with his wife, but the more he talks of being a new person it frightens her – she knew him the way he was, and resents the adjustments demanded of her now. She may be jealous of his new friends whom he says understand him so well; she is suspicious of his attempts at a new considerateness. Or the Christian wife begins to think how much happier she would be to give herself to a man if he really belonged to the Lord. A passing thought, but one she can’t express to him. He picks it up, though, and it confirms in his fears that this Christian stuff would turn her funny. You can see this in the background to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians. Read chapter 7 verses3 to 5 and 12 to 16.

(11) “Faith – imagination”Agnes Sanford, author of ‘The Healing Light’ and other books about prayer and healing, talks of the use of “Faith – imagination” when we pray. This is based upon Mark 11:24 and tells us to see in our mind’s eye the desired result, and then believe God to bring it about. For example, to see a person in our mind’s eye walking instead of being confined to a wheelchair. If we cannot even imagine it as possible, then our prayer is unlikely to attain to it. We must “see” our friends, partners, everyone we meet as potential Christians, not in order to scalp them like an evangelistic head-hunter, but so we will reach out to have fellowship with them, or yearn to be able to share freely with them. If we actively pray for the person to be released into a new life, we begin to treat them much of the time as if they were another Christian, talk free with them about the Lord, admit to some of our own hassles, and cease to exclude them. Be realistic in this, positive and patient. Don’t let your love turn to disappointment or frustration when it seems to take too long. Remember the father in Luke 15, who let the son go his own way, knowing that if he came back it would be because he really wanted to.

I could wish you joy and peace to last a whole life long…………

I could wish you all the happiness that this life could bring

but I wish you Jesus…

but I wish you Jesus more than anything.

 

I could wish you treasures, or that all your dreams come true,

I could wish youParadise, that every day be spring,

but I wish you Jesus….

but I wish you Jesus more than anything.

 

‘Cause when I wish you Jesus I’ve wished you everything.

 

(12) The floor tilted – It is good to include the non-Christian at almost every opportunity, treating him as if he were a Christian, providing he will let you do this. Sooner or later he will feel left out, unable to identify or join in, the odd one out – but this should not be because he felt excluded by you, rather because he is aware of his need for a first-hand experience of what those around are already moving in. A lot of good sharing of experience doesn’t happen precisely because the Christian develops an attitude of “Oh, but you wouldn’t understand that”. A blind person may not be able to see a landscape for himself, but this handicap should not prevent us from helping him appreciate what is before him. As we describe for him, become his eyes, we present him with the opportunity of constructing vicariously a framework in which the impressions of his remaining senses have clearer meaning. (The blind person may, from where he is standing, clearly recognise salt air, but be unaware that it is a sheer drop from the edge of a cliff some yards ahead, above the shore). Blind people often have keener development of other senses – and the hard of hearing are frequently insulted by hearing people’s assumption that they are not only deaf, but also slow to understand what they do hear. A non-Christian is not some creature of a lesser or difference species, but a person with one sense not yet developed, his spirit dormant like a balloon waiting to be filled with the breath of God. His other senses he may well utilise more fully and properly than the Christian – he may be more diligent and earnest in his pursuit of truth, or more compassionate or self-sacrificing. Able-bodied folk have been known to instinctively address the relative or companion of someone in a wheelchair and say, “Is he feeling OK today?” as if the person were unable to answer for himself. Similarly, a Christian meets another Christian and their non-Christian spouse in some social context – in the street or at a party, and immediately ignores the non-Christian or avoids asking the simplest enquiries directly. This is as hurtful and alienating for the non-Christian as for the person in a wheel-chair.  Indeed, the truly handicapped person is the one who finds it impossible to relate naturally to people in wheelchairs – or to non-Christians!! The truth is that in our relationships with people we already know, the fact that we may be a Christian and they not, has at times made communication more difficult or put a strain on the relationship. (Jesus said this can happen, that He came not always to bring peace, but at times, a sword), and we begin to anticipate that this will always be the case. We become guarded and self-conscious about Christian matters amongst non-Christians in general. How tragic. Where we are able to be naturally spiritual and spiritually natural, we can be good to be with and influence our friends towards the Master, simply because they see His place in the centre of our lives is a reality for us, affecting all areas of our lives in the most natural way. One person whom I travelled with who engaged me in conversation over an hour or two, remarked at the end of that time – “It’s fascinating – I don’t believe the same as you do, but I see it all makes perfect sense in your life, and after being with you I feel like the floor has been tilted and I’m seeing life from a different angle for the first time”. We walk by faith, not by sight – our treasure is not of this world. We have a different centre of gravity (Acts  17:6) and when people will let us be ourselves with them, they will feel the world slowly turning right side up, which in time will alarm or challenge them. That pressure must come not from us, but from their own reaction or the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit without human interference.

 

(13) DON’T have ulterior motives – We must be prepared to love someone as they are, not in the hope that effectively they will become a Christian. Obviously, if we love them we want the best for them, and so desire their salvation, BUT if we could not go on loving them just the same even if they never “came through”, our love is conditional and inadequate. Suppose we help our neighbour with his garden ‘because it’s a good witness’ that isn’t really good enough.  We should do it because we want to, because we care, and that’s a practical way of caring (then it will be a good witness). The neighbour is surprised and questions himself why you are doing this – if it’s because you want to do that which may impress him, but if the next day you invite him to church, he concludes that the garden was an excuse to get under his defences and make it difficult to say no when you invited him to church, since he then feels under an obligation to you. His initial delight that you should be so unselfish turns instead to distaste. What a disappointment – he thought just for a little while that you might care about him or be wishing to be friendly. Obviously he was wrong.

When we go out at Christmas singing carols round people’s doors, they come running out expecting to be asked for money. When we refuse it they are surprised and usually pleased – perhaps it makes them wonder. But occasionally someone is hurt by our refusal to accept their money –and then we have to say that we will take it, because it would be wrong to deny their impulse to respond by giving , and the joy it brings them. The response isn’t the point. We share the carols because of who we are and our desire to share. There is no ulterior motive. Our life must be a carol – infecting others with its ludicrous joy, and unconsciously influencing them by its assumed Christian belief and values.

 

(14) Expect God to act – (and He will!)  – “Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed” – a text you’ll find in the Scriptures about as readily as the Book of Hezekiah, but true nonetheless.

An evangelist who works regularly in thePhilippines, shared with me the stark contrast in results he found when praying over people inBritainand thePhilippines. He would preach that they could be assured of God’s forgiveness through Jesus, and they would respond as instructed by reaching out in faith. He would then explain that Jesus heals people and ask them to receive healing by faith. Over ¾ of the people coming forward for prayer in those meetings in thePhilippineswould be instantly healed of whatever their complaint was – some of total blindness or crippling illnesses. In Britain,  the same preaching would bring less “results” – though many seeking healing were Christians who understood much more…but were perhaps more aware of all the reasons why the healing might not take place?

Our focus so readily becomes our faith or lack of it, and shifts away from the Faithful One. The faith to doubt – and yet go on to believe that God will act…is in itself a gift. In many places were the Holy Spirit removed from the Church 90% of its activity could continue without any noticeable handicap. But God would have us be in a place where we are dependant upon His action and intervention. If we do not assume that God is able, willing and likely to act in response at least to prayer, then we are in danger of attempting to do God’s work for Him. The famous ‘God has no hands but our hands’ quotation may have an element of truth in it – but not if the Body is attempting to act independently of the Head. The Body of Christ ought not to be smitten with palsy, nor sadly spastic, nor yet mobilised by automised artificial limbs. Only the Holy Spirit can bring someone under genuine conviction of sin, or awaken them to a consciousness of their hunger for God, touch their eyes and ears so they no longer see, but do not see, hear, but do not hear. We can pray “Come, Holy Spirit” and give simple testimony to our own experience of God, but it is better to speak one word under His anointing, than ten thousand without. If we lean on Him and His direction, co-operate with what He is doing or waiting to do, we will again see the unexpected happen. New Christians often have spectacular answers to prayer and experiences, precisely because nobody has taught them not to expect this, and they have not become dulled to the goading challenge and promise of the Scriptures either. Spiritual laws are as surely operative as the natural laws of gravity, entropy and so on, and need not be fully understood before being experienced. They make sense to us. An element of risk does not debilitate us in general. Every time we get on a bus we are in faith that we will travel safely to our destination. There are some casualties in bus-accidents, but the risk is one we take. A Bible-translator watched as a native chief, who was helping him in his work, became tried and threw himself backwards, without looking, onto the bed in the corner. Their difficulty had been to find a phrase in the chief’s language which adequately conveyed the word “faith”. With relief, he noted that faith is falling backwards on God, without needing to look, because you know He is there, and is able to hold your weight.

Another missionary, Hudson Taylor, was anxious to prove the truth of the scripture which says, “Your Heavenly Father knows what you need”, and other promises of provision, and so, in Britain determined to live for a time entirely dependant on God for money, food and other necessities, but telling no-one else of his need. If the character of God remains the same, he reasoned, and I prove that He is to be depended upon here, then I can know He will be faithful to provide for all my needs, even inChina, without needing to tell any other of my plight. Where God guides, He provides, and we must co-operate with His action. His purpose and way is important to discern if we would walk in faith and not presumption – but He will act where we release Him to do so. We must do the possible and rely on Him to do the impossible.

In the book ‘Angels on Assignment’, Charles and Francis Hunter write the story of a pastor inAmericawho was visited by angels, and instructed about many things. One revelation was that in response to prayers of a Christian for their “unsaved” relative, angels are released to bring about in that person’s life, circumstances that will bring them to an encountering of the claims of God on them and an opportunity of decision, but if their response is negative or non-existent, the angel will then begin the process again of setting up a series of circumstances to bring them to crisis, or opportunity of response. How much our prayers can effect – and how pathetic our puny attempts to take the task of ‘saving’ on ourselves, when we feel God has forgotten to act!

 

(15) Signs follow believers – Mark 16:15-20 says “These signs shall follow those who believe – they shall speak in new tongues, cast out demons in the name of Jesus, lay hands on the sick and see them recover” etc. We see in the Book of Acts these and many other signs following the Christians. In our day, sadly what we see is a few people who get on with believing God and signs follow them…and the other ‘believers’ follow the sign, but as we trust God in our daily lives and believe Him, the miracles we are experiencing should be an undeniable aspect of our testimony. In ‘L’Abri’ Edith Schaeffer recalls how many seekers after truth would come to their household to argue out or discuss their intellectual difficulties with, or objections to, the claims of Christianity and the Scriptures. Meanwhile in a way planned only by God Himself, they would see specific needs or problems laid before the Lord in prayer, and be there again when those needs were met or specific answers clearly were provided. This combination was not one the Schaeffers had planned or dreamed up, but God was allowing their visitors to witness a demonstration of His power and reality in matters as they arose, important, personal or mundane.

They could not pretend or try to be wonderful, just hope in God and be honest when they did not have any idea what was going on.

 

(16) Look for uncomfortable ways of doing the uncomfortable

Most people’s bad experiences of doing evangelism are tales of the uncomfortable. This uncomfortable is not usually with what they believe, but with their method of sharing it, other people’s expectation they will share it, or the way the whole experience makes them feel like they’ve been forced to try to be someone other than themselves.

A lot of what uncomfortable is unnecessary, avoidable, counter-productive and destructive. All Christians are witnesses, but many will rightly feel it un-natural for them to deliberately provoke discussion of spiritual matters with those they meet as a general rule. But the time must come when we are challenged to say the task of evangelism must be taken up – we cannot let our bad experiences make us so defensive that we do nothing. Analyse your objections to being mobilised at all – what exactly are you uncomfortable about? Is your objection valid? Is the method suited to you – and if not, do you therefore drop out or do you do your best to adapt it sincerely? Some people are happy to use tracts instead of talking to people. Others find literature is arm’s-length and awkward. Do the leaflets embarrass you? – they’re gimmicky, old-fashioned, badly written or just not what you would choose.

At Alnwick Fair one year, we prepared pedlar’s trays so people in the old-fashioned costume would mix among the crowds with the other stall-holders, offering the visitors the chance to pick out a small roll of paper with a message on it. The method was appropriate to the occasion, and the messages were very carefully prepared or screened by the whole group so that they were ready to answer questions about the content. It was uncomfortable to take so bold a step, but we would make sure we’d make it no more uncomfortable than it need be. The response was good, and perhaps more far-reaching than we imagined. A year later, with additional rolls added to the selection, we used the trays again at the Fair, and one person said they had one already thank you from last year, and pulled from her purse a small slip of paper with ‘The Lord is my Shepherd – is He Yours?’ written on it!

The key was prayer – in the preparation of content, for prepared hearts to receive the message while they were all rolled by hand and on the part of the actual “pedlars”.

The messages said different things, general enough to be relevant to everyone, but saying one specific thing, rather than trying to say everything at once.

 

(17) A link in the chain. Imagine that in the same way we can by modern science measure someone’s pulse on a graph, or chart their blood-pressure, we could on a scale running from -100 to +100 measure where someone stands in relation to the claims of Christ in their life. Zero may represent the point of surrender beyond which there is a continual growing in grace at least potentially. Many Christians see their task in evangelism as being to achieve in the other person, a shift from -100 all the way at least to 0 if not to 65+ (and all in 20 minutes!) The scripture does not teach us to expect that this will always be the case. As we have noted before we are to exalt Jesus and His will be the work of drawing people to Himself (John12:32).

Paul in I Corinthians 3:5-7 rather gives the picture of each servant of God being used in turn to nudge the needle a little further along the scale. Someone may be used to bring a particular non-Christian up to -60 by creating an interest, a second person may answer his questions and remove some of the obstacles to his true conversion, bringing him to -45, a Christian at work is lazy or inconsiderate and that knocks him back a bit to -55, a chance TV interview puts it back up to -50. Talking one night with his friend, the one who got him interested in the first place, he mentions the TV interview, and they end up talking for hours and on the scale of the needle has moved steadily up to -4. Then a leaflet through the door about the evangelistic crusade, instead of being thrown away stays on the mantelpiece, he goes along, and although he never heard a word of the sermon, when the preacher asks for people to come forward and decide for Christ, he is the first one out, and the scale swings to +9. We may be content to be a link in the chain, part of the process. We are not called to bring about instant conversions – only the Holy Spirit can convert a heart – but we must be sure that we will help and not hinder that process in a person’s life.

 

(18) LISTEN!

Most Christians are very concerned with what they have to say – so concerned that we can be in our head preparing to answer the other person, and not actually listening to what they are saying. We must become active listeners, concentrating on what someone says out of a genuine belief that they are more important than us, and what they feel is important. We must not patronise or put another people down. Even harder than listening to what is said, is listening to what is not said, but is really being felt. We cannot claim to have begun to understand a person until we learn what it is to ‘walk a mile in another man’s moccasins! (For example, the person we are talking with may have been offended by an imagined slight. To us it may be apparent that the whole situation was a misunderstanding and no cause for upset – how silly to get worked up over nothing, we think. But the other person has been genuinely upset not by the real situation, but by the situation as they perceived it. Is the pain of thinking you are being ignored any different from the pain of being ignored? I need to think not of how I would react in certain circumstances that face my friend, but of how I would react were I him in the situation).

 

(19) Head, Heart and Hungry Places. When we share the gospel (= good news) with people, its communication is quite complex – we speak simple truth and the responses are varied in kind. Some aspect of the message may be directed at the mind, and as the recipient responds it will be with a nod, a shaking of the head, a quizzical look, a verbal response in equivalent or another question. These show that a mental adjustment or appraisal is what is going on.  Sometimes when we share the truth it hits a person at a felt point of need, rather like a punch, hard below the belt. Interestingly, the person’s response, their “gut –response” will often be expressed violently in some physical outburst. We need to see behind the anger and violence which sometimes we will encounter as we clearly present the truth. It may be that it is a deep hatred for all we represent, that is being manifested. Then we know and recognise the influence explicitly or implicitly of the Prince of this world and its culture, our arch-adversary, Satan, who prowls around like a roaring lion waiting to devour.  But it may be that the violence is the sign that you have got to that person where it hurts – and the outburst is an involuntary reflex, or at least only half-thought-through. When Stephen, the first Christian martyr was being killed, Saul of Tarsus did not stone him, but stood approving of what was done, guarding the coats of his murderers. Stephen spoke in forgiveness, “Father, lay not this sin to their charge”. Saul could not erase from his memory the words or the face of Stephen, but went breathing violence and hatred, killing and imprisoning Christians everywhere. But God, who looks not on the outward, but discerns thoughts and motives, saw through to his heart, saw as well the deep hunger in his life.  His very violence became zeal for the Kingdom, and after three years in the desert learning to adjust and re-adjust his thinking, his theology and most of all his independence, Paul was beginning to emerge as one who could teach others in the Way with real clarity and passion. (Those who are forgiven much, love much). Poor Stephen, if he’d been judged on the apparent success of his sermon in touching Saul, would have been booed out of town – it only made things worse, provoking greater violence and trouble. But the Kingdom will be seized by violent men who inside, like Jacob of old, are saying, “I won’t let you go until you bless me”. On the Damascus road all was changed in a flash.

We aim most of all to reach a person’s heart – when that happens there will be a reaction, more gentle perhaps, but definite. Often the person will cry, particularly if they don’t normally cry – this will be a sign. Often the route to the heart of a person is through their intellectual appraisal (-HEAD-)

explanation → realisation → heart-response; often it is through the felt-need (- HUNGRY – PLACES -).

One open arena for encounter in truth in our day, is that of sexuality. As we compassionately, but clearly, state what God has to say, it hits people at a hungry-place level (obviously!) but more so as our society has no remaining moral ethic beyond selfishness disguised in sentimentality. For this we should know we have been called to become involved in discussion in this area, and are sufficiently “sorted-out” ourselves to be able to talk freely and firmly. We should have clarity about what the Scriptures says and does not say, and what God’s attitude and intentions are. We are designed only to function properly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and we must have studied the manual carefully before instructing others. We will need also to have courage, for holiness is hated in our day, and the truth will not only hit deep, but hurt deep. People’s response may be violent, before we reach their heart. It may be our job to be on the receiving end of that violence, and leave the Holy Spirit the job of reaching on into the other’s heart.

 

(20) Leap of faith – Everybody has a mind, some use it more than others, some are governed more by it. That is neither a good nor a bad thing – or rather it can be both a blessing and a curse to have an active, questioning, logical mind. Do you remember how Thomas, the disciple, wanted to believe that Jesus was risen, but in all honesty could not, until it was proven to him. Child-like faith is a gift. It does not understand with the head, but the heart.

Soren Kierkegaard was a philosopher who turned to Christ and wrote extensively before and after. A thinking person may approach the Christian faith and examine its claims logically step by step, until  they lead to a cliff-edge. On the other side of a deathly chasm is another cliff-top with steps leading along from there.  The man reaching the edge of the cliff cannot come any further without taking a tremendous leap to the other side. Kierkegaard calls this “a leap of faith”. Man is not asked by God to put his reason to death, but to progress with it until he can progress no further, and must suspend his reason long enough to take that leap of faith. Once he has landed safely on the other side and has experienced the fruit of his leap, he may then continue according to reason. From time to time, further leaps of faith will be necessary as he follows along that path. It is logical that God could exist, that it might be possible to come to know Him, that if I spoke to Him He might hear me.  If He does not exist I will have lost nothing by the experiment, but if He does exist and I ask Him to reveal Himself to me, then having experienced His reality I must live my life according to the changes that must logically follow If I know He is real. But to these I cannot proceed without taking that risk, that leap of faith.

 

(21) Cain’s wife – the valid question? Many of the simple, good, beautiful Christians who rarely have doubts, questions or intellectual difficulties with their faith, see the questions of their more complicated brother-Christians as unbelief, or the questions of the non-Christians as excuses. Somewhere along the line we need help in living with loose ends, and answers to questions are usually available with diligent pursuit of truth. We must be prepared to answer people’s questions – even if it’s only with an “I don’t know – but I’ll try and find out for you”.

So when someone says “If you say the Bible is true tell me this, where did Cain’s wife come from?” We need to reply: “Do you really want to know that? Because if you do I’ll tell you (or I’ll find out) – or are you really saying I don’t want to believe the Bible is true because I’d have to change my life if I found it was, so I’ll use questions about Cain’s wife or anything else I can, to act as a smoke-screen to my fear that what you have is real”.

But if those questions are genuine we must try to answer, and remove what may be obstacles ton their belief.

 

(22) Ashamed? “I’m not ashamed to own my Lord”, as the hymn says, but I may be ashamed of certain Christian films, books, magazines, stickers or whatever. If I am asked to identify with these, they will inhibit me. A rule to observe is: Never use materials you have to apologise for. Where it is people – other Christians – who embarrass you, the issue is more complex. It is not possible for us to disown those who are family to you, but it may be wise for us not to walk deliberately into situations that feel strained or un-natural to us.

 

(23) Prepared hearts. Whenever we know we will be in situation where we are likely to speak of our faith to non-Christians, or may be called to, it is wise to pray that God will prepare our hearts and the hearts of those we will meet. That should allow conversations to flow naturally and without strain. It should also allow us not feel to constrained to investigate such conversations without very natural openings, for we will know how readily God can “set these up” when He so decides, and we have asked Him to prepare hearts. We will be relaxed.

 

(24) Have NO guilt. Guilt is never a valid motivation for our evangelism; compassion is. If we proceed out of guilt everything we do will be counter-productive. We are better to do nothing until that guilt in us has been dealt with drastically, and out from us.

 

“I the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain,

I have wept for love of them. They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for

love alone.

I will speak my words to them. Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord?

I have heard You calling in the light,

I will go, Lord, if You lead me,

I will hold Your people in my heart”.

 

 

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