Personal Evangelism; August 30, 2020

Acts 5:13-14 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.

I don’t remember when this first struck me, but it was at least as far back as my seminary days (1976-78). The Early Church did have “evangelistic meetings,” such as the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and the group that gathered after the man born lame was healed, in Acts 4, but this makes it clear that it was the daily interactions of the believers that brought more people to faith. That’s the only way their number could have been increasing if “No one else dared join them.” Luke seems to indicate that the incident with Ananias and Saphira, recorded just before this, had a lot to do with people being afraid to join them, because that made it absolutely clear that it was no use pretending to be something you weren’t around this group of people. Today, people sometimes join churches for social or even political advantage. We have candidates who proclaim their church affiliation while espousing policies that are in direct contradiction to the clear teachings of the church they claim. Some people are calling them out for it, but sadly, very few. The broader application of this particular passage is that every believer should be active in sharing their faith. Today I’ll be speaking on “Actual Experience,” pointing out that witnessing isn’t telling made-up stories, it’s sharing what God has done for you personally. I don’t remember the figures, but a study done not long ago in the US showed that a shockingly small percentage of American Christians had ever shared their faith with anyone else. That is tragic! Part of the issue is that far too many church members have never been born again; they were just baptized, at whatever age they did it, because it was “the thing to do.” There can be no salvation without repentance, acknowledging that you are a sinner headed for hell by your own actions. That can happen at a surprisingly young age. My mother shared with me that she came to an awareness of a personal sin at age 5, and her repentance of that was central to her commitment and baptism. Too many churches never teach on sin at all, and so are largely unregenerate.

I was baptized at age 7, on the basis of a genuine love for Jesus and a desire to be committed to Him, but I don’t remember any specific element of repentance at the time. However, at age 24 the Lord in His grace showed me my spiritual pride, and that repentance was devastating. On the immediate subject at hand, I had been seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit from late 1973, to no effect that I could detect. Then in 1974 a friend pointed out that we receive everything from God by grace through faith, and I should ask God, and then trust that He had been true to His Word. Two days later I abruptly realized that I was talking about Jesus with a total stranger, and Acts 1:8 came to mind: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” At that moment I realized that God had indeed been true to His promise and filled me with His Spirit. Now, when I see genuine believers who don’t witness, I pray that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit!

Father, thank You for this reminder when You had already told me to speak on witnessing today. I pray that I would say everything You want me to say, but no more, not overloading my hearers with more than they can absorb but faithfully transmitting what You are saying now, so that we may indeed be the church that You want in this place at this time, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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