The centrality of preaching in many churches is illustrated by placing the pulpit in the very center of the auditorium. It is important to proclaim the message under the power and unction of the Holy Spirit.
Many preachers preach without being well prayed for which is a tragic situation. Prayer is the work that must under-gird preaching, as well as all other efforts to do the Lord's service. When Jesus gave His "greater works" message, He pointed out that asking things in His name was the basis of the greater works (John 14:12-14).
Having served as a pastor for over fourteen hundred Sundays (twenty-seven years), I have no doubt that I preached over three thousand times during those years or almost always twice on Sunday as well as revival sermons delivered during two-week revival meetings. From the beginning at the age of seventeen when I preached my first sermon, I learned to prepare with a rather full sermon outline. During a large portion of the ministry, I wrote the sermons and delivered them verbatim which means I have many sermon notes that almost anyone could read and follow.
One of my assistants has organized the sermons according to text and subject using index cards. The cards include, also, the date I preached the sermon, the place, and the results. It is interesting that sometimes I recorded the number saved actually listing the names of those who came to Christ.
Delivery styles of preachers vary. Most young preachers want to emulate those whom they have heard and considered effective. While there is nothing wrong with patterning after another preacher, I decided early that my call was to be myself and follow the delivery style of preaching most conformable to me. On one occasion, a leading pastor said to me during my first days in a new pastorate that I had mighty big shoes to fill referring to the outstanding ministry performed by my successor. My response was to express appreciation for the work the Lord had used him to do, but to affirm that I had no intention to try to fill his shoes since I had my own shoes to fill.
It is a joy to share some of my favorite sermons with you.
Subject: Speaking In His Name
Text: Acts 4:10, 12, 19-20
"Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him does this man stand here before you whole . . . Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby ye must be saved . . . Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. " Acts 4:10, 12, 19-20
If someone offered you $5,000 for a month's work or a penny doubled each day for a month, which would you take? Our first urge would be to take the $5,000 obviously. But the penny doubled each day would come to $10,737,418.24. Incredible! That is the power of multiplication.
If we won to Christ only one person per year and discipled that person to win others, it would take only a few years to win the 5 3/4 billion people on this earth to Christ.
God wants an individual saved, but Satan does not. After a person is saved, Satan knows it is too late to do anything about that person's eternity; however, he then wants the person to lose his influence and his witness. That is the insight we gain from 1 Peter 5:8: "The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." The word translated devour is translated in Hebrews 11:29 as "drown". The devil wants to drown our influence. He wants us to be silent Christians--and he has been quite successful in many lives.
The great sin of most contemporary Christians is that we shut Christ in our lives, not out of our lives. But there is something that we can do to reverse immediately this situation and begin multiplying believers for the kingdom of God in our day--and that is to follow the example of the early believers in Jerusalem. The purpose of this message is to encourage believers to launch out and begin SPEAKING IN HIS NAME!
The message background
During the first years following the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, the early church grew rapidly. By Acts 4, there were five thousand men in the church. Not only were people added to the church daily, the addition became multiplication. Nine plus nine equals eighteen--that is addition. Soon, the text states they multiplied which brings different results from addition. Nine times nine equals eighty-one. The early church multiplied.
As background, let's take a few minutes to study Acts 3 and 4. The religious leaders became agitated and threatened by the rapid growth of Christianity. The opportunity came when a lame man was healed. The decision was made to arrest the leaders of this new movement. Peter and John were imprisoned and beaten. The text is from the final show-down during which the religious leaders demanded that there be no further effort to win people to Christ. Peter and John simply replied, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge. But we cannot help but speak in His name."
SPEAKING IN HIS NAME is my subject today. Most Christians have not yet found a natural and satisfying way of sharing their faith in Jesus Christ. A dilemma develops between the sense of OUGHTNESS about personal evangelism and the sense of FRUSTRATION in not having a natural and effective way to witness.
Let's talk about two ways to SPEAK IN HIS NAME: first, through developing and sharing your personal testimony and second, through learning to use a passage of Scripture to bring someone to Christ.
Developing Your Personal Testimony
One of the most effective tools each Christian has is his own personal testimony. Let's talk about a way to develop your personal testimony so that you can share it in ninety seconds standing at a water cooler if that is the opportunity you have.
Our model is Paul's personal testimony which is recorded in Acts 22:1-6 and 26:9-18. By studying this model, each believer can get some pointers about how to develop his personal testimony. My suggestion is to get pencil and paper and develop your personal testimony.
There are four basic themes which Paul used in his testimony. Let's look at them in the light of including each in our testimony.
First, "I've not always been a Christian." Most unsaved people somehow think that a Christian has always been a Christian. Consequently, he doesn't relate very well to the Christian. Affirming that you have not always been a Christian provides a point of reference for the lost person. Describe your life before Christ (B.C.). Use twelve to eighteen key words or short phrases which describe you "B.C." such as hateful, selfish, lustful, or whatever. Put these thoughts into a couple of sentences once you have them in mind.
Second, "Here is how God got my attention." State briefly how you realized your need of Christ as your Savior.
Third, "Here's what I did when God got my attention." Relate how you received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Tell how you committed your life to Jesus.
Fourth, "Here's how my life changed." Tell how Jesus makes your life full and meaningful. Tell about the joy and peace you have. Highlight basic changes in your life.
Note the approach of using key words. Jot down key words. Use short phrases if that is more helpful in getting your thoughts together and organized.
PRAY AS YOU WORK.
Start the work of building your own personal testimony, work for a brief time, go do something else and come back to it again. Give the Holy Spirit time to speak to your heart as you prepare. Then take all you have and condense it to a statement of 125 words which would take between sixty and ninety seconds to share.
Since you have prepared yourself and are seeking the Holy Spirit's help, you can expect to have opportunities to share your personal testimony. God honors preparation.
Keep your testimony simple and brief. Keep to the point. Keep positive. Avoid bragging, unless it is about Jesus. Negative comments and remarks lead to negative discussions. Keep language understandable. Remember that the "language of Zion"--so commonly used in church services--is sometimes difficult to understand by those who are unsaved.
Since you really want to be used by God, discipline yourself to prepare a basic personal testimony. You will find this approach will provide a natural, effective, and satisfying way to share your faith--which is mandated by the Scriptures.
Examples in shoe leather
Since it is always helpful to have personal application of how truth has worked in shoe leather, let me introduce Inga Marcussen, now home with the Lord. Inga, a native of one of the Scandinavian countries, lived in Connecticut before retiring to Boca Raton, Florida. When she heard me share how to prepare your personal testimony, she said, "I can do that!" She prepared her testimony, went out to a nearby park bench, and asked God to bring to the bench whomever He wished to hear her testimony. In her broken English, she shared with many what Christ had done in her life and encouraged them to turn their lives over to the Lord Jesus Christ as well. Success in witnessing is sharing the Gospel and leaving the results up to God.
During a Bible conference I lead on personal evangelism at the Old First Church, Cedar Grove, New Jersey June 7-10, 1982, I shared this message and urged those present to put into practice the truths taught by the Holy Spirit. I remember it as though it were yesterday. One of the leaders of the church, Bill Wang, came late the next evening with a radiance that caused me to ask for his story. He shared that the Holy Spirit told him to share his personal testimony, using the outline he had learned, with his elderly sister in her hospital room at Mountainside Hospital. Previously, he had found it difficult to express what was on his heart. Having his personal testimony developed gave him confidence to share with one he loved dearly. That night, his sister received Jesus Christ as her own personal Savior. Bill rejoiced even as those in the presence of God in heaven rejoiced.
Using a passage of scripture to bring someone to Christ
Every believer needs, in addition, to having a prepared personal testimony to share, to know how to use a passage of Scripture to bring someone to Christ. I want to teach you how to use Romans 10:1-3 and 8-13--one of the plainest presentations of the plan of salvation.
It is wise to sit down with the person whom you are seeking to win to the Lord with a Bible in hand. If you can, actually use a Bible belonging to the person to whom you are witnessing. I have found that a person always believes his own Bible more quickly than one someone carries into his house.
Turn to Romans 10:1-3 and let the person read with you, rather than your reading to him. Let him fix his eyes on the text. Begin with the burden Paul expressed in verse one: "my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved." He had earlier expressed the deep burden he was carrying for his own people when he wrote in the previous chapter: "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:1-3). Based on how his own people treated Paul, including using extreme physical abuse, one could question his veracity because what he was saying sounded like a lie. So he pointed out that the Holy Spirit knew he was telling the truth! Paul wanted his own people saved.
One striking difference between Christians today and in the early days of my pastoral ministry relates to a burden for the lost to be saved. When I started in 1953 as a seventeen-year old preacher, folks had a deep burden for unsaved loved ones and often wept for them. That burden is missing today, yet the Word says: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy; he that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall return rejoicing, bringing the sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:5-6). Television and prosperity have united to take away our burden. We need the burden back--otherwise we will not go out and sow the seed. Paul had a burden for his people in the flesh, the Jews, even to the point that he would be willing to be lost if they would be saved.
As you witness to an unsaved person, briefly note how important it is for each person to be saved and not lost. Point out that a person is either saved or lost. There is no third category.
As he continued to reflect on the situation, Paul said, "I give my people credit. They have a zeal for God, but it is not according to knowledge. Instead of coming God's way, they are seeking to come their own way depending on their own righteousness" (vv 2-3). Paul concluded that their efforts reveal an ignorance of God's way. Simply, the Jews were practicing works to establish their own righteousness--which always leaves a person short!
Having a zeal for God is not enough. Many today are zealous, but what they are doing is not according to God's Word. If you travel into New York City from New Jersey today, you will be greeted at the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel or Holland Tunnel by individuals selling beautiful flowers. They are there in all types of weather--sunshine or rain; sleet or snow. These persons are Moonies who believe a part of their salvation is zealously performing these duties--but these acts are but zeal without knowledge.
But what is the true way to come to God? What does the Word say? Let the person to whom you are witnessing turn with you to verse eight and read: "But what does the Word say? The Word is nigh thee, even in thy heart and mouth, that is the word of faith which we preach."
Salvation is near
Point out, as the person reads with you verse eight, that a person does not have to take a long trip to be saved since the Word is near him. Isn't this good news? Note that the "heart" here does not refer to the blood pump in the body; rather "heart" is the word for inner man--the part of a person which thinks, loves, feels, and makes decisions. Through the mouth, a person expresses what has happened to him inside.
What does one do to be saved? Ask the person to read verse nine himself and tell you the two requirements stated to be saved. Give him time to answer. Many think ten minutes have passed after we ask for an unsaved person's response when only ten seconds have passed. Let the person think this through. Wait for his answer. A person must confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, rather than Caesar, and must believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
When he tells you the two things needed for salvation, ask him to read verse ten and tell you the proper order--one must believe first, and then confess that Jesus is his Lord. Continue reading verses eleven and twelve which speak for themselves.
Prayer completes the transaction
Conclude sharing the Scripture with verse thirteen, which tells how to implement and complete the transaction. To bring the person to a point of decision either to accept or reject Jesus Christ as Savior--and there are not other alternatives, ask two basic questions related to "calling upon the name of the Lord: first, what does it mean to "call upon the name of the Lord" and second, what is His name?
To "call on the Lord" is to pray. The name Jesus means "He who saves." It is quite easy to understand that a lost person needs to pray asking Jesus to save him. No one will ever be saved without asking for salvation.
Ask for a decision
At this point, many witnesses fail to "draw the net" by asking for a decision now. Bring the matter to conclusion by asking the person to pray with you and invite Jesus to become His Savior now. Many will gladly do this as the Holy Spirit moves, and the person is born anew into God's family. When the person accepts Jesus, let him either write what he has done in his Bible and date the statement or tell someone in the house what he has done. I have found that it is helpful for him to call someone on the phone and share his decision.
A word of caution
Some believe developing a strategy to use in witnessing is too simplistic and too mechanical. This is true only when a person makes the "right sounds" and goes through the "right motions" without relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Keep in mind that you, personally, can never convert anyone, but the Holy Spirit has promised to be the power needed to share Christ and His Word to bring forth fruit (Acts 1:8).
I believe it is imperative that every believer develop skill in using a passage of Scripture to bring someone to Jesus and be ready to share a personal testimony. God will honor your preparation by giving you opportunities to use the Scriptures and to see folks saved. With this background, are you ready to get started?
Success is sharing
Think this through! Make your preparation to share your faith by developing your own personal testimony and by learning how to use a passage of Scripture to bring someone to Jesus. Prepare yourself.
Success in witnessing is simply sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. Remember you are a success in God's eyes when you share His Word regardless of the response. Be assured that the Lord would never have instructed us to spread His Word if He did not intend for us to obey Him. Where God guides, He provides. This is our task and our opportunity.