Monday, December 7, 2009

A Lesson in Evangelism (Part 1) - John 4:7-10

“There came a woman of Samaria to draw water,
Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’
For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him,
‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink
since I am a Samaritan woman?’
(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered and said to her,
‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you,
‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him
and He would have given you living water.”
(vs 7-10)

Walter Chantry has a wonderful book entitled “Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic.” In this short work he takes an in depth look at Christ’s encounter with the rich young ruler. That encounter gives us a glimpse at how our Lord did evangelism and gives us a picture of how we should as well. If you have a burden for evangelism, or if you long to develop one, I highly recommend Chantry's work - it's practical and purposeful.

Here in John 4 we have another tangible example of how the Jesus reached out to the immoral and spiritually ignorant. Quite a number of things jumped out and grabbed me from Christ’s conversation and I hope to take several days to unpack them. The first thing is the way in which Jesus began the conversation.

Weary Jesus is sitting by Jacob’s well. Along comes a Samaritan woman. Obviously water is on her mind – she’s coming to the well! Christ, who must be thirsty after such a long day asks her for a drink. However, His own thirst is not the primary reason for the request. No, our all-wise Lord is taking a common thing of life and is about to turn it into a great spiritual lesson which will have eternal consequences on this woman. Look, listen and learn!

The community in which I live is one that often prides itself on its “Christian” heritage. There are churches on every corner – sometimes multiple churches on every corner. Quite a few of those churches are active in their attempts at evangelism. However, some of their attempts are more like a bull in a china shop than like our Lord’s example. I have personally been the “victim” of “drive by” evangelism (a man in a truck once threw a tract out the window to my husband and me as we walked down Main Street). I have been bludgeoned by street preaching evangelism (On several occasions groups have literally yelled the gospel at me on the same street as the random “truck tracker”. However, I’ve been unable to get the “preacher” to talk to me one on one afterwards.) I have friends in my town who have been accosted outside their work place (because they were smoking a cigarette) and told that they would burn in hell just like that cigarette if they didn’t repent. The examples are endless, but I think you get the picture.

Christ is about to meet one on one with a sinner – a chief of sinners – and He well knows it. The omniscient Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world knows who He’s dealing with. Knowing full well just how wicked she is, He deals with her in a tactful, gracious, and providentially wise fashion. He asks her for a drink of water.

Ryle writes: “He does not wait for her to speak to Him. He does not begin by reproving her sins, though He doubtless knew them. He opens communication by asking a favor. He approaches the woman’s mind by the subject of “water” which was naturally uppermost in her thoughts. Simple as this request may seem, it opened a door to spiritual conversation. It threw a bridge across the gulf which lay between her and Him. It led to the conversion of her soul.

“Our Lord’s conduct in this place should be carefully remembered by all who want to do good to the thoughtless and spiritually ignorant. It is vain to expect that such persons will voluntarily come to us, and begin to seek knowledge. We must begin with them, and go down to them in the spirit of courteous and friendly aggression. It is vain to expect that such persons will be prepared for our instruction, and will at once see and acknowledge the wisdom of all we are doing. We must go to work wisely. We must study the best avenues to their hearts, and the most likely ways of arresting their attention. There is a handle to every mind, and our chief aim must be to get hold of it.

“Above all, we must be kind in manner, and beware of showing that we feel conscious of our own superiority. If we let spiritually ignorant people fancy that we think we are doing them a great favor in talking to them about religion, there is little hope of doing good to their souls.”

Make the most of the moment, seize the circumstance, pursue that which Providence has ordained. Unbelievers are in our paths repeatedly. As a mom I run into them in the grocery store, at the library, at the park. Am I about the business of engaging them in conversation regarding the “water” of the moment? Am I seeking to be a conversation starter with others? Am I looking for ways to be kind, courteous, and compassionate to those who walk up to the “well”? Do I honestly care at all? Do I have a haughty spirit and an arrogant attitude where they are concerned or am I like John the Baptist recognizing that I have received nothing that hasn’t come from God? Am I humbly bold? Do I see myself as simply one sinner saved by grace longing for the salvation of another sinner by that same amazing grace?

The soul searching questions are endless! Lord, Jesus – You who are the Master Evangelist give me a heart like Yours and tact like Yours. Here I am, send me, use me, be glorified through my feeble efforts to point others to behold, You – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Praying for tactful opportunities this day,

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