SHARING THE GOSPEL REQUIRES spiritual strength you can’t generate by human effort. No matter how committed you are, you can’t manufacture the power needed for evangelistic success. You lack sufficient spirituality to engage unbelievers with the gospel, present the plan of salvation in a way it makes sense, convince lost people of their need for Jesus, or regenerate sinners. If you try to do all this on your own—while life happens in unscripted conversations—you are headed for an emotional and spiritual meltdown. It can’t be done. You are powerless to achieve spiritual results or supernatural outcomes. You don’t even have a little power to improve by cultivating it. You are powerless. Without outside help, you won’t be able to lead other people to faith in Jesus. It simply can’t be done.
Thankfully, Jesus provides the power you need to successfully live for Him and share His gospel. He promised, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16), and “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witness” (Acts 1:8). Jesus’ promises were fulfilled when the Holy Spirit indwelled the church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4). The same power is now available to every believer (Romans 8:14–16). To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the gospel—to access His power for this important role—you must understand the scope of His work related to personal evangelism. He is involved in all aspects of communicating the gospel—from before you start to after you finish delivering the message.
THE HOLY SPIRIT WORKS WITH UNBELIEVERS
Too often, we assume the Holy Spirit begins working with unsaved people when we become concerned about them, when they attend a worship service, or when they are otherwise connected to some ministry project or program. This isn’t the case. The Holy Spirit is always active among unbelievers, engaging them even when they aren’t aware of His efforts.
The Holy Spirit prepares people to hear the gospel. Missionaries often report, upon sharing the gospel among those who had never heard it, that people have been prepared to hear it—sometimes by unusual means. These might include dreams, visions, predictions by community leaders, or prophecies passed down about teachers who would tell their people about an unknown God. When you witness, you will discover people are often open to the gospel, even where you live. They have been readied by God-shaped circumstances conspiring to prepare them to hear it. In the Bible, a Roman soldier’s conversion illustrates how this process unfolds:
There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. At about three in the afternoon he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God (ACTS 10:1–3).
For Cornelius, a combination of spiritual interest (“prayed to God”), personal relationships (“did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people”), respect for God (“he was a devout man and feared God”), concern for his family (“feared God along with his whole household”), and spiritual prompting (“saw in a vision an angel”) made him receptive to the gospel. When Peter witnessed to him, Cornelius received the gospel and publicly declared his faith through baptism (Acts 10:47–48). God is still at work, preparing people today to hear the gospel through many of the same means.
Kim was a single mom struggling to find her way in life. She enrolled her daughter in a church-sponsored child-care center, found a job, and prayed for God’s help. Her little girl thrived in the supportive, stable environment at the preschool. Kim soon found herself lingering when she picked up her daughter, making friends with the teachers and director who ran the program. The workers’ love for her child, their patience with Kim as a young mother learning to be a good parent, and their genuine concern for her well-being opened her heart to the gospel. After a few months, she attended church with one of the teachers. Shortly thereafter, the preschool’s director led her to faith in Jesus.
Orville and Pearl were struggling with health challenges, one afraid of dying and the other afraid of living alone. Both were worried about their future. A friend, Avery, made a casual comment about his church, which piqued their interest. They expressed, although they had lived for seven decades without attending church, a desire to go to church with him. After attending for a few weeks, they committed themselves to Jesus by praying with Avery in their home. Aging, loss of health, fear of the future, and the casual comment of a friend all came together to crystallize their openness to the gospel.
Glen was an over-the-road trucker. He was driving alone, reflecting on his failures as a father, when in his words, “God got inside my truck.” Glen had a profound sense of God’s presence, conviction about past sins, and his need for radical changes in his lifestyle. A few days later, he attended a church service, heard the gospel, and committed himself to Jesus. His conversion changed his attitude and rekindled his relationships with his children. Within weeks, Glen’s new life prompted his children to seek salvation through Jesus Christ.
These are examples of how the Holy Spirit prepares people to receive the gospel. He uses life crises, meaningful relationships, kind deeds, worship services, changes in other people, dramatic revelations, and countless other means to create an awareness of the need for salvation. The Holy Spirit orchestrates a symphony of circumstances, building to a crescendo of readiness to receive the gospel. He is always at work in the lives of people around us. Our challenge is discerning His activity and speaking the gospel in the best way at the opportune time.
The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin. One of the stark realities of humankind’s spiritual condition is our sinfulness. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Some deny this, claiming humans are essentially good. It’s hard to hold that position if you have ever parented a two-year-old. More seriously, it isn’t reasonable to believe people are essentially good in the face of human-initiated atrocities like genocide and infanticide. The evidence is overwhelming to any honest observer. We are all sinners. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would:
Convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in Me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged (JOHN 16:8–11).
Convicting sinners of their sin, their need for righteousness, and coming judgment is a primary function of the Holy Spirit. Underline this: convicting sinners is the Spirit’s responsibility, not yours. Some Christians mistakenly think “real witnessing” is telling people how bad they are and how much judgment they deserve. Not so! Sharing the gospel is spreading good news. Establishing “all have sinned” sets the stage for the rest of the story—but it isn’t the main narrative. The emphasis isn’t on how bad we have been, but how good God is to love us anyway. Maintaining convictions and calling sin what it is, requires courage. But avoid being judgmental or legalistic toward others. Confronting people about their sin is heartrending and should evoke empathy and brokenness in us, not haughty satisfaction we have “straightened out another one.” God help you if this is your attitude toward sinners!
Jeff Iorg, Unscripted: Sharing the Gospel as Life Happens (Ashland, OH: New Hope Publishers, 2014).
Check out our Bible Study on the book by Jeff Iorg, Unscripted: Sharing the Gospel as Life Happens.
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