Monday, August 29, 2016

It's A Gift

               I recently had someone tell me that I had the gift of evangelism. I have been a Christian for almost seventeen years and no one has ever pointed out that gift in me. I asked why they thought that, and their response was that Jesus just pours out of me. If you talk with me at any moment of my day, or if you spend any amount of time with me, Jesus is going to come out. It is a natural response for me, and has been since the day I got saved. One way or another I am going to work Jesus into our conversation.
            I never really thought of myself as an evangelist, or having the gift of evangelism, but now after coming face to face with it, much of my Christian life makes a whole lot more sense! Over the years however, not everyone has been supportive of my ability to freely talk about Jesus. I have been asked to “tone it down”- meaning that I am a little too passionate sometimes about Jesus and it makes others uncomfortable. I have been told that I am intimidating in the way I talk about Jesus and that maybe I should not be so passionate about Jesus. Unfortunately, these are comments that other Christians have said to me, and people I used to go to church with. But, for me, to not talk about Jesus would be like trying to put a cork in a geyser, sooner or later, I am going to explode if I don’t talk to someone about how awesome my God is! I have been discouraged and encouraged. I have been put down and lifted up, but through it all, I now know that the only thing that truly matters is what people know about Jesus.
            “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV
            Paul's life is a model of what true evangelism is to look like in the life of believers. He shared Jesus with anyone and everyone he could. He never held back and he was confident in who Jesus was. He was and is one of the people I relate to the most in the Bible. Paul’s is a consistent example of what it means to be an effective witness for Christ. Paul did not go around proclaiming he had the gift, nor did he put a title on his door outside. He just lived a life before God and that life proclaimed it for him.  
I never thought that I might have the gift of evangelism because the gift is not mine to have. It is a gift that is placed in me so that Christ can work through me. Can I let you in on a little secret-  God does not need your help to save people. He is fully capable of bringing people to His cross without your help. The gifts are not for our use; they are for God’s purpose. We benefit from them, but He is the only one that can use them. The reason why I didn’t realize I had the gift of evangelism is because I was not trying to use it, or trying to bring it forward, it was the Holy Spirit, having free access to demonstrate His power in me.
            Paul states that he did not come to them to impress them with his great speeches and uplifting sermons. He came only to know Jesus in them and through them. Which tells me that any good evangelist will also be a good listener. How can you know what someone believes about Jesus if you don’t take the time to listen to them? How can you know what they know unless you listen to what they say? Remember, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks- if you listen long enough, people will tell you what is in their hearts.
Secondly, I think Paul is showing us that no relationship should ever be based on anything other than Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus to you, and who is He to me? The rest of the issues of life we can work through together. First, let’s find out who Jesus is to you. Paul was an effective evangelist because he did not change who he was as a person to win people to Christ. He was who he was by the grace of God, and God worked through him to draw people unto Himself. God doesn’t need our help to save people. He just needs us to be humble so He can!
            Paul’s life was proof that God was God and Jesus was the hope of salvation. Paul didn’t do anything special or speak in an eloquent way. He didn’t have to stand up and dress to impress the crowds. He simply lived out his life before God and God used his life to point people back to Jesus. God is the lighthouse and the keeper of the light within us. We are just the bulb that God powers to give off that light. Does your life reflect Christ? Do you shine for Jesus or do you just shine? When was the last time you listened to someone before you came at them with the gospel? When was the last time you asked someone who Jesus was to them?
            Paul says that he did nothing special to be an effective witness for Christ. There was no formula or plan to win the people of Corinth for God. All he did was live a simple life surrendered to God. God then, by His power, operated in and through Paul. His Holy Spirit living and moving in Paul is what stirred others, what persuaded others to know and see the One True God. Our fancy speeches, our practiced prayers and our pre-game warm-ups do not power the light in us. In fact, they can harm the light in us. The harder we try to shine as lights, the dimmer Christ will become.
            Paul came to the people of Corinth with one goal- to live a holy life, pleasing to the Lord. He came to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Then he was able to build up those relationships with truth. Then he was able to be an effective witness, and a compassionate pastor and teacher to those who came to him. Paul understood that true evangelism started with a submitted heart and a surrendered will. Paul lived out his relationship with Jesus Christ before the world and God demonstrated Himself through Paul’s day to day life. I am pretty sure that if you met Paul on the street he would tell you about his Jesus, simply just working the Lord into his conversation. God doesn’t need our help; He needs our humility. The most effective tool we have to point others to Christ is a surrendered heart and a submitted life. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

I hope that I have encouraged you today to live a life for Jesus. Ask yourself before God the Father, who sees the secrets of our hearts- are you living to impress man or God? Are you striving to win others to Christ or are you allowing Him to do it through you? Listen to those whom you love, wait for them to show you their hearts; then allow God to move through you. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Let God use you right where you are. God doesn’t need your help; He needs your humility. Surrender to Him today and let Him power the life that is already living in you. Amen.