Posted by Milo Hurley for March 12, 2011 Sabbath School
If we were to vote for one statement from the Spirit of Prophecy that best defines evangelism and witnessing, I think the following would win:
Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”1
If “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people,” we should analyze His method step by step.
1 “The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good.”
• When it comes to mingling with unbelievers, we Christians must walk on a very narrow path. On the one side, we must resist the inclination to compromise our beliefs and standards for the sake of pandering to pagans; on the other side, we must deny the desire to isolate ourselves from the world.
• These two extremes (assimilation and isolation) are exhibited in the history of Israel. Until the captivity, the sons of God, through intermarriage with the sons of men, were continually influenced to worship idols. But after the restoration, God’s people seemed to go the other extreme by isolating themselves from the Gentiles.
By the Babylonish captivity the Israelites were effectually cured of the worship of graven images. During the centuries that followed, they suffered from the oppression of heathen foes, until the conviction became fixed that their prosperity depended upon their obedience to the law of God. But with too many of the people obedience was not prompted by love. The motive was selfish. They rendered outward service to God as the means of attaining to national greatness. They did not become the light of the world, but shut themselves away from the world in order to escape temptation to idolatry.2
• The key to balance is found in our statement from The Ministry of Healing. Jesus mingled with others “as one who desired their good.” If our motive for mingling is to help others, we can “stand uncontaminated in any surroundings.”3 But no motive for pleasure or entertainment should carry us into places where unbelievers will have the high ground.
2 “He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence.”
• In this sentence, the real action takes place in the middle phrase. Meeting the needs of others is how we show our sympathy. We can feel pity for a man who is cold and hungry, but until we find him a coat and give him a sandwich, our religion is dead. As James says in his letter,
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:15-17, NIV)
• Of course, meeting the needs of others requires self-denial. We may have to sacrifice some of our time, energy, money, or other resources. But the eternal gains will eclipse any temporal losses. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it,” says Jesus in Matthew 16:25, “but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
• Focusing on somebody else’s needs is one way to discover our spiritual gifts. In fact, that is why the gifts are distributed. No wonder Paul concludes his discussion on spiritual gifts with this quote from Proverbs: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink” (Romans 12:20).
3 “Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”
• Here is the call to salvation. But it is no ordinary calling, for it involves a cross (Matthew 16:24). If so, how necessary to mingle with others, to minister to their daily needs, before expecting them to take up their crosses for Jesus! No other sequence will bring success in reaching souls.
• What does it mean to follow Jesus? Yes, it involves a cross. But self-crucifixion means more than abstaining from acts of evil. Speaking to the rich young ruler, the Savior explains what it truly means to keep the law. From his youth, this ruler never killed a man, never slept with his neighbor’s wife, never shoplifted a candy bar, never falsely accused anyone, never rebelled against his parents. But he was unwilling to make sacrifices for the good of others, for he worshiped his wealth (Matthew 19:16-22).
• Along with “Follow Me,” “Come and see” is another invitation in the first chapter of John. Both of them reveal the power of witnessing in the context of personal relationships.4
• John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:35).
• Because of John’s testimony, two of his disciples begin to follow Jesus (37).
• Jesus invites those two to “come and see” where He is staying, where they fellowship for the rest of the day (39).
• One of those disciples is Andrew. The next thing he does is find his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus (40-42).
• The next day Jesus finds Philip and says, “Follow Me” (43).
• Philip then finds Nathanael, who is skeptical about the news. Philip bids him to “come and see” for himself (45, 46).