When I was 19 years old, I began speaking to small gatherings on street corners, in jails, and in nursing homes. I was somewhat afraid when I stood up before a group, and I was petrified at the thought of leading an individual to Christ. I was familiar with biblical truth and I was assured of my own salvation, so I don’t know why I was afraid.
As it turned out, I discovered that my worries were needless. The first time I helped lead someone to Christ, I had no difficulty. I started where the man was in his own thinking and helped him place his trust in Jesus Christ. In his case, I didn’t need to show him that he was a sinner. He knew that full well, and he wanted to be forgiven and changed by God. That made my task easy. The fact of the matter is that he probably could have found peace with God without my being there to help him.
Knowing The Basics. If you want to have the joy of leading a person to faith in Christ, you need to know a few basic truths—and you need to know them well. These truths can be stated in different ways, but they boil down to the following four points:
- Every person is by nature a sinner who stands guilty and condemned before God.
- Every person is helpless to save himself by his own effort.
- In love, God provided salvation for sinners through Jesus Christ, who became a member of the human family, lived sinlessly, and then died on the cross to pay for our sins.
- Salvation is an individual matter and requires a personal response on the part of anyone who wants to be saved. Because God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice by raising Him from death, all who acknowledge their sin and place their trust in Christ are adopted as God’s children.
You will find that the Bible verses supporting these points are built into the greatly used witnessing tracts that are reproduced on pages 30 and 31. Before you use these tracts, or any other, make sure you know the basics so well that you can be flexible when you deal with individuals.
Being Flexible In Your Approach. If the person you are trying to help is convinced that he is a sinner, admits that he can’t do anything to save himself, and wants to be forgiven and changed, you can omit those points. You should begin by showing him what God has provided for sinners and how He saves by grace through faith alone. On the other hand, if the person balks at admitting that he is guilty and condemned and absolutely helpless, you can’t go on to tell about God’s provision or the glory of salvation by grace alone. If you meet somebody who refuses to accept the idea that all are lost and that Jesus is the only way to God, you will accomplish nothing by using a “packaged” salvation plan.
Obviously, you can’t follow exactly the same approach with all people. Paul didn’t use the same procedure with the jailer (Acts 16:27-34) as Philip did with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39).
Furthermore, you must be prepared for the fact that some people won’t believe on Jesus Christ no matter what you say. Felix, Drusilla, Agrippa, and Festus heard Paul passionately present the truth, but all of them refused to believe (Acts 24–26). When you encounter this kind of determined unbelief, don’t be needlessly offensive. Be courteous and pray that God will continue to work in their hearts.
If people insist that they are willing to stand before God on their own merit, say something like this: “Tom Paine said the same thing. He said he wanted justice, not mercy.” Then you could say, “But I’ll admit that I don’t want justice. I have fallen far short of loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And I don’t always love my neighbor as myself. If I had to stand in my own goodness and receive justice, I would be sentenced to hell. I’m thankful for God’s mercy in Christ. I hope you will be too someday.”