Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Evangelism 101

The greatest evangelists have always been those who have had a life-altering experience with Jesus. Such is the case of a man with leprosy that Luke tells us about in Luke 5. The physician-author Luke relates that Jesus was in a “certain city” when a men with leprosy approaches Him. Having heard about Jesus’ ministry, the man is hopeful that Christ will be able to heal him of his infirmity.

Now, we have to understand just how bad it was for a person to have leprosy. We’ve probably caught a little sense of it in the past, but if a person were to have leprosy, they were essentially considered to be dead. They lived off by themselves without social interaction—the very substance of life—and any time they even wanted to approach someone else, they had to yell out “Unclean! Unclean!” Talk about a job to someone’s psyche!

And yet, here comes this man—unnamed—with his eyes firmly planted on Jesus. He has one thing and one thing only on his mind. He wants to be cleansed. So he asks Jesus to do just that and says to Him, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Luke 5:12). Notice, first of all, that he calls Him “Lord,” and that he is not demanding. He says, “If you are willing.” Then, also notice he does not say that he needs to be healed or that he wants his leprosy to go away. He wants to be “cleansed.” This is because a person with leprosy was not simply someone who was sick, but they were ritually “unclean” and accursed of God. So he wants his sins taken away! He wants complete cleansing.

Of course, Jesus is “willing” and heals the man. But then He does something strange—which He often did at the beginning of His ministry. He tells the man to simply go and present his offering to the Lord at the temple, and to “tell no one” else.

Easier said than done, however! The man cannot contain himself. He cannot keep silent. He has to tell everyone he sees on the way to the temple! He was once lost, but now has been found. And in an almost-literal sense he was dead, but now is alive. And men who are alive like to talk and tell and proclaim! Such a great evangelist is this recovering leper that “great multitudes” came to hear and be healed by Christ—so much so that Christ had to withdraw from the people!

So here’s the question: have you been “healed” by the Lord? Some of us may get discouraged because we don’t witness enough; we are too bashful to tell people about our Savior; we don’t want to step on peoples’ toes. If this is the case, it is not a matter of trying harder or honing our witnessing skills. It’s about being healed and cleansed by Christ.

Perhaps we have never had such a dramatic and life-changing experience like this leper had. Perhaps we do not feel as though our story is all that “miraculous.” But here’s a place we can start: have you seen a literal birth lately? I have! Is it not a miracle of miracles that you were brought forth from your mother’s womb? We owe our very lives to Christ.

More than that, have you experienced a new birth lately? All of us are invited to be born afresh every day—to have a life-changing experience with Christ every morning. No, every moment. So if our Christian experience is dry, lifeless, uninspiring, we need to recognize anew that we are constantly being upheld by the miracle of God’s grace. Every loaf of bread we eat is because of God’s grace. Every dollar we earn is because of our Lord’s love.

And, once fully realized, we won’t be able to help but tell others of God’s goodness—and we, too, can be unstoppable evangelists for Christ.

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