With all the hustle and bustle during November and December, it’s easy for the gospel to get lost in the shuffle. But the Great Commission never takes a vacation, and the holiday season provides some unique opportunities for sharing the gospel that we don’t always have during the rest of the year.
If your family does the “let’s go around the table and say what we’re thankful for” thing at Thanksgiving, briefly express your thanks to Christ for His death, burial, and resurrection, and for saving you.
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, place a slip of paper with a Bible verse on it about giving thanks at each place setting . Go around the table and let each person read his verse before the meal. Here are a few to get you started, or if you like it artsy, try these. If you’d like some gospel-centered place cards for a Christmas dinner or party, check these out.
Invite an unchurched friend to church with you. Lots of people are more open to dropping in on a worship service or attending a special church event (like a Christmas cantata or nativity play) during the holidays than they are the rest of the year.
Get a group from church together and go Christmas caroling. Choose songs whose lyrics showcase the gospel (Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and O Holy Night are good ones!) Take some tracts, Bibles, or small gift baskets (containing tracts or Bibles) with you to leave at each home (and don’t forget to invite them to church!).
Contact your local college campus ministry and find out how to invite an international student to spend the holidays with your family. International students can be curious about the way Americans celebrate the holidays. Additionally, dorms often close during school breaks leaving students far from home with no place to stay. Take advantage of the time with your student to take him to church with you and share the gospel with him.
Chat with your neighbors, even if you don’t know them well. Shoveling snow together? Exchanging baked goodies? Slow down and take the time to talk (and really listen) with your neighbors. It is amazing how people often open up if someone just takes the time to listen to them. Ask how you can pray for them, and, if the situation is conducive, do it right then. You might even find it turning into a witnessing encounter.
Tuck in a tract (see #8) with your Christmas cards. Or, do you send out an annual Christmas newsletter? This year, instead of making it about your family’s accomplishments, how about focusing on what God accomplished through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ? That’s the most important news your family could share.
For a while now, I have been wanting to add a permanent tab to the blue menu bar at the top of the blog that clearly lays out the gospel in both text and video format. Well I’ve finally gotten a chance to add it, and I would encourage you to share it around on your social media pages as often as you can to help get the gospel out to the lost. Below is a copy of what you’ll find at the new “What Must I Do to Be Saved?” tab in the blue menu bar at the top of the blog.
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved… Acts 16:30b-31a
Are you like the Philippian jailer? Maybe you’ve never set foot in a church, but you’ve heard Christians talking about Jesus, and you’re wondering what it’s all about.
Or maybe you’ve been a decades-long member of an organization that calls itself a church but you’ve never heard the true, biblical gospel before.
Maybe you always thought you were a Christian, but lately, you’re not so sure.
Whatever your back story, you’ve come to the right place.
There’s good news and there’s bad news, but the bad news has to come first:
but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Romans 2:8
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.Revelation 20:15
♦ You can’t escape Hell by being a good person, having a good heart, or any other effort on your part.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.Isaiah 64:6a
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,Titus 3:5
But the good news is…
♦ Salvation (being forgiven for your sin so you can be in good standing with God) is a result of God’s mercy and grace, not something you can earn. It is a gift.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
♦ The gift God offers you is that, on the cross, Christ took the punishment you deserve for your sin. He will take away your sin and give you His perfect standing before God in exchange.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, 1 Peter 3:18a
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Romans 3:23-25a
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
♦ The way you receive that gift and have Christ’s righteousness “credited to your account” is to repent from (have the heart desire to turn away from and ask God’s forgiveness for) your sin and trust that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin.
[Jesus said] “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”Mark 1:15
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, Acts 3:19
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,Ephesians 1:13
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.Romans 10:9
This is the gospel. Turn from your sin and trying to earn favor with God by your so-called good behavior and throw yourself on the mercy of God, trusting Christ’s finished work on the cross to forgive your sin and make you righteous in God’s eyes.
That’s what salvation – or becoming a Christian – is. Adding anything to the gospel or taking anything away from it is not salvation or biblical Christianity. It is a false gospel. Believing a false gospel will not forgive your sin, make you right with God, or take you to Heaven when you die. Unfortunately, many people believe a false gospel and there are many people who claim to be Christians, pastors, and Bible teachers who teach a false gospel.
What are some of those false gospels?
If you’re basically a good person, or your good deeds outweigh the bad, you’re OK with God, and you’ll go to Heaven when you die.
If you’ve been baptized at any point in your life and for any reason, you’re saved.
If you go to church regularly, you’re a Christian.
If you participate in communion or the Lord’s Supper, you’re a Christian.
The reason we come to Jesus is to have a better, more comfortable, or more successful life.
The reason we come to Jesus is to get healed from a medical condition, because He will make us wealthy, or because He will do cool supernatural signs and wonders in our lives.
Simply saying you’re a Christian, or believing that you are a Christian, makes you one.
If you were born in America and you’re not Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or some other religion, you’re a Christian.
If you believe in God, you’re a Christian.
If you give mental assent to the facts about Jesus (without repenting and trusting Him), you’re saved.
If, at some point in your life you repeated the words of a “sinner’s prayer,” “accepted Jesus,” or “asked Jesus into your heart,” (even if you didn’t know what you were doing, and without true repentance and faith) you’ve been born again.
You can become a Christian without repenting from your sin.
You can believe in a “Jesus” of your own making, rather the one described in Scripture, and still be a Christian.
Are you a Christian? Have you ever felt the weight of your guilt before God and asked Him to cleanse you and make you right with Him? Do you believe and embrace that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection satisfied God’s wrath against you for your sin?
The Bible says we should examine ourselves to discover whether or not we are truly in the faith. Take some quiet, undistracted time alone with God today and search your heart. What do you really believe? Is it the true gospel of Scripture, or something else? Don’t put it off, it’s too important. If you need some help, try working through my study Am I Really Saved? A 1 John Check-Up.
If you find that you’re not in Christ, talk to Him. Confess your sin and your need for Him to save you. Ask His forgiveness and declare your trust in Him.
Don’t wonder and guess any more about where you stand with God. Know.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
“…half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, ‘the Great Commission’ does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term ‘the Great Commission’ before.”
Now, if you know anything about statistics, you know how important it is to structure your questions carefully and get a representative sampling of the population you’re surveying in order to get the most accurate results. What does “churchgoer” mean? Is it possible people have never heard the term “The Great Commission” simply because churches don’t use this particular phrase any more? It’s important to take things like this into consideration because it affects the results of the survey. (You can find out more about Barna’s structuring process for this study at the end of the article linked above.) But even if the numbers of the Barna survey aren’t exact, I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people out there in churchland who aren’t familiar with The Great Commission.
Just for fun, let’s see what the results would be if we surveyed readers of my blog:
The Great Commission refers to some of Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension and is cited from Matthew 28:18-20:
And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
With these words Jesus commissioned the eleven remaining disciples to go out into the world and carry on His mission. Since every Christian is a disciple, or follower, of Christ, this is our commission from Him as well. Let’s examine what it says.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Before commissioning his disciples, Jesus reminds them that everything He’s about to say is founded on and imbued with His authority. Jesus alone has the divine authority to establish the church and to dictate the way in which His church is to be set up and to grow.
We 21st century Christians would do well to keep forefront in our minds and hearts the authority of Christ over His church.There is no need for churches to “cast vision” or come up with mission statements. Christ is the head of the church and has already given us His vision for it. The Great Commission is His mission statement for the church.
Go therefore “Therefore” in this little phrase refers back to what Christ has just said about His authority. In other words, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, I am telling you to go.
“Go” is a very generic verb in English. We can “go” into the kitchen or we can “go” to the moon or we can “go” out and conquer the world. We can “go” anywhere from our own personal microcosm to the edges of the known universe. And that is the same sense the Greek word πορεύω captures: as you “go your way,” as you “go forth,” as you “walk”, as you “pursue the journey on which [you have] entered.” Wherever life takes us, whether it’s across the street or across the world, we go as ambassadors of Christ, carrying the good news of the gospel with us.
All nations Revelation 7:9 tells us that God will save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” So that’s who we share the gospel with as we go our way. Everybody. Regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, or how they talk. We are not to withhold the gospel from anyone, and we’re to make sure the church is proactively carrying the gospel to every populated geographical location on earth.
Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you Notice the language Jesus uses here. He doesn’t say “make converts” or “make Christians”. He says “make disciples.”
Think about what the disciples did while Jesus was on earth. First, they answered His call to follow Him. Then, they began the journey of following Him wherever He went. He trained and equipped them day and night. They loved Him and worshiped Him. They imitated the things He did and said. They carried on His work after He ascended. Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, “Replicate yourselves. Make more like you.”
That means that the Great Commission starts with sharing the gospel with a lost person, but it doesn’t end there. There’s more to our mission than just evangelism. We are to train and equip Christians to follow Jesus daily, to love and worship Him, to imitate Him in obedience, and to carry on His work.
Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.
Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.
💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.
💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.
💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. What a sweet promise, both to the disciples and to us today. Obediently following Christ in our daily lives, sharing the gospel, and making disciples can be lonely, exhausting, and discouraging at times. But we don’t have to do it alone, and we don’t have to do it in the flesh. Christ is with us and He knows all too well how hard it can be. God has given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower Believers to live for Him and to carry out The Great Commission.
A dark, hazy room, colored lights flashing, filled with people swaying to chart-topping music, their drink of choice in hand, just there to have a good time with friends.
Is it a club? A concert? A party?
With our coffee bars, cutting edge music from the latest and greatest Christian bands, and come hither atmosphere of smoke machines, light shows, and fun, fun, fun, sometimes it’s hard to tell.
And just as we import worldliness into the church, we’re exporting worldly Christians to our local communities. “Christians” who lie, cheat, carouse, defy authority, use profanity, angrily explode, and are sexually immoral. It’s getting more and more difficult to distinguish God’s people from worldlings, and the worldlings are growing disillusioned. Not just with us, but with God.
“What’s the point of believing in a God who produces people who look exactly like I do?” the world wonders. “What kind of impotent God is this, anyway?”
God gets that. He has gotten that from time immemorial.
He is different. He is other. He is in a class by Himself.
And as His people, we’re supposed to reflect that otherly set apart-ness by being otherly and set apart ourselves.
God didn’t command His people not to wear garments of mixed fibers because He was trying to support the Egyptian cotton market, and He didn’t forbid His people to eat crustaceans to ruin date night at the Red Lobster. He wanted His people to be unique among the pagan nations as He was unique among the pagan gods. He wanted those pagan people to point their fingers at the Israelites and say, “Those people are different, and I want to know why.”
As God’s people living among pagans today, we have the same unique opportunity to point them to the one, true God. How? By unhitching from the Old Testament, as some would have us believe? No. I tell you, we need to look back to our forefathers in the faith and take a page out of their Book. Not by wearing dietary laws on our sleeves of 100% cotton, because we’re not Jews. But by simply obeying God’s commands to His people today.
It ain’t rocket surgery, folks. We don’t need to take surveys to find out what pagan people want. We don’t need gimmicks and tricks. We don’t need to scour Christian industry catalogs hoping against hope that we can find some thing to order that will attract lost people to Jesus.
The most jaw-dropping, astounding, attention-grabbing thing in this world is simple Christians living in simple obedience to God’s simple commands. Isn’t it amazing that something so simple is simply amazing to the world?
Want to be wonderfully, wildly weird to the world so they’ll wonder why? Try these six things.
1. Submit to your husband
There’s nothing more “against the grain” right now than God’s design for marriage. Feminists have brainwashed many women (and men) into thinking there’s a better way, but we have only to look back across the last several decades to see a landscape littered with unhappy marriages, divorce, abuse, abortion, cohabitation, and single parenting (or…you know…we could look in our Bibles) to know that’s not true.
Ephesians 5:22-33 explains that obeying God’s instructions for being godly wives and husbands isn’t just good for our marriage and home life. It’s a picture of Christ and His church that we get to act out before a watching world.
So when your friend from work catches a glimpse of your “backwards” marriage that seems to be working a lot better than hers and asks you about it, walk through that open door, talk to her, listen to her, and introduce her to the Bridegroom who came to redeem His bride.
2. Discipline your children
Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t compliment me or my husband on how well-behaved our children are. I’m always appreciative of their kindness, and God has truly blessed us with wonderful children, but there’s nothing exceptional about them in the behavioral department, and there’s nothing exceptional about us as parents. My kids are normal. When I was a kid, the majority of kids acted the way my kids act – respectful and obedient – because the majority of parents raised and disciplined their children.
Now, it’s practically an aberration to encounter normal, well-behaved children (even in church – Christian parents, I’m looking at you.). Yes, everybody’s kid acts up from time to time. Yes, some children are naturally more stubborn than others. I know all the “but’s” and exceptions. But if you obediently bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they’re going to be reasonably well-behaved most of the time, and you’re going to have people stop you at the store, the library, their school, and marvel about it. What are you doing as a parent that makes your kid different? And that’s when you get to tell them about your heavenly Father and His one and only Son.
3. Be kind
It seems like everyone you run into these days is hurting. Even the people who mistreat you in a rude, angry way are probably acting that way because they’re hurting inside. They don’t know how to handle it, they have no peace, and they’re without hope. All because they’re without Christ.
I used to watch the TV show Undercover Bossfairly regularly. The head of a major company dons a disguise and goes to work among his employees to see how his company is really running and what he can do to improve it. In every episode, the boss gets to know good employees who are going through a difficult time – his mother is dying, her child is sick, he can’t afford a car, she’s trying to work her way through school. And at the end of every episode, the boss reveals himself to the employees and gives each of them thousands of dollars to help with their problems. And at the end of every episode, the employees (and I) are in tears. Yes, the money was helpful and a relief to these folks, but I could see in most of their eyes that it wasn’t just about the money. They were overcome that someone actually cared enough about them to be kind to them.
We live in a cruel, heartless, impatient, unforgiving world. When you take a moment to speak a kind word to someone, provide for a person who’s in need, help a total stranger, offer cheerful encouragement, just to take a moment to obey Scripture’s admonition to care for someone, it knocks people completely off guard. “Why? Why would you be so kind to me?” a young lady once tearfully asked me after I had done a very small thing for her. It was such a joy to wrap my arms around her and explain, “Because Jesus has been so kind to me.”
4. Turn the other cheek
If someone steals “your” parking place and you stomp over to her and bless her out, is that going to open a door for you to share the gospel with her? Would she even listen to you if you tried?
In the same way that hurt people expect others to hurt them, people who lash out in anger or do something they know is unfair or unkind expect an angry response from others.
Don’t give it to them. Just don’t. You don’t have to, if you’re a Believer. You have the Fruit of the Spirit of self control.
Obey Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, and watch as a gentle answer turns away wrath, and, hopefully, leads to a conversation about the Prince of Peace.
5. Say, “I was wrong.”
The heaviest artillery in a lost person’s arsenal is to accuse or prove someone of being wrong. The reason that even exists as a weapon is because everyone’s natural instinct is to dig our heels in, make excuses, and insist we were actually right.
It can be almost comical to watch someone process from self-righteous victory to “What just happened here?” confusion when you unabashedly admit you were wrong, graciously apologize, and offer to make things right. And, of course, if you realize you were wrong about something before anyone else does, you don’t have to wait to be confronted. You can march in and throw yourself on the “I was wrong,” grenade before anybody realizes what’s going on.
It’s hard to admit we were wrong about something, because, even as Christians, we struggle with pride. Pride is all lost people have to hold on to, so it doesn’t compute when Christians willingly lay down their pride and take up humility by admitting and apologizing for wrongdoing. “It took guts to own up to that,” your neighbor thinks, “I wonder what motivated her to do that?”. Because, dear friend, I have a Savior who, in humility, laid everything down for me. How could I not lay down something so small in obedience to Him?
What is a worldly person’s response when someone wrongs her? Anger. Bitterness. A grudge as high and long and thick as a brick wall. “I will never forgive you!” screamed as she slams out the door and out of that person’s life forever.
The kind of response Christ has every right to extend to us for our sin…but chooses not to.
Think back to when Christ saved you. Do you remember how heavy your sin was and how hopeless you felt? And then, that glorious moment that took your breath away when, for no other reason but grace and mercy, He cleansed you of all your rebellion and wrongdoing and pronounced you forgiven?
When we forgive someone who has sinned against us, we have the honor of pulling back the veil and giving a sinner a peek at the forgiveness Christ offers. It might be the kind of forgiveness He asked for the unrepentant who were crucifying Him. Or it might be the forgiveness He extended to a repentant woman whose sins were many.
“Why would you forgive me? I would never forgive someone who hurt me like that.” It’s the perfect moment to tell her about the One we have all sinned against, who delights to extend forgiveness to each of us.
The people around us, watching us every day, need Jesus. As His servants and ambassadors, we have the privilege, the honor, and the responsibility to represent Him well to them by simply obeying His Word. The world doesn’t need “Christians” who look just like them. The world needs Christians who look just like Jesus.
Sometimes a witnessing encounter can leave us discouraged. We’ve experienced the unfathomable joy and peace of being set free from our sin, becoming new creatures in Christ, and resting assured of our eternity with Him, and all we want to do is share with others how they can have all of those riches, too! Occasionally, the fruit is ripe unto harvest, and the person we’re sharing the gospel with repents and trusts Christ as Savior on the spot. But more often than not, the person rejects the gospel, maybe even lambasting us in the process.
It’s no fun to be called names or insulted for the cause of Christ, but we can get used to that knowing what the Bible says about persecution and understanding that it’s to be expected from unbelievers. But how difficult it is to watch people walk away from Christ knowing the futility they’ll continue to live in and the eternity that awaits them.
If you base your success or encouragement in evangelism on whether or not someone immediately trusts Christ, you’ll spend a lot of time discouraged and thinking you’re a failure at sharing the gospel. Here are a few reminders to keep our focus in the right place and our evangelism mindset biblical so we can remain encouraged:
☙God loves and cares for that person infinitely more than you do, and He’s concerned about that person’s lostness far more than you could ever hope to be.
☙Acts 2:41 is the exception, not the rule. The apostles and other New Testament Christians were often severely persecuted and ridiculed for sharing the gospel. Even Jesus’ own “witnessing encounters” didn’t always result in someone immediately getting saved.
☙Jesus said the “gate [to eternal life] is narrow” and “those who find it are few” (emphasis mine). We should not be surprised when many reject Christ.
☙The outcome of a witnessing encounter is on the Holy Spirit, not you. You cannot convince, nag, or argue someone into genuine saving faith (and you shouldn’t try because it’ll probably produce a false convert). Only the Holy Spirit can do that work on a person’s heart in His own timing.
☙Your job is to present the gospel. If you’ve done that, you’ve successfully been faithful to what God has called you to do. What God chooses to do with your gospel presentation is up to Him, and you must trust Him to handle it.
☙You don’t know how God is working in that person’s heart. Just because he doesn’t trust Christ immediately doesn’t mean God won’t use the gospel you’ve presented to save him tomorrow or next year or in fifty years.
☙God’s word never returns to Him void. It always accomplishes the purpose for which HE sent it. Our purpose is always to see people saved, but God’s purpose for His Word in that moment might be to distinguish wheat from tare, or to allow the person to harden his heart. It is never a waste of time or a failed effort to faithfully proclaim God’s word.
Don’t base your encouragement or success in evangelism on the immediate results, but on whether or not you’ve been faithful to obey God by sharing the gospel.
What are some passages of Scripture or words of wisdom from godly friends that have helped you stay encouraged as you share the gospel with others?