Listening for God's Voice
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
Once you have become a Christ-follower, one of the most natural things you can do is to tell other people what Christ has done for you. This is how the Christian faith spread in the early days to the farthest reaches of the world. People whom Christ had rescued and helped began to spread the word, the Good News, to others that there is help for them, too.
The Bible often uses the word "witness," that is, someone who is able to testify to what he or she has seen and experienced personally.
If you were a witness in a court of law, you would be asked to describe what you saw, what you experienced. If you tried to tell about what someone else had said about it -- beyond your own personal experience -- you would be told it was hearsay and not admissible.
Why? Because people can hold a wide variety of beliefs -- whether they are true or not. But what has happened to them personally, their story, that is something about which they are "expert witnesses."
When you met Christ and he rescued you, your life began to change, perhaps radically. Your story, your testimony, of what things were like with you before, what happened to you when you found Christ, and what has been different since then -- that will often interest people. They won't argue with your story. You are the expert on your own life. Often they'll listen.
We will come back to your witness or your personal testimony in a moment.
The Great Commission
One of the last instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples is known as "The Great Commission" -- our marching orders.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
Jesus also gave his disciples this promise:
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
Since they had seen Jesus in action personally and had heard his teachings with their own ears, they were credible "witnesses" to their world and beyond.
Mapping Your World
What is your world? Who are the people whom God has put around you to love, to pray for, and perhaps to be a witness before?
|Work or school associates||
|Neighborhood or store personnel||
|Recreation, clubs, teams||
Why don't you take a few minutes to fill in two or three names of people whom you know in each category -- especially people who you would guess aren't committed Christians at this point in their lives.
This is not a "hit list" but rather a "love list" -- a list of people with whom you have some influence. This list will remind you to:
- Pray for them. God will hear your prayers for them and work in their lives. If you love them enough to pray for them, they'll know you love them when you talk with them about Jesus.
- Introduce them to your Christian friends.
- Invite them to your baptism, if that is coming up. Having them witness your commitment to Christ can be a powerful way to introduce them to God at work.
- Look for opportunities to share your witness. Because you are praying, the Holy Spirit will be working in their lives. Sometimes these opportunities come in the form of an extended conversation. Often they come when your friend mentions problems that are going on in his or her life. Remember, however, God hasn't put you there to fix your friend's problems, but to be a loving listener.
Possible outcomes of listening to a friend's problems and needs could be:
- Share how God has helped you when you have been in trouble, and plant the thought that God can help them, too.
- Offer to pray for them. If your friend knows you care enough to pray -- and that you have a spiritual side that believes in prayer -- he or she may open up even more. But don't forget the power of prayer. As you pray, God will answer your prayer for your friend.
Ask: "Is it okay if I pray for you?" If that is okay with your friend -- and you feel comfortable with this -- bow your head and speak out your prayer for your friend. If that doesn't seem the thing to do, pray for your friend during the week. Then, next time you see your friend, say, "How are things going since we talked? I have been praying for you." God may surprise you!
Prepare Your Testimony
When God gives you an opportunity to share what Jesus has done for you, it is very helpful if you have thought ahead of time what to say. That way your testimony can be more clearly communicated. Here is the typical structure of an effective testimony:
- This is what my life was like before I met Jesus. Share how you used to be and problems you were experiencing. Often the person you are talking to will begin to identify with some of these same problems.
- This is how I met Jesus. These are the circumstances. This is how I came to the place of saying "yes" to him. Explain what happened.
- These are the differences in my life since I met Jesus. Do not be afraid to admit that God is still working on you and you are not perfect. But share some of the clear changes you have seen so far.
You will find it very helpful to write down your testimony -- using this outline -- on one or two sides of a page. Yes, it is work, but it will help clarify things for you.
Your testimony shouldn't be phony or contrived. You don't want to memorize it. But you will find it helps to write it down and practice saying it to someone. That way, when it comes time to tell someone "for real," you will be much more comfortable in doing so. Being able to share it in just three minutes is a good goal to aim for. That will help you cut it down to the important elements. You can always elaborate, if you need to in a particular witnessing situation.
You may find that when you share your testimony "live" to a non-Christian friend, it comes out differently than you had planned. That is okay! It is probably the Holy Spirit working to fine-tune your testimony to speak to this particular friend's needs.
The Holy Spirit and Witnessing
The Holy Spirit is your internal guide in witnessing, too. God can "speak" to you through the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will put a very strong impression on your mind that you should speak to a certain person. Go ahead. Follow through with this. Many times you'll find that the Holy Spirit has been preparing them and that they're ready to hear your testimony of what Jesus has done for you.
Think of yourself as the junior member of a team. The Holy Spirit is the lead player who sets up the shots. But sometimes he'll pass the ball to you. Be ready for this.
Testimony and the Gospel
There is an important difference between sharing your testimony with a person and sharing the Gospel or Good News with him or her. These are complementary, but different.
- Your testimony is what Christ has done for you.
- The Gospel is explaining what Christ has done for the person to whom you are witnessing.
At this point you are learning to share your testimony, which prepares people to hear more. Ask your mentor or pastor to help you to learn to share the Good News itself. There are many simple ways to share it -- the "Bridge," the "Four Spiritual Laws," the "Roman Road," to name a few. But for the moment, learn to share your testimony.
- Be careful about associating with old friends who will influence you to go back to your old, sinful lifestyle. It is okay to talk with them about Christ. That's good! But remember that you have an enemy who wants to tempt you to sin. Be careful.
- Avoid "missionary dating." Sometimes a Christian guy feels "called" to date a beautiful girl "so he can witness to her" -- or vice versa. Because we are sexual beings, too often our Christian love gets mixed up with other desires, and the clarity of our testimony is lost. Be wise.
- Be sensitive to people. Because your values have changed relative to those of your friends, you will probably seem a little weird to them. That is understandable. But remember to love. Don't be pushy, rude, impatient, or judgmental. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit who brings people to God; it is not all up to you. Love is primary here, not "success."
- Don't be afraid of not knowing all the answers. No one expects you to. Just say, "I'll find out about that and then get back to you." Then ask your mentor or pastor to help you answer the question.
- Don't be ashamed. Sometimes we are very aware that people may look down on us as Christians. That is to be expected. Some looked down on Jesus and persecuted him, too. But that did not stop him from his mission. St. Paul says:
"So don't be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God." (2 Timothy 1:8)
The Centrality of Love
The central core of Christianity is love -- unselfish, giving, forgiving love. That needs to be our central motivation when we witness to people. I say that because it is easy to fall into wrong motivations.
One of those motivations is pride. "Look at how great I am! I helped a person to Christ!" It truly is exciting when God uses you this way, but be sure to give the true credit and glory to God.
Another motivation can be doctrine. I have heard street preachers whose main message is how people are going to hell. That is true. But most hell-fire and brimstone preachers seem to have too much self-righteousness and judgmentalism, but too little love.
The people who hear us share about Christ need to be able to sense our love for them. If they can't sense our love, then we need to pray until we can love as Christ wants us to.
The Testimony of Our Lives
The most powerful testimony you have is Christ working in your life to make you into a new person. Jesus said:
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)
Printed books, e-books, and a DVD set are available
When your friends see your life changing, they'll be amazed and curious -- and probably a bit threatened. This is kind of a three-step process.
- Your lifestyle is undergoing visible transformation. It speaks for itself.
- Your words point to Christ, so people can understand the reason for the transformation. Unless you explain that this is Christ working in you, people will probably assume that you have "got religion" -- and miss the power of what is happened. Your explanation is your powerful testimony that points directly to Christ.
- Your love demonstrates Christ's love for the people you are witnessing to.
Don't wait until you are perfect before sharing your testimony with those around you. People don't expect perfection -- really. But when they see humility, love, and sincerity they'll be attracted to you -- and to your Savior.
Father, I pray that you will use me to help other people find you. Help my life to bring glory to you. When I am fearful of what other people might think, give me strength. Help me to share my testimony of your working in my life with whomever you inspire me to share. Let me be your witness. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16, NIV)
Questions and Discussion Points
- Read aloud five times today's memory verse (Matthew 5:16) and write it on a card.
- Discuss. What is the difference between sharing your own personal testimony and sharing the Gospel?
- Discuss. Why do you think a person will be interested in how you became a Christian? What is the power in a person's testimony?
- Who is in your world? Discuss with your mentor the people God has placed in your world in the following categories:
- Work or school associates
- Neighborhood or store employees
- Recreation, clubs, and teams
- Pray for each of these names with your mentor. Ask God to open their hearts. Ask God to give you an opportunity to talk with each of them.
- Outline your testimony in these three points.
- Before I became a Christian
- How I became a Christian
- Since I became a Christian
- Assignment. This week go home and write out youimony. Then practice saying it in about three minutes. The next week share it with your mentor.
- Discuss the dangers with associating with old friends, "missionary dating," lack of love, and being ashamed.
- Discuss. Why is love so important in your witnessing?
- Discuss. Isn't just living your life all you need to do? Is sharing a verbal testimony really necessary? Why or why not?
- Review your memory verses from Lesson 1 (Ephesians 2:8-9), Lesson 2 (John 8:31-32), Lesson 3 (1 John 1:9), Lesson 4 (John 13:34-35), Lesson 5 (1 John 4:7-8), and Lesson 6 (John 3:16), and Lesson 7 (John 14:16-17). Try to say them together with your mentor without looking at your cards.
- Pray for each other. Share with your mentor your needs to pray about and ask your mentor how you should pray for him or her. Then spend a few minutes praying for each other aloud.
- Appointment. Set a time and place to meet and go through next week's lesson.
Which of them do you think might need Christ the most?
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format.
- Listening for God's Voice
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Abraham, Faith of
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- David, Life of
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ