2. Walk Authentically with God
Living a genuine Christian life is a prerequisite to having and expressing God’s heart toward lost people. You need to be convinced through fresh, ongoing experiences with Christ, that following him is the best way to live. You must have an unwavering conviction that your friends need what you’ve found in him – then you will be motivated to tell them about his love.
In the Becoming a Contagious Christian book, we talk about developing a contagious Christian character, especially in the areas of authenticity, compassion, and sacrifice. We also talk about the importance of the age-old spiritual disciplines, including prayer, Bible study, solitude, and fasting. These are the nuts and bolts of gaining the heart of God and of developing the spiritual potency needed to truly impact those around you.
Peter Grant, a former pastor and now the president of PreVision Partnership in Atlanta, wrote, “For me, there’s probably nothing more motivating for evangelism than time spent in God’s presence. Out of that comes a compelling desire to share the good news, not only of salvation past, but of salvation present and future as well.”
“Supremely, I believe that the real incentive for witnessing comes from the worship of God,” adds Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism, in his response to my question. Coleman is a man who has modeled God’s heart for lost people for over half a century. “It is the adoring love of Christ,” he went on to observe, “that compels us to declare the glory of his grace.”
In keeping with this, an authentic life of walking with God starts with and flows out of personal spiritual alignment. Notice the progression in Psalm 51, verses 9-12, when King David admits and repents of his sins:
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then, after addressing his own condition before God, David’s very next thought, in verse 13, is to proclaim God’s grace to others:
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Similarly, John 15:5 tells us that if we’ll abide in Christ and let him abide in us, we’ll bear much fruit. The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that simply by gazing into the face of Christ, we become transformed into his likeness. That means that the more time we spend in God’s presence, the more we have something to say and give to others.
In addition, God loves to answer the prayers of his authentic followers for increased evangelistic opportunities. Joe Aldrich, longtime evangelism activist and author of the groundbreaking book, Lifestyle Evangelism, wrote this to me in a letter: “I have had dry spells in my ‘efforts in evangelism.’ On several occasions, I have prayed that the Lord would bring a prepared heart across my path, and sometimes within twenty-four hours that is exactly what happened. That is always a joy and confirmation!”
3. Spend Time in Select Passages of Scripture
Bill Hybels often talks about how he was influenced early in his ministry by the message of Luke 15 – where Jesus, in response to the religious leaders’ calloused attitudes toward spiritual outsiders, told three stories in rapid succession that illustrated how much lost people matter to the Father. Bill’s life and ministry were marked by the lessons of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son – and the heart of God that is revealed through them. This deeply impacted the shape and priorities of the church Bill started, and of thousands of other churches he continues to influence around the world.
I find myself especially motivated when I review John 4 and see how Jesus interacted with the woman at the well. He showed concern for somebody society had written off. He winsomely piqued her curiosity by talking about “spiritual water” in order to start a spiritual conversation. He forthrightly told her that he was the Messiah. Then he allowed her time to go get her friends and bring them back to the well to hear more about his message and mission.
What impresses me most in this passage is how, after spending time with this social outcast, Jesus summed up his experience by telling the disciples, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about…My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:32, 34). In effect he was saying, “I don’t care who this person is, what she has done, or where she stands on the social ladder. I just had a chance to alter the eternity of a human being who matters more to my Father than any of you can imagine – and I eat that up!”
The reason Jesus’ words affect me so much is that I’ve experienced what it feels like to be so caught up in the exhilaration of sharing Christ with another person that I really don’t care about eating or sleeping or any other seemingly trivial physical matters. On the other hand, I’ve known all too often what it’s like to be consumed by daily concerns and distractions and to lose focus on my primary purpose. So when I read Jesus saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me,” my spirit says, “Yes! That’s what I want to experience a lot more of the time.” It raises the value of evangelism in me and warms my heart toward people who need God.
Perhaps other passages will impact you in similar ways: maybe John 3, Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus; or Luke 19, the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus; or Acts 1-2, Peter and the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem; or Acts 8, Philip and the Ethiopian; or Acts 26, Paul boldly taking a stand for the gospel and evangelizing some of the very people who put him on trial for his faith! Or, like me, maybe Luke 16 and the story of the rich man and Lazarus moves you, with its clear warnings about the reality of heaven and hell – and how our eternal destiny is sealed at death. This is a sobering reminder of the importance and urgency of reaching out to tell others now about God’s salvation.
The list of Bible passages could go on and on. What’s important is that you find one or two (or three or four) that make your evangelistic heart beat quickly. Then meditate on them, write them out, post them where you’ll see them often. Teach on them when you have the opportunity. Maybe memorize some of them too, and let God’s vision fill your heart and move you to action.