Depend On God’s Word
“I will forget the Lord and no longer speak in his name,” said the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. In a time of discouragement he poured out his heart to God in complaint, “Everyone makes fun of me . . . Lord, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message.”
But something happened to Jeremiah. God’s message burned like fire inside him! He said, “I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back” (Jeremiah 20:7-9). He experienced the quickening power of God’s Word. Then he could say, “My message is like a fire and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29).
In your work of sharing the Good News, remember that God’s Word is like a fire. Fire burns up things; God’s Word convicts of sin and destroys evil. Fire radiates warmth. God’s Word is truth; it warms the heart. God’s Word is also like a hammer. A hammer crushes. Have you seen workmen with sledgehammers pounding large rocks into small pieces? God’s Word, like a hammer, has power to break down hard hearts. But remember that His Word is the hammer—not you! Learn to depend on God’s Word.
GOD’S WORD IS YOUR AUTHORITY FOR SOULWINNING
Objective 1. Support in your own words the statement that God’s Word is your authority in soulwinning.
Of its writers the Bible says, “No prophetic message ever came just from the will of man, but men were under the control of the Holy Spirit as they spoke the message that came from God” (2 Peter 1:21). Of course, their styles of writing often differed one from the other. Isaiah the prophet wrote in grand poetic style; Mark the evangelist wrote in a direct, vigorous manner. But the overall theme of the Bible, despite its many authors, flows together in unity. “All Scripture,” the apostle Paul wrote, “is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Since the Scriptures are God-breathed, their authority stands at the highest level. No higher authority exists in the world. The psalmist said of the Lord, “You have shown that your name and your commands are supreme” (Psalm 138:2).
Some people are asking questions such as, What right have you to convert a person from one faith to another? Or, Upon what authority do you evangelize? Many governments are opposed to evangelism. What, then, is the answer?
Perhaps we can use this illustration. If you were driving a car and came to a red light, you would know that you were supposed to stop. If, however, a policeman stood in the intersection directing traffic and he told you to go ahead in spite of what the light said, you would do it. You would regard the higher authority.
When Jesus was here on earth He spent hours teaching. We read that “the people who heard him were amazed at the way he taught, for he wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority” (Mark 1:22).
The right to persuade people to turn to Christ in repentance and faith springs from the teachings of God’s Word. The Bible is our indisputable authority to evangelize. We are told to spread the Good News of salvation. Paul wrote, “I solemnly urge you to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it . . . to convince, to reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
Not only does the Bible give us authority to proclaim its message, but the Bible is the authority for it is the revelation of God Himself. For that reason it stands unique, superior to all other religious books. The Bible records the Good News of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the “message of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the blessings God has for His people” (Acts 20:32).
The whole message of Scripture may be summarized by these words, “God gave the Law through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The Old Testament reveals the righteous law of God. The New Testament fulfills the Law, radiating grace and truth through Jesus Christ.
The laws God gave are based upon ten major laws that we call the Ten Commandments and these commandments have influenced the basic laws of many countries for centuries. The purpose of the Law is to make people realize what “wrongdoing” is (Galatians 3:19). It reveals sin, man’s failure, and the penalty for sin.
Grace, which came through Jesus Christ, presents the solution to the sin question. It is the person and work of Jesus. He stands foremost in history as the world’s only Savior. “Out of the fullness of his grace he has blessed us all, giving us one blessing after another” (John 1:16).
When you evangelize you are communicating both bad news and Good News. The bad news relates to the Law: every person has failed in some point to keep God’s righteous and just Law. A terrible punishment awaits all who have sinned against God. The Good News relates to salvation in Christ who bore the full penalty of the Law in our stead. We can be saved by God’s mercy, love, and grace which are in His Son, Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-5). Evangelizing by preaching, teaching, and telling the Good News helps people to “know the truth” and the truth will set them free (John 8:32). The truth has a ring of authority about it!
GOD’S WORD POSSESSES GREAT POWER
Objective 2. List five ways God’s Word functions in soulwinning.
The Word Reveals Sin
Years ago a man in mainland China was reading aloud the first chapter of Romans. A group of men sat in a circle listening attentively, nodding their heads in agreement. Then they began to lower their heads in shame as he continued and read, “They gossip and speak evil one of another; they are hateful to God, insolent, proud, and boastful; they think of more ways to do evil…” (Romans 1:29-30). Obviously these men were convicted by God’s Word, but if they had read further they would have come to these words, “But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free” (Romans 3:24).
The story shows clearly why the devil does not want people to hear God’s Word. When one is truly convicted of his sin, he will look for a solution—and God’s Word has that too.
The Word Penetrates the Heart
The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of man’s heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Ephesians 6:17 tells us to accept “the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you.” We can fight spiritual battles with God’s Word because Scriptures are more than the words of man— they are divinely inspired. God’s Word is the sword of the Spirit.
The following story illustrates the penetrating power of God’s Word. An atheist went to a large church to hear a famous organist who had come to his city. Many people attended the service, but the atheist planned to listen only to the organ music. Whenever the pastor preached, read Scripture, or prayed, the atheist would put a finger in each ear to block out the sound.
Then a housefly landed on his nose! When he unplugged his right ear to use his hand to shoo the fly away, the word of Scripture being read just then was, “Put your trust in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, New English Bible). Quickly the man put his finger back into his ear—but he couldn’t erase what he had heard. The words kept repeating themselves in his mind. The Holy Spirit used this fragment of the Good News to speak to his heart and he was later converted!
The Word Tells of Salvation
The message of the Bible not only reveals sin and penetrates the heart; it also tells us of salvation. We are not left in despair knowing just the dark side. Thank God for the Book of hope that gives us the bright side as well!
The Bible contains all the facts necessary for man’s salvation. Its joyful message isn’t found in other literary works. Other writings may exhort the reader to try to reform and thus do a bit of good—but their messages are limited. In contrast, the Scriptures tell of a Savior, Jesus, who alone has the words of eternal life. Like Peter, to whom else could we go for such words (John 6:68)? Who else could say, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness” (John 10:10)?
The great theme of the Scriptures therefore centers around Jesus Christ. “These very Scriptures,” said Jesus, “speak about me!” (John 5:39). The core of the Bible’s teaching on salvation is the gospel of Christ. Paul condensed the “greatest story ever told” into these words:
I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; that he appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).
The gospel, then, is God’s story of Jesus; the Good News is about His love-gift to the world (John 3:16). No wonder Paul exclaimed, “I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe” (Romans 1:16).
The Word Generates Faith
There lies in every person a hunger for God. Even the one who claims to be an agnostic experiences this longing. The Lord has given His Word to create the faith that we need—faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “These (miracles) have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through your faith in him you may have life” (John 20:31).
God’s message must come through the ear into the heart, and then on to the lips.
“God’s message is near you, on your lips and in your heart”—that is, the message of faith that we preach. If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved. For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved (Romans 10:8-10).
Would you like to share your faith with others? You can do it by giving them God’s Word. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.” Others need to hear God’s message just as you heard it. Then it has a chance to enter their hearts that they might have faith to believe and to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The Word Produces Conversion
Palma was just a young girl 14 years old when her Sunday school teacher, who herself did not know what salvation was, told her pupils to start reading their Bibles.
“I started in Matthew’s Gospel,” said Palma. “When I had read as far as the Sermon on the Mount, a deep conviction of sin gripped my soul. I went to the pastor and told him about it, but his only answer was, ‘What does a good girl like you know about sin? Go home and play with your dolls!’ I found no one who could help me find Jesus as my Savior.”
Palma didn’t know how to receive Christ and His forgiveness. For five years she carried this burden of wanting to know the Lord and to be assured that she would get to heaven when she left this earth—but she didn’t know how to find Him. Then one day she went to a church in another city. Here she heard the pastor preach on repentance and the need of being born again. Palma was shown from God’s Word how to be saved, and through God’s Word she received spiritual life.
“How happy I was to experience real conversion!” she exclaimed. She received the baptism of the Holy Spirit— another radiant experience in her life. Later she went to mainland China, Ceylon, and Taiwan as a missionary and spent many fruitful years leading others into the same experiences that she enjoyed.
The Scriptures carry out the principle that only life can produce life. The apostle Peter wrote in his letter that “through the living and eternal word of God you have been born again as the children of a parent who is immortal, not mortal” (1 Peter 1:23). This “word of God,” he explains further, “is the Good News that was proclaimed to you” (v. 25). The apostle James confirmed this truth when he wrote that God “brought us into being through the word of truth” (James 1:18).
The living Word of God produces spiritual life through the new birth.
GOD’S WORD AND THE HOLY SPIRIT WORK TOGETHER
Objective 3. Recognize that God’s Word is the tool of the Holy Spirit in bringing conversion.
“Accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you” (Ephesians 6:17). In this age of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, His weapon is the Word of God. Remember that it “cuts all the way through” to a man’s conscience and to his heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Word is the Spirit’s sword. What a formidable combination this is to enemies of the Lord!
Paul wrote, “The weapons we use in our fight are not the world’s weapons but God’s powerful weapons, which we use to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). What are some of God’s powerful weapons? Praying in the Holy Spirit, using the Word of God, calling upon the name of Jesus, and trusting in the merits of His shed blood. These are weapons with which “we destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
When involved in soulwinning, you are engaged in a great spiritual battle. Demons, occult forces, and other powers of darkness hold people with a steellike grip and Satan opposes those who would help to set them free. But the Lord in whom you trust is the victor! He said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples” (Matthew 28:18-19).
In all soulwinning work, you must rely on the Holy Spirit and allow Him to quicken the Word to your heart so that you speak the right words at the right time and in the right place. Speak under His authority. Remember, your job is to proclaim the truth of the gospel; it is the Spirit’s responsibility to convict men of this truth and draw them to repentance. You cannot do His work and He does not do yours. This is the great partnership between the Spirit and us which God has ordained as the means through which His work is to be accomplished.
On the Day of Pentecost Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the Word with great power to thousands of people who gathered in the streets of Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-40). He quoted Scripture after Scripture from the Old Testament. From these texts he preached Christ—the one crucified, risen again, enthroned in glory, and giver of the blessed Holy Spirit. That day the Word became like a sledgehammer in Peter’s hands! He gave the Word and the Holy Spirit used it to convict people’s hearts. “What shall we do?” they cried out.
Peter appealed to them with “many other words” to turn away from their sins and to accept Christ’s provision of salvation. So powerful was the message and appeal given that many believed and were baptized. At least 3000 were added to the group of believers (Acts 2:41). Later, as the preaching of the Word continued, the number grew to 5000 (Acts 4:4). God’s Word released in power produces conversions just as it did in Bible times. We must trust the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of those with whom we share the Good News.
GOD’S WORD MUST BECOME A VITAL PART OF YOUR LIFE
Objective 4. Recognize statements showing how you can make God’s Word a vital part of your life.
“Christ’s message in all its richness must live in your hearts,” urged the apostle Paul (Colossians 3:16). The Word must become a part of your life and witness. This means reading the Bible daily and meditating upon it. Follow your time in the Word with prayer. In this manner God speaks to you through His Word; then you speak to God in worship and prayer. Speak to Him also about the many people who need salvation, praying for them individually by name. Keep praying for people, and not so much for things. Then witnessing to people becomes as natural to you as breathing.
Nothing takes the place of having God’s Word fixed in your heart and mind. Each lesson gives a verse or two for you to memorize which we have labeled Fingertip Texts. The following verse you will recognize as one that has been used as part of the text in previous lessons, but you will be able to use it more effectively if you commit it to memory.
When you begin to share the Good News with someone, talk naturally about subjects that interest the prospective convert. Then as the Holy Spirit leads you, steer the course of conversation to spiritual matters. Reinforce what you are saying with a verse of Scripture. A well-chosen verse anointed by the Spirit adds authority to your own words. But do not quote numerous Scriptures to a person who knows little of the Christian faith. When Jesus did personal work, He rarely quoted the Scriptures to individuals who were not interested in spiritual matters. Instead, He captured their attention by meeting them on their own ground or by approaching them with something they were interested in. Then He led them on into spiritual truth.
He reached the chief tax collector in the city of Jericho this way. Zacchaeus was a short man who wanted to see Jesus, but he couldn’t press through the crowd. So he climbed into a tree where he could get a good view of the Master as He passed by. Imagine his surprise when Jesus looked up and said, “Hurry down, Zacchaeus, because I must stay at your house today.”
Zacchaeus scrambled down the tree as fast as he could. This was more than he could have hoped for! Picture this little man joyfully welcoming the great Savior in his home! His willingness to entertain Jesus led to Christ’s words: “Salvation has come to this house today.” After first showing friendliness to Zacchaeus, Jesus won him over as a devoted follower (Luke 19:1-10).
In this second unit of study entitled A POWER TO RECEIVE—Be Equipped! you have looked into the supernatural power of God in the experience of conversion, in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and in the Word of God. He has provided for His people that they may be equipped to carry out the work He has for them to do.