Portraits of Christ: A Soul Winner
One hundred years ago, Charles G. Trumbull wrote a book on witnessing entitled “Taking Men Alive.” In it he says: /“If we would take a man alive for Christ, we must first of all know something about that man and his present interests. Our knowledge may be gained in ten seconds, or in ten months. But as a first step toward winning the man himself, we must devote our whole energy to knowing the man.
Therefore it is he who must fill our whole horizon as we prepare to come close to him. We must not be thinking about others, but about this other—this one person out of the whole universe.
This is the simple secret of "tact"—that mysterious power which a few favored ones seem to possess. But "tact" is simply "touch"—a touch on the right spot rather than the wrong, a touch which will win another rather than antagonize him, a touch in keeping with his present interests, rather than opposed to them. The art of taking men alive calls for tact at the very beginning— which means, first of all, knowing your man.
Concentrating all our attention on the individual at the outset so that we know what interests him, enables us to put forward something that will attract and hold his attention. In fishing, the attractive thing thus put forward by the fisherman is called bait. And bait is a prime essential in the man-fishing to which Christ called his disciples, and in which he promises to train them to expertise.
For let us bear in mind that we are in the business of winning men to Christ. We cannot win by antagonizing. And we must win by drawing men to us as a first step in drawing them to Christ. Even the Son of God did not take it for granted that men would be interested in him or his message until he had first interested himself in them. Shall we expect to do better than he?”/
This morning I want us to examine the Portrait of Christ that the Apostle John presents in the forth chapter of his Gospel. That Apostle paints Jesus as a soul-winner and in doing so gives each of us insight into how to share our faith.
I. SOUL WINNERS CARE ABOUT PEOPLE
- v. 4 "We must needs go through Samaria"
- Merrill Tenney, in his commentary on John's gospel, writes that this little phrase, "We must . . ." makes this encounter with the woman at the well "glow with the light of destiny"
- Jesus did not have to go through Samaria
- there were at least two other major roads he and the disciples could have taken which would have by-passed the territory altogether
- it is possible that Jesus makes the statement because going through Samaria was the shortest route between Jerusalem and Cana of Galilee—his destination
- it is more likely that he is being obedient to the Father's will
- Jesus knows he needs to go through Samaria because there's a person he must present the gospel to
- Jesus went through Samaria because he cared about people
A. SOUL WINNERS CARE FOR PEOPLE BY TREATING THEM AS INDIVIDUALS
- there are four ways we can treat people
- we can idolize them
- this is what we seem to do with entertainers, sports heros and the famous
- we put them on a pedestal and admire and lavish attention upon them
- the problem with that is when they reveal their humanity in an ugly way and their image is marred and we are terribly disappointed (Lance Armstrong)
- we can demonize them
- it's so tempting—it's so easy—to blame others for the condition we find ourselves in
- scap-goating seems to be a popular past-time with many people
- we can utilize them
- this is a sin churches have been especially guilty of
- we utilize people when we see them as a resource to be used rather then a person to know
- the very best way to treat a person is to humanize them
- ILLUS Most evangelism material today treats people as groups: If you want to win Gen-xers, this is how you do it. If you want to win Millennials these are the techniques you use. Jesus doesn’t see the Woman at the Well as a ‘class of people’, but as an individual.
- we need to see both the stranger and the neighbor as the unique person that God created them to be
Jesus saw the woman at the well as a person of worth who deserved his attention
- Jesus always personalized his treatment of people
- ILLUS. The contrast between our Lord's encounter with the woman at the well in this chapter of John's gospel and his conversation with Nicodemus in the previous chapter show how Jesus tailored his approach to people. The difference between these two individuals is striking. Nicodemus is a Jew, she a Samaritan. In chapter 3 Jesus deals with a man, in chapter 4 a woman. Nicodemus is an individual of high moral character and intelligence, she is a uneducated commoner of debatable reputation.
Jesus loves them both and seeks to treat them as the individuals they are you will never be a successful soul winner until you treat everyone you meet as a unique individual with unique needs who needs a tailored style of evangelism and witnessing
B. SOUL WINNERS CARE FOR PEOPLE BY INITIATING CONTACT WITH THEM
- v. 7 "When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?'"
- Jesus does not wait for the woman to offer him a drink of water which she may or may not have done
- he sought to initiate contact by asking for a favor
- effective witnessing takes place when we initiate contact with a lost person
- if our church is going to win lost people from this community to Christ, we can't afford to linger and hope that it comes to us
- if that's what we're waiting for, it ain't gonna happen
- Jesus told his disciples in the Great Commission to "get up and go" not "sit down and wait"
- unbiblical attitudes about witnessing are going to kill the church
- attitudes like, "Hey, I thought that's why we hired a preacher!"
- attidues like, "They know where the church is."
- ILLUS. Dr. James Stewart, professor of New Testament at the University of Edinburgh, described what he thought is the greatest threat to the church. He said, "It is not communism, atheism, or materialism; the greatest threat is Christians trying to sneak into heaven incognito without ever sharing their faith."
- ILLUS. The late Dr. James Kennedy says that one of the saddest statistics of our day is that 95% of all church members have never led anyone to Christ.
if we’re going to lead people to Christ, we must initiate spiritual conversation with them
C. SOUL WINNERS CARE FOR PEOPLE BY LOOKING PAST THEIR PERSONAL PREJUDICE
- v. 9 "Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, 'How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.'"
- the relationship between Jews and Samaritans was not hostile, but it was by no means cordial
- Jesus could have easily snubbed this woman's presence and been completely justified by the social rules of the day
- he could not have done so and been justified by the rules of the Kingdom which he came to establish
- this woman is almost flabbergasted that a Jewish man would lower himself to talk to her—a Samaritan woman!
- the animosity went back generations
- the phrase "have no dealings with" can literally be translated, "do not use vessels together with"
- now, what in the world does that mean?
- it means that these folks normally wouldn't even drink water out of the same jug!
- our Lord's lovingkindness overleaped the boundaries of national pride, social mores, ethnicity, hatred and mistrust
- let me ask you a question this morning
- are there people in this community who would be flabbergasted if you talked to them?
- do walls of racial prejudice, or socioeconomic prejudice, or ethnic prejudice, or religious prejudice keep you from sharing your faith with people?
- soul winners care for people by looking past their personal prejudice
- Soul Winners Care about People
II. SOUL WINNERS CONFRONT PEOPLE WITH THE TRUTH
- v. 10-12 "Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'"
- the stranger has just asked her for a drink of water and now he is offering her something called "living water?"
- she doesn't understand
- she assumes that Jesus is the one in need and that she can meet that need
- after all, this man doesn't even have a bucket!
- she doesn't understand that she is the one who has the real need
- Jesus is thirsty of body and knows it
- she is thirsty of soul, but doesn't know it
- Jesus offers her "a gift from God"
- the word "gift" here means a present given at personal sacrifice
A. THE GOSPEL TRUTH IS THAT THINGS WILL NOT SATISFY
- v. 13 "Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again . . ."
- a recent survey of American adults reveals that two out of every three adults believe that the purpose of life is enjoyment and personal fulfillment
- what's wrong with that you ask?
- it's what adults believe brings enjoyment and personal fulfillment that is interesting
- I got news for you, it ain't spiritual matters
- surveys show that the top priorities in the typical American adult's life are:
- Living Comfortably
- obviously there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these
- the truth is, that in the scheme of life, they have little eternal significance
- if your neighbor dies and goes to hell because he or she has never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, family, and health, and time, and friends, and career, and living comfortably will mean little to them as they are tormented throughout eternity
- the lost person has little understanding of these deep spiritual truths
- v. 11-12 "The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou has nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?"
- the woman is still thinking in earthly terms rather than heavenly ones
- she assumes that the water Jesus is referring to is the bubbling spring water at the bottom of the well which is far below the standing water
- the woman is baffled by the perplexity of the riddle
- in verse 12 she reveals her frustration by, in essence saying, "Who do you think you are? You've got not rope, no bucket, the well is deep and I ain't got time for riddles about 'living water.'"
the heart of soul winning is helping a person understand that worthy priorities will leave them thirsty if their first priority is not Jesus
- soul winner must confront people with the futility of finding fulfillment in things other than Jesus
B. THE GOSPEL TRUTH IS SIN MUST BE DEALT WITH
- v. 16 "Jesus saith unto her, 'Go, call thy husband, and come hither.'"
- does Jesus suddenly change the subject?
- no, he understands that a real thirst for living water is heightened by a sense of guilt over personal sin
- in verse 16 Jesus address the reason for this woman's need of living water
- her sin has turned her soul into a dessert
- personal sin is always difficult to deal with
- v. 17 "The woman answered and said, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said unto her, 'Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.'"
- when confronted with the reality of her life, the woman becomes abrupt, "I have no husband"
- is she single? Widowed perhaps?
- her abrupt answer reveals that she is suddenly on the emotional defense
- before she is open and talkative, now she puts on a mask and refuses to be exposed
- it does not take the divine ability our Savior to understand that an open nerve has been struck
Jesus does not preach at her, but he is painfully honest about the woman's past and lays it bare before her
- by exposing her sin, Jesus helps her understand the dryness of her soul and prepares her heart for the knowledge of and reception of the grace of God
the woman acknowledges the stranger’s perceptiveness, and immediately seeks to change the subject
- vv. 19-20 "The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
- by calling Jesus a prophet, she really is admitting her guilt
- she may not know how He knows these things, but He knows!
- then, instead of dealing with the real issue—her lifestyle, her need for repentance and living water—she turns to the topic of "church"
- she appeals to her heritage and the traditions of her people
soul winners must be unafraid to confront people with the spiritual realities of life—things cannot satisfy and sin is the real issue each of us must deal with Soul Winners Confront People with the Truth
III. SOUL WINNERS POINT THEIR LISTENERS TO GOD AND NOT TO RELIGION
- “Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21–24, NIV84)
- Jesus refuses to be side-tracked by secondary issues
- he takes the high road in their conversation
A. GOD SEEKS GENUINE WORSHIPERS
- Jesus tells her that where one worships does not matter
- the attitude of heart and mind and obedience to God's truth regarding the object and method of worship does matter
- what this woman needs is a personal encounter with the living God
- that is what every person in this auditorium this morning needs
- it's what every person in this community needs
- they won't desire it, if they don't see it making a difference in your life
- why is the church in America doing so poorly when it comes to soul winning?
- ILLUS. Roland Q. Leavell, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years, provides some interesting statistics about members of Evangelical Churches. In his book, Evangelism: Christ's Imperative Commission, he says: 5 per cent do not exist, 10 per cent cannot be found, 20 per cent never pray, 25 per cent never read the Bible, 30 per cent never attend Church services, 40 per cent never give any money to the church, 50 per cent never go to Sunday School, 60 per cent never go to Church Sunday night, 70 per cent never give to missions, 80 per cent never go to prayer meeting, 90 per cent never have family worship, and 95 per cent never win a soul to Christ. If these statistics are correct, they simply mean that most Evangelical Christians are doing very poorly at living the Christian life, and that when it comes to evangelism very few of us are telling others about Jesus.
only those who have had a personal encounter with God have the ability to worship in truth and in spirit
- “The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25–26, NIV84)
- ultimately, this woman turns her hope to the day when the Christ shall come and explain all these mysteries to her people
- at that point the supreme moment of Messianic self-disclosure arrives, "I who speak to you am he."
Soul winning is one of the most important activity any Christian can be involved in. The result of our Lord's conversation with this Samaritan woman at a well is revealed in verses 39-41. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.” (John 4:39–41, NIV84)
The full magnitude of our efforts may never be fully known in this world. In 1858, a Sunday School teacher, by the name of Mr. Kimball, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Christ. The clerk was Dwight L. Moody who became a world-renowned evangelist. In England in 1879, Moody awakened evangelistic zeal in the heart of Fredrick B. Meyer, who was the pastor of a small church. F. B. Meyer, while preaching to an American college campus, won to Christ a student named J. Wilbur Chapman. Chapman got deeply involved in YMCA work, and employed a former baseball player named Billy Sunday, to do evangelistic work. Billy Sunday became a world-renowned evangelist. Billy Sunday was once leading a revival meeting in Charlotte, N.C. that saw dozens of people accept Christ as Savior. A group of local men were so enthusiastic afterward that they planned another evangelistic campaign for the following year. The evangelist for that event was Mordecai Hamm—a Baptist evangelist. The revival was held in November of 1934 and a young man named Billy Graham heard the gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Only eternity will reveal the tremendous impact of that one Sunday School teacher, Mr. Kimball, who invested his life in the lives of others.