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TEXT: Acts 4:20

SUBJECT: Personal Evangelism #3: Hindrances

This afternoon brings us to part three in our study of Personal Evangelism. In the first two parts, I tried to lay out the basics: (1) what Personal Evangelism is, (2) who ought to be doing it, and (3) why.

There are many good reasons for doing the work of Personal Evangelism, and I think we all more-or-less know what they are, and feel somewhat guilty about not doing much of it.

This brings up the question: Why don't we? If Personal Evangelism is a clear commandment from Jesus Christ, and we've all got plenty of chances to do it, why aren't we doing it? Why aren't we witnessing every day, or even looking for the opportunities to witness?

The obvious answer is: It's hard. But what makes it hard? Why are we so eager to obey other commandments and so reluctant to obey this one?

For many of us, there's nothing harder than Personal Evangelism, and today-with God's blessing-I'm going to tell you why and what to do about it. Let's make no mistake about it: we ought to be doing something about it! In the words of Paul, we ought to be-

Mortifying our members that are on the earth.

.the things that keep our lamps well hidden under the bushel. And so, what are the Hindrances to Personal Evangelism and how do we overcome them?

EMBARRASSMENT

From the day of my birth until Thursday of last week, I would have said, 'Fear is the number one hindrance to Personal Evangelism'. I'm sure this is true in North Korea or Saudi Arabia, but it is not true in America.

In this country, where there is little formal or state sanctioned persecution, the main reason we don't witness for Jesus Christ is.embarrassment.

As long as we're with other Christians, we're proud to belong to Him. But when the audience is mixed, or, especially when it is all unbelievers, we feel 'funny' about it.

The problem is not a new one. Jesus assumed that many of His professed disciples would be-

Ashamed of Him in this generation.

'Ashamed'! There's a word even stronger than 'embarrassed'. But Jesus said some of His people would feel that way about Him. Many felt this way, in fact, all the disciples did on the night of His arrest, and none more than Peter, who cursed and swore he did not know Him!

Feeling this shame makes us ashamed, but we're never going to deal with it until we name the thing; until we take responsibility for our feelings and the (non)actions they produce.

The hymnwriter, Joseph Grigg, understood this very well, and wrote a song about it that cuts me to the quick-

Jesus and shall it ever be

A mortal man ashamed of Thee?

Most of us have felt this way at times, and for some Christians, it is a lifelong bondage. Why do we feel this way?

Back in the 1st Century, Jews took Jesus for a stumbling block, and Greeks for foolishness, but why do we feel this way?

I suppose there are many answers to this, but let me tell you the one I think fits our situation the best. Christians in the Bay Area today are ashamed to Jesus because He is remarkably.uncool. His theology is intolerant, saying there is only One God, only One Savior, only One way of Salvation, and that if you're not on that One way, you're on the way to Destruction. Can you imagine anything less cool than this?

I can. Jesus is also uncool in His ethics. He was against Divorce, for example; or living together without marriage. And, while He never personally addressed the LGBT Thing, His Apostles did, and they were dead set against it! He's a Man who is naïve enough to think that you ought to have sex only with the person you're married to, and if you're not married, with no one at all, either real or imaginary. That's uncool!

Then you think of His political stances, or rather, non-stances. I suppose our Lord had His share of political beliefs, but He considered them to be of secondary importance, not taking bold stands for 1st Century equivalents of welfare, immigration, health care, or prison reform. He may have cared deeply for such things, but you'd never know it from the Bible!

Jesus is the uncoolest Man who ever lived; and if you're going to be His disciple, you'll also have to be uncool. The stigma keeps many Christians silent when they ought to speak up for the Lord who bought them.

Does Jesus embarrass you? If He does, you need to remember I John 2:17-

The world is passing away and the lusts thereof, but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Wanting to fit in, be cool, accepted, hip, up-to-date, in step with the times, is one of these lusts, and is rushing headlong to oblivion!

'GOOD MANNERS'

A second hindrance to witnessing is 'good manners'. If you're an obnoxious jerk, you've got no problem making people feel uncomfortable, in fact, you might enjoy it. But if you've got any class, you don't want to do that. You don't want to offend people hurt their feelings, put them on the defensive, or make them feel awkward.

For most things, this is good. But not when it comes to Evangelism. Why? Because the stakes are too high. I'll never forget the Tuesday before Easter, 2013. That morning, Dr. Kelly Morgan told me-

You have stage 2 cancer in your right kidney.

Later in the conversation, she told me that if I didn't have the kidney removed I would die. Not might die or could suffer some unpleasant symptoms, but would die, and die soon.

I did not want to hear this; it made me feel numb, at first, then it made me cry, kept me up all that night, and had me scared for the next two weeks until I had surgery and got a clean pathology report.

Now, suppose Dr. Morgan had felt about my cancer the way we often feel about the souls of other people. What if she'd called me into her office to talk about the weather or sports or the price of gasoline. Or what if she had only hinted at the bad news? Or only said, 'God bless you, Mr. Phillips!'

Where would I be today if she had done these things? I'd be six feet under ground, next to my father, mother, and grandmother.

This is what we're doing to the unsaved when we keep it light all the time; when we pussyfoot around the Gospel! When, in fact, we'd rather see them suffering forever than to unsettle them for a few minutes.

By all means, be courteous! Speak at an appropriate time and place! Don't be an obnoxious jerk! But speak for Christ as though their lives depended on it. Because they do.

THE FEAR OF FAILURE

The fear of failure is a third reason we don't witness much. This can take many forms, two of which I'll mention.

First of all, we're afraid of being stumped. Our unbelieving neighbor will bring up the Problem of Evil, and we won't know what to say. Or He'll ask us why Jesus is better than Muhammad and we'll uh..

We also fear our record. You're afraid to witness because, if you speak up for Christ, your colleague will remind you of how lazy you are at work or how he caught you in a lie or saw you looking at things on the Internet you shouldn't have been. Everything he says is true; this makes you feel you're not qualified to witness to him.

This fear of being stumped or of being a bad testimony to Christ keeps you from speaking up for the Lord.

How do you respond to such things?

On the first one, spend a little time studying and thinking about the Problem of Evil or other common objections. People at the church can help you with this; as can many books and countless websites. A little study would do you good!

More importantly, don't make it about you. Evangelism does not require you to be the smartest man in the room. If you don't know the answer, tell him you don't, and remember that unbelief is not the result of intellectual objections, but it's the other way around: Intellectual objections are the result of unbelief.

On the second one, your poor witness, admit it! Nothing tarnishes your witness more than hypocrisy. But then, after admitting that you're a sinner, point him to your Savior. A man once told me he didn't believe in Christ because of my life. This made me feel terrible and I apologized for hurting him in this way, but then I continued, 'But haven't I always said that we're all sinners in need of a Savior?'

The fear of failure is a big hindrance to Evangelism, but it shouldn't be because it is not our job to save people. Our job is to witness to them and pray for them, as Paul says-

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

ISOLATION

A fourth hindrance is isolation. Many Christians have no friends and little contact with non-Christians. This can be the result of their situation in life or natural shyness, but often it's a chosen way of life. We choose to have no unbelieving friends.

Maybe because we're afraid of being contaminated by them. Or because we have nothing in common with them. Or because we can't stand the way they talk or dress, or their tattoos, or their politics.

Some of us were taught this at home and in Sunday School, and for kids, it may be good advice. But for adult Christians to shy away from the lost is totally out-of-step with the example of our Savior! He dined with publicans and let sinful women wash His feet with her tears. The Pharisees were scandalized by His associates, and called Him-

A friend of sinners.

What they meant by this name was wrong, but the name itself could not be more right! Jesus is a friend of sinners, of biker sinners, tatted up sinners, sinners who cuss, sinners who drink, sinners who channel spirits, gay sinners, men sinners who call themselves women, and women sinners who call themselves men.

We don't have to love sin to love sinners. And that's what we ought to be doing, loving sinners because Christ does. And this means making friends with them, meeting them for coffee, having them over for dinner. The sort of things you do with your Christian friends.

THE GOSPEL

These are four major hindrances to witnessing, and some of what we can do to get over them, and get out there with the Gospel.

These hints, however, will not make you a soul winner or get you out of your Christian cocoon. The only thing that will do that is the love of Christ in your heart, II Corinthians 5:14-

For the love of Christ compels us.

.Not our love for Him, but His love for us, and other sinners, including the ones you can talk to-and should talk to.

You'll never really do this until God puts the Cross into your heart, until He convinces you that-

Christ loved me and gave Himself for me.

And not only me.

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