The words of the hymn “The Love of God” capture in word pictures the breathtaking magnitude of divine love:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
These marvelous lyrics echo Paul’s response to the love of God. The apostle prayed that believers might “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18–19 NKJV). In reflecting on these verses about God’s love, some Bible scholars believe “width” refers to its worldwide embrace (John 3:16); “length,” its existence through all ages (Ephesians 3:21); “depth,” its profound wisdom (Romans 11:33); and “height,” its victory over sin opening the way to heaven (Ephesians 4:8).
We are admonished to appreciate this amazing love. Yet as we expand in our awareness of God’s love, we soon realize that its full measure is beyond our understanding. Even if the ocean were filled with ink, using it to write about the love of God would drain it dry.
Romans 5:5 tells us “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (NKJV).
The Greek word translated “has been poured out” is in the perfect tense, which means it started at one point and continues on into the future. Literally, it means “God’s love is still flooding into our hearts.”
This wellspring of God’s love was never intended to be experienced for our own benefit alone. It is to spill over in sharing the good news of Christ’s redeeming love with others. It means being a joyful witness to what has happened in us.
I. Tapping into God’s Power
A witness is someone who can bear testimony to something they have seen, heard, or felt. In our legal system, a witness is brought into court to share what they know through personal experience. This term is used in Christ’s admonition to us.
Just before He returned to Heaven, Jesus told His disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NKJV).
But being a witness for Christ does not mean merely telling others what we have experienced. Our Lord promised us the Holy Spirit in order to provide a divine empowerment to what we share. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. When a person trusts Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live within and will abide with him forever (John 14:16; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:22). However, it is possible to have the Holy Spirit inside us without letting Him empower your life. That is why we are admonished to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). This occurs when we confess all known sin, ask God’s forgiveness, and yield our hearts to Him (1 John 1:9). An attitude of dependence should then follow in which we “walk in the Spirit” allowing God’s Spirit to live the Christian life through us (Galatians 5:16).
It is essential that we are filled with the Spirit before sharing the good news with an unbeliever.
What does it mean to witness? It is simply caring enough to share the good news that Jesus came to redeem us from the power of sin and to restore us to relationship with God.
There’s a great verse in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth that tells us how simple the message of the gospel is:
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4 NKJV).
But how do we go about sharing this great truth with others? Here are just a few alternatives.
II. Sharing Your Own Story
If you are a Christian today, there was a time in your life when you were not. Think about how your life has changed since you were spiritually born into the family of God. Write down some thoughts about what your life was like before Christ and what it is like now that you know Him. Think about the decision-making process you went through in responding to His invitation to new life and write that as well. Read it over and know it well enough that you could spontaneously and comfortably tell someone about how knowing Jesus has changed you.
Every believer has a unique story of encountering Christ. Ann, a receptionist at a Christian organization, has kept a journal for much of her life. She treasures the account she recorded about her conversion when she was 15. Here is an excerpt. “[I] went to see Billy Graham. I got saved! I’m very happy. . . . When I got saved I felt warmth in my heart.”
A professor at a Bible school taught a personal evangelism course to freshman. He asked the students to write out their stories of how they came to faith in Christ. It struck him how different each journey was. Some were saved out of a life of drugs and immorality. Others were church attendees who came to Christ after years of biblical instruction.
Conversions vary. The apostle Paul had a crisis encounter with the Savior that turned him from a persecutor into a preacher of the gospel (Acts 26). In contrast, Timothy was quietly nurtured in the Scriptures from early childhood, resulting in his salvation experience (2 Timothy 3:14–15). No two faith journeys are identical. But each has the common element of turning to the Lord Jesus in faith to be saved from sin and to receive a new heart.
Can you retrace the steps that God helped you take in coming to Christ? What’s your story? Jot it down in line form and mentally rehearse telling it to someone who wants to listen.
III. A Simple Presentation of the Gospel
As important as telling our own story is, we also need an organized way of sharing the essentials of the gospel with someone. A simple presentation that many have used is called “The Romans Road.” In the ancient world, a vast extended system of roads had been constructed by the Roman Empire. No matter how far from Italy a road may have been, it was said, “All roads lead to Rome!” The reason for this saying was that it could be followed to the Imperial City.
Interestingly, the New Testament book of Romans has sufficient Bible truths that can be cited to clearly explain the gospel. Using verses in this book to explain how to receive Christ’s gift of salvation has been called “The Romans Road.” Let’s examine one version of this evangelistic tool.
[Note: You can actually mark each verse in your own Bible with a one or two-word description to remind you of what the verse represents. See those words or phrases in italics below. Example: Print sin in the Bible margin near Romans 3:23.]
The first verse on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 3:23, which speaks of sin: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have all sinned. We have all done things that are displeasing to God. Despite our best efforts, each of us has failed to consistently live up to God’s perfect moral standard.
The second Scripture on the Romans Road to salvation, Romans 6:23, tells us of sin’s penalty: “The wages of sin is death.”
The punishment we deserve for our sins is death. Not just physical death, but eternal separation from God.
The third verse on the Romans Road to salvation is the second part of Romans 6:23, which speaks of God’s gift: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NKJV).
Romans 5:8 declares, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NKJV).
Jesus Christ died for us, paying the penalty for our sins. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated that God accepted Jesus’ death as the payment for our sins and the basis for our being declared not guilty before Him.
The fourth verse on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 10:9, which tells us how we receive the gift: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (NKJV).
Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, we must repent of our sin and trust in Christ alone for our salvation. Romans 10:13 says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (NKJV). Salvation is available to all who repent and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
The final aspect of the Romans Road to salvation is the results of salvation. Romans 5:1 tells us: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV).
Through Jesus Christ, we can have a relationship of peace with God.
Romans 8:1 proclaims, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, we will never be condemned for our sins.
If a person understands the gospel and wishes to respond to Christ for salvation, a simple prayer can be a means of expressing faith in Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer that someone might use:
“Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I open the door of my life and receive you as Savior and Lord. Take the throne of my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be.”
IV. Evangelistic Dialogue
After sharing the gospel with someone, you may find that he or she is not ready to make a commitment. That is why it is essential to keep the relationship going with occasional comments on spiritual truths.
Let’s look at a biblical example of personal sharing of the good news. As we study the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26–39), watch for the ways in which Philip listened and cultivated spiritual interest.
Philip was enjoying a very successful ministry in Samaria, but an angel of the Lord pulled him off the job and sent him out to a desert road. There he saw a man sitting in a chariot and poring over a scroll as he traveled from Jerusalem to Ethiopia.
This man was a long way from home. He had come from Ethiopia apparently for the purpose of worshiping at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps he had purchased a copy of the Isaiah scroll at the temple. And now he was reading it as he traveled back home to the court of Queen Candace, where he served as treasurer.
Philip approached him and asked if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch knew he needed help understanding this God of the Jews, so he invited Philip to join him and explain the text of Isaiah 53:7–8, which he had been studying. From that prophetic passage, Philip was able to share with this man the story of Jesus and the significance of His life, death, and resurrection. The eunuch believed and was baptized.
What do we learn from this passage about sharing the good news?
First, Philip was obedient to God’s direction in leaving Samaria, going to the desert, and talking with the Ethiopian. We too must be obedient to Jesus’ command to tell others about Him, which may include talking to a person the Holy Spirit has put on our hearts.
Second, Philip met the man where he was. He didn’t walk up to him shouting, “Have I got good news for you!” No, he came close, asked a leading question, and waited for an invitation to go further in the conversation.
Third, Philip sensed the eagerness of the eunuch to know more. He sat beside him, and, we can be pretty sure, looked him in the eye and saw the sincerity of his quest. When the Holy Spirit is working in a person’s heart, we will be aware of it and will be able to proceed with the entirety of the message of Jesus.
Fourth, he pointed him to Scripture. The man was already reading from the scroll, so Philip had his text in front of him as he expounded on the passage and pointed to Jesus. We must do the same. The power is in the Word of God, not in our words.
Fifth, he took him as far as he was willing to go. The Ethiopian gladly accepted the truth of the witness of Philip, and he not only became a believer but was baptized and filled with joy. Again, we have to go as far, and only as far, as the person we are talking to is ready to go.
The basic principle we learn from Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch is that sharing our faith should be relational and our role is to cultivate spiritual interest without being overbearing.
V. Waiting for the Harvest
In the book What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest? James Engel and Wilbert Norton illustrate on a graph how people often go through a series of pre-conversion stages before stepping over the line of faith and receiving Jesus as their Savior.
When we hear individuals share their conversion experience, we may conclude that faith happened all at once. But their salvation frequently carries an extended back-story of spiritual pilgrimage before they made that decision. They needed time to reflect on the gospel. For them, coming to the Savior was a process.
This is similar to the process of farming. Months of waiting come to an end and workers stream into the fields to help with the harvest. One of our Lord’s parables illustrates how faith—like a crop—needs time to develop.
Responding to the gospel is like a seed that grows: “first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain,” until finally, “the harvest has come” (Mark 4:28–29 NKJV).
Because people may need time and multiple exposures to the gospel before they are ready to make a decision, we need to be sensitive to where they are in their faith-journey. In the meantime, we can cultivate spiritual interest, pray for them, and wait for the harvest!
VI. Where to Go From Here?
As the title of this course, Spiritual Life Basics, implies, this course is designed to help you begin the process of growing in your spiritual life. Having completed its objectives, you now have a foundational understanding of the Christian faith and are ready to move forward in your spiritual development. It is impossible to imagine growing in one’s spiritual life apart from the activities of Bible study, Prayer, Fellowship, and Evangelism. We encourage you to:
- Commit to a regular Bible reading schedule and prayer time. What gets scheduled gets done. And conversely what isn’t scheduled is easy to overlook! So even if it’s only a few minutes a day, it is essential to regularly pray, read, study, and meditate on God’s Word.
- Balance your reading for coverage and for impact. It’s important to read whole books of the Bible for greater knowledge. And it’s important to study shorter passages — a psalm or proverb or a paragraph and meditate on it.
- Find a church and get connected with other believers. Becoming involved with some type of ministry is vital for developing and maintaining a healthy spiritual life.
Finally, there are a number of courses at Our Daily Bread Christian University you can take that will teach you how to understand and study the Bible and live the Christian life. Listed here are a few we recommend you get started with.
Bible Study Basics
Old Testament Basics
New Testament Basics
World Religions Basics
Union with Christ