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Principles of Christlike Evangelism

John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:37
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Can you relate with this situation? You are out on door to door evangelism. You are walking down a sidewalk up to the front door of the next house in line and as you head up to the door you get a sinking feeling in your stomach. What are you thinking in the back of your mind? “I hope no one answers the door.” But you knock anyway, and after a brief pause, someone opens the door. You launch into your well rehearsed spiel, you only have seconds in which to interact with that person, and after 15 seconds of talking you hand that person a tract or a flyer from your church, and they close the door and you walk away to the next house longing to be done with this evangelism thing.
Does that story resonate with you at all? If not, what does come to your mind when I say the word, “evangelism”? If you had to get up here this morning and explain to everyone how you do evangelism, what would you say? What principles would you explain or teach people to help them effectively communicate the gospel?
Maybe to you evangelism means inviting someone to church, or handing a tract to someone at the grocery store. Maybe it means trying to start a bible study with someone, or maybe it means becoming someone’s friend. But do you have well thought through principles as to how you effectively communicate the gospel to someone in your Jerusalem?
Ever thought about how Jesus Christ evangelized people while He was here on this earth? Did Jesus use a specific set of principles when he gave the gospel to people? If so, do your evangelism principles mimic the principles that Jesus used? In other words are you Christlike in your approach to reaching people with the gospel?
I would suggest to you this morning that we need to be willing to change our thinking when it comes to reaching people with the gospel. I would suggest that if we actually want to become effective at reaching people for Christ- that means actually leading people to faith in Christ, and doing it personally- by the way how many people have you personally led to Christ? If you want to become effective at actually personally leading people to faith in Jesus Christ, then we need a change in our culture of evangelism. We need to start thinking about giving the gospel differently than we ever have before. We need to give the gospel the same way that Jesus gave the gospel. What better example could you ask for? I am not asking you to change based on some fad or new fangled program- what I am suggesting is that we model the way that Jesus gave the gospel. We must seriously think about how Christ evangelized people and copy His principles of evangelism as closely as possible. We must be Christlike evangelists. We must be Christlike, not only in the character of his life, but in the contet of his daily living.
How do we do that? Or another way we could ask the question is, what are the principles of Christlike Evangelism?

I. Make people curious about spiritual things (John 3:1-9)

John 3:1–9 KJV 1900
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
OK, let’s think through this story-
In v.1 what do we find out about Nicodemus’s social status?
John 3:1 KJV 1900
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
What two things do we learn about this man? He is a Pharisee and he is a ruler of the Jews. He probably had everything this world had to offer- prestige, wealth, and power. Knowing that Nicodemus enjoyed this kind of a lifestyle what is strikingly odd about v. 2?
John 3:2 KJV 1900
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
What seems a little off here? When a man has everything, he has no reason to fear anyone, right? So- why then did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night?
Look at what Nicodemus tells Jesus at the end of v. 2-
“Rabbi (teacher), we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles / signs that you are doing, except God be with him.”
Who did He mean by we? Apparently, some of the Pharisees acknowledged that Jesus’ miracles could only mean that in some way Jesus was connected to God the Father. How else could Jesus do the things that he was doing?
This is a fairly positive statement from Nicodemus isn’t it? This seems like an open door to spiritual things doesn’t it? Jesus could use this line of conversation in many ways to talk about “spiritual” things. But, how does Jesus respond to Nicodemus?
John 3:3 KJV 1900
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Now is Nicodemus a religious man? Yes, as a leader of the Jews, he probably know the Old Testament, along with all of the commentaries on it, inside and out. He knew all the theological jargon, he knew all of the theological debates, and he was familiar with the OT itself.
Jesus makes the statement however, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Where does this concept of being “born again” occur in the Old Testament?
There are verses that hint at the concept of being born again like Ezekiel 36:25-26
Ezekiel 36:25–26 KJV 1900
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
But, the OT says nothing about being born again. So, if the OT says nothing about this new birth, then how could Nicodemus have understood the Lord’s comment?
We can answer this question by asking another question- did Nicodemus understand what Jesus said? Look at v. 4.
John 3:4 KJV 1900
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
What is Nicodemus saying here? Let me paraphrase: “Jesus, I have no idea what you are talking about!”
OK, so Jesus is going to clarify what He means right? Wrong! Look at v. 5-
John 3:5 NASB95
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
What does that mean? What does it mean to be born of water? Is this physical water? Or is this another kind of water? What does it mean to be born of the Spirit? Is this the Holy Spirit or another kind of spirit? These are important questions aren’t they? What hangs in the balance? Entering into the kingdom of God. Do you want to enter the kingdom of God some day? Do you think Nicodemus wanted to enter into the kingdom of God someday? What exactly is the kingdom of God anyway?
Well, Jesus must clarify this for Nicodemus right?
John 3:6–8 KJV 1900
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Does that answer all of your questions? Everything clear as glass? Can we quit here and go home? What is going on in your thinking right now? Why is Jesus talking about wind? What does that have to do with entering into the Kingdom of God?
What was going on in Nicodemus’ thinking?
John 3:9 KJV 1900
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
What is going on here? What is Jesus doing? Does Jesus want to lead Nicodemus to be born again? Does Jesus want Nicodemus to be able to see and enter into the Kingdom of God? YES! Then why does Jesus say statement after statement that Nicodemus CANNOT understand?
Answer: I would suggest that this is one of the principles of Jesus’ method of evangelism. What was the first step that Jesus used to lead someone to faith in Himself?
He caused people to become curious about spiritual things!
Here Jesus is arousing Nicodemus’s curiosity with statements that were NOT understandable!
Do you remember the cleansing of the temple? First of all Jesus did something that the Jews did not understand. Then they asked Jesus a question, do you remember the question?
John 2:18 KJV 1900
18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
What was Jesus’ answer to their question?
John 2:19 KJV 1900
19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Was this a statement that the Jewish leaders understood?
John 2:20 KJV 1900
20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
So why does Jesus say things that people don’t understand?
He caused people to become curious about spiritual things!
Do you remember his conversation with Nathanael? What was the very first thing Jesus said to Nathanael?
John 1:47 KJV 1900
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
What was Nathanael’s response?
John 1:48 NASB95
48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
What was Jesus doing?
He caused people to become curious about spiritual things!
Did Jesus’ method work on Nicodemus?
John 3:9 KJV 1900
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
What does this mean for you personally? How should you apply this to the way you seek to give people the gospel?

Make people curious about spiritual things

How do you do that?
Step one- the most effective way to do this is to first build redemptive relationships with people. First seek to become someone’s friend, let them get to know you, let them get to know that you aren’t some religious nut job- your not crazy- you are a normal human being. If you first build relationships with people and they know and trust you, then when you say something spiritual to them that they cannot understand they will be more willing to think and listen to you, rather than writing you off as crazy.
Step two- say or do something that they cannot understand that will cause them to become curious about spiritual things?
What does that look like?
You can say something that your friend will not understand:
One man after building a solid friendship with a fellow classmate said this to his friend, “Karl, what would you say if someone said he knew God?” “I’d say he was crazy,” he replied with no hesitation. “Karl, I know God,” I said seriously. “You’re crazy!” he said, again with no hesitation. “Am I really?” I looked at him as we came to a traffic light. He stared at me for a few seconds before he spoke. “No, you aren’t crazy. You have some weird ideas at times, but you’re not crazy!” He tried to smile, unsure where the conversation was going. I returned his smile. “Weird, yes; crazy – you know I’m not crazy. And I’m serious.”
What do you think Karl is thinking at this point in the conversation?
John 3:9 KJV 1900
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
If you want to apply the Lord’s principles of evangelism, then you need to start practicing things you can say to your friends that would make them curious about spiritual things.
Some of you might be thinking, “I wouldn’t know what to say.” Or, “that sounds like something only a theologian or a gifted evangelist could do.” But the truth is that this kind of evangelism can be done by anyone. The truth is that making someone curious about spiritual things is something that can be learned. Let me say that again, these principles can be learned by anyone. You just have to be willing to put in some thought and effort and practice. What if you spent some time talking through pretend conversations with your unsaved friend in order to brainstorm ideas about how to make them spiritually curious? What if you even practiced some of these things with other believers? If you want to be an effective evangelist just like Jesus was, you can- but it takes effort! It will not happen by accident!
You can do something that your friend will not understand:
A young student came to me at a student Bible conference a few summers ago and said that she had just become a Christian. She wanted to know how she could talk her mother into becoming a Christian as well. After talking to her for a few minutes, I detected that she harbored some bitterness toward her mother. I asked her if she loved her mother, and she started to cry.  She said that she knew she should, and now that she had become a Christian, she wanted to work on it. Then she said, “It would be easier for me if my mother were a believer, too.” ​I described a hypothetical situation for her: what if she goes home and tells her mother that she (the mother) has been wrong all her life and that her daughter has come home to set her straight.  The girl thought about that for a few minutes and then said, “She’s known me all my life.  She’ll probably ask me what I could possibly have to teach her.” ​I then asked her if she really wanted to lead her mother to the Lord. When she answered yes, I asked, “What is the one thing above all other things that you hate to do the most when you are at home?” ​She responded with no hesitation, “I hate to wash the dishes.” ​I said, “If you really want to lead your mother to the Lord, then go home and volunteer to do the dishes everyday for the next six months. Don’t tell your mother that you’ve become a Christian. When she asks you how this conference went, just say it was nice. Above all, don’t complain about doing the dishes and don’t witness to her. Just do the dishes.” ​She asked me how that would help lead her mother to the Lord, but I told her that I wouldn’t answer that question until she had done the dishes for six months at home. Then she could call me and tell me what happened, and I would answer her question. ​Four months later, she called me to say that she had done what I had suggested and that she didn’t need an answer to her question anymore. Within three months her mother had become so irritated by her daughter’s cheerful dish-washing that she finally demanded to know why she had changed so much. Her daughter replied, “I’ve been reading the Bible and Jesus has changed my life.  Would you like to read it with me?” The mother refused but wanted to know what was in the Bible. The daughter remembered what I had said about not giving answers, and she declined to tell her mother what was in the Bible. The young student wanted to call me and tell me that she and her mother had just begun reading the Gospel of John together. The mother eventually became a believer.
Schneider, Floyd. Evangelism For the Fainthearted (p. 36). Kindle Edition.
What are you going to do about it?
Do you really believe that this approach to evangelism can work for you? Do you think that if we all as a church changed the way we think about reaching people with the gospel that we might actually begin to see people coming to faith in Christ? This is something that the Lord wants all of us to be participating in. This is part of the Great Commission. If we are going to be Great Commission minded people then we must take the task of evangelism seriously. And what if you could be effective at doing it. And what if you actually enjoyed leading people to Christ. What if you modeled your evangelism after the way that Jesus did evangelism? I am not asking you to embrace the latest fad. I am asking you if you think your principles of evangelism match up with Jesus’ principles of evangelism. Do you really want to be like Jesus in every area of your life?
Get out into your Jerusalem and build redemptive relationships!
Devote yourself to learning the skill of making your friends curious about spiritual things.
Write down five things that you can do or five things that you can say that will make your friend curious about spiritual things, and the next time you meet with your friend DO IT!
We have to start putting action to our faith. We have to start changing our thinking and our behavior based on the Word of God- so that we can accomplish what God wants us to accomplish as Faith Baptist Church. And I cannot do it alone. I need all of you to do the work of the ministry with me. We need to think of ourselves as a team and it is going to take a team effort to do the work of the Great Commission, but I know if we just model our lives after Christ- God will bless!
Just imagine if we all of us worked together to become Christlike evangelists! How cool would that be!
OK, you have built redemptive relationships with people in your Jerusalem. You have brainstormed and come up with a way to make them curious about spiritual things. Now what? What do we do now?
What is the next principle of Christlike evangelism?

II. Do not give people answers until they are ready to hear them (John 3:10-12)

John 3:9–12 KJV 1900
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
Remember the previous conversation-
Nicodemus- Jesus we know that you are somehow connected with God.
Jesus- You must be born again or you cannot see the kingdom of God
Nicodemus- How can a man enter into the womb a second time and be born again? That makes no sense! What do you mean?
Jesus- Unless you are born of water and of Spirit you cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear it, but you don’t know where it comes from- this is like those who are born of Spirit.
Nicodemus- Huh? How can these things be?
Now does Jesus ever answer Nicodemus’s question? Does Jesus ever tell Nicodemus something he can understand? Yes, when we get to v. 14 Jesus give Nicodemus an answer fond in the OT that Nicodemus could readily understand. BUT, before Jesus gives an answer notice what he says to Nicodemus first!
John 3:9 NASB95
9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?”
John 3:10 NASB95
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?
How did this question strike Nicodemus? Well, we can’t be entirely sure because we don’t have his reaction recorded for us, but think about what Jesus is saying and how Jesus might have said it and you tell me how you would respond.
What tone might Jesus have used when he ask this question?
(Condemnation)- Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?
(Hushed)- Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?
What words might Jesus have emphasized?
“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?”
“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?”  
“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?”    
“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?”
“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?”
Do you get the picture? It was not a polite question meant for pleasant conversation.
The biting sharpness of the question went right to the heart of Nicodemus’s problem. The Pharisees claimed to be the mediators between God and man. Jesus attacked Nicodemus in his stronghold. He called into question his ability as a teacher and a mediator between God and man. The most basic and most important question that anyone could ask was, “What must a person do to get into the kingdom of God?” And Jesus told Nicodemus that if he couldn’t even answer this question, then he was a complete failure. What a devastating remark!
Again, we must ask the question, “Does Jesus want to lead Nicodemus to salvation?” Then why does Jesus treat Nicodemus this way? Do you notice any similarities or differences between this story and the previous one about Jesus in the temple? Jesus states something that Nicodemus could not understand, and Nicodemus didn’t understand it. This lack of understanding caused Nicodemus to ask a question. Jesus made two more statements that Nicodemus didn’t understand. Did the Lord know all along that Nicodemus wouldn’t understand his comments?
​After arousing Nicodemus’s curiosity with statements that were not understandable, Jesus verbally slapped him in the face with an insulting rhetorical question. Why? ​
Then, and only then, did the Lord give Nicodemus an answer based on the Old Testament that he could understand. The Lord did much the same thing with the Jews in the temple. He insulted their authority and aroused their curiosity by cleansing the temple, and then he gave them an answer to their question that they could not understand. In their case, however, he gave them no explanation as to what he meant. With Nicodemus, he insulted him and then gave him an answer. Why did the Lord give an answer to Nicodemus but not the Jews?
Are you following the pattern? First, Jesus makes statements or does something that people cannot understand to arouse their curiosity. After this we see Jesus’ second principle of evangelism.
He did not give people answers to their questions until they were ready to hear them!
The Jews in the temple never did get an answer or explanation to the Lord’s statement about raising up the temple again. Apparently, they were not ready to hear the Lord’s answer.
Nicodemus got his answer, but not until the Lord had pointed out that Nicodemus’s knowledge was useless because it was not coupled with a personal relationship with the God of the Old Testament. Jesus scorned and ridiculed those who claimed to teach about God and yet did not know him.
Nicodemus’s problem was the pride of his profession and position – knowledge and degrees. The Lord attacked him directly, as he did most of the Pharisees.
John 3:11–12 KJV 1900
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
What is Nicodemus’s problem? His pride! He is the ruler of Israel- a Pharisee. He is the guy with all the answers. But Jesus verbally slaps him in the face- Nicodemus, you don’t know these things? Nicodemus, you are unwilling to accept our witness or our testimony. You won’t even believer early things that I tell you, how ill you believe me if I tell you heavenly things- like how you enter into the kingdom of God? All of your knowledge is useless because you do not have a relationship with the Father.
Before Jesus would answer any of Nicodemus’s questions, Jesus pointed out Nicodemus’s spiritual problem. Only after the problem was pointed out, and Nicodemus was ready to hear the answer did Jesus give it to him.
How can we expect our unsaved friends to see their need of salvation when they do not understand from what they need to be saved – sin and their own sinful nature?
Do not be quick to give out answers to people’s spiritual questions. What? That sounds crazy! But how did Jesus do it? Jesus chose different methods of evangelism for different people? Why? Jesus chose his methods based upon the person’s willingness to receive the answer. The Jews in the temple never got an answer! Nicodemus only got an answer after Jesus helped him ask the right question.
Maybe we should do the same. Maybe we should think about only giving people the answers to their questions when they are ready to hear them.
Example: Ryan- In Matt 7: 22- How can religious people call Jesus, Lord, Lord, and how is is possible that these religious people do many wonderful work in his name, and then Jesus says to them- depart from me, I never knew you? And then I said, you should read Matthew 7 and I walked away. I didn’t give him the answer. Why? Would he have been ready to hear the answer? If someone is equating their religion with a relationship with God, wouldn’t it be better to get them to doubt their own values and self-established goals first? Wouldn’t it be better to get someone to a point where they at least begin to realize their sin before a holy God before we give them too many answers?
If we want t become evangelists like Jesus, then we do not want to give our friends the answers until we are certain they are really searching, and we don’t want to give them too many answers too quickly. Doesn’t that fly in the face of how we have thought about evangelism for years and years? But isn’t that what Jesus did? Look at the text for yourselves. I want you to be convinced that this is how Jesus gave people the gospel and that this is biblical and that because of that this is how you should pattern your evangelistic efforts as well. And if you look at the Bible and you don’t see it, then completely ignore me. But if this are the principles of evangelism that Jesus actually used to lead people to faith, then shouldn’t we use them too?
What is the next principle of Christlike evangelism?

III. Seek for people who are willing to accept the gospel before giving them the whole gospel (John 3:13-15)

John 3:13–15 KJV 1900
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Let’s review the principles of Christlike evangelism:
curiosity aroused
problem pointed out; and then (maybe),
the answer is given
Again compare the Jewish leaders at the temple with Nicodemus. The Jewish leaders never got an answer, and Nicodemus only got an answer after Jesus pointed out the problem of the pride of his heart. But apparently Nicodemus was actually seeking after truth and the Jewish leaders were not. How do we know? Jesus gave Nicodemus an answer he could understand and he did not do the same with the Jews at the temple.
Finally, Jesus gives Nicodemus an answer from the OT that he can relate with.
John 3:14 KJV 1900
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
This is from Numbers 21, which Nicodemus being a Pharisee could easily understand. And then Jesus connects the OT story with the idea of belief in Himself in v. 15.
John 3:15 KJV 1900
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Again, why didn’t the Jews get an answer to their question at the temple? They were not ready to hear the answer.
Again, Nicodemus finally did get an answer, but only after Jesus helped Nicodemus think about the right questions to ask- how can I enter the kingdom of God? How can I have eternal life?
What is the principle here? We should seek for people who are willing to hear the gospel before giving them the whole package. How can we determine this? We are not Jesus. Jesus didn’t need anyone to show him the hearts of men, because he knew them. But we do not. How can be possible know the willingness of someone’s heart, how can we find people who are searching for truth?
Ask them if they want to read the Bible with you.
If they aren’t willing to read the Bible with you, they probably won’t believe what you say about the Bible either. Look for people who will read the Bible with you, not just talk about it.
Again, this is where we need to change the way we think about evangelism. If we are going to pattern our evangelism after Jesus, then our goal should not be to cram the entire gospel down people’s throats in one sitting. If we are going to follow the Lord’s principles of evangelism then we need to change our primary goal-
Our goal is to make our fiends curious enough to want to read the Bible with us.
I don’t have to save them, I don’t have to transform their hearts- I can’t do that anyway. Whose job is that?
Hebrews 4:12–13 KJV 1900
12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
What are you going to do about it?
Build redemptive relationships
Make people curious about spiritual things
Don’t give them answers until they are ready for them- you may have to be brutally honest with them to point out the error of their thinking- help them to ask the right questions that will lead them to the Bible
Seek for people who are willing to accept the gospel- ask your friend if they would like to read the Bible with you
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