The famous American evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) once said, “The only Bible most people will read is the one bound in shoe leather.” Some say that what Moody meant was that most people won’t so much as open a Bible, so the only way they’ll hear the Gospel is if someone takes it to them. Others say he meant that most people form their opinions about Christianity and what it has to offer them not by reading the Bible, but through their interactions with Christians-through Christians’ personal examples, in other words. Possibly he meant both, because both are true.
People need to hear the Gospel and have it explained, but they also need to see an example of someone living it. The words are necessary, but to be most effective, witnessing must go beyond words. Only the Holy Spirit can work in people’s hearts to help them decide to receive Jesus and be saved, but to understand what God is offering them and to believe that it can happen to them, most people need to see how He has already worked in someone else’s life. You could talk for hours about all that God could give or do for the people you’re witnessing to, but unless they see an example of those things in you, your words would probably fall on deaf ears. They need to see that He has changed your life for the better and given you something that they don’t have and can’t get on their own.
If you ask any group of people what they want out of life, most of them will say things like love, happiness, security, and peace of mind. Sure, they may first say a million dollars, their dream house, or the perfect husband or wife, but when it comes right down to it, all of those are only means (or supposed means) to get the things of true value, like love, happiness, security, and peace of mind. And the wonderful thing is, when we receive Jesus and are filled with the Holy Spirit, those truly important things are available to us and can be manifested in our lives. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) When those you are witnessing to see you being loving and understanding, compassionate, gentle, kind, patient, and considerate-especially if they know you weren’t always that way before you found the Lord-they will want what you have.
The only love of God that people can see is the love they see in His children. So if Christians don’t show others a love they can see and feel, they’re going to have a hard time believing that there is Someone up there who they don’t know, and that He really loves them.
In winning people, you often have to inspire their faith in you before they can believe in God or receive Jesus, because they probably won’t be able to understand or believe what you have to say about God unless you show them by some visible tangible work that puts your words into action and your faith into effect, that makes it fact and not fiction, a sample, not just a sermon. You must show them His real love, and manifest it by genuine proving action.
Why do we Christians have to be the ones to tell others about Jesus and salvation? Why doesn’t God just send around some angels and let them tell them? God uses fallible, sinful human beings like us to reach others because He knows that people can relate to people better than angels, and that because we are also prone to human weaknesses and shortcomings, we will show people even more understanding, patience, love, and mercy than the angels would. Think of that!
The difference is real
There is a true story about a Christian and an atheist who were walking down the street together, discussing God. The atheist, of course, was ridiculing God and said, “If there were a God, there would be some proof. There should be a difference between us that people could see. If you really have God and I haven’t, that beggar there, for example, should know just by looking at us. Let’s see who he asks alms of.” And as they walked by, the beggar leaned clear across the atheist who was walking closest to him and stretched out his hand to the other man, and said, “Oh man with God in your face, please give!” People need to see Jesus in us. We need to let the light and love of His Spirit shine through. The way to do that is to stay close to Him, constantly loving Him and thanking Him for all His goodness to us.
To witness means to talk to others about God’s love and salvation in Jesus; a witness is someone who does.