Moses and the Art of Personal Evangelism

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Numbers 10:29 – 32

One day Moses said to his brother-in-law, Hobab (son of Reuel, the Midianite), “At last we are on our way to the Promised Land. Come with us and we will do you good; for the Lord has given wonderful promises to Israel!”

But his brother-in-law replied, “No, I must return to my own land and kinfolk.”

“Stay with us,” Moses pleaded, “for you know the ways of the wilderness and will be a great help to us. If you come, you will share in all the good things the Lord does for us.”

This is such a brief conversation that seemingly has nothing to do with anything, so we wonder why the Holy Spirit included it in the canon of Scripture. It is such an innocuous exchange, we are tempted to just skip over it. Yet we need to remember this: An untold number of men and women gave their lives in defense of the Bible – of every single verse and word of the Bible. So these four verses must be important. They are in our Bible for a reason and it’s up to us to discover why.

The fact is, there is much the church of the 21st century can learn from these four verses. A recent article makes the point that many pastors and Christian leaders have been making for many years: Christianity is losing in America. This excellent piece by Craig Dunkley paints a bleak picture of an increasingly impotent church.

Data from the Pew Research Center shows that those who consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated with any religion have been rising as a percentage of the U.S. population. In 2012, nearly 20% of the public fell into one of those categories, up nearly 5 percentage points over the preceding 5 years. When focusing on adults under 30, about one third consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated. Almost exclusively, the gains in these groups reflect losses for Christians, with Christians dropping from 78% to 73% of the population over the same period.

Dunkley comes to the right conclusion:

[C]hurches are not teaching their members enough about Christian apologetics. This leaves church members unable to respond effectively when their beliefs are challenged. As a result, they often come to doubt what they’ve been taught, and they are certainly ill-equipped to help “win over” friends or acquaintances who may be seekers “on the fence.”

The whole article is well worth your time so be sure to read it. You can find it here:

http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/01/christianity_is_losing_in_america.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook

I want to focus on the second half of the last sentence in the above quote: [Church members] are ill-equipped to help “win over” friends or acquaintances who may be seekers “on the fence.”

That nails the problem most Christians have – they have no clue how to effectively share their faith with others.

And that brings us back to this exchange between Moses and a fellow with the unlikely name of Hobab. Moses didn’t seem to have difficulty sharing what he believed with another. We shouldn’t either, so let’s take a closer look at his experience. Maybe we can learn something from Moses’ encounter that will help us.

Hobab was Moses’ brother in law, the son of Reuel, a.k.a. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, and Jethro was a helpful person. He joined the Israelite camp not long after it arrived at Mount Sinai. It wasn’t just a friendly, chance encounter. He brought Zipporah, his daughter and Moses’ wife, to her husband, along with the two sons. Jethro and apparently one son didn’t stick around too long and soon went back to Midian. The other son, Hobab, stayed behind. Just before Moses and his people broke camp to begin their desert trek, he had a conversation with Hobab.

Like Moses and the people of Israel, we Christians who make up the church of Jesus Christ are also on a journey of sorts. As we walk through this life on our way to the next, we encounter all kinds of people who are also on a journey. While we know where we are going, most people don’t. If they knew, they’d probably want to adjust their spiritual GPS so that they would travel along with us.

Pilgrims

“Pilgrim” is a good word to describe the people of both Israel and the Church. They were set free from a life of bondage in Egypt and we have been set free from a life of bondage to sin. They were on a journey from their old life of slavery to the Promised Land of Canaan and we have are on a journey from our old life of slavery to sin to Heaven – our Promised Land. Both Israel and the Church may be considered “visitors” to planet earth.

But our homeland is in heaven, where our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is; and we are looking forward to his return from there. (Philippians 3:20 TLB)

Back in the “golden age” of Contemporary Christian music, Ben Vaughn and Peter Case wrote some lyrics worth remembering:

We are pilgrims in a strange land

We are so far from our homeland

With each passing day it seems so clear

This world will never want us here

We’re not welcome in this world of wrong

We are foreigners who don’t belong

We are strangers, we are aliens We are not of this world

Petra, the group that made this song famous, struck a profound, Biblical cord with these lyrics. We Christians are “not of this world.” We are here temporarily. It’s a good idea to be reminded of this fact from time to time so that we don’t get too attached to the things of this world, which are even more temporary our stay here.

Pilgrims animated by faith

To Moses and the people of Israel, God promised more than once that He was going to lead them to the Promised Land. It was their faith in His promise – His Word – than animated them. Without that promise, who would want to walk across a hot and dusty desert? It was their faith in God’s promise that made them press on. Over the intervening years, the people experienced good times and bad; periods of great faith and times of great faithlessness, but they persevered in spite of their circumstances and their feelings. That’s the real secret every Christian needs to appropriate. It’s our faith, not our feelings, that should move us. It’s what we will have, not what we have, that should be our motivating factor.

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. (Hebrews 11:1 TLB)

Pilgrims with a story to tell

The Church of Jesus Christ is family; it’s the “household of God.” There are many more on the outside looking in, though. Just as we are “not of this world,” so there are many people all around us who are not part of the “household of God.” Some may not want to be. Some may want what to be part of the “household of God,” but don’t know how to get in. And that’s what Paul was getting at when he wrote this:

But how shall they ask him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14 TLB)

Jesus put it in more urgent terms in His so-called “Great Commission”:

And then he told them, “You are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.” (Mark 16:15 TLB)

In case you aren’t aware it, there is an “Old Testament Great Commission,” which goes like this:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the happy news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns. (Isaiah 52:7 TLB)

The original spiritual pilgrims, the Israelites, were journeying to their Promised Land and they had a story to tell, which Moses told Hobab. Hobab wasn’t part of the family of God – he wasn’t an Israelite – but that didn’t stop Moses from making him an offer:

Come with us and we will do you good; for the Lord has given wonderful promises to Israel. (Numbers 10:29 TLB)

Think about how Moses shared his faith – which is what he was doing: He shared God’s Word with Hobab. Remember, Moses didn’t have a Bible; the only Word of God Moses had were the “wonderful promises” God had made to Israel. So it was Moses’ faith in God’s Word that not only animated him to live a life of faith, but also to share that same faith with one who didn’t know.

What Moses did was the essence of personal evangelism, the process of telling an unbeliever what you believe. But Moses didn’t share his opinions or his ideas with Hobab. He kept it simple, sharing only what God had said.

Not only that, look at the phrase, “we will do you good.” In other words, Moses told Hobab that if he came along with them, all the blessings of God would come to him. Even though Hobab never heard the promises of God firsthand and even though God had promised to bless only His people, Moses knew that if an outsider walked in faith alongside the people of God, those promises would become his promises as well.

There are a lot of people in your life and mine who would love to have we have in Christ. But they need to be offered the chance in a way that they can understand and they need to hear the Word of God in such a way as it makes sense to them. Here’s how Moses did that:

“Stay with us,” Moses pleaded, “for you know the ways of the wilderness and will be a great help to us.” (Numbers 10:31 TLB)

It’s like Moses was sweetening the pot. He appeals to Hobab’s sense of vanity; Hobab has a skill that the people of Israel would benefit from. Now, it’s interesting Moses would say such a thing, given that God had just made it clear that Moses and the people of Israel were to be following the visible presence of God in their trip. They didn’t need a human guide. We don’t know why Moses said what he said to Hobab; it may well be that Moses wavered a little in his faith. It wouldn’t be the first time. You’ll recall that’s the very reason Aaron went with Moses in his confrontation with Pharaoh. Regardless of the reason, Moses was quick to make the offer in a way that made it sensible for Hobab to accept.

Following Jesus is the most common sense way to live; it’s the best way to live. To the non-Christian, following Jesus may not make any sense at all, and it’s up to us find a way to make the Christian life make sense to them.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9, 10 NIV)

That’s the whole point in sharing your faith with the lost: “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Christians need to live their faith and share their faith in such a way as non-Christians find the Christian life something they want to be a part of.  The truth is, if a person is lonely, Christ can change that. If a person is angry, Christ can change that. If a person is full of fear, Christ can take it away. If a person is lost and desperate, Christ can change that.  Christ is more than able to supply whatever a person lacks in his life.  The thing is, he needs to be told that in a way he understands.

Do you know how to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive?” You should! Your faith should animate you; your beliefs should be a part of your life and sharing them with others should be as natural as breathing.

And so I solemnly urge you before God and before Christ Jesus—who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom—to preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance, in season and out, when it is convenient and when it is not. Correct and rebuke your people when they need it, encourage them to do right, and all the time be feeding them patiently with God’s Word. (2 Timothy 4:1, 2 TLB)

That’s Paul’s advice to a young preacher, but the principle is applicable to all believers. All of us, preacher or not, should be prepared to give the Gospel to the lost, at any time, whenever the opportunity presents itself. We should care that much about the lost. Paul was right: we are debtors to them.  We owe them a coherent, cogent, honest presentation of the Gospel.

 

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