Mature Class Study, teacher Richard Lehman.
We need to know the difference between having a prepared lesson or speech, and being able to engage with people to effectively testify to souls. It’s important to let the Holy Ghost lead, rather than have preconceived or prepared thoughts.
We like to prepare ahead and have things set so we know what to expect. It doesn’t work that way doing personal work. Taking time in your personal devotions, in prayer, and to study or dig into the word for deeper meanings helps. But we don’t know exactly what’s going to come up when we’re working with a soul. The best way to work with a soul is to understand where they are with God and how he’s been speaking to them. We miss this part sometimes and think we must speak to them about the burden of our heart. Sometimes that’s true but in personal work, it’s often not the place to start. That isn’t the way the apostles did and isn’t always the way Jesus did it either. We need to find out how the Holy Ghost has been speaking to that person’s heart. The only way you’ll know is by asking questions and listening and listening some more. We don’t listen well because when we hear things we didn’t expect, we feel the need to have an answer. It makes us uncomfortable and gets us into things we wouldn’t choose. That’s exactly where God wants us to be. Doing the work of God, we need to be willing to allow the Holy Ghost to lead and to change us in the process. God never changes and his spirit is always striving with people of the world, no matter whether they’re Hindu or Muslim or in a dark pagan place or in witchcraft. Maybe that’s all they’ve known their whole life, but God’s spirit has been striving with them.
Genesis 6:3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
So how on earth do we reach somebody with the gospel who has no clue what it is? Well, we don’t start with the gospel in our hand, but according to the Holy Ghost speaking to their heart. That may be very different than what you’re familiar working with, but it’s the gospel that causes things to happen. Philip was drawn to a situation that he had no plans of being in. He found himself where an Ethiopian eunuch was who traveled in a chariot. The spirit of God told him to go close.
Acts 8:29-32 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither…and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
Philip was being led and didn’t have anything planned for his next move. He didn’t know how it was going to work out with this person in the chariot of a totally different country and different culture. He got close to the chariot and didn’t wait for the guy to ask him to come where he was. Philip heard him reading from the prophet Isaiah. This is where this man was. Philip was prepared in that scripture. It was important to prepare and spend time in his own devotional life, in prayer, and study to be familiar enough with the scriptures before he went where God led him. He couldn’t start when he got there. He asked if the man understood what he was reading. He didn’t say let me preach to you from that place, but asked if the man understood where he was in reference to the scripture he read. The man asked how he could unless someone guided him. It was from that place that was troubling the man that Philip began to speak to him about his soul need. This was totally unplanned and started with Philip asking if he understood what he was reading. It gave a way to engage with the man. It may not always happen so easy, but sometimes all you do is listen to people.
A good attorney spends a lot of time preparing before he goes to court. It’s serious when there are accusations to handle. Attorneys typically don’t ask questions unless they already know the answer. Jesus didn’t give that advice in this case. He said don’t go with a prepared answer when someone’s accusing you, but listen to what they say and accuse you of. He said he would give the answer and to not answer according to our own mind, but listen to what the Holy Spirit shows you. It’s uncomfortable to go and find out right then, but we need to seriously think about if the Holy Ghost isn’t speaking to them. What we say will be just a bunch of words that mean nothing and may have a negative effect unless the Holy Ghost is leading. Jesus said that unless he draws a soul, nothing is accomplished and we can’t do anything without him.
Luke 12:11-12 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
We can spare ourselves wasted energy and disappointment by simply learning to inquire what the Holy Ghost is doing. Instead of testifying or expressing our opinion to someone right away, first listen to people carefully and show you care. Let them talk about what’s going on and be a sounding board for them. If our conversation is 95% about us and only 5% about them, you won’t know what you’re working with. Our testimony has value at certain times, but we need to realize that people are very different than us and understand the gospel in a very different ways. A better way is to ask, Did the Lord impress you with anything during that time? Did you sense the Lord in that quiet time? Maybe God was showing you something or talking to your heart? Some people might think in terms of religion or say, “My old dad used to say this” or “the old preacher used to say that.” You can redirect by saying, I’m not talking about what others say but whether you felt God was helping you realize something? You’re asking them to think of what God is saying to them.
The spirit of God is always working with souls and speaks to us through our conscience. Even criminals in jail have a sense in their own jail society of right and wrong behavior and how to behave responsibly. They have a conscience and time to think about things in jail. Paul says the Gentiles do by nature the things contained in the law. They don’t know the word but there are inherent things in a person that show them right and wrong. It may not be at the level we understand the gospel. If ask what someone’s conscience been saying to them, it’s no longer about our opinion. It’s what their conscience is saying. We start with nothing about us or what the Lord says. We let them to talk about what’s going on inside. You can have those conversations any time with family, friends, and those who trust you. It doesn’t have to be threatening. You start a conversation with something that’s somewhat about you or a situation that really impressed you. You don’t have to explain your impression but can now direct it to them. You must be willing to be in totally different situations from yours. God works in your ability to listen and then direct their focus on what God is saying to them, more than your ability to talk.
Romans 2:14-15 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another*;)
Jesus dealt with the man as equal with him. He said all goodness comes from the Father and he couldn’t do anything by himself unless the Father showed him. He was subject to all the weaknesses of humanity, including the inability to know what’s in other people. How did he know it? He knew it by the Spirit of God. We know it in the same way. Jesus took a lot of time in prayer and communed with God. He was spiritually aware but like humans. He asked questions to get answers.
Matthew 19:16-21…Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said…Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith…All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said…If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Jesus engaged with the man as a weak human vessel so he could show what we can be in a weak vessel.through the power of God. Jesus said to keep the commandments to obtain eternal life. What he said was very general at first because he just met the man. The Holy Ghost was leading what Jesus said. As the conversation continued he gave the specific commandments. Jesus didn’t get straight to the point but used questions to find out what was really going on. The man kept the commandments and was seeking God but knew he lacked. The Spirit of God was speaking to draw him beyond obeying commandments. Jesus saw the Holy Ghost was calling the man to the ministry. He told him to sell all he had, give to the poor, and follow him. He used the same words to call the apostles. It doesn’t mean he was called to be an apostle, but Jesus called many to be disciples. He didn’t respond because he wouldn’t get rid of the things he valued. Is the Spirit of God telling us we need to do something more? We can carefully plan things in life but accomplish nothing in gospel work. Or we can take time to learn in little steps to follow and make ourselves available to the Lord’s leading, and to listen more than speak. Hearing what people say gives insight to where they are with God and where to work. If we let the Holy Ghost lead us beyond what is comfortable, we’ll learn things and have answers we didn’t know were possible.