Do you find yourself unsure of how to bring up Jesus with your friends? Are you sure all your friends have a personal relationship with Jesus? We can need to be careful not to judge people’s hearts. You may be surprised by the Apostle Paul’s easy approach that he took, when he first met men from Ephesus and shared the gospel with them.
Acts 19:1-6 “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.7 There were about twelve men in all.”
Acts Chapter 19 puts meat on the bones of our understanding of Paul’s experience with the Ephesians. Can you see their humanity as you read their conversion stories and peek into their persecution and personal deliverances? Let’s get started in discussing what happens at the beginning of Paul’s first interaction with the people who will become part of the Ephesus church. When Paul meets the twelve Ephesian men along the road, what does he ask them? He doesn’t assume that these friendly men who seem to love God actually have a saving faith in Christ. He knows that if they are truly believers, they will have the Holy Spirit. They show no sign of knowing about the Holy Spirit, so he asks more questions. If you didn’t read it, you definitely want to open up your Bible and read! Notice how Paul doesn’t just assume that they know Jesus. Paul’s mission is to genuinely sow the seeds of the kingdom. He is trying to see how to best minister to the people he meets on the road by digging in and asking them questions. He finds out that they had been baptized by John the Baptist, himself! This demonstrates they were sorry for their sins. John the Baptist was the way maker that paved the way for these men to know Christ. But, Paul wanted them to know the salvation of Jesus Christ and the POWER of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because faith in Christ is the only way for them to have a real relationship with God.
How many times do you assume things about people you meet or know? Making assumptions about others is a big relationship mistake! We don’t know the hearts of other people and we should never make judgments without asking Spirit-led questions. Do you assume they know God because they are nice people, go to church, and do good things? They may appear to be Christians; they may even mention praying for others. But, you never know! Many men and women in our culture “know about” God and “pray to the man upstairs.” They may even be genuinely sorry for their sins, like these men on the road. Do you know their testimonies? Are you intentional like Paul to dig deeper to learn how to minister to someone, or do you stay in the “safe zone”? The safe zone for you may be the danger zone for your friends! If they are not saved by Jesus Christ, and you never dig deeper in a loving way to have real-life discussions with them, they may be under the false assumption that they are going to heaven, when they are not.
When I was in my early twenties and leading a small youth group, a young Russian girl began attending, when invited by a friend. She had difficulty with English and being a new immigrant to the country, she was excited to make some friends at youth group. One day, when I was particularly exhausted after a late youth meeting, I learned that she needed a ride home. I intended to drop her off and quickly leave. However, the lovely mother came outside and eagerly invited me in for tea. I inwardly sighed, tired from my long day, ventured up the steps and through the front door. We stayed in the living room, politely discussing life. I kept feeling a weight inside that I really needed to ask some questions to find out where the mother was spiritually. Reluctantly, knowing this would extend my stay, I probed in. With the young girl translating, I discovered that the woman was very religious. She excitedly jumped up and found a picture of a patron saint that she prayed to regularly. She was so sweet and eager that I sought the Lord in prayer. “How do I bridge this gap? How do I tell her about Jesus?” God immediately showed me to use what she had in her hands.
“Oh. The saints of God are so blessed!” I told her. She nodded in agreement and excitement, as her daughter translated. “They knew God so very well. They had an understanding of his son Jesus that was so special. If they were alive today, do you know what I think they would want to tell you?” Her eyes were full of wonder, as she sat on the edge of her couch in the dimly lit living room. “They would want you to know how to come be with them in heaven and how to have a relationship with Jesus, the way they did. See, each of the true saints understood that our sin separates us from God. Our sin makes us a foreigner to God. But, his son Jesus died on the cross for our sin to remove what is keeping us from becoming a citizen of heaven.” We talked about how she was a natural born citizen of Russia living in the United States. “God wants you to become a citizen of heaven through his son Jesus Christ. Praying to other saints did not make the saints of God holy or right with God. Trusting in Jesus Christ did. They are there in heaven right now, because of Jesus. They would want you to know Christ the way they did.” This darling woman, with tears in her eyes, became a citizen of heaven that night. She moved from the realm of being religious to someone who had a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I was able to give them a Russian Bible that my husband had acquired in Russia when he went on a mission trip there as a teen.
Excerpt from Revealed in Ephesians~ The Mystery of Who I Am in Christ. Week 3 Day 4