John 3:1-21 – Learning Evangelism from Jesus

Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus the Pharisee in the third charter of John is among the most well-known passages in the Bible. Here in these verses we find out the one must be born again, that the Holy Spirit goes where He wishes, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and that men love darkness rather than light. In addition to the immense theological truths that are taught by the Lord Jesus here, I believe there are also lessons to be learned from Jesus about how to share the gospel with those who do not yet believe. I think we can learn evangelism from Jesus from this passage. In this article I want to bring out what the Lord is teaching me about evangelism in this encounter.

First, Jesus makes a statement that is both unexpected and highly unusual, and it causes Nicodemus to ask a question that engages him in a gospel conversation with Jesus. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (3:3).” Nicodemus has never heard anything like this from any other rabbi and it takes him almost by surprise. It arrests his attention and causes him to almost spontaneously ask for more information. “What do you mean ‘born again’?” The statement by our Lord demands an explanation or provokes a response, and this is where the lesson begins for me and you. The Master demonstrates a skill for us that we can emulate and learn. APPLICATION (ACTION): The skilled evangelist has learned the art of asking questions or making statements that provoke engagement and that create curiosity which demands an explanation. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, so Nicodemus had to find out what “born again” meant. So, Jesus’ statements not only arrested his attention, but they also opened the door for a gospel conversation. I want to develop a battery of planned questions or statements that are provocative (in the right sense of the word) and that lead to the gospel. The skill, then, is to develop these planned questions and statements and then plan how to lead the conversation to the gospel. Jesus does it masterfully, but we can also do this kind of thing effectively.

Second, notice how Jesus takes the initiative and leads the conversation where He wants it to go. Yes, He is the Lord of glory and He knows what is in a man (John 2:24) and we cannot discern those kinds of things in ourselves, but what we can do is engage in evangelism with an ATTITUDE of confident BOLDNESS. We can be confident that the Lord has called us to this activity (Acts 1:8, etc.). We can be confident that the Lord has called us to this task (Isaiah 43:10, 12; etc.). We know that the Lord is drawing His people to Himself (John 6:44), so we can speak the gospel with boldness. And we know that we are not to be those who shrink back (Hebrews 10:39), so we present the gospel whether the other person is open or not. (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Thess. 2:3; Acts 1:8; Acts 4:27) So, we must be committed to declare the gospel with boldness, but we also must be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Third, as we watch Jesus engage in this conversation with Nicodemus, we see that Jesus moves relentlessly toward the gospel. While it may appear that at times He is just passing the time of day, Jesus is always asking questions and making statements that directly or indirectly declare the gospel. He moves irresistibly and relentlessly toward the gospel. In every encounter, Jesus’ target is the gospel. He is intent on declaring the glory of God and bent on bringing men from darkness to light. His words are not randomly chosen to tickle the ears, but they are sharp arrows meant to pierce to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow. He is presenting a holy God to a sinful person with the goal of laying bare their unrighteousness so that they will bow the knee. In this, the Lord Jesus is the perfect example, and while we can never emulate His perfect presentation of the gospel, we can emulate His intentionality and sobriety. As Jesus is intentional and serious, so we are to be intentional and serious as we, with the empowering of the Holy Spirit, move conversations toward the cross and plead with men and women to be saved from this perverse generation.

SDG        rmb        1/25/2019

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