September 23- 29
The Results of Witnessing
WHAT A REWARD! "The redeemed will meet and recognize those whose attention they have directed to the uplifted Saviour. What blessed converse they will have with these souls! 'I was a sinner,' it will be said, 'without God and without hope in the world; and you came to me, and drew my attention to the precious Saviour as my only hope . . . .'
"Others will say: 'I was a heathen in heathen lands. You left your friends and comfortable home, and came to teach me how to find Jesus, and believe in Him as the only true God. I demolished my idols, and worshiped God, and now I see Him face to face. . . .'
"Others will express their gratitude to those who fed the hungry and clothed the naked. 'When despair bound my soul in unbelief, the Lord sent you to me,' they say, 'to speak words of hope and comfort. You brought me food for my physical necessities, and you opened to me the word of God, awakening me to my spiritual needs. . . . My heart was softened, subdued, broken, as I contemplated the sacrifice which Christ had made for me.'"Gospel Workers, pp. 518, 519.
As we study this week's lesson, let us keep before us the rewards of witnessing for our Savior, rewards that we can enjoy both now and for eternity.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. Failure? (Acts 17:32-34).
II. Objections and Excuses (Acts 22:12-16; 24:25; 26:27, 28).
III. Acceptance or Rejection (Acts 28:23, 24).
IV. Witnessing and Finishing the Work (Acts 17:5-7; Rev. 14:6-10).
V. Eternal Results (Acts 28:11-16, 30, 31).
MEMORY TEXT: "And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord" (Acts 11:21, NKJV).
Describe the results of Paul's mission in Athens. Acts 17:32-34.
People rejected Paul's message on many occasions. In some instances, as in Athens, he did not see large groups becoming Christians. His work there is used many times as an example of faulty evangelistic strategies, but the record indicates that some people did believe.
One of the people who did accept Christ at Athens was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus. The Areopagus was an honored court of justice that held jurisdiction over certain crimes, religious offenses among them. The Areopagus also licensed teachers and controlled education.
Another person mentioned as having accepted Christ at Athens was a woman named Damaris. Because women in Athens were restricted, no respectable woman would have been in the marketplace listening to Paul. It is likely, therefore, that upon hearing him, she turned from a life of ill repute to one of righteousness. Imagine for a moment the number of people whom just these two converts probably influenced for eternity!
What do the following verses teach us about failure versus success in witnessing? Luke 15:3-24; John 4:7-26, 28-30, 39-41.
Despite what we view as a setback, we must remember that soul-winning work is God's work. Feelings of personal failure or success have no have place in it. Failure is doing nothing; but "when we give ourselves wholly to God, and in our work follow His directions, He makes Himself responsible for its accomplishment. He would not have us conjecture as to the success of our honest endeavors. Not once should we even think of failure. We are to co-operate with One who knows no failure."Christian Service, pp. 261, 262.
"Workers for Christ are never to think, much less speak, of failure in their work."Page 261.
We will, however, care about the results, because "the results do not end with this life, but reach over into eternity."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 411. We always will do our best in order to maximize the results, remembering that even though in soul winning there is a combination of human and divine efforts, conversion is always a miracle from God.
|Think of some people who have accepted the gospel as a result of your witnessing. Remember some who rejected the gospel. Can you think of some who have not accepted it yet? Pray for all of them now!|
How did Ananias encourage Saul to make an immediate decision to accept Christ? Acts 22:16.
Paul's conversion involved a twofold commitment.
1. He committed himself to Jesus on the Damascus road, immediately referring to Jesus as "Lord."
2. He committed himself to the body of Christ through baptism in the city of Damascus.
Before making either of these two commitments, people often present objections and excuses. The devil uses objections and excuses as "iron bands" to hinder people from making their decision for what is true. "Many are convinced that we have the truth, and yet they are held as with iron bands; they dare not risk the consequences of taking their position on the side of truth. . . . Just at this critical period Satan throws the strongest bands around these souls."Testimonies for the Church, vol. l, p.646.
What excuse did Felix give to Paul when confronted with the issue of eternal consequences? Acts 24:25. King Agrippa? 26:27, 28. What can we learn about witnessing from Paul's response to Agrippa? Verse 29.
Felix's wife Drusilla had been married to Azizus, King of Emesa. But Felix had charmed her away from her first husband. It is no surprise then, that when Paul began to speak about "righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come" (24:25, NIV), Felix dismissed him. One way of knowing we have succeeded in making the gospel personal is when someone makes an excuse, and then an exit.
As stated earlier in this Bible Study Guide, an objection is an honest block to a strong decision. The soul winner cannot secure a decision until the block is removed. An excuse is an attempt to avoid making a decision. A good way to learn a person's objection is by asking the prospect to read Acts 22:16 and then ask the person, "Is there any reason why you would not make a decision to follow Jesus right now?" Then wait in prayerful silence. If the prospect answers No, both the witness and the prospect may join in a prayer of thanksgiving. But if the prospect offers some objections, the witness may ask, "Is that the only reason?" Usually the last objection is the most important.
Review and describe the attitudes of Felix and Agrippa to Paul's appeals.
Acts 24:25 _________________________________________________________________________
26:27, 28 ______________________________________________________________________
"When persons who are under conviction are not brought to make a decision at the earliest period possible, there is danger that the conviction will gradually wear away."Evangelism, p. 229.
How did some of the people respond to Paul's evidence of the gospel? Acts 28:23, 24.
From the first proclamation of the gospel found in the book of Acts (Acts 2) to the last (Acts 28), we find that when the gospel was preached to unbelievers, some accepted it, while others did not.
When the Christian witness notices that the student does not accept a doctrine just studied, one option is to move to another subject. Many issues will find spontaneous answers while other doctrines are being studied. Of course, the witness must pray harder, asking the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. "The arguments of the apostles alone, though clear and convincing, would not have removed the prejudice that had withstood so much evidence. But the Holy Spirit sent the arguments home to hearts with divine power."The Acts of the Apostles, p.45.
What did the apostles do when people rejected their message? Acts 13:48-52; 14:4-7. What can their attitude teach us about our attitude regarding the success or supposed failure of our witnessing attempts?
The acceptance or the rejection of the gospel carries eternal consequences. The Bible often describes these consequences in terms of contrasting options: life and death, good and evil (Deut. 30:15); blessings and curses (30:19); and a narrow path and broad way (Matt. 7:13, 14). For others, read Matthew 7:24-27; 25:2, 33, 46; and Revelation 20:15 and 21:1. Christian witnesses are ambassadors for Christ who invite sinners to repentance, conversion, baptism, and perseverance (see 2 Cor. 5:20; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 22:16; 14:22).
|If your eternal destiny would be decided today, would you be saved? How do you know?|
What were Christian witnesses accused of in Thessalonica? Acts 17:5-7.
Explain the relationship between sharing the three angels' messages with the world and finishing the work. Rev. 14:6-10.
The book of Acts records many deeds of the early Christians that, according to their enemies, "turned the world upside down." The Bible describes in the book of Revelation how the messages of the three angels are taken to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6); this means the whole world. The people who share these messages are not waiting for something extraordinary to take place some day in the future under the influence of the "latter rain." Many are already participating in the finishing of God's work by knocking on doors and giving Bible studies to their friends, neighbors, and relatives. Others are leaving their families to spend the rest of their lives witnessing to thousands of people groups.
How will God finish His work? Through committed members, willing to sacrifice the conveniences of time, home, town, family, church, country, and even life itself, to go "to places where the very name of Christ has not [even] been heard" (Rom. 15:20, NEB). "Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works with lying wonders even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men. Revelation 13:13. Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand."The Great Controversy, p. 612.
|"Evangelistic work, opening the Scriptures to others, warning men and women of what is coming upon the world, is to occupy more and still more of the time of God's servants."-Evangelism, p. 17. Does your witnessing today include "opening the Scriptures to others"? In addition to giving Bible studies and helping with evangelistic meetings, think of other ways you can open Scripture to those in need. Is it possible to open the Scripture to others without opening it to yourself? Explain.|
Under what circumstances did Paul go to Rome? Acts 28:11-16, 30, 31.
"For years Paul had longed to visit Rome and preach the gospel there (Rom. 1:11-13). He must have reflected on the sharp contrast between that eager expectation and the realities of his arrival. But out of the shocking contrast Paul found reason to take courage, and fresh assurance of God's leading. Paul was skilled at finding reasons for great hope in what appeared to be the most discouraging circumstances. . . . He was a confirmed and incurable Christian optimist."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 461.
Many times doors to witnessing opportunities seem to close in front of us. Retirement, serious illness, even the solitude of a prison cell at first might seem to deny us the chance to witness. However, Paul's experience teaches us just the opposite.
How does the book of Acts end? What two words describe the way Paul witnessed while remaining under house arrest? Acts 28:31.
In one sense, the book concludes with an enthusiastic spirit of freedom. To be sure, Paul was a prisoner; but his bonds did not prevent him from proclaiming the gospel. It is easy for the reader to forget Paul's chains and to celebrate with him the freedom of the good news.
In another real sense, the book of Acts does not conclude at all, for the work goes on through the witnessing of many even today. All of us involved in whatever facet of witnessing are carrying on the great legacy handed down to us through the ages by our sisters and brothers in the early church. Let us all work together, so the mission can be all that God intends.
The same Jesus is still standing at the right hand of God, absent from believers in the flesh yet present with them in the Spirit. This same Spirit, who moved upon the church at Pentecost, is moving upon the church today. The acts of the apostles will not conclude until Christ's followers have fulfilled their great commission and they, along with those they helped to save, will be swept into the heavens at the Second Coming.
|The rewards of witnessing are both present and future. What a joy it will be to see and to greet in heaven those whom we have brought to Jesus and His salvation! What a joy it will be to hear the Lord say, "Well done!"|
FURTHER STUDY: Regarding the rewards of witnessing, read Paul's testimony in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Also read 1 John 3:1-3.
Read any or all of the following: Christian Service, "Reward of Service" pp. 267-275; Gospel Workers, "The Reward of Service" pp. 512-519; Evangelism, "The Message Triumphant" pp. 692-707.
"The great purpose that constrained Paul to press forward in the face of hardship and difficulty should lead every Christian worker to consecrate himself wholly to God's service. Worldly attractions will be presented to draw his attention from the Saviour, but he is to press on toward the goal, showing to the world, to angels, and to men that the hope of seeing the face of God is worth all the effort and sacrifice that the attainment of this hope demands.
"Though he was a prisoner, Paul was not discouraged. Instead, a note of triumph rings through the letters that he wrote from Rome to the churches. 'Rejoice in the Lord alway,' he wrote to the Philippians, 'and again I say, Rejoice. . . .
"'My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.' [Phil. 4:19, 23]."The Acts of the Apostles, p.484.
SUMMARIZE in your own words the rewards of witnessing. What concept of success or failure should we have when we witness, and why? Explain the relationship that exists between witnessing and finishing the work.
After studying the lessons this quarter, would you like to make a commitment to serve God as a witness to His love? If you answer Yes, pray to God now that He will help you to do so. Ask Him to give you an opportunity to implement what you have learned throughout these 14 weeks.
Mali is virtually an unentered country, with fewer than 500 Adventists in a population of 10 million. Mali is a large, landlocked country located in the bulge of Africa. Most of the people are Muslim or animist, but in spite of this, people are willing to listen to the gospel, and many are accepting Christianity.
We planned an evangelistic series in one town where the people are strongly influenced by animism and fetish worship. Through their traditional chief the people asked us if our God could protect them from sorcerers, evil forces, and the curse of Allah if they decided to become Christians. They asked us to show them the power of God. We told them to look to the heavens, see the sun and moon and stars that God had hung in the sky. But they wanted tangible evidence.
That night as we presented our discussion, it began to rain hard. This is rare in the desert of Mali, and the people became frightened and fled to their homes. Had God already begun to show His power?
That night I woke up feeling something cold on my thigh. I touched it and immediately realized that it was a snake! If it was poisonous and it bit me, I could die. I cried out to God to deliver me from this snake, then slowly I began to move, careful to not trap the snake in my trousers.
The snake slithered down my trouser leg and onto the floor. I found a flashlight and aimed it at the snake. It lay on the floor unmoving, as if it was paralyzed. I recognized it as a worofi, one of the deadliest snakes in Africa. One strike would have killed me. I reached for the box in which I store my picture roll and struck the snake, killing it.
Word spread through the town that the Adventist pastor had awakened to find a worofi in his trousers and survived. Villagers came to the house to see for themselves the snake that could not kill me. "Pastor," they said, "the worofi did not kill you. What a powerful God you have that can protect you from the worofi. Surely He can protect us against evil powers if we become Christians."
By that evening the story had spread to every home in the region. The meeting place was packed with people. I told them the story of how Paul was saved from the bite of a serpent while on the island of Malta.
As a result of my encounter with the deadly worofi, seven people gave their lives to God and were baptized. Many others are preparing for baptism. Even the traditional chief, a strong Muslim, accepted a Bible and is studying the Voice of Hope Bible course.
Pray for the people of Mali. It is not easy to become a Christian here.
Denis Patindé is a pastor-evangelist interning in Mali.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission Awareness
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