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By Pastor Glenn Pease
James McGinley had a woman come forward in one of his meetings, and he took her into the counseling room and shared the Gospel with her, and then he prayed.
She then asked him what he thought about a Protestant marrying a Catholic.
He said it can often be very difficult for both, and he asked her why she asked him that.
She told him that her boyfriend was out in the audience, and that she wanted to leave her husband and two children to marry him, but thought she should get converted first.
She wanted Christ to okay her sinful decision, and put His stamp of approval on it, so she would be off the hook.
She did not want freedom from her sin, but freedom from the guilt of it.
People want Jesus to save them from the consequences of their sin, but they do not want to be His disciples.
They are not looking for a commitment, but just an easy way out.
Almost everybody in evangelism can tell stories of people who come forward to be delivered from the messes their sins have created, but who have no intent on becoming followers of Christ.
They don't want in on anything, they just want out of something that is a problem.
They are like fish who want the bait, but when they see they are hooked and being taken out of their environment, they resist like mad.
If they can dive into the reeds and create a slack in the line so they can snap it, they can escape, and that is what they do.
They want what they can get out of Christ, but they don't want to be taken captive by Christ.
Fishing is full of problems because the fish have a different agenda than the fishermen, and so it is with fishing for men.
We need to face this reality up front, for those who go with the illusion that fish love to be taken out of the water and into the boat will soon be disillusioned by discovering that sinners often fight to stay in the kingdom of darkness, and resist coming into the kingdom of light.
The Christian has to recognize that evangelism has many of the same problems as fishing, and you need to know, not only a lot about bait, but about how to be patient, and how to let the hooked fish run and feel free at times, and other times to keep the tension on.
Fishing for men is sometimes as easy as catching fish, and sometimes it is as hard, and we have to be prepared to deal with the problems.
If Jesus would have wanted us to think it was a snap to make disciples, He would not have made it a point to call attention to the problems of evangelism.
Problems are a part of life, and there is no escape, even when you are doing what most pleases God.
This whole account in John 4 is problem oriented.
Jesus was at the well in Samaria because of a problem.
He had to get out of Judea because of the opposition of the Pharisees.
If He had no problems, He probably would not have there in the first place.
But Jesus never let a problem blind Him to opportunity.
He never would have been in the world if it was not for a problem, that men are lost without a Savior.
The first problem of evangelism is that we let problems blind us to opportunity.
Most of us go through life thinking that problems are obstacles to our being a witness for Christ.
The fact is, most people only come to Christ because of some problem.
Problems are what open people up to hear the good news.
They only feel the need of it when they have a problem.
You problems should make you sensitive to the problems of others.
Every interruption and foul up in our life's plan should open your eyes to see it as an opportunity to touch another life.
Jesus was being rejected by the leaders of Israel, and now He sees a woman at the well at noon, and He know she is a woman who has suffered much rejection.
He has the same problem she has.
He has been rejected by the people that should love Him, and she has been rejected by five husbands.
A common problem has brought these two together.
If Jesus would not have been rejected He would not be in Samaria at this point, and if she had not been rejected by her husbands, she would never have been here at noon.
She would have come with the other women in the cool of the day.
Problems are not always barriers to evangelism, but are often the reason there is an opportunity for evangelism.
We need to stop seeing problems as only problems, and see them as opportunities.
The early Christians did this, there is a fascinating parallel to John 4 in Acts 8.
There was great persecution in Jerusalem, and many of the Christians had to flee.
Acts 8:1 says the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, but the lay people scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Verse 4 says they preached the Word wherever they went, and then it tells of how Philip went to Samaria and had a great ministry.
It is almost a rerun of John 4. The problems of Christians led to great blessing and evangelism for the people in Samaria.
The lesson is clear.
People with an eye for evangelism do not see problems in their lives, or the lives of others, as obstacles, but as opportunities.
We need to see every problem as a door of opportunity to touch some life that we could never touch had the problem not taken us in a new direction that led us to cross their path.
Jim Spady, a missionary in Nigaria, was interrupted one day by shouts that an elephant was coming.
It was rare in those parts, and so everybody, including the police, were running to see.
It was learned that the beast had escaped from a reserve area the day before.
And it
had killed a man.
The police began to fire and it ran at them, and Jim found himself up a tree with many others.
The police lined up and fired together, and the elephant dropped.
One of the policeman was injured in this dangerous situation, and was taken to the hospital.
The missionary visited him, gave him a New Testament, and to make a long story short, this Muslim policeman came to Christ.
Had this problem, that brought them together, ever happen, there's not likely any way he would have witnessed to this man.
The problem, however, provided a way by which they could share, and because he used the problem to this end, he won a man to Christ.
So it was with the woman at the well, and so it is with millions who come into the kingdom of God because of Christians who see problems as opportunities, rather than obstacles.
Man an injured Christian has ended up in the hospital where they witnessed to others, and turned mutual tragedy into mutual triumph.
If you have got a problem, be aware of the people it may bring you into contact with, and be alert to how your problem may be the providence of God in opening up a door of opportunity to witness.
If you see the problems of others, do not only sympathize, but look for a chance to evangelize.
This does not mean you pounce on others when they are down, and force yourself on them.
It means you graciously open the door to help them see their greatest need is Christ.
Every problem in life can be a fragment of the will of God, and a light beckoning us to go in a certain direction, and find in it an opportunity to touch some life for Christ.
The second problem in evangelism is blindness of the prospects for evangelism.
People can die of thirst with the water of life at their finger tips.
Jesus said to the Samaria woman in verse 10, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water."
Jesus is saying, everything you have ever searched for is yours for the asking, but in your ignorance, you blindly walk right pass the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The providence of God has presented you with the winning ticket to the greatest prize ever given-eternal life.
But you are so hung up on this Jew-Samaritan prejudice, you are letting it slip through your fingers.
She didn't know she was conversing with the Messiah, and people just do not realize that when they hear the Gospel they are being offered the greatest opportunity of their life.
Fortunately, Jesus did not just say, you are right lady, I as a Jew should not be asking a Samaritan for a drink, and then just let her go away.
The story would be one of the great tragedy of the New Testament, just like that of the rich young ruler, had that been the case.
Jesus does not let her go, but keeps the conversation going until the light breaks through her darkness.
If people are blind to the value of what can be theirs in Christ, you have to be persistent in your presentation if you expect to see them enlightened.
If you are going to let the blindness, the stubbornness, and the prejudice of the sinner cause you to give up, you will not pursue many people for very long.
Your chances of being an effective fisher of men will be about as slim as your chance of catching fish by their leaping into your boat.
It is because sinners are blind to the wealth you offer them, that you need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Because of the problem of blindness, and all sorts of negative feelings on the part of the lost, the Christlike witness needs to develop tact.
Tact is the discernment of what is appropriate to do so say in dealing with others.
It is the ability to be delicate and sympathetic, even in difficult situations, so as not to give offense.
No where do we see Jesus as the Master of tact more effective than here in John 4.
He knew this woman's past, and her present violation of the law of God.
He could have taken a totally different approach to her.
He could have said, don't you dare question my asking you for a drink, and pretend that you are somehow bound by such drivel as the prejudice between Jew and Samaritan.
You care nothing for the law of God, and you defy it by your life style, which deserves more severe judgment than the isolation you receive from your community.
You deserve the flames of hell where there will be no well, and not a drop of water to cool the tongue of the likes of you.
This approach would not be theologically incorrect, but by no stretch of the imagination would it be good news.
We need to constantly remind ourselves of the distinction between the Gospel and judgment.
The Gospel is good news, and judgment is the result of rejecting the good news.
Too often Christians what to get right to part 2, and skip past the good news, and just pronounce judgment on the sinner.
This was not the approach of Jesus.
He offered the sinner good news first, and only after the light was rejected, did He warn of judgment.
Judgment is not the Gospel.
This woman had already been through much judgment, as she had likely been through 5 divorces.
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