Saturday, March 10, 2012

Is your lifestyle hindering your soul winning?

A man with a head of silvery-white hair named Mr. Owens led me to Christ during a job interview back in 1977. As he shared the Gospel with me in a way I'd never heard before, my heart opened to receive the Living Water of the Word of God. My soul cried "Yes" and my mouth did, too! This was the giant missing piece in the puzzle of my life. My first encounter with a soul winner was in that office, and I've been a debtor ever since. Mr. Owens was always on the lookout for someone to talk to about Christ. He had a boldness that was gentle and yet almost urgent. And most of all, his walk matched his talk. He was real.

Not long after trusting Christ, I was taught that my life now belonged to God, and that my lifestyle would be viewed by others as a "billboard" for Christianity. "What? Know ye not that your  body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (I Cor. 6:19) Whoa. I didn't like hearing that! Couldn't I just be quietly saved and live my life any way I wanted? I decided to give that a try. Secret Agent Christian: Saved, but living like I was still unsaved.

Complete and utter failure doesn't even begin to describe it.

After a few years of spinning my spiritual tires like a car backed into a Minnesota snow bank, I finally understood that God was serious about His ownership of my life, and that I could either live obediently for Him with joy, or unhappily and randomly for myself. As my mistakes piled up like cordwood, I also noticed that I was not doing such a good job at being a "billboard," either. It was time to abandon my double-agent lifestyle. When we are saved but living like we're still unsaved, it mocks the enormous sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross and hinders our testimony.

A common error that people make when they're living by their own rules is to try to find someone else to blame for the messy outcome. When we know what's right but we actively choose to do wrong, the only one to blame is the person that we see in the mirror. "We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them." (Isa. 59:11-12) When we're living off course by choice, we're not always willing to admit it. Pride keeps us trapped in broken ways.

It was time for a change. I wasn't a raging rebel outwardly, but I wasn't living like I truly valued what Christ had done for me, either. My life need an overhaul, and as I confessed my sins, the Lord taught me through His Word to repent and forsake those things that were holding me back from being Christ-like, let alone being a soul winner. The song, "I Surrender All" wasn't just the signal for the end of a sermon anymore. It was my theme song.

As I studied God's Word daily, He continued to transform me by the renewing of my mind. My life began to line up with Scripture, which then strengthened my testimony. Now it was time to learn how to go soul winning. After all, why squirm through the sermon when I could go and do what was being preached? One Sunday years ago, after hearing yet another convicting sermon about soul winning, I went forward during the invitation. The Pastor's wife at the time, Mrs. Ellie Johnson, came and knelt beside me. "Do you need someone to pray with you?" she asked. I was so grateful for her presence, because I wanted to make myself accountable to someone for the decision that I was about to make.

"Yes, I'd like to pray about becoming a soul winner," I told her in my newborn innocence.

"Francie, you don't need to pray about it. Just do it." By this point, I was already familiar with Matt. 28:19-20. The "Go ye, therefore" was clear to me, but I had somehow mistakenly viewed it as optional! Mrs. Johnson  invited me to the next soul winning meeting, and then we prayed for the Lord to bless as I learned how to lead others to Christ. The Lord took it from there, firmly anchoring this important aspect of Christian living in my soul.

It was awkward at first, but I started sharing the Gospel with anyone who was willing to listen. Some of my best soul winning memories have been made at the kitchen tables of Moms from our bus ministry. It thrills me to sit in their "kitchen classrooms" with the Bible as our Textbook, studying the evidence of God's great love for us and helping these dear Moms to receive the free gift as I had done so long ago.

Is your lifestyle hindering your soul winning? If so, it's time to make adjustments. Here's a great prayer: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psa. 139:22-23) Ask the Lord to show you what needs to change, and then yield whatever He touches. If we want to lead others to the well of Living Water, it helps if we are examples of how His transforming power really works.

"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." (Psa. 51:12-13)



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