If you pay close attention while reading the Gospels, you discover that nearly every time Jesus talks with someone, He uses a new approach. He does so for good reason.
After all, each individual starts at a different place, with different beliefs and misconceptions, with different hang-ups and sins, with different needs and circumstances, and with different kinds of relationships with God and others.
In the Gospels, almost every individual “heard” and responded to Jesus and His message in different ways. Some, like Zacchaeus and Nathanael, started following Jesus almost immediately. Others, including Jesus’ own brothers, were anything but converted until after His death and resurrection.
Whether short or long, every dialogue and conversion looked and sounded different from the others. No two individuals, including brothers Peter and Andrew, had the same experience, let alone the same story.
The implications are pretty staggering.
Among other things, this gives us a tremendous amount of latitude in how we discern when someone has trusted Jesus Christ and has chosen to follow Him.
Is it when our friend or acquaintance prays a prayer?
Jesus certainly isn’t opposed to leading in a prayer of salvation. Then again, the New Testament never says that Jesus used, or liked, or preferred such an approach. The same is true of Paul and the other apostles.
Some say, “Wait! What about Romans 10:9-10?”
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (NIV).
I love these two verses. I’ve memorized and recited them many times. Thanks to BibleGateway, I’ve read them in fifty-four English Bible translations and paraphrases.
The plain meaning of these two verses is someone (Person A) tells someone else (Person B) about his or her newfound faith.
Nowhere does either verse even hint of a prayer, let alone of a prayer of salvation. The one and only exception is The Message. That’s fifty-three to one.
(Then again, Eugene Peterson was much smarter than me, and we both prayed for salvation, so it must be okay!)
While Jesus Christ is the one and only Way (John 14:6), there isn’t a small number of ways to invite someone to follow Him.
World-renowned evangelist Luis Palau was gifted by God in five ways to do outreach and evangelism, but laments the many years he taught only those five approaches.
“In reality,” Palau says, “there are 105 ways.”
The implications of “105 ways” are pretty staggering.
This gives you and me a tremendous amount of latitude in how we present the life-changing Good News with family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and others.
Worth pondering: Is Jesus truly happy about your favorite way to reach out to others?
As long as it’s authentic and truly Spirit-led, the answer is “Yes!”
David Sanford’s book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale House, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His speaking engagements have ranged everywhere from UC Berkeley (CA) to The Billy Graham Center at the Cove (NC).