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Explore: Salvation offered

 

• The Explore the Bible lesson for Sept. 22 focuses on John 3:1-36.

 

“The No. 1 goal of Sunday school is evangelism.” This was the direct quote from a minister of education I interviewed for a seminary class. Frankly, I was a little surprised by his answer. It certainly sounds good, but is evangelism really the No. 1 goal? I had been involved in Sunday school my entire life, and I had always believed Sunday school served more as a discipleship ministry—teaching people more about Christ—than it did as an evangelistic ministry—bringing people to the point of having a relationship with Christ. The more I thought about his statement, though, the more I came to agree with it.

Being a part of a Sunday school or small-group Bible study gives us the opportunity to invite people to come join us in a very “nonthreatening” atmosphere. And invariably, lessons like the one we study this week from John 3 will arise and give opportunity for a clear presentation of the gospel. Because of this, I will be praying for your class this week—that people will come who have not yet begun a relationship with Christ and that God’s message will be made clear to their hearts.

God’s way of success

I hope to encourage you with a thought centered on verse 8 of our lesson: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

One of the first things I think about when it comes to wind is how it comes into play on a golf course. I certainly cannot see the wind, but I definitely know it’s there, and I have to plan accordingly when I swing the club. In the same way, God’s Spirit is working. We may not feel him or see him, but, in faith, we need to plan our lives accordingly. By that, I mean we should be willing to be used by God whenever we have the opportunity to share the gospel, leaving the results totally up to him.

For the past few years, our church has been involved in an ongoing mission opportunity in Germany. The interesting part of our work is that it revolves around baseball camps. Baseball is a sport they do not play much, so learning is fun for them in Germany. It also affords a lot of personal, one-on-one instruction, which is great for building relationships.

This year was our third time to minister through these camps. I want to tell you about one particular young camper named Yannik. Four years ago when we held our first camp, Yannik was about 12 years old. He had broken his arm and was not able to participate in the workouts. However, he was around the coaches and the teams the whole time. Honestly, he was more of a nuisance than anything else.

Beginning a friendship

Last year, when we made our second trip to Germany, Yannik was there again. This time, he was able to take part in the camp. He and I began a friendship. I showed an interest in some of the things important to him, and he began to call me his “brother.”

When we went back this year, Yannik was placed on my team. I knew immediately God was up to something. In addition to baseball camp, we also have other opportunities to interact with the students and their parents. We teach Bible studies during the day and hold several worship services in the evenings throughout the week. Yannik attended all these. He came to me after one of the worship services early in the week, and we just talked about life for about an hour. This included a quick discussion about having a relationship with God.

A few nights later, during what we call “testimony night,” Yannik became convicted of his need for a Savior and convinced of his desire for a real relationship with God through Christ. He came to me after the service, and I had the great privilege of guiding him through this process. I share this story with you for two important reasons: First, to show that ongoing relationships (like the ones built in Sunday school or Bible-study groups) are important when it comes to sharing Christ. Bringing someone to Christ is not always easy or quick. It may take years of faithful prayer and outreach to see any results.

Be willing to be used by God

Second, I also want to share this story because we have to be reminded that bringing someone to Christ is God’s work through his Spirit. We cannot make this happen on our own. Jesus said the Spirit works just like the wind—unseen, but effective. We have to be willing to be used by God but also remember the results ultimately are in God’s hands and his timing.

Again, I will be praying for you this week as you have this wonderful opportunity to share the gospel—may God do what only God can do for the members of your Bible-study group.

       
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