First let’s be clear by defining what preaching is.
Preaching – the delivery of a sermon or religious address, to an assembled group of people.
Preaching is a one-way communication method. Additionally, if preaching is done right, it means you are speaking what the Lord has already told you.
Effective counseling and testifying is very different. It is where you have a conversation about what the Lord has already shown to somebody else. It is about what the Lord has already shown them, not what he has already shown you. If people could only understand this difference, they would be much more effective in counseling, and in testifying to souls.
There’s an important lesson in the approach that Philip took when he testified to the Ethiopian eunuch.
“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth” ~ Acts 8:29-32
And from the scripture that the Holy Spirit was already speaking to the eunuch’s heart about, Philip began to counsel and testify to the eunuch.
“And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” ~ Acts 8:34-35
First of all, the Spirit of God did not say: “call out to the eunuch, so he would come over to where Philip is.” God told him: join yourself to his chariot. And when he did, the eunuch invited him into his chariot. Philip “knocked on the door” by inquiring about what the eunuch was concerned about.
Secondly, consider more about how Philip “knocked on the door.” Philip asked the eunuch if he understood the scripture that the eunuch was reading. Philip did not ask him, “please read this which I have already prepared for you to read, and to talk about.”
Philip was making himself vulnerable, by trusting that the Lord would give him the words he needed to answer. This did not mean that Philip was careless in his personal study of the scriptures. Philip took the time daily to read the scriptures himself, and to regularly pray for the Lord’s understanding. And this understanding that he already had, enabled him to answer the eunuchs question. He answered the eunuch from the same scripture the eunuch was already studying. The one that God was troubling the eunuch about.
Additionally, I can tell you by personal experience, that the Lord also gives you deeper understanding, sometimes right at the same time as you are explaining a scripture to someone.
“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” ~ Luke 12:11-12
Yes, even those who would judge you: you need to wait to hear their accusations, before you answer. And we need to learn to only speak, what the Holy Spirit shows us to speak.
Jesus said of himself:
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.” ~ John 5:30-32
Jesus is showing that while on earth, he truly was subject to the same limitations that we have. Without the Spirit leading and showing him, he could discern little. So we know that Jesus spent much time in prayer depending upon his heavenly Father. But the scriptures also show us that Jesus had to listen, to understand how the Holy Spirit was already working with people.
Did you know that Jesus was an excellent listener? He knew both how to listen to people, and the Holy Spirit. And through listening to people, the Holy Spirit would reveal things to him.
Notice the progression of the discussion that Jesus has with the rich man. He starts out very general, at a high level. And next, according to the questions asked by the rich man, Jesus then gets more specific in his answer.
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” ~ Matthew 19:16-22
Jesus first points out that all good only comes from God. God himself is the author of all good. So the only answer that matters, is the one that comes from God. He is orienting the rich man to where he should ultimately be seeking his answer. And we also should do the same when we counsel. And so this scripture is also a lesson for us today: in counseling.
So in seeking that answer from God, Jesus first answers the rich man in a very general way: keep the commandments.
Then the man asks: which commandments? Jesus lists six of them.
The man has been doing those commandments from his youth. But yet he knew deep down inside, that it wasn’t enough. He didn’t understand it, but the Holy Ghost was calling him to a greater work for the Lord. In another place in scripture, it shows us that after Jesus heard what the man said, he then understood and responded.
“Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” ~ Luke 18:22
And so it was Jesus’ last answer, that truly was responding to the specific burden that the Holy Spirit had already spoken to the rich man’s heart. By listening to the man’s responses, Jesus was clearly able to discern what the Holy Spirit was troubling him about. God was calling this young man. But he could not be chosen for that calling, unless he was willing to forsake his riches.
And so Jesus called this rich man, and gave him two assignments:
- Sell what you have and distribute to the poor. By doing this, the young man would be changed from a rich man, to a poor man. His identity among the rich in this world would change. Like Paul, he would have to “become like the poor” – the ones he was now called to minister to.
- “…follow me.” He was invited to be part of the ministry of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord. An extremely high calling.
But he wasn’t willing to be changed again. Not everyone is ready to answer the call the first time. I hope this man later answered. Better late than never.
In our counseling and testifying, as we address what the Holy Ghost has already been speaking to the heart of the individual: there will be many times that people will refuse to follow the Holy Ghost – all the way. Let us not be surprised at this recurring situation. Our Lord told us it would be that way.
“And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.” ~ Matthew 22:11-14
This man answered the call to come to the wedding. But he was not willing to go far enough. The wedding garment represents that deeper spiritual call to sacrificial service, and true sacrificial love. And not everyone that the Lord calls, will respond to that sacrificial-love call. And not everyone who actually responds to that call, will stay faithful unto the end.
“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” ~ Revelation 17:14
In this scripture, it conversely shows who will be making war against the lamb. It is those who don’t answer the call, or those who answered the call, and later became unfaithful and bitter.
So regardless of who It is, when we counsel and testify to them, we still must inquire about what the Holy Ghost has already said to them. And if they still don’t respond to the Holy Ghost, the next time they want to counsel with us again, we must remind them again of what the Holy Ghost has already said to them.
“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance” ~ 2 Peter 1:12-13
You can only put someone into remembrance, by reminding them of the things that they have already recognized: in their own heart. Things that they have already been convinced of, by the Holy Ghost. Anything else, they likely forgot. Because if it didn’t come from the Holy Ghost, it didn’t make a deep impact on them.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” ~ John 14:26
Sometimes people will sit under a gospel message, and not respond to God at that particular time. But that does not mean that God is done with them. They might even go away and not come back for many months, or for years.
But when they come back, it will be because God’s Holy Spirit is reminding them of what he has already spoken to them. And this is why it’s important that we ask: “what is the Lord reminding you of? What has he already spoken to your heart before about?” That is the place to start your conversation with them.
We must pick up the conversation, where they left off listening to the Lord. Because again, to be effective, we must deal with them according to how God has been dealing with them.
Too often people want to talk about everything else, except what their real spiritual need is. And it is because they are in denial. But if they will get any help, it will be because they realize that there is no denying what the Lord has already spoken to them about.
Before Jesus was taken to be crucified, he warned Peter that he was going to deny him. And then when they were in the garden praying, he again warned Peter and others: watch and pray. But they did not listen then. And they all forsook the Lord that night. And soon afterward, Peter denied the Lord three times.
So later, after the resurrection, Jesus reminded Peter of this, and of his need to prove his true sacrificial love.
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” ~ John 21:15-18
Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, because he was reminding Peter that he had denied him three times. It is most important what we personally do to the Lord. How we personally treat him. I am speaking about when God speaks to our heart, and how we respect what he says, ignore what he says, or completely disrespect what he says.
It is not what we said to them, but what God spoke to their heart.
Under pressure of strong temptation, Peter had not taken heed to the warning what the Lord told him, and he denied the Lord. And even at that same moment, when the Lord looked over at him, Peter was reminded, and it broke his heart. That is why the scripture tells us that he went out and wept, after denying the Lord. And this is why the Lord had mercy upon him, because even though he had not taken heed to the warning, he still later answered the call, and stayed faithful.
When the Holy Ghost speaks to the heart, those are the words, and the witness that matters the most. And so it is important that we remind people that they must have respect to what the Lord has already spoken to their heart.
Not very many have done this, but there have been some who have completely disrespected, and blasphemed what the Holy Ghost witnessed to them. This means that they attributed that witness of the Holy Ghost, to actually being from Satan. Even though they knew in their heart, that God himself had witnessed to them.
“And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.” ~ Luke 12:10
So in this scripture again, we see that the most important thing that we must remind people of, is what the Holy Ghost has personally witnessed to their heart.
So again, it’s not about what you think needs to be said to them. And it’s not about lite and meaningless things that they might rather talk about, to avoid their spiritual discomfort. It is about what God has already spoken to them personally. And so we must ask them to bring to their own remembrance, what things God has already spoken to them about. And from there, our counseling and testimony will be much more effective!