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Written by: Sanders, J.O.    Posted on: 04/09/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

[THE DIVINE ART OF SOUL-WINNING     by J. Oswald Sanders--fourth file]

                CHAPTER 5


        My brother, I do not know how any Christian Service is to be fruitful if the servant is not primarily baptized in the spirit of a suffering compassion.  We can never heal the wounds we do not feel.  Tearless hearts can never be heralds of the passion.  We must bleed if we would be ministers of the saving blood.  "Put on, therefore, as God's elect, a heart of compassion."

                        --J. H. Jowett,D.D.


The word WIN used so frequently in connection with the theme of these studies, may legitimately be applied to the captivating of human affections.  The figure of the bridegroom wooing and winning his bride is elevated to the spiritual realm by the apostle Paul, who speaks of the believer as one who is married to another," even to Christ (Rom. 7:4).  No more beautiful illustration of the work of the soul-winner can be found in Holy Writ than the winning of Rebekah for Isaac by Eliezer, Abraham's servant.  The delicate task entrusted to ELIEZER--THAT OF WINNING A BRIDE FOR ISAAC--has a present-day parallel in the task of the Christian worker who seeks to win for Christ a bride.  Let us study this servant and his methods as recounted in Genesis 24, first reading the chapter through.

                I. HIS QUALIFICATIONS

        1. He was born in Abraham's house (Gen 15:3), and thus had AN INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS MASTER, AND OF HIS PLANS for Isaac, his only son.  The soul-winner too must, through close and intimate fellowship with God, enter into His purposes for His only Son.

        2. His whole life was unreservedly YIELDED TO THE SERVICE OF THE ONE WHO SUPPLANTED HIM, for Eliezer would have been heir to all Abraham's wealth had Isaac not been born (cf. Gen 15:2-4; 24:36, with John 3:30).

                II. HIS MISSION

        1. ABRAHAM REVEALED TO HIM HIS SECRET PURPOSE to obtain a wife for his son, and God has similarly given us to know His secret purpose for His only begotten (Acts 15:14).

        2. ELIEZER RECEIVED DEFINITE INSTRUCTIONS where to go, and where not to go.  It was useless to go where the chosen bride was not.  He was not bound to approach EVERY young woman he met.  So the soul-winner is not called upon to speak to EVERY person who crosses his path, but only to those to whom he is directed by the Holy Spirit. Willingness to press the claims of Christ on anyone, anywhere, together with an attentive ear to the guidance of the Spirit, will bring the worker into a glorious liberty in this work.

        3. HE WAS ROBBED OF ALL HONOR, BUT FREED OF ALL RESPONSIBILITY.  An angel was to precede him (v.7), who would prepare the heart of the chosen bride for the favorable reception of the message--a gracious ministry fulfilled for the soul-winner by the Holy Spirit.  In the event of the woman being unwilling to accompany him after he had given the invitation, he was freed from all responsibility (v.8).  Our responsibility extends only to the faithful delivery of God's message.

                III. HIS ATTITUDE

        1. HE DID NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE DIFFICULTY of persuading a woman to go with him, a stranger, to be the bride of one whom she had never seen.  He knew the gain and glory of being a bride of Isaac, but she had no such knowledge.  So the Christian worker knows the unsearchable riches of Christ; but as he has nothing to appeal to the senses of his "prospect," he sometimes fears that his Master will meet with rejection.  It is just here that he must rely on the ministry of the angel.

        2. HE PROPOSED A CARNAL EXPEDIENT--to take Isaac with him.  Abraham indignantly rejected the proposal (v.6). Isaac had to be offered to the woman in a verbal message by the chosen messenger.  Sometimes the Word of God seems painfully inadequate to lure a soul away from the world to Christ.  Yet, when this sword is wielded in the power of the Spirit, it is "quick and powerful."  It is still true that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

        3. HIS DEPENDENCE ON THE ANGEL DID NOT CUT THE NERVE OF HIS OWN ENDEAVORS.  He prayed and acted as though all depended on him.  He knew that God had chosen Isaac's bride, but he still prayed that he might be led to the one of God's choice, and put himself in the way of God's leading.  He ventured forth in faith.  "I, being in the way, the Lord led me."  The pilot cannot guide the ship while it is moored to the wharf.

        4. HE SUBORDINATED HIS OWN COMFORT AND INTERESTS to those of his master.  He never obtruded himself.  He speaks of "my master" (vv. 12,27,34).  He would not so much as satisfy his hunger till he had unburdened his heart (v.33). The lesson is obvious.

                IV. HIS METHOD

        1. HE PRAYED before he made the proposal (v.12), and during the negotiations (v.26), nor did he forget to praise God as he saw his prayers being answered (v.15).

        2. HE DELIVERED HIS MESSAGE CLEARLY AND SIMPLY. Abraham had one wonderful son, on whom he had bestowed all his wealth.  He desired a bride for his son, and Rebekah was the bride of divine choice.  Would she consent?  "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." The worker's task is to present clearly and winsomely the facts of the Gospel, in order to induce souls to accept the Son.

        3. HE USED NO UNDUE PRESSURE, although he was most anxious for the answer to be "Yes."  He left that to the angel.  There is always a thrilling pause when a soul is brought to the point of decision for Christ, but it is the work of the Spirit to draw that soul to say "Yes" to Christ. The wise worker will not force a decision.  Eliezer even tarried a whole night to give her time to reflect on the offer.  (Doubtless he spent most of it in prayer.)  He was well rewarded for an anxious night when she responded: "I will go."

        4. HE EXPECTED SUDDEN SUCCESS.  Less than a day had elapsed before the bride was on her way to meet Isaac!  But she had opposition.  Her mother and brother wanted her to stay at least ten months.  Eliezer would not hear of it. "Hinder me not!"  Satan is the prince of delays, but a soul is too precious to win and nearly lose again.  Expect sudden conversions.

        Our last glimpse of Eliezer is in communion with his Isaac (v.56).  He has fulfilled his mission.  He has brought the bride to the bridegroom.  He gives an account of the way he had been prospered, and then fades out of the picture, leaving Isaac alone with Rebekah.  When we are granted success in our mission, let us emulate his self-effacement.


        Has it ever occurred to you that the greater part of the harvest of our Lord's earthly ministry was hand-gathered fruit?  Seven out of the eleven apostles, and probably the other four as well, were won by individual appeal.  In both Matthew and John, at least SIXTEEN PRIVATE INTERVIEWS are recorded for our instruction.  Surely this is sufficient evidence that the Master considered personal soul-winning as of primary importance.  In this, as in everything else, He is our Exemplar.

        Christ was THE MASTER SOUL-WINNER.  Knowing, as He did, what was in man (John 2:25), and the workings of the human mind which He had fashioned, His methods in dealing with various classes will be of the greatest interest and importance to His followers.  Let us learn some lessons from Him.

        1. HE WAS NOT CLASS-CONSCIOUS.  He had conversations with the ruling class, e.g., Nicodemus and the young ruler.  He conversed with businessmen, men of the middle class, e.g., Zaccheus.  But He did not neglect to deal with the outcasts, e.g., the woman of Samaria.  He gave of His very best to each class.

        2. HE MADE A TACTFUL APPROACH.  It was His frequent habit to commence with some point of common interest, from which He could lead the conversation on to spiritual realities.  His question to the leper was: "Wilt thou be made whole?"--a matter of burning interest.  He met Nicodemus on the ground of his interest in the Kingdom of God.  He led the conversation with the woman of Samaria from well water to living water.  He told fisherman Peter that He would make him a fisher of men.

        3. HE COMMENDED RATHER THAN CONDEMNED.  Honest commendation is one of the quickest avenues of approach into the human heart.  Our Lord doubtless perceived many defects in the character of Nathanael, but He opened the conversation by commending him on his freedom from guile. Probably nothing will more quickly dissipate prejudice than this approach.  Condemnation always alienates and closes the heart against further advances.

        4. HE CONSTANTLY ILLUSTRATED His talks with simple parables which were within the range of knowledge of His auditors.  One of the evangelists said that "without a parable spake he not unto them."

        5. HE REFUSED TO BE DRAWN INTO PROFITLESS ARGUMENT. When faced with an argumentative lawyer who demanded an answer to his quibbling question: "Who is my neighbor?" the Lord so completely disarmed him with the parable of the Good Samaritan, that he had no further argument to present.  He refused to be side-tracked from the main issue.

        6. HE WEPT AND PRAYED over the souls of men, believing that unless He sowed in tears He would not reap in joy.  He gladly inconvenienced Himself if He could only be a blessing to someone.

        7. HE NEVER FAILED TO MAKE A PERSONAL APPLICATION OF HIS TEACHINGS.  In inducing her friends to come to see Christ, the woman of Samaria said: "Come, see a  man who told me all things that ever I did."  To Nicodemus He said: "Ye must be born again."

        8. HIS BLAMELESS LIFE constituted the power of His spoken testimony.

                AN EXAMPLE

        In concluding this study, a representative illustration of our Lord's method is given in the words of Robert Lee, of the OUTLINED BIBLE.

        THE CASE--The Woman of Samaria (John 4)

                (a) Adulteress.

                (b) Sensitive, not shameless. This is seen in her going at noon, when no one in the East thinks of going for water.

                (c) Religious formalist.

                (d) Proud of her descent (v.12)

                (e) Frivolous (v.15).  She had a tongue quick to turn grave things into jests.

                THE METHOD

                (a) He went out of His way.

                (b) He was not bound by conventionality. "Let no one talk with a woman in the street; no, not with his own wife" (Rabbis).

                (c) Acted circumspectly.  Did not arrange to meet her at dusk, but at noon.

                (d) Put Himself to inconvenience to meet her.

                (e) He was tactful.

                Did not interview her in the presence of others.

                Did not reproach or scold her.

                He asked a favor.

                Sought to teach spiritual truth through homely metaphor.

                After a while ceased to beat about the bush (v.16), getting into close quarters.

                He refused to be diverted (vv.19,20).

                Yet He did not ignore the point she had raised (v.21).

        It is interesting to notice further the barriers which the woman raised in self-defense.  The sex barrier (v.9).  The racial barrier (v.9).  The religious barrier (vv.19,20).  But the Lord ruthlessly demolished them all, and exposed her heart to her own gaze.  She tried in every way possible to avoid the issue, but Christ kept her to it. She appealed to her ancestry (v.12), told a half-truth in an endeavor to conceal her guilt (v.17), concurred in what He said and endeavored to flatter Him (v.17); but in each case He brought her back to her guilt and need.

        The culmination of the interview is seen in verses 25, 26--the revelation of Himself as the Messiah--the sole objective of all personal work.

        When I am dying how glad I shall be

        That the lamp of my life has been blazed out for


        I shall be glad in whatever I gave,

        Labor, or money, one sinner to save;

        I shall not mind that the path has been rough,

        That Thy dear feet led the way is enough.

        When I am dying how glad I shall be,

        That the lamp of my life has been blazed out for


                CHAPTER 6


                I. OPPORTUNITY

        All our natural endowments, all our

        personal histories, all our contrasted

        circumstances, are so many opportunities

        for peculiar work.

                --Bishop Wescott

        Although this theme has already been briefly mentioned in a previous study, it is deserving of more particular treatment.

        In the studio of an ancient Greek sculptor stood a rather peculiar piece of work.  It was a statue, the hair of whose head was thrown around to cover the face; on each foot there was a wing, and the statue was standing on its toes. The visitor asked for its name, and the sculptor said it was "Opportunity."

        "Why is its face veiled?" he asked.

        "Because men seldom know her when she comes to them," was the reply.

        "And why does she stand upon her toes, and why the wings?"

        "Because," said the sculptor, "when once she is gone, she can never be overtaken."

        A great Christian worker entered a store and 'something' said: "Speak to the clerk; speak to the clerk!" Instead of doing it he went out.  But the voice kept speaking for an hour, and at last he went back and asked for the clerk.  The proprietor said:  "We had an awful tragedy here a few minutes ago.  Immediately after you went out the clerk that waited on you went into the back room and shot a bullet through his brain.  He is back there now if you wish to see him."

        Thus was opportunity irretrievably lost--and with what eternal consequences.  Our path is bestrewn with opportunities, most of which are unseen or unembraced. "While thy servant was busy here and there, the man was gone."

        1. IN THE HOME.  A friend, anxious to serve her Lord, saw in the man who came to blow out her gas meter a candidate for eternity, pressed on him the claims of Christ, and had the joy of leading him to her Lord.  Another friend saw and seized a similar opportunity with the milkman who came weekly to collect her account, with a similar blessed result.  Have you no such opportunities?  And what about your own children?  Have you improved the numberless opportunities you have had of definitely leading them to the feet of the Savior?  In 2 Kings 5:1-5 we are told how a housemaid brought salvation to the home of the Syrian General.  Lord Shaftsbury was led to Christ through one of his housemaids.  Andrew brought his own brother Peter to Christ.  The home circle has a prior claim on our witness.

        2. IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL OR BIBLE CLASS.  It is not sufficient to put the way of salvation before the class in general.  It is the teacher's privilege and duty to lovingly press the claims of Christ on the individual scholar, not in the presence of others, but perhaps at the teacher's home. What a joy it would be to win your whole class for Christ. One leader known to the writer recently began a Bible class for his schoolboys.  Today thirty of them have been won for Christ.

        3. AT AFTERNOON TEA-PARTIES.  "I am not satisfied with our At Homes," said one lady to another.  "We talk of our neighbors, the latest picture or book, but surely it is a great waste of time.  Why should we not pray over our callers and then set to work to bring some better influence to bear on them."  Next day, amid the rustle of silks and mingled odors of flowers, there somehow came to be felt a consciousness of God which made talking about Him perfectly natural.  Nor was it surprising that one should have said: "We have stayed an unconscionable time today, but one seldom gets a talk like this, and one hungers for it without knowing it."  Few see such openings on social occasions.

        4. IN THE CHURCH.  An invitation from the preacher for any who desire conversation on spiritual matters to meet him in the vestry, has been a fruitful method of soul-winning.  A wise and winsome inquiry as to how they enjoyed the service, by a member of the congregation, may reveal the fact that the stranger is anxious to converse on spiritual topics.

        5. IN TRAVEL.  Buses, trains, and boats, will each provide the zealous soul-winner with opportunities of making his Master known.  Sir George Williams, founder of the YMCA, when crossing the Atlantic, made a point of speaking to every soul on board from captain to stoker, from card-player in the smoking room to emigrant in the steerage, and the remarkable thing is that he could never recollect a single instance when he received a rude or mocking retort.  The writer has had many remarkable experiences and evidence of God's leading in conversation with fellow travelers, or with others when waiting for trains.

        D. L. Moody made it the practice of his life to speak to men on the streetcars.  It is related of him that in thus dealing with a man on a Detroit streetcar, he asked him the question: "Are you a Christian?"  The man answered: "No, sir, but I wish I were."  Mr. Moody there and then led the man to Christ.

        6. AMONG YOUR OWN CLASS.  A soldier can most effectively reach a soldier, or a society woman one of her own class.  An invalid would have a fine point of contact with another shut-in, and a nurse with a nurse.

                II. APPROACH

        The soul-winner should covet and cultivate an easy manner of approach to religious subjects, for it requires tact and skill to turn the conversation from secular to sacred subjects.  He must be always ready to converse about Christ, and a few suggestions as to how best to do this follow.

        Be natural in manner and in tone of voice.  Let it be seen that your religion forms a joyous part of your everyday life.  Some onlookers at an open-air service a few days ago remarked: "They don't seem to get very much kick out of it."  Let us show by our manner that we enjoy Christ.

        Study the art of diverting conversation to spiritual topics as did Jesus with the woman of Samaria.  A few days ago a student was taking a photograph of the "LURLINE" as she lay alongside the wharf.  A youth standing near volunteered the statement, "I suppose she's as safe as Hell."  The student immediately asked him if he considered Hell safe, diverted the conversation into spiritual channels, and led him to Christ.

        A man was endeavoring to sell a stain-remover to a Christian housewife.  After buying it (an important element in the approach), she said: "I know something which will remove stains too."  "What is that?" he inquired.  The door was now open and she replied, "The blood of Jesus Christ."

        Have something to offer, whether it be a tract, an invitation to a service, or a Gospel.  Supposing the tract were "God's Way of Salvation," the person could be approached thus: "Would you mind accepting a little booklet to read?" spoken with a cheery smile.  "It tells God's way of salvation.  Do you know God's way of salvation?"  "I'm not sure if I do."  "Would you mind if I told you?"  If the tract were "The Reason Why," the worker could say:  "This little booklet tells the reason why no one can afford to be without Christ.  I wonder if you know Christ as your personal Savior.  Do you?"  In this way it is easy to enter on a conversation which may lead to the salvation of a soul.

        It is often helpful to put the person under some obligation to you, such as by lending your newspaper on the train, or doing some other little service which will create a spirit of comradeship.

        Sometimes the direct question, "Are you a Christian?" leads to a successful conversation.  This was the usual method adopted by Uncle John Vassar, a wonderful soul-winner who was a member of Dr. A. J. Gordon's church in Boston.  On one occasion he addressed this question to two ladies.  "Certainly," they replied.

        "Have you been born again?" he asked.

        "This is Boston," said the ladies, "and you know we don't believe in that doctrine here."

        He immediately produced his Bible and showed what God has to say on the subject.  In a short time they were on their knees.  That evening one of the ladies told her husband of her encounter with Uncle John Vassar.

        "I wish I had been there," said the man.

        "What would you have done?" asked his wife.

        "I would have told him to go about his business."

        "But if you had been there, you would have said he WAS about his business."

                III. DIAGNOSIS

        The first task of the physician is correctly to diagnose the case, or his prescription will be at random. So with the soul-physician.  The doctor asks questions so couched as to reveal the inward condition, and the doctor of souls must do the same.  The questions at first may be general, but must proceed to the particular.  Is he a backslider, a non-witnessing Christian, ignorant of the simple plan of salvation, ensnared by some cult, clinging to some sin, skeptical, or hindered by some honest difficulties?  This can be found out only by careful questioning.  Commence by saying: "Have you ever made a decision for Christ?"  If the answer is in the affirmative, next ascertain whether he was really born again.  If the answer is again in the affirmative, inquire what has led to his present unsatisfactory condition.  But if, on the other hand, it has been merely a "decision," deal as though the person was unconverted, and lead him to Christ.  In subsequent chapters, instruction will be given as to how to deal with those who have been ensnared by cults, have honest difficulties, or make dishonest excuses.

        The following story related by Howard W. Pope shows the importance of correct diagnosis.  Let me give it in his words. "I was asked to speak to a certain man in an inquiry meeting in Northfield.  Before I reached him, another worker began to talk to him, and I turned to others.  Later I saw the other worker leaving him, and approaching him I said: 'Have you settled the great question?'  'No,' said the other worker, 'he is going away unsaved because he will not give his heart to God.'  'What is the trouble?'  I inquired.  I soon surmised that it was not a case of stubborn unwillingness to yield to Christ, but rather a lack of confidence in his ability to make the surrender real.  I told him that if he would surrender, Christ would enable him to make the surrender good.  I then suggested that we kneel, and that he follow me sentence by sentence while I led in prayer.  He said he did not know whether he could honestly do it.  'Follow me as far as you can and then stop,'  I replied.  He consented, and we knelt down together and I led him in a committal to Christ as strong and complete as I knew how to make it, going cautiously, of course, at first, but making it stronger as I saw his willingness to follow. When we arose, he told the first person he met that he had accepted Christ as his Savior."  The first worker failed because he had made a false diagnosis, mistaking the man's lack of confidence for stubborn willfulness.

        The diagnosis, of course, must be followed by the prescribing of the appropriate remedy, which subject will engage us in the next chapter.

[end of the fourth file]

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