Personal Evangelist
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Personal Evangelist

John 4:1–54  (ID: 2789)

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, His love and compassion for her provided a perfect model of evangelism. He began their conversation with a simple question—“Will you give me a drink?”—and ended it with a life-changing revelation: He was the Messiah. Alistair Begg challenges us to emulate Jesus’ approach to sharing our faith. As he reminds us, once we have had an encounter with Christ, we cannot help but become evangelists ourselves.

Series Containing This Sermon

To Know Christ

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 26201

The Basics of the Christian Faith

A 13-Lesson Survey Selected Scriptures Series ID: 28701

Sermon Transcript: Print

John chapter 4. We have thought of the importance of being in Christ, the absolute necessity of it, and then of being like Christ, viewing him first as a humble servant and then as a compassionate shepherd and this morning, if you like, as a personal evangelist. And we’re going to read what is the central part of John chapter 4, beginning at verse 27.

John 4:27:

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him”—that is, Jesus—“talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’

“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ [And] they came out of the town and made their way toward[s] him.

“Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’

“But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’

“Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’

“‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, “Four months more and then the harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.’

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

“They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’”


Father, with our Bibles open before us, we humbly pray for your help, that in speaking, listening, seeking to understand and apply your Word, we may know ourselves to be under your tutelage. For we pray humbly in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, I wonder: Does it appear unduly harsh to suggest that these disciples were more concerned about sandwiches than they were about salvation? Sandwiches rather than salvation. And would it be wrong to suggest that the present-day church—us—that we, his disciples at this point in time, are in danger of making a similar but largely the same mistake, losing track of the central issue, forgetting really what it is all about that God has come in Jesus to do?

Because you will notice from the text that it was while they were buying food that these events unfolded. They had gone into the town, John tells us, these disciples who would later on be dispatched by Jesus to go out into their community and beyond. And while they were gone, concerned about the importance of providing for Jesus—not that we would want to diminish this in any way—but while they were doing that, Jesus is involved in what is clearly a moment of cross-cultural evangelism. Indeed, the surprise on the part of the disciples in verse 27 when they return was equal to the surprise of the Samaritan woman as you have it recorded for you there in verse 9. The woman is asking, “Could this be the Christ?” in verse 29, and the disciples are asking, “Could someone have brought him food?” in verse 33.

It is just this wonderful irony that runs all the way through John’s Gospel. Here the disciples, preoccupied with the affairs of physicality and the immediacy of temporal need, and a woman who earlier in the day had been focused entirely upon the routine task of collecting water now finds herself involved in telling a whole community concerning this man that she had met. So, if you like, the disciples are involved in the developing saga of the sandwich, and they’re completely unaware of the fact that while they are preoccupied with these things, the villagers are on their way towards Jesus. And so he provides them, you will notice in verse 34, with a word of explanation, which we read: he says, “I know that you are concerned, and rightly, about these things, but my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” That’s his explanation, and then his exhortation is in verse 35: “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

Now, that word of exhortation from Jesus, set in the historical context here in John 4, is a word that needs to be sounded in every generation, and most importantly when the people of God are in danger of turning the affairs of time into the experience of sailing around in a marina rather than taking the lifeboat of their life out onto the troubled seas of human existence. It is very, very possible—and you will see this even in the history of the church that is familiar to us—very, very possible for a church, for a local assembly of God’s people, to begin with a very clear understanding of their commission and their mission to be engaged in reaching men and women with the good news of the gospel; to be out, as it were, on the highways and byways compelling people with the news of the kingdom; to be seeking to turn their lives into bridges that are possibilities for people encountering Jesus; and then, somewhere along the line, imperceptibly slowly, instead of taking their boats out onto the sea, they’ve decided that they should just circle their boats in the safety of the harbor. And you go amongst these people in their congregations, and they’re very engrossed in teaching, in small groups, in discipleships, in the establishing of the family, in the caring for all of the internal facets of Christian living, all of which are clearly important in the framework of Christianity, but none of them on their own nor all of them together come close to the issue of seeing unbelieving people becoming the committed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. And to every generation that is in danger of losing its focus, to every Christian that may be preoccupied with that which is helpful but not best, this exhortation rings out from the lips of Jesus: “I tell you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields! They’re white for harvest.” I often say to younger ministers now, as they launch out into their privileged responsibilities amongst God’s people, I say to them, “My concern for you is not so much that you will fail but that you will succeed at the wrong stuff—that you will succeed at the wrong things.” And the disciples here need this lesson, and so do we.

You see, the passion for reaching people with the gospel is quenched when we lose sight of the grandeur of the gospel. The passion for reaching people, the passion for mission—whether it is local mission, whether it is the mission of reaching our children or our grandchildren—that passion will always be quenched if and when we lose sight of the grandeur of the story that is in the gospel. When we sing of the name of Jesus as we’ve been singing, we need constantly to remind ourselves what that name is. And the word of the angel was clear, wasn’t it? “And you will give him the name Jesus.” Why? “For he shall save his people from their sins.”[1] How? In the cross. And when we take our eyes off Christ and off the nature of the atonement, then we will find that our zeal for evangelism is diminished.

Let me give you a quote that will pin your ears back just a little, from an amazing book written years ago by Smeaton, a Scottish theologian, and on the nature of the atonement. And this what he writes in that book: “To convert one sinner from his way, is an event of greater importance, than the deliverance of [an entire] kingdom from temporal evil.”[2] I’m going to say that to you again. I’d like to take this into all of our Christian colleges, and I want them to write me, now, a two-thousand-word essay on Smeaton’s quote. I want to hear from them. And I have a horrible sneaking suspicion that a significant number of them will challenge Smeaton’s quote, and I’ll tell you why: because either they have never understood or they have lost sight of the grandeur of the gospel. Here’s the quote again: “To convert one sinner from his way, is an event of greater importance, than the deliverance of a whole kingdom from temporal evil.”

The passion for reaching people with the gospel is quenched when we lose sight of the grandeur of the gospel.

Now, you must understand that Smeaton was not suggesting that the issues of “temporal evil” were irrelevant or that they should not be engaged in by the Christian community. Surely they must, for the Christian is about good news and good deeds—good deeds foreordained for us to do, as it says in Ephesians 2.[3] But Smeaton is introducing proportionality to the thing. And if he was speaking in contemporary terms, he might say something like this: “To convert one sinner from his way or from her way is an event of greater importance than the deliverance of sub-Saharan Africa from the problem of AIDS.” You see, that’s where it really bites now, isn’t it? To convert one sinner from their ways.

Why do you think it was that Jesus went to individuals? Why is it that Jesus apparently and purposefully goes out of his way for encounters with individuals? Well, I think because Smeaton’s quote is right. And in John chapter 3, you have this encounter with a religious individual, with a man of some standing, of stature in the community. And then you turn into John chapter 4, as we’ve done now, and you find that the encounter is with somebody from, if you like, the opposite end of the spectrum. In 3, it’s a man. In 4, it’s a woman. In 3, he’s religious and has some stature in the community. In 4, she is apparently irreligious, and her standing in the community is questionable. And what is the fulcrum, if you like, what is the pivot point in between 3 and 4? Well, let me suggest to you that it’s the sixteenth verse of John chapter 3, and maybe the seventeenth as well:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

These verses are absolutely foundational to the whole development of John’s Gospel and, I suggest to you, are the very foundational pivot point in between these two encounters. If you want to put it in more personalized terms, then you could say that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the woman at the well but to save the woman at the well. He didn’t send him to the well simply that the woman would discover what a horrible wretch she was but in order that she might discover what a wonderful Savior Jesus is.

Now, if we prize this kind of thing, then surely we ought to be ever-increasingly committed to asking God the Father to make us more like his Son Jesus, who was preoccupied with the gospel. Jesus from the very beginning of his ministry is preoccupied with the gospel. I will get back to John 4 here in a moment, but I’m waggling the club a little on the tee—I admit that—and some of you are saying, “Why don’t you hit the ball?” Well, I’ll hit in just a moment; just a couple more waggles.

You remember at the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus, we’re told how he has performed these miraculous signs. People have brought the sick to him and the demon-possessed. “The whole town,” Mark says, has “gathered at the door.”[4] Jesus has healed many of various diseases, he’s driven out demons, and so on. And then Mark says that “very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went [into] a solitary place, where he prayed.”[5] And his companions, these fledgling disciples, come and find him, and when they find him, they want him to know, “Jesus, last night was fantastic”: “Everyone is looking for you!”[6] “Your mission is off to a tremendous start. I mean, the whole town was gathered outside the door. The crowds are here in droves. It’s just ripe for the picking.”

And Jesus replied, “Let[’s] go somewhere else.”[7]

“What? Well, why would we go anywhere else? The market is ripe here.”

“No, no, we need to go and open up other areas.” “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages”—now listen to this—“so [that] I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”[8] Remember, Luke 4? “He sent me to preach good news to the poor.”[9] “So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”[10] I resist the temptation to have another sidebar on the nature of preaching at this point in the twentieth century. We’ll leave that for another day and another time. Let’s get to John 4 before we run out of time in its entirety.

The Encounter

First of all—in fact, I have three points: number one, the encounter; number two, the impact; and number three, a lesson or two.

First of all, the encounter—the encounter between Jesus and this lady. We didn’t read it, and instead of listening in on the conversation as it is reported in the third person by John, I want to suggest to you that it might come across with a little more vibrancy if only we could have the lady here herself to tell it in her own words. And remarkably, I’ve managed to get her. And here I is. Now, this is really going to stretch your imagination. Last night you had to imagine a picture. Now you have to imagine that I am the woman at the well. Okay? Try your best. Close your eyes, waggle your head twice, and then listen up.

“It started out for me the way most days do: just a routine trip to the well. I always go there by myself, not because I want to but because I have to. I go in the middle of the day, when it’s hot and sticky and lonely. So you’d understand when I say that I was caught off guard even by the presence of someone else there, and even more so when the individual proved to be a man, and then when he spoke to me. I found myself immediately recoiling. I said, ‘Hey, we don’t do that. You’re a man, I’m a woman (kind of), and you are a Jew, and I’m a Samaritan, and we don’t really converse.’

“But he aroused my curiosity, because he created the sensation that I was the one in need of the water, although he was the one who was asking for a drink of water. It really didn’t make any sense to me, because he had no way of getting water out of the well, and that was why he had said to me, ‘Could I have a drink of water?’ In fact, I actually asked him if he thought he was greater than our forefather, who built this well, but he let that go. He just pointed to the well, and he said, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again.’ Well, I said, ‘Sign me up for that! I like that program. Because I don’t want to have to keep coming back to this well to draw water.’ But you know when you sense that there’s more to it all that meets the eye, that there is something behind it all, some more substantial matter that you’re not grasping? That’s the notion that I had. That’s how I felt. And it was then and right out of the blue that he says to me, ‘Go call your husband and come back.’ Well, my first reaction was ‘Which husband does he want me to call?’ But all I could get out was ‘I have no husband.’

“Well, you know, he didn’t try and probe. He didn’t try and wring any of the details out of me, any of the messy bits and pieces of my past. In fact, it quickly became clear that he knew it all, that he could see right into me. And I immediately said to him, ‘I can see that you must be a prophet.’ And indeed, I started with a question about where you would go if you were worshipping God: Should you go where the Samaritans usually go, or you should go where the Jews go? Is it Gerizim, or is it Jerusalem? And he quickly set all that aside. He said that really, that wasn’t the issue. In fact, the story was that God was seeking us.

“Well, I said to him, ‘Let’s just fold this up now. Why don’t we wait until the Christ, the Messiah comes? He’ll explain everything.’ And it was then, without so much as batting an eyelid, that he looked at me, and he said, ‘That’s me, the one speaking to you. I’m the Messiah.’ Speaking to me, a no-named Samaritan woman, at this point my life a broken series of failed beginnings and shattered hopes? Speaking to me? The Messiah meeting me, knowing me?

“Well, just then all his friends came back, blustering in around the well and asking who had the turkey on rye and all of that kind of stuff, and I realized it was over. So I just left my water pot. I left it right back there at the well, and I came back here as fast as I could. And I’ve come back right here to you, to my friends and to my community. I’ve come right back to my town here, and I want to say to you: Could this be the Messiah? Why don’t you come out? Let you come out and meet him! You come and meet this man! He told me everything I ever did.”

That’s the encounter.

The Impact

Now we go to the impact—back into the words of John as he recounts it for us.

When you consider this woman’s history of relationships, for her to reappear in the town shouting, “Come, see a man,” is ironic, isn’t it? After all, that was the thing she was notorious for in the town. You know?

“What’s she saying today?”

“Well, I just heard her coming through the market. She’s going through the market saying, ‘I want you to come and meet a man.’”

“Oh, goodness, she’s had five husbands, she’s got a live-in lover, and she wants us to meet a man.”

“What is this, the seventh man?” shouts somebody. “She’s on number seven now!”

Well, there was a sense in which she was on number seven. But this man was like no other man. This man was someone entirely different. And the impact of the encounter with the man is clearly seen as you look at your text. Verse [29], she issues the invitation: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Do you think this might be the Messiah?” Verse 30: “They came out of the town and made their way toward[s] him.” You know, when you just read that routinely, you say, “Oh, yeah, okay. So she said, ‘What about this?’ and everybody started leaving the town.” That’s remarkable, isn’t it? I mean, why would you even listen to her in the first place? What street cred does she have to have people put down their task for the day and to start walking out of the town? Makes you think of hymns like “I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in him.”[11]

You know, when we’ve dreamt up all of our most strategic plans for evangelism and when we’ve conceived of all that needs to be done necessarily, God just comes in and picks up a no-named lady at a well and says, “Look at this for evangelism.” And “they all came out of the town”—verse 30. And in verse 39 we’re told that “many of the Samaritans from [the] town believed in [Jesus]”—“believed in [Jesus] because of the woman’s testimony.” And then, in verse 41, look at the impact: “And because of his words many more became believers”—that is, as a result of Jesus, now, spending time in the town with the people as per their invitation. And then the grand finale in relationship to impact in verse 42: “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we[’ve] heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is’”—notice the phrase—“‘the Savior of the world.’”

This is evangelism. It is not evangelism—it is not the gospel—to tell people that there are benefits that attach if they will believe the gospel. It is not the gospel to tell people that there are great tragedies that await them if they reject the gospel. The gospel is to tell people who Jesus is, why he came, what he did, why it matters, and that he is the self-proclaimed Savior of the world.

I see people fishing here all the time. As I go home every day, there’s a little group there. They might as well be eating doughnuts for all they’re catching. In fact, I roll the window down every day and say, “Would you like me to get you some doughnuts while you’re sitting there taking the sun?” Because the poles don’t move. There’s nothing happening. I don’t really know why they go there.

I say, “Did you catch any?”


“How about yesterday?”


“Well, what’s happening?”

“Well, we influenced a few, you know.”

“Well, so what? Who gives a rip about you influencing a few? Have you led anybody to Jesus? Have you taken the opportunity to encounter somebody with the claims of Christ?”

“Oh, no, no, no, but I influenced a few. I told them about the importance of family life as a Christian.” Well, the Hindus know a lot about family life as a Hindu. “And I told them a lot about the importance of premarital morality.” Well, very good—and so do the Islamic friends in my community, and many of them are doing a lot better with that than the average Christian youth group in the local church.

So you see, when we’ve done all of those things, we still haven’t done what the woman did. She says, “I want you to come and meet a man.” Jesus, the personal evangelist, produces personal evangelists—those who in the everyday, run-of-the-mill events of life, whether as a biochemist or as a bank teller or as a mom or as a carpenter or whatever we might be, are simply living out the gospel in a way that might cause people to ask a reason for the hope that we have.[12] Hence the impact.

The gospel is to tell people who Jesus is, why he came, what he did, why it matters, and that he is the self-proclaimed Savior of the world.

And I can only imagine that the two days that Jesus spent in this town as a result of the opportunity opened up for him by this woman were days in which he explained to the people all that the prophets had said, in much the same way as he did, as we discover, in Luke chapter 24. I wonder: Did he turn to Isaiah and let these dear people know that the prophets voiced the word of God when he said—Isaiah 45:22—“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other”? And when he said, “And what do you think he meant by that?” and they said, “Well, we’re not entirely sure,” well, then he led them through to the fulfillment, as we saw yesterday in that little pencil sketch: “The time is now fulfilled,”[13] he said, and he began to proclaim the kingdom of God. In other words, all that God has purposed to do finds its expression now in this Galilean carpenter, Jesus, as he makes his way towards the cross. It is, loved ones, the message that we are called to take across the street and around the world—namely, that Jesus is the only Savior because Jesus is the only one qualified to save, and one day at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.[14]

A Lesson or Two

Well, the encounter is there. The impact—at least we get a start on it. What shall we say, then, in terms of lessons learned?

Well, it is in light of this that Jesus takes his disciples and uses it, characteristically, as a teaching moment. “My food” he says—verse 34—“is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” You can imagine them saying to each other, “I wonder what he means, ‘finish his work’? I wonder when his work will be finished?” That’ll bring us to tomorrow morning. “I’m going to finish the Father’s work. But for now,” he says, “I don’t want you going around saying that, you know, ‘in four months I think we could have a pretty good harvest.’” In other words, the gestation period for planting and reaping falls within that kind of time cycle. He says, “We understand that in the physical realm, but I want to tell you, if you open your eyes and look at the fields, you’ll find they’re ripe for harvest.” And I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that—and, of course, this is conjecture—but the idea that since this is taking place in the context of the woman having gone into the town and calling the people out of the town, that the people coming out of the town, the men dressed in white with their normal headgear on with the golden band often around, holding it in place, as he says this to his disciples, he may actually be pointing to the great mass exodus that is coming out of the town. And in the distance, the bobbing heads of the people may actually look like grain bobbing in the breeze. And he says, “If you will look right now, you will see. It’s ripe for harvest. Look at these people! ‘Look at all those lonely people. Where do they all come from? Look at all those lonely people. Where do they all belong?’”[15]

Do you remember God said of his people, “My people have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and they have dug out their own cisterns, broken cisterns which can hold no water”?[16] “They have forsaken me, the spring of living water.”[17] That’s bad enough. But now they’ve determined to create their own power source. Now they’ve determined that there is water from another source that may quench their thirsts. And if his own people were doing it, those who knew nothing of him were doing it. And surely it is the story of our generation: to look out on the lives of those longing for love, longing for freedom, and digging out pathetic little watering holes that will dry up faster than they can dig them, and covering their eyes and putting their fingers in their ears to disregard the message of one who provides living water whereby you will never thirst again; gobbling up silly books on the New York Times best sellers list; fascinated by the cries of the atheists like Dawkins and Hitchins; swallowing up New Age mantras that are, frankly, ridiculous at their core; hastening to believe not nothing but to believe everything while rejecting any notion that in this Jesus that this lady met there is that spring of living water that will quench the thirst of their souls.

Our friends and neighbors are there to be met, there to be loved, there to be spoken to, there to be intrigued. Our congregations need to be marked in their pulpits and in their pews by a sense, if you like—as my friend Tim Keller puts it—a sense of gentle irony,[18] not a sense of bombastic privilege. If you go to certain churches, you will find that from the pulpit, the person speaks as if there is no possibility of there being unbelievers present. So they speak of unbelievers as if they are somehow a breed that are “out there”—and, of course, legitimately in many cases, ’cause an unbeliever hasn’t darkened the door of the place for a hundred years, it would seem. And so if you do bring an unbeliever, you immediately feel uncomfortable because they’re spoken about in the third person as an “it” or a “something” or a whatever. And the way in which the story comes across sounds presumptuous, may sound bombastic. It doesn’t have anything of the gentle, sensitive, initiative-taking Jesus flavor to it that begins with “Excuse me, but do you think you could give me a drink of water out of this well, please?”

Do you know what a great line it is both in business and in interpersonal relationships to begin, “Could you help me with something?” Now, I’m not going to tell salesmen how to sell, but I’ve discovered that in the vast majority of places, it is a nonthreatening way to begin anything. “May I ask you for your help? Could I have a drink of water?” “Well, of course you may.” Now we’ve made a contact. Now we have an opportunity to go forward. This is different from walking around with a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible and giving people a good [thump] over the back of the head with seven of your favorite verses or suggesting to them that there are all these books that, if they were a sensible person, they would want immediately to read. Of course they wouldn’t want them to read! Do you not realize that the unconverted are unaware of the fact of their blindness until God, by his grace, shows them that they’re blind? They’re not sitting there going, “I’m a blind man. I’m a blind woman. Could you please help me?” No, they’re saying, “I see everything perfectly. I see everything perfectly. I’m not a loony like you. I’m not a loony Christian like you that’s got this weird take on the world. I can see it perfectly. ‘I can see clearly now, the rain has gone.’”[19] And so we have to say, “Lord, help my son to see that he can’t see.” And then, when he sees that he can’t see, then we’ll go from there.

And the lesson is clear, too, isn’t it—and with this we must finish. In nature, it’s unusual to reap where you haven’t sown. Driving up here along 90, all kinds of crops along the way. The farmer sows, and it’s his field, and he goes out to reap. He doesn’t expect to come along the road and find a combine harvester working its way through his fields: “Hey, I sowed that! What are you doing reaping that?” That makes perfect sense. But Jesus says in the spiritual realm, it’s actually usual that one reaps where another has sown. And I’m not sure just exactly what he has in mind when he says, “Others have done the hard work, and you have entered into the fruits of their labors.” Is that the work of the prophets before them? I’m not sure. But when he makes the point, it’s clear: let the sower not complain, and let the reaper remain humble. It’s all links in a chain. One can plant, another can water, but only God can make things grow.[20]

I wonder what happened to this lady. I’m sure you do, too, if you have an inquisitive mind. Now, we don’t need to know, because if we needed to know, it would be in the Bible, and there’s nothing we need to know that’s left out, and there’s nothing in that we don’t need. But I still wonder what happened to her. I wonder: Did she show up in Jerusalem on the day the sun turned dark? I wonder: Did she stand with other women, brave women, around the cross? I wonder: Did she look up and hear the man on the middle cross cry out, “It is finished”?[21] And then I wonder: Did she say, “Oh, I get it now. I get it now. ‘He knew everything I’d ever done, and yet his blood has canceled every one. O Lord, such grace to qualify me as your own.’”[22]

Jesus: the humble servant, the compassionate shepherd, the personal evangelist.

Let us pray:

And now, gracious God, we pray that all that is of yourself you will seal in our hearts and minds, that you will draw those who don’t believe to see their need of you, and we pray that your compassion and kindness may lead them to repentance. We ask your forgiveness when we are more preoccupied with our sandwiches and our fellowship than we are with those who have yet never heard of Jesus. We don’t say that to ourselves so that we can luxuriate in a guilt trip but in order that it might be a stimulus to us. Hear the silent cries of our hearts, and let our prayers come unto you. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.

[1] Matthew 1:21 (paraphrased).

[2] The quote originates in the eighteenth century, from a sermon delivered by John Newton, the converted slave-trader: “Messiah Suffering and Wounded for Us,” in Works of the Rev. John Newton (New York: Williams and Whiting, 1810), 4:228.

[3] See Ephesians 2:10.

[4] Mark 1:33 (NIV 1984).

[5] Mark 1:35 (NIV 1984).

[6] Mark 1:37 (NIV 1984).

[7] Mark 1:38 (NIV 1984).

[8] Mark 1:38 (NIV 1984).

[9] Luke 4:18 (paraphrased).

[10] Mark 1:39 (NIV 1984).

[11] Daniel Webster Whittle, “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” (1883).

[12] See 1 Peter 3:15.

[13] Mark 1:15 (paraphrased).

[14] See Philippians 2:10–11.

[15] John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “Eleanor Rigby” (1966). Lyrics lightly altered.

[16] Jeremiah 2:13 (paraphrased).

[17] Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV 1984).

[18] Timothy Keller, “The Gospel and Humor,” June 1, 2008,

[19] Johnny Nash, “I Can See Clearly Now” (1972).

[20] See 1 Corinthians 3:7.

[21] John 19:30 (NIV 1984).

[22] Kate Simmonds and Miles Simmonds, “When I Was Lost” (2001). Lyrics lightly altered.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.