John chapter 4, verses 7–26 give us the Master’s example of how to share our faith. Notice that Jesus spoke to the woman at the well when she was alone. We will often find that people are more open and honest when they are alone. So, if possible, pick a person who is sitting by himself. From there, we can see four clear principles to follow:
1. Jesus began in the natural realm (v. 7). This woman was unregenerate, and the Bible tells us “the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God? (1 Corinthians 2:14). He therefore spoke of something she could relate to—water. Most of us can strike up a conversation with a stranger in the natural realm. It may be a friendly “How are you doing?" or a warm “Good morning!" If the person responds with a sense of warmth, we may then ask, “Do you live around here?" and from there develop a conversation.
2. Jesus swung the conversation to the spiritual realm (v. 10). He simply mentioned the things of God. This will take courage. We may say something like, “Did you go to church on Sunday?" or “Did you see that Christian TV program last week?" If the person responds positively, the question “Do you have a Christian background?" will probe his background. He may answer, “I went to church when I was a child, but I drifted away from it." Another simple way to swing to the spiritual is to offer the person a gospel tract and ask, “Did you get one of these?" When he takes it, simply say, “It’s a gospel tract. Do you come from a Christian background?" If you are comfortable using a particular tract, you can even play off of it: for instance if you are using a million-dollar bill as an icebreaker, you can ask, "Do you know the million-dollar question? No? What do you think happens after someone dies?"
3. Jesus brought conviction using the Law of God (vv. 16–18). Jesus gently spoke to her conscience by alluding to the fact that she had transgressed the Seventh of the Ten Commandments. He used the Law to bring “the knowledge of sin" (see Romans 3:19,20). We can do the same, “Do you consider yourself to be a good person? Do you think that you have kept the Ten Commandments?" Most people think they have, so quickly follow with, “Have you ever told a lie?" This is confrontational, but if it’s asked in a spirit of love and gentleness, there won’t be any offense. Remember that the “work of the Law [is] written in their hearts" and that the conscience will bear witness (Romans 2:15). Jesus confronted the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18–21 with five of the Ten Commandments and there was no offense. Have confidence that the conscience will do its work and affirm the truth of each Commandment. Don’t be afraid to gently ask, “Have you ever stolen something, even if it’s small?" Learn how to open up the spirituality of the Law and show how God considers lust to be the same as adultery (Matthew 5:27,28) and hatred the same as murder (1 John 3:15). Make sure you get an admission of guilt. Ask the person, “If God judges you by the Ten Commandments on Judgment Day, do you think you will be innocent or guilty?" If he says he will be innocent, ask, “Why is that?" If he admits his guilt, ask, “Do you think you will go to heaven or hell?" From there the conversation may go one of three ways:
4. He may confidently say, “I don’t believe in hell." Gently respond, “That doesn’t matter. You still have to face God on Judgment Day whether you believe in it or not. If I step onto the freeway when a massive truck is heading for me and I say, ‘I don’t believe in trucks,’ my lack of belief isn’t going to change reality."
5. He may say that he’s guilty, but that he will go to heaven. This is usually because he thinks that God is “good" and that He will, therefore, overlook sin in his case. Point out that if a judge in a criminal case has a guilty murderer standing before him, the judge, if he is a good man, can’t just let him go. He must ensure that the guilty man is punished. If God is good, He must (by nature) punish murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, adulterers, fornicators, and those who have lived in rebellion to the inner light that God has given to every man. Then tenderly tell him he has already admitted to you that he has lied, stolen, and committed adultery in his heart, and that God gave him a conscience so that he would know right from wrong. His conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit will do the rest. That’s why it is essential to draw out an admission of guilt before you mention Judgment Day or the existence of hell.
6. He may admit that he is guilty and therefore going to hell. Ask him if that concerns him. Speak to him about how much he values his eyes and how much more therefore he should value the salvation of his soul. Jesus said that a person should count his eye as worthless compared to the value of his soul (Matthew 5:29, Mark 9:47).
7. After these things had been done, Jesus revealed Himself to the woman at the well (v. 26). Once the Law has humbled the person, he is ready for grace. Remember, the Bible says that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The gospel is for the humble. Only the sick need a physician, and only those who will admit that they have the disease of sin will truly embrace the cure of the gospel by repenting and placing their trust in Christ.