Chapter 4 - Adding Illustrations | Book | Sharing Your Faith
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Chapter 4

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Receiving Christ
Jesus wants to be Lord of our lives
Three suggestions
Your assignment

When you share your faith you will look for ways to help people understand, and sometimes you will do this by using illustrations. Jesus use illustrations, or parables, all the time. Illustrations compare something that may not be understood to something that is understood. Illustrations are not an essential part of the gospel because people can receive Christ without hearing an illustration, but illustrations can help people understand things that are essential. Do you remember the illustrations about the dog and the medicine in the last chapter, when I shared with Mike? The dog illustration helped explain the sacrifice Jesus made, and the medicine illustration helped explain receiving Christ.

The illustrations you use will often be different because people have different experiences. Try not to get into the habit of sharing the same illustrations every time. This is why there are a lot of illustrations in this chapter. While you may only end up sharing some of them, reading this chapter should help you understand the gospel better so you can explain the gospel more effectively even if you don’t use these illustrations. You may think of illustrations on your own as you are sharing, which is the Holy Spirit giving you a way to explain things. The nice thing about illustrations is you don’t have to explain them in any particular way. You can change them, or make them as long, or as short, as you want so long as you make the point. About the only thing you need to remember are the two things being compared and the point you are trying to make, although when sharing a true story, you need to make sure you don’t change the facts.

Each of the following illustrations has a title, followed by the two things being compared, and the truth conveyed. These illustrations are organized in the areas you would most likely share them, and are in alphabetical order within each area, except for the true stories, which are at the end of each section in a different font. They are written as though you are talking to someone. See if you can share one or two from each category. You should find this very easy to do.

Suppose you are trying to explain sin and you’re not sure someone really understands the consequences of sin. Even if you explain everything perfectly, some people may need to hear an illustration to really get it. Keep in mind that if people do not understand they are sinners, they won’t understand their need for a Savior.

Drop of poison
Sin is compared to a drop of poison. It only takes one sin to disqualify us from heaven.

If I put one drop of poison in a bottle of water, would you drink it? One drop of poison ruins an entire bottle of water, just as one sin disqualifies us from heaven. We wouldn’t want one drop of poison to enter our body, and God is not going to allow one sin to enter heaven. Did you know that our thoughts qualify as sin? One bad thought disqualifies us from heaven? We were all disqualified from heaven a long time ago. The Bible says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Roman 3:23)

Filthy rag
Our sins are compared to a filthy rag. Only Christ can remove our sins and clean us up.

The Bible says that our righteousness are filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) Imagine a rag so dirty that if you cut into, the stain would go all the way to the center of the fiber. When I have a rag that dirty I just throw it out. If I tried to clean it, I wouldn’t get all the stains out. God is not willing to throw us away like a filthy rag and He is able to clean us up completely, by forgiving us of all of our sins. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)

“Get out of jail free card”
Our bondage to sin is compared to being in jail. Only Jesus can set us free from the consequences of sin.

If you have ever played monopoly you know that if you land in jail and you have to either roll doubles or have a “get out of jail free” card in order to get out. We are all in bondage due to our sin, but unlike monopoly, there is only one way out. It is through Jesus. You could say that Jesus is our “get out of jail card” and our “stay out of hell card.” “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Getting burned
Sin is compared to being burned. God warns us about the consequences of sin.

What kids haven’t been told, “Don’t touch the stove?” They usually touch it anyway, get burned, and then complain how hot the stove is and how much it hurts. Adults do pretty much the same thing. We ignore God’s laws, suffer the consequences, and then complain about it. Adults are just better at making excuses. The most serious consequence of sin is yet to come. Jesus is offering to take away your sins so you won’t suffer eternal death. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

God’s law is compared to a lamp. God’s law reveals we are sinners.

If you turned on a light and discovered the room was very messy, it’s not the light’s fault the room is a mess. The light just reveals the mess. This is what God’s law does. It reveals that we are sinners. The law shows us we are sinners and we need a Savior just like a light shows us we have a mess and we need to clean it up. The difference is that only Christ can clean us up. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Galatians 3:24, 25)

Razor blade
Sin is compared to a razor blade. We are usually not aware of the consequences of sin.

A razor blade can look like fun to toddlers. They don’t understand the danger. Sin is much the same way. It looks fun, but people don’t see the danger. Just as parents want to get a razor blade away from their children and teach them about the danger, God wants to remove sin from our lives and warn us of the dangers. The only way we can escape the eternal consequences of our sin is by letting God forgive us.

Running a red light
Sinning is compared to running a red light. Our good deeds do not excuse us of from our sins.

Many people think their good deeds will compensate for their bad deeds. This is not how God sees it, and it this is not how a judge see it. Suppose you ran a red light, you go to court, and the judge asks you how you plead. You say not guilty. The judge then asks if you ran the red light. You tell him that you did, but you tell him that you feel you should not have to pay the fine because you’ve stopped for thousands of other red lights. The judge may tell you a lot of things, but one thing he will tell you that you’re guilty and you need to pay the fine. You may even have to pay more for wasting the judge’s time. Can you image someone telling a judge that is being tried for murder, “Sure I killed him, but what about all the other people I didn’t kill?”

Being a slave is compared to being burdened by sin. Sin enslaves us.

Most of us cannot imagine what it would be like to be a slave, but sin makes us a slave, because sin controls us and we can’t escape. This is especially true for drugs and sexual sins. The more we sin, the more trapped we become. Ironically, those who are trapped by sin the most often make fun of those who are not trapped. This is because they don’t see how trapped they are. The Bible says, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

Throwing a rock in water
The consequences of sin are compared to the ripples of a rock thrown in water. We need to think about the consequence of our sins.

When you throw a rock in some water, the rock disappears but there’s a ripple effect on the water that continues. This gives a picture of sin. After we sin there are consequences that continue. Unlike the ripples from a rock, the consequences or our sins never stop. They continue all the way to eternity unless we receive Christ and His pardon.

Being trapped in a fire is compared to being trapped by sin. Sin traps us.

Imagine being trapped in a building that was on fire and there was no way out. It’s a helpless feeling. All we can do is hope someone will rescue us. People could feel the same way if they were lost at sea, locked in prison, or had an incurable disease. Sin is much the same way, except that people don’t understand the danger so they usually don’t seek help. Once we understand the danger of sin, and that Jesus is the only One who can save us, we need to cry out to Him and ask Him for help. He is the only one that can save us. Jesus is the only one in the Savior business. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

A regular video is compared to a video of your thoughts. What if your thoughts could be video taped?

What if it was possible to make a video of your thoughts, so what you thought about could be put on a big screen TV for everyone to see? Would you be proud or ashamed? Most of us would be ashamed if everyone could see what we think about. This is because we are free to think about whatever we want without being accountable to anyone, not even those closest to us. This would reveal how sinful we are. There is nothing God does not know, including our thoughts, and there is no place we can hide from God. (Psalm 139:7-9 & Jeremiah 23:23-24) Jesus said, “There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” (Matthew 10:26)

Doing things our way is compared to vomit. Sin is more disgusting than we realize.

When kids throw up in school, the area around them clears out fast. They don’t need a lesson on how repulsive vomit is. Students instinctively know. Sin is repulsive to God, but, unlike vomit, God has to tell us. The Bible uses vomit as a way to illustrated how gross sin is, when it says, “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool retuneth to his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11) Peter gives reference to this verse. (2 Peter 2:22) Isaiah (19:14, 28:8) and Jeremiah (48:26) use vomit as a way to try to convince people to turn from their sins, as did Jesus when talking about those who were lukewarm, or not very committed and passionate. (Revelation 3:16) Our sins are just as disgusting as vomit, but we don’t understand how disgusting sin is just as dogs don’t understand how disgusting vomit is. When I was in college my roommate used a similar illustration. He said the world is a cesspool and believers are the ones that have goggles on. Sin is disgusting, and if it takes a gross example to show people, then do so.

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Once you explain sin you need to explain who Jesus is. Many people have heard about Jesus but they don’t understand He is God, the sacrifice He made, or that He is the only way to have eternal life. “The Dog illustration” illustrates this well, and is one of my favorite illustrations, but everyone is different. Try to use illustrations that you like and feel passionate about. Giving people choices and letting them explain things in their own way is what this book is all about.

Jesus is the only way to heaven just as a bridge is the only way to get across a steep valley. Only Christ can save us.

Imagine a valley that has ragged rocks and the only way to get across the valley to the other side is to by crossing the one bridge that is there. In a similar way, the only way we can get to heaven is through Christ. There is a song called, “Bridge over troubled water,” and one line states, “Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down.” This is what Christ has done for us. Jesus is our bridge over troubled waters and He is our bridge to heaven. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)

The Dog illustration
The sacrifice Jesus made by becoming a man is compared to a man becoming a dog. Jesus is the only One who can save us.

Suppose God comes to you in a dream and gives you a tour of the universe. After seeing incredible sights and sounds, God takes you a small planet that is not so beautiful. When you look closer, you notice there’s nothing but dogs on this planet. You tell God that there is nothing but dogs on this planet. God says, “I know, but I love these dogs—and the reason I brought you here is because I want you to go down there and tell them I love them.” As you’re thinking about this, God says, “There are some things you need to understand before you decide if you are going to do this.” First, you need to become a dog. Secondly, these dogs will not receive your message. Most of them won’t listen or appreciate the sacrifice you’ve made. In fact, they are going to kill you, but I will resurrect you, and you’ll be back here.” As you’re thinking about this, God says, “There is one more thing you need to know. When I resurrect you, and you’re back here, you will forever be a dog. You will never be a man again.”

This gives us a picture of what Jesus did for us. Jesus was not a man in heaven—He was God. Jesus became a man. Keep in mind that Jesus is still God, when He became a man. When Jesus was resurrected, He is still in the form of a man, and will continue to be in the form of a man for all eternity. He will probably still have His wounds as well. Jesus made a tremendous sacrifice to remove our sins. That’s why Jesus is the only way to heaven! This is why Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

“Who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Phone number
The only way to God is compared to a phone number. Only Christ can save us.

I can call people on the phone because I know their phone number. There is only one number that will work with each person. There is no such thing as being close. You either have the exact number or you don’t. In the same way, there is only one way to reach God, and that is through His Son, Jesus Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Pink slip
Christ’s finished work on the cross is compared to a car that has been paid for. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation.

When you make a final car payment, you get the pink slip with a note from the bank that says, “Paid in full.” Once the bank tells you that your car is paid for, you are not going to make any more payments, “for good measure.” When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), it means there is nothing more we can do to contribute to our salvation. We either receive God’s salvation as a gift, or we don’t receive it at all.

Traffic ticket
Jesus is compared to a judge. The difference between justice and mercy is explained.

When a judge makes you pay a traffic ticket, he shows justice but not mercy. If he dismisses your traffic ticket, he shows mercy, but not justice. If he personally pays your ticket, he shows both justice and mercy. This is what Christ did for us. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for our sins, which shows justice and mercy. “Jesus paid a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.” “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

A mother’s sacrifice
The sacrifice of a mother is compared to the sacrifice of Christ. Love is measured by how much someone is willing to sacrifice.

A young girl was embarrassed by the scars her mother had on her face. One day, the young girl asked her mother how she got the scars. Her mom told her they were both in a fire when she was a baby and she used the only blanket she had to wrap her up in it so she would be protected. When the young girl realized that her mother saved her at her mother’s expense, she was proud of her mother, not ashamed. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we should never be ashamed of Him. The Bible tells us that, “His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52:14). Paul declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” (Romans 1:16)

Giving up a kidney
Giving a kidney is compared to God giving His Son. Love is measured by how much someone is willing to sacrifice.

Giving up your son’s life for the life of someone else is more than we could possibly imagine, but what if you had to give up something less, like a kidney? That’s exactly what one believer did. The pastor of a church I attended had a kidney disease that got worse to the point he needed a kidney to live. A man at the church gave him one of his kidneys. This made me think if I would have been willing to make such a sacrifice. I’m still thinking! The only thing that could fix the problem was a kidney, just like the only thing that can save us is Jesus Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

“His Master’s Voice”
A dog hearing his master is compared to hearing Jesus. All who seek God will find Him.

Years ago the RCA Victor Record Company had an ad with a record player with a large horn for a speaker and a dog listening to it. The dog’s head was turned indicating he recognized something. At the bottom of the picture it said, “His master’s voice.” The ad was trying to show that the recording was clear enough for the dog to hear his master’s voice. There may have been scratches on the record, and other distortions, but the dog recognized his master’s voice. In the same way, there are words in the Bible that are not easy to translate and there are imperfect pastors and evangelists, but in spite of these imperfections, if we listen, we can still hear our Master’s voice, just like the dog in the picture.

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When people receive Christ they often know they need to turn from sin or repent, but some don’t, which is why you need to make sure people understand repentance. Hopefully, these illustrations will help you help others understand.

“About face”
Repenting is compared to turning around and going the other direction. Repentance is like making a 180-degree turn.

When a drill sergeant shouts out, “About face,” he wants everyone to turn around 180 degrees and go the other direction. It’s an order and everyone does it. When God tells us to repent, He wants us to make a similar turn is in our mind and heart. Unlike a drill sergeant, God wants us to go different direction because we understand we have been going the wrong direction, and we choose to repent.

“Breaking a horse”
Repenting is compared to breaking a horse. We need to be broken in order to come to Christ much like a horse needs be broken in order to ride it.

When a horse is broken, they give up fighting against the one that owns them. In the same way when we come to Christ we need to give up fighting against God. We often refer to this as repenting, surrendering to God, or being broken. Just as horses are not useful to their owners without being broken, we are not useful to God without being broken. “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Luke 20:18)

Resigning from a job
Repenting is compared to resigning from a job. We need to repent in order to receive Christ, just as we need to resign from one job before starting another one.

Before people can start a new job, they have to resign from their present job. They can’t be in two places at once. They have to make a decision that they are not going to work at their present job. They might be thinking, “I’m sick of that job and I’m never going back there.” In the same way when people repent from their sins, they might be thinking, “I am sick of doing these things, I’m not going to live this way anymore.”

Unconditional surrender
Repenting is compared to a country surrendering. When we come to Christ we come unconditionally.

When a country surrenders, they don’t make demands, and say that the will surrender only on certain conditions. There are no conditions when people surrender. They surrender unconditionally, and are at the mercy of those they are surrendering to. In the same way, when we surrender our lives to Christ, we must surrender unconditionally. There are no conditions, demands, excuses, or expectations. Unlike a conquering country, God is merciful. God loves us and wants to give us a better life. Nevertheless, that is His business, not ours. What God is going to do with us is not open for discussion or negotiation. We come to Him as we are and trust Him to lead us in ways He wants.

Repentance is compared to making a U-turn. We need to repent.

If you were traveling south, but you really wanted to go north, what would you need to do? You would need to realize you’re going the wrong way and then turn around and go the opposite direction. ‘Repent’ means to change your mind with a sense of remorse knowing you are going the wrong direction. When people repent they need to turn from their sins. They want to stop doing things their way and go God’s way. The first thing Jesus said when He started His ministry was, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) If we don’t repent we will be judged for our sins. “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)

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Receiving Christ
When you ask people if they would like to receive Christ they need to make a decision. Sometimes they will hesitate and you need to wait. (This will be discussed in more detail in chapter six.) As you are waiting you may be thinking of some ways to help them understand which could prompt you to come up with some illustrations.

Bottle of medicine
Receiving Christ is compared to taking medicine. We need to receive Christ, not just believe in Christ.

Suppose a doctor tells you that you have a disease that is known for being fatal, and you may only have a short time to live. He then tells you about some medicine that has proven to cure everyone he has given it to. He brings out a bottle of this medicine, sets in on his desk and says, ‘Do you believe this medicine can cure you?’ You tell him you believe it will. Then the doctor tells you that believing in the medicine won’t do anything, you have to take it. The same is true about Jesus. Believing in God, or knowing about God, is not enough. The devil believes in God (James 2:19), and hell is full of people who believe in God. You need to receive Christ, just as you have to take the medicine. “But as many as receive him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12)

Cashing a check
Receiving Christ is compared to cashing a check. Why wait to receive Christ?

If you received a large check, would you wait a few months and cash it later? I doubt it. You would probably cash it the day you got it. The choice of receiving the gift of eternal life is before you now. It is worth far more than the largest check you’ve ever cashed. You could die tonight. Why wait? “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)

Our lifespan is compared to a coin. We will not live forever.

How long has it been since you’ve seen a coin with the same date you were born? How do you think it compares to a brand new coin? Old coins can remind us that we will not live forever. Many coins made the year we were born have already been taken out of circulation. One day you will die, or be taken out of circulation, and as surely as you are going to die, you are going to be judged. “...It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

Eating ice cream
Experiencing Christ is compared to eating ice cream. We need to receive Christ to know that God is good.

Have you ever eaten ice cream? If you’ve never tasted ice cream could you describe how it tastes? You couldn’t. That’s why the stores give samples. You don’t know what something tastes like unless you taste it. The same is true about God. You must experience how good Christ is by receiving Him. That’s why the Bible says, “O Taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is he man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

Knowing the future is compared to believing God. We need to take God’s warnings seriously.

What if you had foreknowledge about a future catastrophe? For example, what if you knew there would be an earthquake a minute before it happened? You would do anything you could to get out of any building you were in and be in the safest place. God knows everything, and He has foreknowledge of everything. If you don’t repent of your sins you will face judgement and eternal punishment. God has warned us and we need to heed His warnings. “...It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

Fork in the road
A fork in the road is compared to the decision to receive Christ. We must decide if we want to take the road that leads to God or away from God.

Occasionally a road branches off in two different directions, and we have to decide which one to take. When faced with this decision you will think about where the road is headed. Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing Christ, most people look at how popular the road is. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14) When kids try to talk their parents into going somewhere they often say, “Everyone else is going” as though this automatically means it’s the best choice. When thinking about receiving Christ, consider what is at the end of the road, not what others are choosing. Don’t let others do your thinking for you.

A hitchhiker that trusts a stranger to give them a ride is compared to trusting Christ. We need to know that God loves us.

When hitchhikers get in a car they do not know if the person who picks them up wants to help them or hurt them. When we give our lives to Christ we can be assured He wants to help us and that His intentions for us are good. Since people are deciding if they want to surrender their lives to Christ, it can help to tell people that God loves them and wants the best for us. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Hotel room door
Receiving Christ is compared to opening a door. We need to let Christ into our lives.

Many hotels rooms have a door in the room that is connected to another room so families can be together. When you open the door in your room, there’s another door. In order for you to get in the next room, someone in the next room has to open his door. This gives a picture of letting Christ into our lives. You are separated from God. Jesus has already opened the door on His side. He’s waiting for you to open the door on your side. Jesus said, “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Committing to Christ is compared to the marriage commitment. We need to make a strong commitment.

When a man makes a marriage commitment, he is asked, “Do you take this woman to be your wife?” He needs to say, “I do” or there will be no marriage. Hesitating is not a good idea either. A weak commitment usually means no commitment. The same is true when making a commitment to Christ. The stronger you commit to Christ—the better!

Optical illusion
Spiritual blindness is compared to physical blindness. We need to receive Christ to understand spiritual truths.

Have you ever looked at an optical illusion that made no sense, and then suddenly, recognized what was hidden? The same is true about spiritual things. Before Christ is in our lives, we simply can’t understand spiritual things. When we receive Christ, we begin to understand things that were unclear before. Nothing in the picture changed, you just see it. The truth never changes. God just helps us see the truth. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Sitting in a chair
Receiving Christ and trusting the Lord is compared to sitting in a chair. We have to trust the Lord just as we have to trust a chair will support us.

When you sit down you putting your trust in the chair that it will support you. In a similar way, when we receive Christ we are putting our trust in Christ to save us. Saying that you believe the chair will support you is not enough. You need to sit down in the chair in order to trust in the chair. (You can use other illustrations that require even more trust, like a mountain climbing rope, or a parachute, but a chair is more common, and when I’ve used a chair as an illustration, people understand the point.)

A thermostat is compared to receiving Christ. We have to respond sin and Christ by repenting and receiving Christ.

In order for a thermostat to work it has to know what the temperature is and it has to respond by turning on the heater or the air conditioner. In the same way, in order to receive Christ we have to know we are sinners and Jesus is Savior, and we have to respond by repenting and receiving Christ. Knowing we are sinners, and Jesus is the Savior, is not enough. The devil knows this. On a hot day, you don’t want a thermometer just telling you what the temperature is—you want it to kick on the air conditioner! Knowing about God is essential, but that by itself will not get you eternal life. You need to respond by receiving Him. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12)

Wedding ring
Committing to Christ is compared to the marriage commitment. We need to make a sincere commitment.

Some people say they are committed when they aren’t. They are like brides who are more excited about the wedding ring than their husband. Some people do this with God. They want God to get them out of a jam, or possibly an easier life, but they don’t want God. God wants people that want Him. God wants us to make a strong commitment...and He knows how serious everyone is. Some people fool everyone else, but they don’t fool God. Going forward in a church service, or saying a prayer, doesn’t automatically save anyone. People have to make a genuine commitment.

The Titanic
The world is compared to the Titanic. We need to choose Christ before it’s too late.

Many people on the Titanic did not believe the ship was sinking even after they were told. Many people today live as though they will never die and they won’t be accountable for their sins. They are like the people on the Titanic who continued partying as it was sinking. Jesus is offering a way to save us, but we have to choose during our lifetime. Don’t delay as many on the Titanic did. One day it will be too late. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Receiving a pardon
Being forgiven is compared to an inmate being pardoned. We have to choose if we want God to forgive us.

I heard a story of a prisoner that received a pardon from the governor, but to everyones’ surprise he refused the pardon. They did not know what to do at first, but eventually they determined that in order for the pardon to be valid, he must accept it. The same is true with God’s pardon. We must be willing to accept it. Most prisoners would not hesitate to accept a pardon, but most people are unwilling to receive God’s pardon so they can have eternal life. God offers us a pardon but we have to decide if we are going to take it. We are all prisoners of sin. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” (John 8:34) God is offering you a pardon, but you need to decide if you want to take it.

A well in the desert
Trusting a sign and a pump is compared to trusting the Bible. We must put our faith in Christ and trust Him.

I heard a story of a man walking in a desert and running very low on water came upon a pump and a small bucket of water. By the bucket was a sign that read:

“Do not drink the water in the bucket. There’s not enough water for you to make it out of the desert. Use the water in the bucket to primp the pump, and you will have more water to drink and fill up all your water containers. When you’re finished, fill up the bucket for the next traveler.”

The thirsty traveler in this example represents the unbeliever, the sign represents the Word of God, and priming the pump represents putting your faith in God’s Word to save you. The stale water in the bucket represents sinning or getting immediate gratification. The water in the bucket looks pretty good when you’re thirsty, but you need more water than that in order to survive. In the same way, we need God’s living water to give us eternal life and a fulfilling life. Doing things that give immediate gratification (or sinning) looks pretty good, but that will never satisfy us or enable us to survive eternally. We often make decisions with only immediate gratifications in mind. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

Here are some of the lessons we can learn from this illustration:
1. We need to make decisions with the long-range consequences in mind rather than the immediate comforts.
2. We need to trust what the Bible says, just like the traveler needed to trust the sign.
3. It’s easier to trust in what you see than what you don’t see.

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During the course of sharing your faith you may want to remind people of eternity. See if these two illustrations help make the point.

BB in a boxcar
Our life is compared to eternity, by comparing a bb to a boxcar. Eternity is a long time.

If a bb represented your life, and a boxcar represented eternity, imagine how many bb’s (or lifetimes) it would take to fill up a boxcar with bb’s. It would take billions of them, and that doesn’t really do it justice because eternity never ends. The Bible compares our life to a vapor. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) This scripture is saying that our life is very short compared to eternity, just like a vapor that lasts only a few seconds. You are going to spend eternity somewhere. You will either be in with God or in the great lake of fire. Eternity is too long to be wrong.

Worrying about things in this life is compared to worrying about what you dreamed about. We need to focus on eternal things.

When we get to heaven we will probably wonder why we spend so much time worried about things that didn’t matter. One time I dreamt I had to take some things back to our car I had taken into a restaurant. Getting to the car was like going through an obstacle course. I fell in a pond that had exotic fish, and I had to scoot past a guy doing yoga, while trying to carry several things back to the car. One of the things I was carrying was a cat. When I got close to the car I realized I lost the cat. When I woke up, I was worried about losing the cat. It took awhile to realize this was just a stupid dream. I then wondered why I was so worried. I would never bring a cat in a restaurant and we don’t even have a cat. When we get to heaven, I think we will realize what we have been worried about will be just as stupid. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

Expiration date
Expiration dates on products are compared to everything we see. Nothing will last forever.

Just about everything in a grocery store or drug store has an expiration date. Even things that don’t have an expiration date have an expiration date because nothing lasts forever. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent hear, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned.” (2 Peter 3:10) Everything is going to burn; however our souls will last forever. Everyone will either have eternal life with Christ or eternal death in the Great Lake or fire. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)

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Jesus wants to be Lord of our lives
People often want to know more about being a Christian which is a fair question considering they are going to surrender their lives to Christ and give their lives to Christ.

Auto mechanic
Trusting the Lord, who you can’t see, is compared to trusting a mechanic that tells you things about your car you can’t see. We have to trust the Lord just as we have to trust a mechanic.

It’s easier to trust things you can see. We cannot see Christ just as we usually don’t see what an auto mechanic is talking about. We have to trust them. The reason why I trust some auto mechanics is because they have a history of being trustworthy. Once you trust Christ, you will learn He is trustworthy. Everything God does is motivated by His love and wisdom. God’s past faithfulness demands our present trust. “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee or forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

God’s transformation is compared to our efforts to change ourselves. Only Christ can transform us.

You can’t change your nationality, or your gender (although some try), just as you can’t change a duck into a dog. The same thing is true with our sin nature. We can’t be sinless by our own efforts. Many people try though. They go to church, sing Christian songs, join Christian organizations, and try to do other good things, but none of those things save us or change us. Only Christ transforms us. Receive Christ and let Him truly transform your life. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A GPS is compared to God directing our lives. We can trust God to guide us and get us where He wants us.

A GPS, or Global Positioning System, comes standard on many cars and cell phones today. A GPS will direct you to where you need to go, tell you where you can get gas, food, workout, etc. If you get lost, it will get you back on track. You make a hundred wrong turns and a pleasant voice will calmly tell you what to do without telling you how stupid you are. As believers, the Holy Spirit will direct our lives from where we are. We could call it God’s Positioning System. God will get you to where you need to be. The difference is that a Global Positioning System works by sight for a trip. God’s Positioning System works by faith for your entire life.

Railroad tracks
We need Christ just as a train needs tracks. Only Christ gives us a purpose.

Some believe that being a Christian is too restrictive. That would be like a train saying the tracks it runs on are too restrictive. A train is not complete without the tracks, just as we are not complete without God. The same people who built the train, built the tracks, just as the same God who created us, created us to be with God. This is why the Bible says, “Ye are complete in him.” (Colossians 2:10)

Rat in a maze
Watching a rat in a maze is compared to God watching us. God knows what we need and He knows how to lead us.

Have you ever seen a rat in a maze? You can see where the rat needs to go, but he can’t. This gives a picture of our lives from God’s perspective. God knows where we need to go.

Rat in a wheel
Living without Christ is compared to a rat running on a wheel. Without Christ directing our lives, there’s not much purpose in our lives.

A rat running in a wheel doesn’t seem to realize he’s getting nowhere. Without allowing Christ to direct our lives, we’re going nowhere either. We need to trust God and surrender our lives to Him so He can direct our lives for His purposes. Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Receiving a gift
Going to church is compared to a gift, celebrating, and a honeymoon. Christians should want to go to church and be together.

If someone gave you a large sum of money as a gift, do you have to spend it? You don’t, you get to spend it! Champions don’t have to celebrate to be champions and newlyweds don’t have to go on a honeymoon to be married. Celebrating, or going on a honeymoon, is what they want to do. If you have received Christ, you don’t have to go to church, you get to go to church. Going to church is something Christians want to do. The Bible instructs us to get together with other believers. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.” (Hebrews 10:25)

A broken down motorist
Our creator is compared to an inventor. We can trust the One who made us.

There’s a story of a motorist whose model T Ford broke down by the side of the road. A stranger stopped, asked what was wrong, and then quickly fixed the car. When the motorist asked the stranger how he fixed it so fast, he told him he should know since he was the one who created it. The stranger was Henry Ford. Since God created us, He knows how to fix us. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3)

A tight rope
Trusting Christ, with our lives is compared to trusting an expert with our lives. We must put our faith in Christ and trust Him.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a man named Blondin amazed people by walking over Niagara Falls on a tightrope. On one occasion he asked everyone, “Who believes I can carry a person across the gorge?” The crowd cheered, but when he asked for a volunteer, no one volunteered. Finally, his manager agreed to be carried across. Blondin told his manager that he could not trust his own feelings, but he had to trust him. Blondin told him if he moves because he feels that he has to, they will both fall. Blondin told him to hang limp and become part of me. They made it across. This gives a picture of how we must trust Christ. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

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Three suggestions
Use illustrations people understand
For example, a woman would be more likely to relate to the wedding ring illustrations than the Ford illustration, unless she’s a mechanic. Children would understand the ice cream illustration, or the rock illustration, more than the wedding illustration or the pink slip illustration. The more you know about a person, the more you should know what examples would be the best to use.

Stay on the subject
When unbelievers get off the subject it usually means they’re not interested, but if they get off the subject, get back to the point you were trying to make. For example, if you share the dog illustration, don’t start talking about dogs, or if you share the medicine bottle illustration, don’t start talking about medicines. It’s usually best to keep illustrations short, but every situation is different. Try to end illustrations with the point you are trying to make, and a scripture if you can. This is how most of the illustrations you just read were ended.

When people don’t see the point, find another way to make the point
A few people in Russia have told us they would drink a glass of water with one drop of poison, but not with several drops of poison. The water in St. Petersburg is very bad and they thought they could handle it, but we didn’t want them to think one sin was acceptable, so we had to get back to the main point and just tell them one sin will separate them from God and keep them from heaven. A few animal lovers have told me they would be willing to become a dog and die for their dog. People are often idealistic so just try to find another way to explain the sacrifice Jesus made. On one missionary trip to Russia, some American believers tried to get people to understand the difference between believing in God and receiving Him by asking people if they believed some Russian dictators that were not popular in America existed, and then asked if they would trust them. This worked until they ran into some to Russians who would trust them. This would be like someone coming over to your country and knocking your favorite leader. Needless to say, they had to quickly find another way to make their point, while hoping they would make it out of the country.

It’s possible for people to completely miss the point. I heard a story of someone who wanted to persuade people not to drink so he made his point by putting a worm in a glass of alcohol. After the worm shriveled up and died, he asked in dramatic fashion, “What does that show you about the effects of alcohol?” Someone in the back of the room yelled out, “If you drink—you won’t have worms!”

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Your assignment
Imagine that you are watching people walk along a path about a quarter of a mile up river from the Niagara Falls. Floating down the river are some rafts headed toward the water falls where the water falls 167 feet on the rocks. The people on the rafts seem unaware of the danger. The people on the shore know what lies ahead, but most do little to warn them. Some say nothing, some yell at them and keep on walking, but two people on the shore start running along the shore yelling and waving their arms trying to warn them.

In this illustration the people on the raft represent unbelievers and the people on the shore represent believers. Unfortunately most believers are like those that don’t say much to warn people. We need to be more like the two running along the shore. Think about this. Have you ever seen athletes celebrating after winning a championship? Everyone on the team celebrates, but the athletes that played in the game celebrate more because they were more involved in the victory. Similarly, everyone in heaven will celebrate, but I think those who share the gospel will have more to celebrate about, and more to celebrate with, because they were more involved in the victory. The cool thing is that we can all share the gospel. We don’t have to wait for the coach to send us into the game. Jesus has already told us to go into all the world and share the gospel. There’s not as much honor in a clean uniform after a hard fought game. Don’t go to heaven with clean armor. Get out there and share the gospel.

Hopefully the following illustrations will encourage you to share the gospel. Practice sharing the gospel and use some illustrations to make your point. They don’t have to be the same illustration you just read. When you are finished write down the illustrations you used and go back over the chapter and write down some illustrations that would have also worked. This should make you more aware of how you can use illustrations.

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