"You Shall Be Witnesses!" -- Part 1
Acts 1: 8
This is not an admonition.
This is a glorious future fact: "You shall be my witnesses"
even as Jesus had designated them already in Luke 24:48.
They are to be more than preachers who proclaim only what they are ordered to proclaim.
They are to be "witnesses" in the sense of 1 John 1: 1.
They are to be men who have themselves seen, heard, touched, experienced,
and are qualified and called to testify accordingly.
We must not pass too lightly over this word, "witnesses."
In the sense in which the apostles were Christ's witnesses no others were or could be.
For this reason the Holy Spirit has come to live in our heart and witnesses to our spirit
that we our children of God.
Jesus says, "You shall receive power to witness of me."
That power will result not in propaganda but in witnessing.
Christians are not to be like salesmen going out to peddle a product.
Nor are we to be recruiters knocking down doors trying to get people to join a religious club.
Christ's power has a personal note about it.
Jesus says, "You will talk about Me, because you have experienced Me!"
The mark of a carnal church is that it loves to talk about itself.
- These early Christians never witnessed about the church; they witnessed about the Lord.
- They witnessed about what He could do, and how He would work.
- They witnessed about what a fantastic person He was, and about His amazing power.
- They witnessed how He died for us, and rose again for us.
- They witnessed about what He can do in human hearts.
Today the church has its eyes too often focused on itself.
The early church had its eyes focused on its Lord, and for this reason it was an effective witness of Jesus.
A witness doesn't deal in hearsay.
He doesn't tell what he thinks or suspects.
He tells only what he knows.
He limits himself to what he has seen and heard.
How do you rate as a witness for Christ?
What can you tell about what God has done for you and in you?
Before Jesus left his followers, He gave them a plan of action for doing God's work of witnessing.
Christians were to witness first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and in Samaria
and to the uttermost parts of the world.
And you and I are to witness in carrying out the Lord's commission.
Our task isn't at Jerusalem -- it is to begin where you are.
That's your "Jerusalem."
A real witness is not only a witness of words, but also of deeds.
When H. M. Stanley had discovered David Livingstone in central Africa,
and when he had spent some time with him, he said,
"If I had been with him any longer, I would have been compelled to be a Christian,
and he never spoke to me about it at all."
The sheer weight of the witness of the man's life was irresistible.
It is interesting that the Greek word for witness and the word for martyr is the same word (martus).
To be a witness means to be loyal no matter what the cost.
Witness is a good word, and when correctly used, it is filled with meaning.
It describes a way of life.
When some hear the word they wince.
For a discussion of witnessing trips a trigger of guilt feelings and self judgment.
But all of us are witnessing to something -- constantly!
We have no choice about being a Christian witness.
Our choice is the kind of witness we will be.
Large numbers of Christians do not feel free to share their faith.
Why is this?
Some may not recognize witnessing as an obligation.
Some because of a lack of commitment or because of a misunderstanding, refuse.
Others, would like to witness, and they tried at some point to follow some highly promoted procedure,
but finally gave up in despair, concluding that for them that witnessing is impossible.
Some falsely assume that only "professionals" can witness.
Some have felt that they must say the right word at the right time,
and the right verse for the right need, and the right solution for the right question.
Altogether, these serve to intimidate.
What is it you have to say?
How do you communicate?
With whom do you share?
Before these questions are answered, some attention should be given to the negative factors
of which we have already hinted.
What keeps us from being a witness as well as from the specific experience of witnessing?
Why do many Christians evade their acknowledged responsibility?
Can we identify the problem and its source in our own experience?
In what ways has certain methods distorted this Christian responsibility?
Our world is where we live, work, play, etc.
The kind of mission in which the Christian Church must be engaged
is basically a person to person witness.
This is not to deny a world concern that reaches beyond our backyard fences.
Nor is it to evade our Christian responsibility in the political and economic life of our country.
But it is to emphasize that mission is carried on within one fundamental context -- between individuals.
Underlying the life and action of the Christian Church, including every member of the body,
is the premise that God loves men and women.
His love comes to us and continues to change us into His likeness.
Embedded in this continuing work of grace lies the concern of God for everyone of His creatures.
And we, the recipients of His love, become also the channels through which flows
the compassion of our Father in heaven.
All we are and have become in Christ is designed to further the reconciling reach of divine grace
into situations of human need.
If this is God's work, and we are to witness; dare we conclude that a witness of His love and power
is optional or too difficult or impossible?
No, we must not!
Now there is a right witness and a wrong witness.
Practically, the problem of "I can't witness" sprouts from varied seeds.
Recognizing the why "I can't witness" is the first step toward I can and I do.
More importantly, it is a step of recognition that I am a witness to His grace.
Since our mission to our world hinges on the personal element,
who and what we are as persons is fundamental.
And to be that kind of person requires that we recognize those characteristics
which inhibit natural contact and hinders our witness.
This sin pops up in various forms.
Sometimes it shows up as fear of what others will think.
Other times it may be a fear of failure or rebuff.
Closely related to pride is brazen superiority.
Such persons find it easy to speak to those they consider to be inferior to themselves --
culturally, economically, or personally.
Unfortunately, the condescending attitude usually shows.
Even when there is ease in speaking, the sense of superiority, transmitted unconsciously,
becomes a barrier to witness.
One's attitude toward others can even affect a person's ability and desire to listen,
which is an indispensable part of witness.
Some feel socially inadequate, usually in the face of new situations or new people.
Meeting strangers might threaten the familiar comforts that are felt with old friends.
In itself, shyness is not bad.
In fact, it can show us the way to a basic principle of witness.
And that is -- the most natural witnessing situation is to be found with those we know best.
The danger of shyness is that it may also be an extreme form of self-consciousness
which replaces God-consciousness or other-consciousness and thus hinders witnessing.
Inability to Express Ourselves
The inability to verbalize or to put into words is a problem.
There is probably a small percentage of people in which this is an honest difficulty.
To put thoughts into words, to express ideas clearly, and to articulate becomes a problem for some.
But it seems that enthusiasm for a given subject can usually overcome the natural reserve
which may be a part of the personality.
Witnessing demands time and effort.
It can also call for sacrifice and inconvenience.
In bearable it requires a conscious concern.
The lazy Christian will find dozens of ways to evade responsibility.
It takes time and effort to win the right to speak.
End of Part One
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Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org