"You Shall Be Witnesses!" -- Part Three
In this section on witnessing we will continue to study hindrances to witnessing.
A Christian witness has obvious spiritual implications.
The essence of witness is to report a miracle of grace.
The concern of Christian witnesses is the spiritual needy hearts in the world.
Since a witness to the grace of God is really a spiritual exercise,
one must recognize the possibility of spiritual hindrances blocking its fulfillment.
These are varied but similarly destructive to the Christian's fundamental purpose in life.
Uncertainty about Our Own Salvation
Here is where doubt cuts the vital nerve of a Christian's witness.
Doubt puts the Christian in the position of proclaiming a "maybe message."
Doubt destroys the initiative, drains enthusiasm, and communicates only itself.
The non-Christian begs for certainty, for assurance, for solid truths, and for solid ground.
To announce the fact of God's grace in a testimony laced with doubt is a teasing treachery,
unworthy of the Christian gospel.
No one unsure of salvation is a witness except to his or her own lack of assurance.
- Only he can witness who has himself confessed his own sin and utter helplessness.
- Only he can witness who has experienced and is experiencing the lifting,
healing, cleansing power of God's love.
- Only he can witness who, in his lostness, has been found.
- Only he can witness who, out of his searching has discovered the Way.
- Only he can witness who, from the deep despair of his aimlessness,
has awakened to the real meaning of life and death.
- Only he can witness who, has been saved from himself, in the name of Jesus.
Is unwillingness to witness actually a problem to the child God?
Are there Christians unwilling to share?
Is the term "unwilling disciple" a paradox?
Ideally, the disciple is always willing.
However, who of God's family does not face the temptation of self-will?
This can become a deadening barrier to usefulness as a member of Christ's body.
Willfulness blocks the will and work of God's Spirit.
Lack of discipleship denies the leadership of Christ, the very heart of the gospel message.
Only a full application of God's grace can make the witness willing and his testimony effective.
Lack of Boldness
To remain a spectator in the arena of Christian service requires little courage.
But to step into the battle, to engage the forces of evil, calls for greater than human resources.
But ye shall receive "power" to witness.
This will reflect a spirit of quiet confidence and humble fearlessness born of the Spirit of God.
Such holy boldness commands respect and demands a hearing.
It ignores threats, overrides personal hesitations, and bypasses possible distortions of the message.
It speaks not to intimidate, but speaks simply because the gospel message must be given.
Complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit is basic.
He must control.
Unfamiliarity With the Scriptures
The Word of God stands central among the tools used by the Christian witness.
No other available resource can replace the Bible.
The impact of its message reaches hearts when every other approach has failed.
Witnessing calls for a thorough acquaintance with the Word of God.
However, lest there be misunderstanding, let it be said quickly that witnessing does not demand
that we have the mind of a scholar.
Nor does God ask only for a human being in which to only store up "verses."
The Word of God must be studied and meditated upon for its own sake
and for ones own spiritual need and growth.
Familiarity with the Scriptures grows out of a deep love for the Word of God.
- A love that leads to a saturation of the soul with its message.
- A love that demands time spent mining its riches.
- A love reflected in the response of obedience to its precepts.
Failing this, acquaintance with the Word of God is only mechanical and superficial.
When the love of of God's Word is present, systems of use and techniques of witness
fade into a secondary place.
What will it matter then if one remembers the exact sequence of steps
to take with an inquiring heart?
What will it matter then if the methods and techniques are broken by a sudden prompting of the Spirit of God?
What will it matter then if the proper words are forgotten in the rush of personal thanksgiving for God's grace?
The Word of God hidden in the heart and dwelt upon in the quiet hours of meditation
will burst forth again and again.
Then there are some motivating factors which should be questioned seriously.
1) Witness because of outside leadership rather than by inner compulsion.
To do the right thing is always commendable.
Yet to witness only because one is told to witness misses the point completely.
This makes a farce of that which should be sacred and meaningful.
2) Attempting to meet our own personal needs
Sometimes the Christian finds the process of sharing ministers to his own needs, primarily.
So, such a Christian eagerly pursues his unsuspecting victims in a vain effort to satisfy
some deep personal need or hunger to be noticed
or to follow some neurotic tendency under the cover of holy services.
This can be spiritually devastating.
The American culture has made Christians number conscious.
We tend to interpret progress with relation to large budgets, to many baptisms, to membership increase,
community census, and attendance at services.
This has driven individuals to measure the quality of their witness by how many times
they have succeeded in getting a person to his or her knees to pray the sinner's prayer.
Statistical concerns have their place.
But they are utterly out of place as a motivation to witness.
Unbelievers are not objects to be acted upon, or sinful scalps to be collected,
and attached to our religious belts.
They are individuals to be loved for themselves.
They are to be loved in their need.
They are to be loved in spite of their unattractiveness.
They are souls who need Christian fellowship rather than just being statistics to satisfy
the materialistic urges of greedy head-counters.
Loving self leads to living for self, which is selfish loving.
The blessing of prosperity has turned into a curse.
The very advantages which should provide more time and freedom to develop friendships with non-Christians
have become our masters.
We are bound by installment contracts and to the god of accumulation.
The new leisure has become a bottomless pit into which we throw large chunks of our lives
without a thought of sharing those portions with those who are crying out to us
from their loneliness and lostness for some love and a light to walk by in a dark world.
"They all look after their own interest, not those of Jesus Christ" --
could be written of countless Christians.
The devilish selfishness of our culture has permeated the lives of Christians to an alarming degree.
To rid ourselves of this barrier to witness will require honesty and courage.
It will require denying ourselves.
"If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me."
End of Part Three
Go to Part Four
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org