Posts Tagged ‘Acts 1:8’

Series on Witness

Well, today we are wrapping up our teaching series on reaching out. It is my hope that you have all been challenged, encouraged and at least in part, equipped to share your faith with others. And I hope that as a whole, we can be a congregation that is not just focused on our needs and concerns or what makes us comfortable, but that we can learn to take risks to be an outward, outreach focused church.

We have been using the word witness as an acrostic. Remember with me:

  • The “W” is for Why we reach out. Our motivation is Christ’s love for the lost. Do we have Christ’s love in our hearts moving us to act?
  • The “I” is for Idolatry and reaching out. The end is not growing and getting big in itself, but being faithful to God to reach out whether there are results or not. Are you just focused on results or on faithfulness to God?
  • The “T” is for Taking risks. Sharing our faith can be risky, and we prefer to be comfortable. But we need to step out in faith, and trust that God will work. When was the last time you took a risk to share?
  • The “N” is for New life in Jesus is the point. We don’t just want people to come to church or be our friend as we reach out, we want people to receive new life from God so that their lives are truly transformed! Are you praying for God to move among us to make this happen?
  • The “E” is for Everyone can be a part of reaching out. Some have special gifts and callings to do this, but all of us can participate in various ways. And it is only when the whole body of Christ in this place is functioning together and doing their part that we will be the effective agent of outreach that God is calling us to be. Are you using your gifts and doing what you can to help Cedar Street reach out? We have various kinds of outreach opportunities listed on the foyer table.
  • The first “S” is for Several way you can reach out regardless of your gifts and callings. We spent two weeks looking at some practical examples of this, from sharing your story to praying for the lost. Are you putting into practice at least some of these 10 ways of reaching out, that anyone can do?
  • And then today, the final “S” is for Spirit enablement is key.

We have talked a lot about our role in reaching out, because we need to be encouraged to step up and do our part. But today we focus more on God’s role; and God’s role is what is all important. And he is always faithful to do his part. God works tirelessly by his Spirit to bring people to faith in Jesus. Here are ways that the Spirit does this.

1. The Spirit empowers the lost to respond

That’s because by ourselves we can do no good thing (John 15:5). Apart from God’s work in our lives:

  • We are blind. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
  • We are dead to God. Paul speaks of the former lives of Christians in Ephesians 2:2-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world . . .”
  • We are under the influence of Satan. Paul speaks of unbelievers in Ephesians 2:3 as “following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”
  • We are slaves to sin. Jesus tells us in John 8:34, “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

So, you can’t just decide to change. You are enslaved, you are clueless, you are hopeless. And that’s why God has to act for each one of us.

As Jesus said in John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” God has to go before and prepare the way. God has to give light. God has to awaken people to hear him in the haze of their sin and Satan’s influence over them. This is called by some “prevenient grace” – the grace that goes before salvation, that makes it possible for us to even hear the gospel and respond. And God works by his Spirit to do this.

Jesus said this about the Spirit in John 16:8 – “The Spirit . . . will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The Spirit works in the hearts and lives of unbelievers to show them the truth and to call them to it. To point out their condition; their sin and to show them the path of new life.

This is a part of what we pray for when we pray for the lost – that they will be enabled to hear the gospel and respond to receive new life in Jesus.

Well, if this is how God works in the lost, God works in us also to reach out to the lost.

2. The Spirit empowers us to share

Now, as we learn from the Balaam story in Numbers 22, God can communicate through a donkey. So even without the Spirit’s anointing we can say and do things connected to witness and God can probably use it. But to be effective; to be in tune with what God is doing we must have the Spirit working in us as we share.

Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . .”

Now the Spirit can empower us in many ways but I would highlight two this morning:

The Spirit gives us the right words to say – Luke 12:11-12. Jesus said, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

So here people are called to account for their faith by the authorities, and this becomes an opportunity to witness. And Jesus promises that the Spirit will give just the right words to say.And if God can give the right words in such a grave situation of persecution, he can surely give us the right words in our conversations and interactions with others in our daily lives.

A second way that God empowers us is that the Spirit gives us boldness to share – Acts 4:29-31. The early church in Jerusalem had experienced persecution and opposition. So they gathered together to pray. “’And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

The Spirit doesn’t just give us the words, he gives us the boldness to speak them out, here even in a context of persecution. And the Spirit can give us boldness in our everyday interactions with others as well.

So if you want to be an effective instrument of God as you seek to reach out to others, pray for the Spirit to help you; to fill you; to work in you. Jesus gives us this beautiful promise in Luke 11:13 – “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” God wants to give the Spirit to us! Pray for the Spirit to fill you and empower you to be an effective witness for Jesus.

A final thought that sums this up God is the real evangelist seeking after the lost through the work of the Holy Spirit. Working in the lost and working in and through us to reach the lost. We do our small part, but God is the one who is in charge and acting all throughout. We have to see the bigger picture. It is not all on us, thank God! We don’t need to take the weight of the world on our shoulders or the eternal destiny of any specific person. God is working through various people and circumstances to bring them to himself. We just do a small part. That’s all God asks. And God will work to draw all people to himself (John 12:32).

A story from high school . . .. I shared the gospel but he didn’t really get it then. But someone else shared later and he became a believer. My point is that we all try and do what we can, and sometimes we do it well and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we are more like Balaam’s donkey and sometimes we are really anointed by the Spirit. But it is really God who is working in each person’s life. It is God who orchestrates various ones to come into a person life to draw them to himself. I was just one of many.

So be open to do your part and trust that God has been working before you ever talk to any person, and God will still be working in other ways after you are done to reach each person. We do our small part, and then we leave it in God’s hands.

Prayer for the church – The Spirit to move among us to stir us up to be outreach focused – out of love for, to be faithful even when there is little fruit – raise up workers, evangelists and others . . open all of our eyes to doors that you open for us to share.

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Our topic today is witnessing for Jesus. And our text is Acts 1:8. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the end of the earth.” The key phrase for us today is, “you will be my witnesses.”

The word witness (μαρτυς) has a legal background. It refers to “someone who helps establish the truthfulness of a matter by testifying firsthand about what was seen or heard.” (Dale Leschert)

In our passage, it refers specifically to the 12 apostles, who are the official witnesses of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. They are the ones who saw these events and can give authoritative, firsthand testimony about them (Acts 1:21-22).

More broadly, of course, this can apply to any Christian who knows Jesus and has been touched by him. (Paul is also called a “witness” even though he didn’t meet the criteria above. He is a witness in an extended sense to “what you have seen and heard”; the specific revelation Jesus gave to him about the Gentiles – 22:15/20) As Jesus said to the man from whom he cast out a legion of demons, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” – Luke 8:39

We each have something to say, a testimony about who Jesus is and what he has done in our lives. And this testimony helps establish the truthfulness of Jesus and the good news of the gospel to those who see and listen.

I want to share three things this morning on witnessing, and I begin my first point with a question. When was the last time you witnessed to someone? When was the last time you really communicated what you believe to another person? Now this question is often used to challenge people, and even by some to induce guilt. But I am using it to make a different point.

When was the last time you witnessed to someone?? The last time you said or did anything. So perhaps on your way to church with family, or something you said in Sunday school.

My point is that –

1. You are always bearing witness to what you believe about Jesus

We witness every time we speak and act. Everything you say and do at work. Everything you say and do at school. Everything you say and do with friends, neighbors, or new people you meet.

Witnessing has to do with how we are at home with our family, which can be hard, since we tend to hold ourselves to a lower standard at home.  Witnessing has to do with how we drive as others watch (I guess especially if we have Christian bumper stickers); it has to do with how we buy our groceries; how we tip our waitresses and waiters; how we deal with waiting in a line, or when you get poor service at a business.

It certainly has to do with what we say in our texts and Facebook posts. Each of us, if we are online, have a digital witness that we need to attend to. And it is amazing how many Christians have no awareness of this in the things they say and post.

We witness every time we speak and act. The real question is are you a good witness or not? Are you witnessing for Jesus, or some other set of values which is what you truly believe in, and what truly governs your life? Are you just going along with the world, or are you representing Jesus in your words and actions?

2. Witnessing has to do with any aspect of our faith

We sometimes think that witnessing only has to do with the specific activity of inviting someone to believe in Jesus – to invite them to receive the forgiveness of their sins; to receive new life from Jesus. And if you haven’t done this, then you haven’t witnessed.

Well, this simply isn’t true. We are a witness when we say and do things that have to do with any part of our Christian faith. For instance:

  • trusting God in hard times. Others see you speaking of your faith in God, and they see how you act differently than others who don’t have faith, and this is a witness to the truth of Jesus and the gospel.
  • worshipping God. When we worship we proclaim how good God is, and how he answers prayers and takes care of us, this is a witness to all who hear. The psalmist says of worship, “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” – Psalm 96:2-3. As those who don’t know God (Gentiles/the nations) hear, they will be challenged by the truth of our faith.
  • loving an enemy. Others will see that you aren’t acting or speaking like everyone else, and that you are trying to follow Jesus and that he is indeed changing your life and filling you with love, grace and forgiveness.
  • speaking up for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. Others will see and hear that you have the heart of Jesus and compassion and a concern for righteousness and justice. This is a witness to a different set of values than what is usual.
  • teaching kids lessons at VBS about God, even if it doesn’t involve specifically inviting them to trust in Jesus.

Yes – for sure – most of us need to be more courageous to also specifically invite people to faith in Jesus ; to encourage them to believe. For instance if others know that you are going through a hard time and that you are trusting God to take care of you, you can also encourage them to put their trust in God with their concerns. And if they are open, tell them how to do this. For sure we need the Spirit to help us in this, and as our verse says, it is the Spirit who helps us as we witness.

But we are also witnesses whenever we speak about or act on any part of our Christian faith.

3. It is our highest calling to be a witness for Jesus

We all have many roles in life. A parent, a boss, a teacher – whatever, we all have been called to do various things. But as Christians the highest role we have in this life is to be a witness for Jesus. And we should understand this and make sure that it has this place in our lives.

We represent Jesus. We are not our own in this world. We bear his name in all that we do. Like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20 about himself, we too are “ambassadors for Christ.” So how we interact with others is not just important because we are called to obey God and do what is right. It is also important for the sake of our witness to Jesus.

What I am saying is that our role as a witness should have an effect on how we act in our relationships with others. It will place limits on what we say and do that people who are not representatives of Jesus don’t have to worry about.

We have to understand that we don’t just live for ourselves and our causes; we live for him and for the cause of the kingdom.

So in your role as a boss, when you are dealing with a worker who is rude or lazy, you may be well within your rights to go off on the person, to be impatient, to immediately come down hard. But your role as Christian witness will curb these things so that you can be a representative of Jesus, showing appropriate mercy and the fruit of the Spirit, even while you act to correct the situation.

In your role as a parent you need to discipline your kids and it may be acceptable practice more broadly to yell, or act in anger towards them when they do wrong. But your role as a Christian witness to your children will curb these things so that you can be a representative of Jesus, disciplining them in love and with grace. Embodying Christlikeness as an example to them.

In your role as a worker, when everyone else is working hard to find ways not to work hard or to take advantage of the business, your role as a Christian witness will lead you to work hard as unto the Lord and to be ethical and honest.

We have to have concern for what others see us saying and doing. And we have to be aware of the question, “Am I being a good witness to the truth of Jesus and the good news of the gospel.”

Now I am not saying that we are to simply be people pleasers, who never say or do anything that might upset someone. Paul has some rather bad things to say about this in Galatians 1:10. But I am saying what Paul says in Colossians 4:5, “walk in wisdom toward outsiders.” I am saying, let all your words and actions be truly and fully Christian – whether people like them or not. Because in either case you are being a good witness for our Lord.

What we absolutely don’t want is for our words and deeds to nullify what we profess about the truth of Jesus and the gospel. We don’t want to bear witness to Jesus with our profession of faith, but then have all the rest of what we say and do bear false witness that Jesus is not true and that the gospel in not powerfully transforming.

We want our whole life and all that we say and do to powerfully confirm the testimony we proclaim, that Jesus is alive and that he can save each one who comes to him in faith.

William Higgins

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