Posts Tagged ‘witnessing’

We’re back in the Gospel of John today. We looked at the introduction and how the Word, or God’s Son brings light and life, and grace and truth. We also learned a lesson from John the Baptist about knowing our place in God’s plan.

And last week we saw how John the Baptist’s identifies Jesus as the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and what this means. And you received a call to be filled with the Spirit.

Today we look at how the good news about Jesus begins to spread. Let’s read John 1:35-49. 35

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Let’s see what we can learn about the spread of the good news from our passage.

1. We learn what the good news is

If someone came to you and said, “Hey, I want to be Christian, can you tell me how?” What would you say? Where would you begin? Do you know how to articulate the gospel??

Well there are lots of expressions of the good news in these verses and they can help us. First we have in v. 36 John the Baptist’s words to Andrew and his companion, “Behold, the lamb of God.” John most likely is referring to Jesus’ sinlessness, just as sacrificial lambs had to be without blemish. [It is unlikely that John the Baptist understood that Jesus would die on the cross.]  And if we allow Revelation 6:16 to guide us, the Lamb is also the judge of the world. He is saying, “look the Messiah is here!”

Then we have in v. 41 Andrew’s words to Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” The same message. “Messiah” is the Hebrew word that means “anointed one”; Christ is the same word but comes from Greek into English. The anointed one refers to the one anointed by God to save and to rule the world.

In v. 45 Phillip says to Nathaniel, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote . . ..”There are a number of prophecies and hints of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Here’s one example from Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” Philip is saying, “he’s here!”

And finally in v. 49 Nathaniel says to Jesus, “You are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” The phrase “Son of God” has to do with those who rule. It was a title used for the kings of Israel. So the two phrases here blend together nicely. The promised ruler has come.

[All that is confessed is true for sure. Jesus is the Messiah. But from the point of view of the writer of John, they have much to learn still about the eternal Word made flesh.]

Notice the positive content in all this. It is, after all, good news we are to share. And in each case the focus is on how the promised one has come! He’s here! We’ve found him! The one sent by God. Yes, the world is deeply broken. But the emphasis here is on fulfillment; how Jesus has come to save and to rule.

2. We learn from this passage how the good news spreads

Most basically it spreads though people. And as we go through this you can think about this question – “How does God want to use me to spread the good news?”

First of all, in our passage, it was through the preaching/teaching of John the Baptist that Andrew and his companion begin to follow Jesus. This is the culmination of John’s ministry. God revealed to him who the Messiah was, and here he introduces Jesus to Israel. “Behold, the lamb of God!” And two people began to follow Jesus.

And God still calls people to preach and teach so that through this means others can hear the word about Jesus and come to follow him. Has God called you to do this?

A second way the good news spreads is through sharing with family membersAfter spending the evening talking with Jesus, Andrew, first thing in the morning, goes and finds his brother Peter. He’s very excited. We have found the Messiah! He has good news to share and he wants to share it with his brother.

What family members might God be nudging you to share the good news with this week?

A third way the good news spreads is through sharing with friends. In vs. 43-44 Jesus decides to go to Galilee and it says that he found Philipp. But we also learn that Philip was from the same home town as Andrew and Peter. So it is likely that they told Jesus who he was and that he should speak to him. If Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, here he and Peter bring Jesus to Philip.

Then, it sounds like right away Philip finds a friend of his – Nathaniel and invites him to come meet Jesus. So the message spread through the friend networks of those who responded to him. (Thanks to Dale Bruner for these three points)

What friends might God be calling you to share your faith with this week?

This passage also breaks down some stereotypes about how we share the good news. Yes, we have John the Baptist, who could certainly be a fire and brimstone preacher. But notice in the sharing with family and friends these several things:

  • It’s confessional. You just confess what you believe, what you have found, what you have experienced. It’s not about a debate or who knows the most, or arguments. And its OK if people don’t accept what you say. You are just sharing what you believe.
  • It’s invitational. What does Jesus say to Andrew and his companion? “Come and . . . see!” (v. 39). You’re seeking after me? Come and see. Andrew then brought Peter to Jesus. He wanted him to meet Jesus. Andrew and Peter brought Jesus to Philip and Jesus says to him “follow me” (v. 43). And Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus. And when Nathaniel wanted to argue about whether anything good could come from Nazareth, Philip doesn’t engage. He just says, “come and see” (v. 46).
  • The key is a personal encounter with Jesus. It’s not about us, it’s about him. And when people encounter Jesus – his compassion, authority, power, holiness – this is what makes the difference. This is when transformation takes place. Sharing the good news is all about people being invited to encounter Jesus truly and fully.

3. We learn from this passage what happens when people receive the good news

1) They confess their faith in Jesus. Andrew said, “we have found the Messiah.” Philip said, “we have found him of whom Moses  in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth . . ..” People confess publicly that Jesus really is the promised one; the Savior and Lord of the world.

2) They become disciples. Andrew and his companion “followed” Jesus. Philip “followed” Jesus. This is another word for being a disciple in this Gospel. In that day you would often literally follow your teacher around to learn from their teaching and example. Jesus says in 8:12 “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

And Andrew and his companion “stayed with Jesus” (v. 39). This is the same word that is used in this Gospel for “abiding” with Jesus. It is another term for being a faithful disciple. For instance Jesus says in 8:32 “if you abide in my word you are truly my disciple.” And here Andrew and the other disciple are with Jesus and learn from him.

So being a Christian is not a one-time experience. It is about a lifetime of discipleship. These people had a relationship with Jesus. They spent time with him, they learned from him; they were his disciples. 

[Also, I think it is interesting that each disciple received something special from Jesus: Andrew and the other disciple got to spend time talking with Jesus alone, learning from him. Peter received a new name and a new role. Philip received a personal call from Jesus himself. Nathaniel was praised and experienced a miracle.]

 Have you met Jesus? If you haven’t, I invite you to do so this morning. May the words of Jesus reach out of this Scripture to your heart as he says, “what are you seeking?” And as he says, “follow me.” 

William Higgins

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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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