Following Jesus’ baptism, he became a witness to God, his Father in heaven. Witnessing. Telling others about Jesus Christ This is difficult for most of us. Frankly, we Congregationalists don’t like to think about witnessing. We leave it to the Mormons, or the Jehovah Witnesses who come to our front door when we least expect them. We prefer to do things the “Yankee” way.
It’s been said that we’re like those in the military reserve. We go to drills once a week, but we are not on active duty! We feel that if some catastrophe broke out that might threaten the Christian faith, then we’d go and speak out for it. In the meantime we’re content with a once-a-week drill. The problem is that war has already broken out between faith and unfaith, believers and those alienated from faith. Thirty-four per cent of the US is “unchurched,” and that number is growing every year. If we don’t go out tell about Jesus Christ the next generation may not be aware that a conflict even exists.
I have to admit that I have difficulty with talking about my faith. It’s much easier to preach a sermon as a part of a worship service than talk one-on-one to someone about Jesus Christ. But I’m not sure that I have a choice, and neither do you! We are told, “You shall be my witnesses.” Jesus is quite specific, here. If we really take him seriously, we are sent forth to tell others.
Why don’t we want to witness?
The reasons for failures to talk about Christ are usually because either 1) we don’t know what we believe or 2) we know what we believe and don’t think it really makes any difference, or 3) we know what we believe and we know it makes a difference but we don’t care whether anyone else knows or not. None of these reasons seem to be sufficient to give us license to ignore Christ’s commission to each one of us. So let’s think about witnessing today.
To begin with, I think we’re afraid that we’re going to make a mistake or we aren’t sure of what we believe. Witnessing one’s faith to others, by definition it means we have a first hand knowledge of an event. We watch enough court room shows on TV to know how witnesses help the truth to be told.
It’s interesting to note that when the disciples chose a successor to Judas they chose between two candidates, both of whom had the qualification of “being witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.” A first-hand knowledge of God, then, is required if one would be a witness. To have a first-hand knowledge of God is essential to know how He operates in the world, if we would talk about it.
Christian’s have to know the problems of the world.
What other ways do we get to know Him? Through Scripture. In the Bible, we discover that we are not simply reading about something that happened – we are actually meeting the living God. That’s why no other book is a substitute for the Bible. There are great books about God, but the Bible is God face to face.
So, we discover Him there and then give Him as much of ourselves as we can. When you give as much of your will as you can, to as much of God as you can understand (even though both amounts may be small), you discover that He does indeed relate to you in a unique and particular way. You experience His love, His forgiveness, and His leadership.
All of us have felt some form of the presence of God or you would not be here this morning. You already have a place to start. Witnessing then is first-hand knowledge of the world – and of God. You will never know it all, but you have, I repeat, a place to begin. There’s a whole world out there – to get to know, its people and its problems. There’s a living God in Scripture, in prayer and in church out there too. Look for the what’s behind them all. You have a greater faith than you might think.
Sometimes we don’t witness because we believe that witnessing won’t make any difference. When this happens you discover a some thing new: witnessing is not an option. Both Isaiah and Christ – speaking about God – said, “You shall be my witnesses.” We may feel that others have talent for bearing witness, and we shall serve in some other capacity. But there are those words again, “You shall be my witnesses!”
Actually, we are all theologians (that is, we all believe something about God). The only question is whether we are good or better theologians – so we are all witnesses. The question translates into, are we good or better witnesses?
I’ve heard people say, “I can’t talk about God, because it’s too personal, and I can never talk aloud about things this personal and this meaningful to me.” That may be, or they may be words to get us off the hook.
Most of us don’t talk about our spouses too much – and the relationship with them is deep and meaningful. But remember when you first fell in love? How you went on and on your best friend about this wonderful girl you had met – how she was just out of this world, and so forth and so on? You don’t talk much like that any more. Marriage finds a different level communication. The look across the room, the way husband and wife act together – these are the expressions of love now. But unless there was one time when you were bubbling with enthusiasm about her – I wonder how much love there really is now!
The same could be said about children. When they grow up we don’t discuss them with our friends quite as much. There was a time when we’d always break out the pictures and probably bored others to death with small talk about the accomplishment. Normally, we talk about things that interest us; we discuss the things that really hold our interest and we can’t keep still too long about those we love. It’s like this with God. Can you remember a time when you were so enthusiastic about God that you wanted to tell others? Let the emotions stir as you approach others in the name of Jesus Christ.
Christ came as light but not as a chandelier, but as a street light. He is not to be kept in the church. He is to “light the dark streets.” He uses us as witnesses to light the darkness of poorest neighborhoods, by providing company for the lonely older folks, and the frustrations of the those caught up in poverty and joblessness.
We witness not because we just happen to feel like it, but because bearing witness is an obligation that God has laid upon us.
All that being said, we can’t escape the fact that whether we think it will do any good or not we’ve got to tell other about God’s power to forgive and his ability to change lives. Others need to hear the good news; our task is to share it.
Until we talk about this means in our lives we haven’t really born witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Maybe you feel, even now, that you can’t ever talk about your faith. Maybe you feel that talking with your neighbor would not be presumptuous or even useless. But you don’t have to do it alone!
In the Old Testament, two witnesses were always needed in a capital crime to convict. In this capital work for God, two witnesses are still needed. The miracle is that there are always two witnesses when you talk about Jesus Christ: YOU … and the HOLY SPIRIT. You don’t have to do it yourself – God is in this thing with you, bearing witness with you.
All this being said, I know that I am woefully inadequate outside of the safety of a pulpit. I get just plain tongue-tied. Perhaps you feel that way too. We don’t do this alone. For there is another Witness – a Spirit who has made us into new creatures – who goes with us wherever we go! Personal faith is already here just as you’ve received it. Just talk about it some.
Jesus Christ changes us and he challenges us. “You shall be my witnesses,” he said. We really are. He says if that challenge creates anxiety in us, remember those other six words He spoke, “Lo, I am with you always!”
In His name, and at His side … go forth and tell others. May God bless us as we do.