TITLE: CONFUSION ON THE WITNESS STAND
Subtitle: Do You Solemnly Swear To Tell The Truth….?
Have you noticed the proliferation of "witness" gadgets—WWJD bracelets, slogans and designs on Tee-shirts, bumper stickers, little fish symbols, etc.—all designed to assist us in our "witnessing for Christ?" They have become so popular that we see them everywhere. Close-ups of crowds at televised sporting events usually bring out the John 3:16 banners like dandelions sprouting in our lawns! But do these displays achieve their intended purpose? Do they really get people to pay attention to the gospel of Jesus Christ or is it possible that an entirely different message is being received? I am convinced that they actually draw attention to the individual and wind up being a source of irritation to those who are already hostile to Christ!
What exactly does "witnessing for Christ" mean? How does the Bible define it? How did Christians in the past do it? Unless we have a clear understanding of these things, we are very likely to deviate from the well-worn path of those who have preceded us. The New Testament Greek word for "witness" (as a verb) is basically "martureo"—to be a "martus" (martyr, record, witness). The English word "testimony’ is also often used as a translation of the Greek word "martureo." In a court of law, witnesses are brought forth to tell what they know about the case in question. In our country they are "sworn in" by placing their left hand upon the Bible, lifting the right hand to a vertical position (fingers toward heaven), and commanded to swear (or affirm) that the testimony they are about to give is "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God." Their testimony is then taken as to what they saw and/or what they know about the case pending before the court. Everything they have to say while on the witness stand becomes a matter of legal record and sometimes leads to the conviction of those who have broken the law. So giving of testimony is a very serious business and not to be taken lightly. Anyone who would dare to display a flippant attitude while on the stand can be held in contempt of court and punished.
In a very similar sense our testimony for Jesus Christ is an extremely serious thing. Please note that the Greek word "martus"—the basis for "martureo", or "witness"—is where we get our English word "martyr." Losing one’s life for the cause of Christ is not a frivolous matter and should point out to us the overall gravity of our witness for Him. Once we understand this concept, a bumper sticker reading "honk if you love Jesus" just doesn’t sound appropriate, does it? And while I have it on my mind, let me add a few words about using the Lord’s earthly name of Jesus in a too familiar way. Yes, His name is Jesus—Jesus of Nazareth to be exact—but do you think it shows the proper amount of reverence to refer to Him in that manner? My father’s name was Vernon, but out of respect I never called him that, unless I was introducing him to someone else. Old fashioned? Perhaps, but I feel that most of us are entirely too flippant with the precious name of our Lord and Savior. Do yourself a favor and try to show Him the infinite respect, awe, and honor He deserves by adding "Lord" before, or "Christ" after, the precious name of Jesus.
How then does a believer properly witness for the Lord? In order to try to answer this question, I want to call our attention to the Lord’s last words to His disciples before he ascended back into heaven. We find these words in Acts chapter one, verse 8:
"But you shall receive power—ability, efficiency and might—when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends—the very bounds—of the earth" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).
Notice that the Lord did not refer them to any conferences on soul-winning nor "how to do it" seminars—He made a very positive statement by saying "you shall be My witnesses." The spiritual dynamic is found in the fact that this will occur "when the Holy Spirit has come upon you! A believer indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God becomes a witness for Jesus Christ from the very first moment of belief until the day he dies! The very fact that he identifies with Christ in the waters of baptism makes him a marked man for life and he can no more help bearing witness for the Lord than he can breathing. Everything about him and his life—including his/her spouse and children—bears witness to the reality of his profession of faith. We are witnesses—it is not something that we become by virtue of gadgets, slogans, or inane displays. We are witnesses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year—for life! Please understand this—get a handle on it—bear it constantly in mind, because there is a very real danger in our becoming a poor witness. Contrary to what many seem to believe, there is no option of neutrality. If we get tired of the battle, we cannot just kick it into neutral and fade into the background. The devil will make sure our retreat is noted and as a consequence our testimony will suffer—even though we might try our best to hide.
Perhaps you have never really noticed it, but the Book of Acts is filled with examples of witnessing for Christ and some of them are quite revealing. Ananias and Sapphira quickly come to mind as a case in point. In order to get the full import of what they did, we must view it in light of the prior actions of Barnabas and a few of the other disciples. Beginning in Chapter 4 and verse 34, we read:
"Nor was there a destitute or needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses proceeded to sell them, and one by one they brought (gave back) the amount received from the sales. And laid it at the feet of the apostles. Then distribution was made according as any one had need. Now Joseph, a Levite and native of Cyprus who was surnamed Barnabas by the apostles (special messengers), which interpreted means, Son of Encouragement, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the sum of money and laid it at the feet of the apostles. But a certain man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge and connivance he kept back and wrongfully appropriated some of the proceeds, bringing a part only and putting it at the feet of the apostles. But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart that you should lie to and attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit, and should [in violation of your promise] withdraw secretly and appropriate to your own use part of the price from the sale of the land? As long as it remained unsold, was it not still your own? And [even] after it was sold, was not [the money] at your disposal and under your control? Why then, is it that you have proposed and purposed in your heart to do this thing?—How could you have the heart to do such a deed? You have not (simply) lied to men—playing false and showing yourself utterly deceitful—but to God. Upon hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great dread and terror took possession of all who heard of it" (Acts 4:34-5:5, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).
And we all know the story about how Sapphira came along later—not knowing what had happened to her husband—told the same lie, and suffered the same fate! But have you ever wondered why God punished them so severely? Hey, it’s not like they killed somebody! No, they didn’t kill anybody but they sure messed up their testimony for Christ! They were what we would call "copy-cats" today—imitating the actions of others for personal gain. All they were really interested in was the praise of men, which Barnabas and the other disciples no doubt received because of their truly generous offerings. But in order "to have their cake and eat it too," they tried to make it appear that they were far more generous than they actually were. God was not fooled by their attempt at deception and made them pay dearly for it. Then too, we must not lose sight of the effect their deaths had upon the other disciples: "And great dread and terror took possession of all who heard of it." That is precisely the point that God intended to make!
I do not wish to be judgmental, but I honestly believe that a great deal of the superficial "witnessing" we see practiced today is saying, like Ananias and Sapphira, "Hey, look at me—I’m a Christian!" Then, sadly, if someone does look, a lack of spiritual depth is often discerned and more harm than good is the result. A truly godly life should be the goal for each of us and that life filled with the Holy Spirit does not need billboard messages and flashing lights to draw attention. We actually demean the Holy Spirit of God when we resort to such tactics! We ourselves—our fleshly natures—are supposed to be "invisible," because we have absolutely nothing with which to aid a lost individual. Try catching fish with a bare hook sometime! That is why the Word of God constantly exhorts us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He does the witnessing—not us!
We find another interesting incident recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Acts, which gives us additional insight regarding an unwelcome "aid" to witnessing. Beginning in verse 16, we find the following account:
"As we were on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who was possessed by a spirit of divination—claiming to foretell future events and to discover hidden knowledge—and she brought her owners much gain by her fortune-telling. She kept following Paul and [the rest of] us, shouting loudly, These men are the servants of the Most High God! They announce to you the way of salvation! And she did this for many days. Then Paul, being sorely annoyed and worn out, turned and said to the spirit within her, I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her! And it came out that very moment" (Acts 16:16-18, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
The first question that comes to my mind is why would the devil want this demon-possessed girl to give all of the free publicity? Why allow her to announce to the world the absolute truth concerning the salvation provided by Jesus Christ—the One whom he hates? Doesn’t this tactic strike you as being odd? Actually it is not odd at all when we consider the extremely limited options open to Satan in his battle against God. He knows that his days are numbered, but he will fight to the bitter end on the outside chance that something might go his way! Satan also knows that God is going to save His elect children and there is nothing he can do to stop it—so, being the rotten and devious scoundrel that he is—he "contaminates" the church with false believers. This demon-possessed girl doubtless had great numbers of people who listened to her and believed everything she said. This has to be true, because she "brought her owners much gain"—people paid her to "tell their fortunes." Then when she began to tell them that Paul and the others with him were servants of God and could tell them how to be saved, I’m convinced that the devil’s "great Philippian crusade," utilizing the girl as its star attraction, was probably covered up with false converts! God allowed this charade to continue for "many days" and then when it was time to put a stop to it, He prompted Paul to exorcise the demon from the girl! Why did God allow this to go on for "many days"? Why didn’t He stop it immediately? It seems pretty apparent from the narrative that Paul and those with him had a date with a Philippian jailer! God exercised His Sovereign will and used the exorcism of the demon to enrage the girl’s owners into inciting violence against His messengers. They were subsequently beaten and thrown into the Philippian jail at just the right time to cross the path of one of God’s elect. The jailer and his whole family were awaiting salvation, but they just were not aware of it yet! And from this incident we can see that God allows tares to mingle with the wheat while more wheat is being grown.
What satisfaction does Satan derive from contaminating the church with false believers (tares)? In what way does this promote his nefarious program? To even begin to understand what he gains, we must realize that he hates God and will use any and all opportunities to "spite" Him. And realistically speaking, there is only one avenue open to the devil and that is by attacking God’s children. By placing false converts among the genuine, their corrupting influence greatly enhances the likelihood of spiritual decline among the brethren. The resultant sin, declension, and spiritual lethargy that often takes place in the churches is bad enough, but if that sin in the lives of the individual believers involved is never confessed and forsaken, they will "suffer loss" (1 Cor.3:15). And that resultant loss of reward by believers is "a feather in the cap" of Satan and will forever bear witness to his hatred for God.
Because of the "wiles of the devil," we need to be on guard constantly lest we fall into his trap and ruin our testimony for Christ. That testimony—our "witness’ to others—is the most precious thing we possess and it is up to us to keep it above reproach. Our lives will be the only gospel many will ever see or hear and we must ask, "What is the gospel according to you?" Will others experience the unmistakable and powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit through your life, or will they merely view (often with disdain) some device calculated to draw attention? While I am not saying that there is anything intrinsically wrong with the bracelets, pins, shirts, etc., I would urge you to make sure that your life backs up your profession of faith. Anything less is incredibly shallow and detrimental to the cause of Christ.
If you have received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and been born again, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
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