Dear radio friends,
One of the most wonderful words that a body of believers could ever hear from the ascended Lord Jesus Christ is recorded in Christ’s words to the church at Pergamos in Revelation 2:13: “And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith.” You have been a faithful witness of Me. What a wonderful word from the ascended Lord Jesus Christ to be spoken to the church.
And it is this word that we desire to be spoken of us. “You have been faithful as My witnesses,” saith the Lord.
In our brief series in these last weeks on personal witnessing we have seen that each believer in the church of Jesus Christ is called to be a witness in his life and in his words of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot but speak of the things that we have seen and heard. We have examined what motivation must be behind our activity of witnessing — the glory of God, the love of the neighbor, and the experience of the wonder of salvation in our own hearts. Last week we saw from the Scriptures what we cannot do. We cannot savingly reveal Christ, we cannot cause a person to know his own sinful ignorance and darkness, we cannot induce conversion and repentance. We wanted to know that, in order that we might be shut up to the way of dependence upon God in our witnessing and dependence upon the means that God has given.
In our last message now today on personal witnessing, I would like to consider with you some of the tools that God has given to us that we are to employ in our witness. As we examine these different tools we must be conscious of the tremendous diversity that there is among the people of God — a diversity consistent with the different gifts and talents, personalities and opportunities that are given to them. There are no two believers alike. Therefore, we must not absolutize at this point and say, “Well, this is how you do it and thus and thus.” No, we must take these principles from the Word of God and prayerfully apply them to our own life and situation.
But what are some of those principles that must be before us as we go forth to be a faithful witness of our Lord?
The first is this: Prayer. We must pray that God will make His Word effective in the hearts of those to whom we give a witness. Prayer is not only necessary as preparation for our witness, but it is to be the attitude in our hearts as we give the witness of the truth.
We must pray that God will make His Word effective
in the hearts of those to whom we give a witness.
We read in I Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” To sanctify means to make holy the Lord God in your heart. Have the Lord God upon your heart, before your eye. That is, live prayerfully as you go about your witness. Prayer is also to be made for those to whom you have testified of God’s Word, that God, according to His will, might make your witness effective and might give them an understanding.
We read in Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” The word “prayer” there is “supplication.” It is not a general word for prayer, but it refers to a petition for the fulfillment of a certain definite need, which is keenly felt, a humble request made in the light of a situation where God alone can give the help that is needed. Paul speaks as a seasoned missionary. He knows his own heart and the heart of the Jews. He is not a romantic, he is not somebody who believes in some kind of positive influence to get people to change their thinking. No, he understood the opposition. He understood the hatred that the Jews possessed toward Jesus Christ. He had been the same himself. And out of a burden for his own kinsmen according to the flesh, he raised a supplication that God would furnish, according to His will, the help that was needed.
In our witness we must supplicate. We must not simply go forth with a bubbly attitude and think that by our attractive words people will come running to the gospel. We must understand that the truth of God is offensive to man. But in the face of indifference of friends, of classmates, of relatives, and facing the fact that men are adverse to the claims of God, that they are lovers of darkness, that they are willfully ignorant of the truth, we must bring our witness prayerfully: “Oh, Lord God, may it please Thee, according to Thy will, to break down stubborn impenitence and to use Thy Word. Use Thy Word, Lord, as it pleases Thee.”
We must not simply go forth with a bubbly attitude and think that by our attractive words
people will come running to the gospel.
We read in Ezekiel 36:37: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.” There Ezekiel brings God’s sovereignty and our prayers together. Repeatedly in that passage God says, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to sprinkle you. I’m going to renew the hearts of My children. Yet, I will be inquired of for this. I’m going to do it and I want you to pray for it.”
The question then is, “Are we obedient children of God if we do not pray?” God says that you must pray. We are to desire Him, according to His will, to do even as He has promised. Therefore, we must pray.
But our prayer must be brought into the realm of the practical. We read in I Timothy 2:1 and 2, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority.” Prayer must be made for all kinds of men. We are to pray that the roll of God’s elect may be brought out of the earth and may be brought out of all kinds of men.
We must pray, then, not just in general. But we must pray specifically for those near to us, for those to whom we have an opportunity to witness that, if it be God’s will, our word of witness may be used of God upon their hearts. Each one of us has his own particular circle. We believe in the sovereignty of God, that is, God orders our life and places us where we are. He places us in the precise family, the place at work, the home and the dwelling in the neighborhood. All of this is arranged by the sovereign and wise God. That is our stewardship. That is our area of responsibility. Prayer, then, is to begin in general: “Lord, gather Thy church. Preserve them. Send forth Thy Word.” And then it is to go to the specific: “Lord, as I stand in this college classroom; as I work in the cubicle next to these other men; as my neighbors are on this street; Lord, may my life be an example to them, and may my words (when I am given an opportunity) be effective according to Thy will for their salvation and their understanding.”
You say to me, “Well, what if they are not eternally chosen of God?” If you do not ask that question, it is because you do not take election seriously. So that is a good question. Everyone who believes the truth of the Bible concerning election will also ask, “How am I to pray for the unsaved in the light of the truth of God’s eternal determination of who will be saved and who will be damned?”
Our prayers are framed by the precept of God
and not by His eternal decree.
The apostle Paul believed in eternal predestination. Romans 9 is the clearest passage in all of the Bible of God’s unrivaled and eternal sovereignty over the lump of human clay, to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor even as it hath pleased Him, to make vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. Read the chapter yourself. We glory in it.
Why are we to pray? Because our prayers are framed by the precept of God and not by His eternal decree. We do not know who those elect are. God does. We therefore pray, “According to Thy will, Lord. Lord, let Thy will be done. If it be Thy will, Lord, may it be.” Jesus declared in Matthew 11 that it has pleased the Father to hide those things that He spoke from the wise and prudent and to reveal them to the babes. “May Thy Word, then, Father,” we pray, “always be revealed unto those babes. Gather the elect of God.” For we know that that prayer shall surely be answered.
So we pray as God has commanded us to pray — dependent upon His almighty and eternal grace.
Prayer is not the only tool. Testimony is another. We must speak. Our testimony can be indirect, that is, our consistent, Christian lifestyle. This is what Peter is talking about in I Peter 3:15 when he says, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” He anticipates that people are going to be asking us, “What makes you different?” We are then to live as the people of God in the midst of this world. And that is the whole Scripture.
The Christian walk must, therefore, be a walk that produces questions — questions to us of what makes us tick. Why do you do what you do? Every Sunday morning at 9:03 you put all those kids in the van and off you go to church. And then, in the evening, you do it again! Why do you do that? You see, when we live in fellowship with God, when we walk in the light of His Word, then there are going to be questions that are asked of us. And we must be ready to furnish an answer. Wherever we are — in the office, the classroom, shopping — we have to be ready.
The Christian walk must, therefore, be a walk
that produces questions —
questions to us of what makes us tick.
This is a very powerful means. In fact, it is indispensable. For if our words of Christian testimony are not backed up by a consistent lifestyle, a lifestyle also of repentance, of confessing our sins also before the world if we have offended them, then our words of witness are blasphemy. We had best keep our mouth shut. No, our lifestyle must be there.
But then we must also be willing to speak of the gospel to others. We must be willing to speak to our acquaintances and to our neighbors of the gospel. That is our calling. We talk, we speak, we witness.
How are we to do that? We have differing gifts. There are some people of God who have a wonderful gift of engaging people in conversation. There are other people of God who have a more meager gift along those lines. Perhaps you sit on an airplane and you sit next to someone. There are certain people who can get a conversation going and leave a wonderful witness. They have those skills. There are others of us for whom that is not so easy. What is the answer? Are we all supposed to be something we are not? No. Let us be faithful with the gift that we have. He that is faithful in little, is faithful also in much. That does not mean that we cannot learn from each other and improve. But, let us be diligent to use the gift that we have. If we do not have that gift whereby we can engage people in conversation easily, there is also the printed page, the literature that we can leave with someone. There are also taped sermons that we can share and give to other people to listen to and say, “Listen to this. If you have questions about it, I can help you with them and explain some of the things that are said in this sermon.” Perhaps you can give a person your card and say, “Here is my card. If you have a question, by all means ask me about it.”
You see, when it comes to witnessing, we must be careful that we do not think that there is a pat way, one standard way, in which it is done. I say again, we can learn from each other. But we are not all identical.
Do not be ashamed of Him. Do not be sinfully silent. Then we have to repent. But if you feel that you are inadequate, and you say, “Well, I can’t do this,” the Lord says, “Use the gifts that you have.” Encourage each other in this calling of witnessing.
There are, of course, no two people that you are going to meet that are alike. Therefore, we must walk dependent upon the Holy Scriptures and dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not treat people alike. What I am referring to is this, then, that we must not simply have these pat phrases that we start repeating to people regardless of the situation or regardless of the person to whom we are talking, as if we really do not care about them at all. We have just got this little spiel that we are going to get off and when we are done, we have done our religious duty. That is not personal witnessing. We must walk dependent upon God, with His Word in our heart, trusting that He will give us something to say in that situation. It must not be artificial. We must bring the Word.
Do not be ashamed of Him. Do not be sinfully silent.
Finally, we must use the tool of public worship. We said this already in our beginning message. We must bring men to the central means of salvation — the preaching of the Word of God in the gathered church. Preaching is central.
That is the teaching of the Word of God in Romans 10:13 and 14: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” We must not become victims of the extreme. Yes, we believe in the centrality of the gospel. But that does not mean that we say, “Well, the sign is out in front of the church. God had better just bring them in. We don’t have any obligation here.” No! It is our calling to be a witness. And our witness is always this: Come with me to God’s house to hear the Word preached, where we might have our souls fed to life eternal.
That is the book of Acts. You read that in this book repeatedly. Always the words of witness were geared in such a way that these people were brought under the preaching of the gospel — the power of salvation.
I am not going to take the time right now to explain that to you. But I will give you a few references. Think about Peter and Cornelius in Acts 11:13, 14, also as you read of that in Acts 10. We, then, do desire to bring people to the gathering of worship services under the preaching of the Word of God. That means that when we worship, we must be praying that that worship service may be blessed by God’s bringing others, the unlearned and the unbelieving, to worship with us and that, under the preaching of the Word, they might be convicted of and brought to faith and repentance.
To do so, we must be prepared in our own hearts to worship. The entire church is involved. There must be in our church services a reverent attitude. There must be the sense in the worship service that we believe in God in this place and that we have come with reverence to hear Him. That means that you do not slouch down in the pew. You do not show indifference. You do not let the Psalter hang down and mumble the words. You do not give the appearance that you are bored. You do not go to sleep. What kind of witness does that give, to those who visit, of the God whom we worship? You see, the whole church is involved here. We worship the Lord purely because we believe that in such an atmosphere also those who would come to such a worship service, the Holy Spirit working in their hearts, might come to know and love the truth. So we sing from our hearts. We pray. We listen to the Word of God. We greet strangers and new people who come to the church. We show an interest in them. We talk to them. We show them kindness. And all in the hope that God may take something of His truth and give them to know it and embrace it in their hearts.
Let us be faithful, then. Be faithful in our life. Be faithful in our words. Be faithful in our witness. Let us use the tools — prayer, testimony — and always with the goal of bringing others to church with us. And in this way, may God be glorified and the kingdom of His dear Son expanded until at last He returns on the clouds of heaven. Amen.