Dear radio friends,
In our previous radio broadcast we began a series of messages on “The Faithful Witness,” that is, on the truth that each child of God is called to be a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that every member of the church is called to be a witness, both in his life and in his words, of the truth of salvation. We saw at that time that the word “witness,” as used in the Bible, carries a legal idea, that of an eyewitness, and, therefore, of a moral obligation before God to speak of the things that we have seen and heard, and that this calling then belongs to our very salvation. When the Holy Spirit has opened out hearts to the gospel of grace, then He has done so not only for our own comfort and enjoyment, but He has done so also in order that we might testify to others of His grace to us. So the apostles could say, “We cannot but speak of the things that we have seen and heard.”
Today, we want to look into the motivation for our witnessing. This is very important. If our witness is to be faithful before God, not only must its content be correct, but the motivation for doing it must be correct in our hearts. And, again, only God can give to us this motivation. He does so by showing to us the truth of His Word — what that motivation ought to be. Then, through that Word, He writes it upon our hearts.
From the Scriptures today, I hope to show you three things that motivate us to be faithful witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives and in our words. The motivation is not that we might be some type of super spiritual salesmen. It is not that we are going to pride ourselves in what we have done. But the motivation is found in three things.
First. The glory of God. God is worthy to be known because of who He is. The question is: Do you know God? Have you seen His glory? Then you will desire to witness of Him.
Second. Our motivation must be the love of the neighbor. With the love of God in our hearts we desire the neighbor’s highest good. What is that highest good? That his sins be forgiven, and, if it be according to God’s will, he may be brought to Christ.
Finally, the motivation arises out of the impulse of our own salvation. For the Lord said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
So, I speak to you today on the motivation that we are to have to be faithful witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That first motivation is a love of and a desire for the glory of God. There can be no other chief motive than that. In fact, that is the sole motive that must be behind every activity of a child of God. God is glorious. And the only good thing to know is to obey and trust and know Him and worship the living God. God is worthy to be known because of who He is. And it is right here that so often we must confess that our faith is shown to be weak and only a small beginning. We are not staggered as we ought to be by God. The reverence and the awe of God is conveyed to us throughout all of the Scriptures. I think especially of the prophecy of Isaiah. There God says in chapters 40-48, repeatedly, that “I am He— that there is no God before Me —yea, before the day was, I am He, and there is none that can deliver out of My hand—I will work and who shall prevent it?” Read those chapters. I know of no other passage in the Scriptures that sets forth so beautifully the majesty, the immensity, the grandeur, the glory, the sovereignty, and the brilliance of the living God. Meditate upon those chapters often.
We must confess, in the light of those chapters, that our thoughts of God are far too puny and too human. That was God’s complaint through Isaiah to His people Israel. “Ye thought that I was altogether as yourself.” Oh, people of God, God is almighty. He is holy. There is no searching of His understanding. Bask in the light of the truth of God!
For your witness motivation, do not take your soul to some self-help book or positive-thinking book in a Christian bookstore. But bow down with loving awe and reverence before the living God revealed to you in the Scriptures. The more we know of God and the more we walk with God, the more spontaneous and vibrant and faithful will be our witness. The more we understand in the depth of our hearts the chief end for which we have been saved, namely, to know God and glorify Him forever, the more we will be willing and able to speak a word of witness. Are you afraid to leave a witness of the living God? Are you too busy? Is your mind so much on other things that you simply do not say anything when an opportunity is before you? Are you, perhaps, as a young person, embarrassed of your Lord Jesus Christ and of your God?
What is the answer? Well, there can never be any change or improvement in us apart from this: Let us know our God! And let us, through grace, have zeal for His glory! I think of Daniel, as he stood before the king, in Daniel 5, when the king was offering to him all kinds of gifts if only Daniel would tell him if he was going to get out of the scrape that he was in, and of how faithful Daniel was as he stood before a powerful earthly king. He said to the king, “Let thy gifts be to thyself and thy rewards to another. Yet I will speak. Thou hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven. Thou hast not humbled thy heart before him. And the God in whose hand is thy breath and whose are all thy ways, thou hast not glorified.” Daniel was able to leave a faithful, pointed, humble witness before that king because Daniel knew the awesomeness of his God.
There is an example of this also in the book of Acts, chapter 17 at verses 16ff., when the apostle Paul was in the city of Athens on his second missionary journey and was alone. We read that Paul was waiting for his fellow workers to join him in Athens. But his spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city wholly given over to idolatry. When Paul was in Athens he saw the people of that city in all of their intelligence and sophistication, for Athens was the center of Greek philosophy. Yet, they were worshiping that which is no god. Here were creatures, men who had been created to worship the true and the only God, yet, in their pride and rebellion, they were making to themselves gods and worshiping them: Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, Athena. And it stirred the apostle Paul (it provoked him). What did he do? Did he find a group in the church and commiserate with them and say, “The world is getting worse. It’s a mess! Look at all of this sin. Why doesn’t God just send them all to hell?” Did he go sit in his living room and bemoan and say, “Look at all the lawlessness, the pornography, the juvenile delinquency”? Is that what he did? No.
No, Paul went up to Mars Hill and he stood before the worldly-wise who, apart from grace, would laugh at him, and he declared the gospel. He said, “There is a God who made you, and you must stand before Him in the last day.” Then Paul declared to them very plainly that there was but one way of salvation—through the blood of Jesus Christ. What motivated him to do that? It was the glory of God that motivated him! Paul saw men, in their rebellion, seeking to bring glory to themselves, making gods after their own imagination, living in all of their egotistical and proud immorality. Paul’s concern centered in God and in the glory that was due to God. That was his motivation.
That must be our chief motivation as well. The people who know their God, says the book of Daniel, shall do exploits. What was the motivation for Jesus Christ in speaking? This was it: My Father is greater than all! It is love for the glory of God that must propel us in our witness.
Second motivation must be love for the neighbor. We find this expressed in Romans 10:1, where we read, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” Paul had expressed his concern for his kinsmen according to the flesh at the beginning of Romans 9. Then in chapters 9-11, the apostle showed the sovereign purpose of God, that in the rejection of the gospel by the Jews the Gentiles might be grafted in. In chapter 9 of Romans, Paul traces the hardness of so many of the Jews to the gospel of Christ to the eternal predestination of God in election and reprobation. According to God’s eternal good pleasure, He foreordained who shall be vessels of mercy and who would be vessels of wrath. Out of one lump of clay, the mass of humanity, God had made vessels to glory and vessels fitted for destruction. Paul, then, in that section of the book of Romans is teaching that salvation is rooted in God’s eternal predestination. And that salvation goes forth according to God’s irresistible plan and purpose. Yet, Paul says, “My heart’s desire and my prayer is that Israel might be saved.”
Now, is Paul’s desire contrary to God? No! Paul gloried in and preached the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. But that truth of God’s absolute sovereignty did not mean that Paul did not desire, according to God’s own will, that his relatives, that Israel, should be saved. We do not know whom God has eternally predestined unto salvation. We know that He has. To God belongs the issues of life and death. But who those are, those secret things belong to God. We know that He has chosen and He has willed that they shall come to Him through His Word. So, Paul’s heartfelt desire was that Israel, as it stood in its hardness, in its rebellion, in its pride, might by the grace of God be humbled according to God’s own will and that they might be saved. Predestination does not extinguish the flame of desire for the salvation of those who are in darkness. It gives us peace. It gives us encouragement. We go forth with that Word knowing that God will bring out of darkness those whom He has chosen.
Paul saw his own loved ones, the ones that he grew up with, the ones who now hated him as an apostle and saw him as an enemy and called him a turncoat; yet Paul, in the love of God, desired, according to God’s will, that they might be saved. He prayed for those who despitefully used him and persecuted him.
What is the law of God? The law of God is: Love the Lord thy God and thy neighbor as thyself. These are the two great commandments.
We are to have the motivation of the love of God, the glory of God, and the love of the neighbor. And the love of the neighbor in the love of God is to convey the greatest good to the neighbor. What is the greatest good that we could convey to our neighbor? Shall we tell him, as he moves next door to us, of the best place to have his bank account? Should we tell her of the good places to eat in the community? Shall we, over the fence, merely talk to our neighbor about the baseball team and who is going to win it all? Shall we, perhaps, speak of untold earthly things and leave it at that? Is that the best we can do for the neighbor? No. We must speak to our neighbor of the bread of life, of the knowledge of sins forgiven, of the only way to the Father, of the Lord of life, of the risen and reigning Son of God, and of the fact that this Son of God is coming soon.
No, I’m not talking about the fact that we should, perhaps, make a sign of John 3:16 and put it on our back as we mow our lawn and let that be our witness to the neighbor. But this: we are concerned about our neighbor’s soul, and that leads us to get to know the neighbor in order that we might have an opportunity to bring a witness and so that the neighbor has an opportunity to get to know you and ask you of the things that you believe and the things that you might tell him of the treasures of God placed in your heart. If we can see our neighbor day after day—he goes to work, we wave across the street at him—and feel no desire to explain to him the knowledge of Jesus Christ and feel no compassion for him because he does not know God, then how dwells the love of God in us?
No, we do not do that because we think we are going to earn their salvation or earn our salvation. But we do that because God is glorious and we are to love the neighbor for God’s sake. We are to trust in the eternal purposes of God and we are to bring a word of witness.
The final motivation will be that we will do this out of the impulse of our own salvation. The apostles said, “We cannot but speak of the things which we have seen and heard.” For Peter and the other apostles to be silent and not to preach of Jesus Christ would have been for them to deny what and who they were. A man speaks out of the treasures of his heart. He cannot help that. You are going to speak about the things that you love. That is why parents spend time visiting (young parents especially) and the conversation always turns to their kids. We smile about that and maybe, when we become older, we begin to resent that—they only talk about their kids, we say. But that is because parents carry their children on their heart. Likewise, when Peter was commanded that he not speak any more in the name of Jesus, he said to them: “You don’t know what you are asking. Don’t speak in His name? Hush up about Jesus? But this is not something we learned in a book. This is not something that took place outside of us. We can’t just turn this off! These are the things that He has done for us.” So, they said, “Come,” Psalm 66:16 , “come and hear, all ye that fear the Lord, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” For us to be silent would be to deny what Jesus has done for us. That we cannot do! We, says the apostle Peter, “will obey you in every ordinance of the government. We will pay our taxes. We will endure every hardship. We will fight in your armies if drafted. We will be silent when we are slandered. But we cannot deny the name of Him who confessed our name upon the cross. We must speak.”
So it is out of the experience of salvation that comes the impulse to have our light shine that others may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. We must pray to God to produce this in us more and more. We must not have the attitude, “Well, I’m saved by grace. I’ve got mine. Who cares about somebody else?” That is not right! That is not Reformed or biblical! No, those who have been saved by the grace of God now no longer have that consuming interest in themselves, their name, their honor. But they are filled with the zeal for the glory of God, the love of the neighbor, and the truth of the salvation of their souls comes out in their words: “Ye are my witnesses.”
When you stand before the world of men, then, as that gospel is in your heart, you will speak. Perhaps it is at the business lunch and someone says to you, “You know, I have been watching you in the office. What is there about you that is different? You don’t swear, you’re here on time, and you go home at night. Why do you do that?” Right then is the call to witness of Him who has loved you and for whose sake you do those things.
When your teenage friends or college friends ask you, “Why won’t you go with us to this party? Why can’t you drink? Why can’t you lighten up a little bit?” Right at that moment, out of the abundance of your heart, your mouth will speak. It implies that your life has been speaking before your mouth. Our life must speak or we had better keep our mouths shut.
But when we walk faithfully with God, and others then begin to ask, speak of Him. How abundant is your heart? Is your heart filled with the glory of God, and the love of the neighbor for God’s sake? Do you experience the wonder of that grace of God? Ye are my witnesses, says the Lord. No, you do not need to become a street preacher. You do not need in the holiday season to go out in front of Marshall Fields and get a megaphone. That is not what we are talking about. You do not need to become a super salesman and try to get decisions out of people and see how many people you can rack up for Christ. No. But the Lord says that if you peel away the layers of the heart, you will find there in the child of God a desire that God’s glory be known — a desire according to God’s will that men be taken out of darkness, and a desire to speak of what God has done for our souls.
You are my witnesses! What a privilege. What a sobering word. Let this be our motivation. Let us, out of the great treasure God has placed in our heart, speak of Him whom our soul loves.
Father in heaven, bless Thy Word. Bless it to our hearts. We pray that out of the motivation of Thy glory, the love of the neighbor, and the experience of our own salvation we may witness of Thy great goodness to us. Amen.