Power to be Witnesses
Introduction: Not long after a pastor and his wife moved into their first house in California, they picked up on the tension between a couple of neighbors. One was a very outspoken churchgoer, while the other was an unbeliever. The pastor knew he was in the hot seat when the unchurched man struck up a conversation with him as they were both working in their yards.
It seems implicit in the public's understanding that pastors exist to serve as referees in times of conflict, so the pastor reluctantly listened as the troubled neighbor opened up about the churchgoing neighbor he'd never understood. He unfolded a long history of numerous conflicts over small issues.
Then he looked up and sighed about the most recent problem. The unsaved man received a letter from churchgoer’s attorney threatening to sue him if he didn’t trim a tree that bordered his neighbor’s yard. It seemed strange the man that his neighbor just didn't come over and ask him to take care of the tree before he went to his attorney.
With a little wink to the pastor, this streetwise, unchurched man said that he was getting ready to trim the tree, but now there would be no way he would until his churchgoing neighbor forced him. The unbelieving neighbor would gladly go to court just so he could have a story to tell about being sued by Christians over an orange tree. The man finally said this to the pastor: “I guess sometimes Christians love us—they just don't like us.”
Steve Sjogren, Changing the World Through Kindness (Regal, 2005), pp. 103-104
8But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
The reason many of us fail to witness to so many people is that we have no power to do so. Spirit-filled Christians are obedient and loving toward others. What brings a Christian to the point of suing an unsaved neighbor over an orange tree?
· A failure to recognize the need to transform his mind and will from the self-controlled life to the Christ-controlled life
· A failure to love people by using the gifts God has given to reach them with the Gospel, disciple them, and build up the saints - all of which producing eternal fruit abounding to one’s spiritual account
Transition: Turn to John 15 with me.
1“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
26“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.
Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12.2). What does that mean?
· We look to Jesus for salvation by grace through faith. Point in time.
· We look to Jesus for a fruitful life of service by grace through faith. Continually.
What does it mean to abide in Christ?
· First, we must understand that our flesh produces no good thing. It profits nothing. The self-life is incapable of producing eternal, spiritual fruit even after we are saved.
· Second, our identity with Christ provides the only way to transmit life and grace to others. Abiding in Christ is depending upon the power that the Holy Spirit brings to our lives! The Holy Spirit testifies of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15.26). Jesus is the Vine. We are the branches depending upon Him to work in and through us. We depend upon the Vine for real, spiritual energy and life.
Illustration: A few days back we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the walk on the moon. There is nothing spectacular about the moon itself. It only shines because it reflects light from the sun. It is not a source of light, but it merely reflects the light.
A fountain that bubbles to the earth’s surface does so because of the reservoir of water that feeds it. That is, the fountain because of the water which brings it to the surface.
Recently, the Lord put it on someone’s heart to construct a few badly needed computers for our ministry. I am greatly profiting from one of those high-powered computers! But without electric power, it would be absolutely worthless as a tool to help me in Bible study.
We may only reflect the true Light already shining in the world - the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. The power we need to make life go comes from abiding in Christ through dependence upon the Holy Spirit who manifests the life and love of Christ through us.
Transition: Abiding in Christ can be identified with five commands in Psalm 37. Please turn with me.
1Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. 3Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. 4Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. 6He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 7Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Trusting, delighting, committing, resting, and waiting are all commands obeyed only through taking the time to read and think abut Scripture. These commands are accomplished when we sing hymns and God alone hears. They are etched upon the hearts of those who pass through the fire and floods of life and still adore, praise, and thank God for it.
Do you want to produce spiritual fruit that will last? Evangelize the lost and edify the found!
Before Jesus ascended to His Father, He said, “I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24.49). The “Promise of My Father” is a reference to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came and endued the disciples of Jesus with power on Pentecost:
1When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
When the disciples received this power, they were able to obey the command to be witnesses in Acts 1.8. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost gave power for the witness of the Gospel. The whole book of Acts is an elaboration of chapter one verse eight! How did the Holy Spirit come?
· All the believers were of one accord in one place. It is still important for us to have unity in the church so as to not grieve the Holy Spirit.
· A sound from heaven preceded the rushing of a mighty wind that filled the house where they were gathered. The wind is a power that is seemingly uncontrollable. Of course, God harnesses the wind and it aptly signifies His great power. That power is given to the church to witness.
· Tongues of flames appeared over each of them. The flame often represents purity in Scripture. As the Holy Spirit is within us, the effect of His presence ought to be a purifying one.
· They were filled with the Holy Spirit and evidenced this through speaking with other tongues. The ability to speak in other languages meant that the preaching of the gospel would reach the uttermost parts of the earth in all languages to all nations.
The Holy Spirit enables us to reach others with the love of Christ!
27To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to give the gifts and power needed to enable the church for the gospel ministry. We receive the Spirit of God the moment we are saved. He will give us gifts to accomplish the same purpose of the early church - to reach others with the gospel ministry!
27And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.
This motivates us to seek the lost so that God can save them.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
7and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…
Judgment awaits those who reject Christ. He is the only Way of deliverance. This keeps us engaged in the fight.
2 Corinthians 5:11
11Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…
But another motivation is found in the same chapter…
2 Corinthians 5:14
14For the love of Christ compels us…
Our attitude toward unbelievers ought to be one of love and kindness. They are lost and going to Hell. We should not look to imitate the way they live, dress, and behave. Rather, we ought to declare the gospel to them!
We best do that by…
1. Inviting them to church - how many have you invited this week?
2. Passing out tracts - one or two every week is a reasonable goal. My wife was converted through a tract.
3. Testify directly by quoting verses pertaining to salvation.
4. Target individuals close to you.
a. The vast majority of people that are saved are led to Christ by a friend or a relative. You’ve earned the right to ask personal questions of these people.
b. Tell them about the sermons available online.
c. Pray constantly for them.
5. Prepare to preach and teach on a regular basis. Sunday school, children’s Bible clubs, prison ministry, evangelism clubs, and mission teams are great examples of this.
22And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
· Some need compassion.
· Others need confrontation.
All of us need a plan to win others to Christ. EE provides a technique that is sound and biblical, but if we never use the technique, no one will come to Christ! You may have your own technique. The question is do you use it? EE is good because it begins with and is constantly bathed in prayer. It also provides a way for us to track friends and relatives we care about. It also is filled with Scripture and sound theology. The grace, love, and justice of God are presented against the bleak backdrop of the sinfulness of man. Christ’s person and work are clearly unfolded. Faith becomes the way we appropriate the gift of eternal life. When these concepts are persuasively presented with a heart of compassion and conviction, our church will flourish.
Let me challenge you to pray for this ministry. Let me challenge you to become a part of it!