Oct. 24, 1999
Miles City Wesleyan Church
Miles City Mt.
1 Cor. 2:1-5
Please rise for the reading of God's word
The Rev. Dr. Robert South, while preaching one day in 1689, looked up from his notes to observe that his entire congregation was fast asleep--including the King! Appropriately mortified by this discovery, he interrupted his sermon to call out, "Lord Lauderdale, rouse yourself. You snore so loudly that you will wake the King."
I have not had the entire congregation fall asleep yet, but there are days when I wonder if we have all figured out how to sleep with out eyes open. Isn't that one of our biggest fears, that what we want to say may appear in our minds to be so boring to the other person that they don't listen? When it comes to witnessing, the fears that are there are the same fears that many of us preachers have, and the way in which we are to preach can also be used in witnessing. So this morning I want to talk to you about sound preaching or better yet sound witnessing.
READ 1 Cor. 2:1-5
When we think of Paul, we usually think of the great missionary and preacher, but here in 1 Corinthians, Paul sheds new light on himself. He was a great missionary and preacher, but he was also a man, with the same fears and concerns that we have.
In these five short verses, Paul gives us a personal testimony. The words "I" and "my" are used eight times. This was truly Paul. In the first verse Paul stresses a critical fact: the concern of preaching or witnessing, is not to be eloquence or human wisdom or philosophy.
Sound witnessing has nothing to do with eloquence. The Greek word used here actually means superiority, rising above. Paul did not try to sound more superior, more elevated, or more eloquent in his preaching and the same should be true for our witnessing. How often do you hear someone say, or maybe have said it yourself, "I just don't know all the words to say." Do you know how you feel? Do you know what your heart is telling you? That's what you tell others.
Sound witnessing is not human wisdom or philosophy. Paul faced the same kind of situation that we face today, a situation that has faced every generation of believers: a world that stresses the philosophy of humanism. The world, no matter what generation, is constantly seeking more and more wisdom, education, science, technology, and new ideas dealing with reality and truth. Not only are these pursuits worthwhile, but they are essential for man's welfare. The problem is this: man seeks these pursuits within the framework of this world. He forgets God. The world's wisdom, education, science, technology, reality and truth are only of this world. And since they are only of this world, their destiny is of this world and that destiny is corruption and death. There is no fulfilling foundation and everything of the world is only temporary -- it all passes away, and ceases to exist.
This is the reason Paul did not preach human philosophy or worldly wisdom, and its the same reason why we should leave them out of our witnessing. We tend to talk people into accepting Jesus and then talk them right out of it. Paul was concerned with one thing, and its the same thing we should be concerned about -- preaching Jesus Christ.
Sound witnessing is declaring the testimony about God. The word "testimony" (marturion) is the mystery or revelation about God. The glorious testimony or revelation about God is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We don't need to give eloquent talks or sound advice on rituals or self image or positive thinking -- all we have to do is testify about Jesus and what He has done in our lives. No big fancy words, no long drawn out speeches, just talk Jesus to a lost and dying world.
Sound witnessing has one great theme -- Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In verse 2, the phrase, "I resolved" means to have decided, to have made a decision. Paul made a deliberate decision to preach only Jesus Christ and Him crucified. His theme was not Jesus the great model for men, or Jesus the great teacher, or Jesus the great example -- it was Jesus who was crucified, who willing gave His life for all mankind.
Paul concentrated on the death of Jesus and sometimes we wonder why. Wasn't it His resurrection that was the great thing, I mean He defeated death. That was great and we should never forget it but it is by the death of Jesus that we are cleansed and freed from all sin ---
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28) and in Hebrews we have these words "so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28) and in 1 Peter 2:24 it says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."
It is by His death that we are accepted and reconciled to God and have peace with Him. It is by His death that we are justified. It is by His death that we are eternally redeemed. Rev. 5:9 says this: And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
It was also by His death that sinners are saved -- But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Is it any wonder that Paul said that he made a decision to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified?
Now look again at verse 3. Sound witnessing is proclaimed with a great sense of inadequacy. Paul felt it, I feel it every time I stand here -- because I know I should not be here -- many of you are more qualified to standing here, your speech is better, your voice is better, and some of you even look better.
When we say things like I can't witness because I don't know what to say, or because I get too nervous and shake, we find we are in good company. Paul says that his looks were not very impressive and that he suffered from some kind of physical infirmity. Isn't it a shame that many churches care more about charisma, worldly ability, and preaching skills of a pastor than in their depth and knowledge of the Lord. I would much rather be led to Christ by someone who may not be the best speaker around, but has a personal relationship with the Savior they're telling me about, than someone who knows all the words, but does not truly know the Lord.
It also seems that Paul may have been a small framed man with a great deal of knowledge, gifts, and voice which were geared more to teaching than to preaching.
Paul also sensed what many of us do, a sense of spiritual inadequacy and unworthiness in serving the Lord. He also knew that whatever was done had to be done by the power of God's Spirit if it was to have lasting value -- that's where many of us have problems -- we must rely on the Spirit of God to lead us and show us what to do and how to do it. When we approach a person to witness to them, we do it in personal weakness and fear before the Lord, even to the point of trembling.
As for me, I know I am not worthy to be used by God and I am afraid of messing things up for Him --- But He will always give us what we need, when we need it. He, the loving Father, allows us to help Him. We can not spiritually convert and change people. No person can deliver mankind from death and give them life that is both abundant and eternal. Only God can do that; therefore, we that witness for God must live before God in weakness and in fear and trembling -- always depending upon God's Spirit to equip us for proclaiming the gospel of God. God alone can give life and righteousness.
Sometimes it's the small things that we do that make the biggest differences: Moody writes: I remember hearing of a man at sea who was very sea-sick. If there is a time when a man feels that he cannot do any work for the Lord it is then -- in my opinion. While this man was sick he heard that a man had fallen overboard. He was wondering if he could do anything to help to save him. He laid hold of a light, and held it up on the port-hole. The drowning man was saved. When this man got over his attack of sickness he was up on deck one day, and was talking to the man who was rescued. The saved man gave this testimony. He said he had gone down the second time, and was just going down again for the last time, when he put out his hand. Just then, he said, some one held a light at the port-hole, and the light fell on his hand. A man caught him by the hand and pulled him into the lifeboat. It seemed a small thing to do to hold up the light; yet it saved the man's life. If you cannot do some great thing you can hold the light for some poor, perishing drunkard, who may be won to Christ and delivered from destruction. Let us take the torch of salvation and go into these dark homes, and hold up Christ to the people as the Savior of the world. (Moody's Anecdotes, Page 44)
Sound witnessing is not just words, it is also a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. It should be seen in all we do, at home, work, school, where ever we are. Only the Holy Spirit can convict, convince, and convert a person to live for God. Only the Holy Spirit can impart life to a person. So we must surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit of God. We must be filled with the presence, fullness, and power of the Holy Spirit. And it should show in our words and actions. We must make a decision to not conform to the ways of the world and call upon the Holy Spirit to fill us to overflowing so that we can witness to those around us.