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The Word and The Witnesses

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(1/30) For years, America has loved TV shows that focus on courtrooms. When I was a boy, there was a reality TV show called Divorce Court. Now there are shows like the Peopleís Court, Judge Judy, Judge Brown, and a whole host of similar shows. You can still see shows on cable like Perry Mason, Matlock, Law and Order, and many more including the new one on the Network called Bull, that are about courtroom drama. There have also been movies like, The Verdict. The Witness, A Few Good Men, and Runaway Jury.

We seem to love a good courtroom scene where an attorney can get a witness on the stand and get to the truth. Who has been on a witness stand in court, or served on jury duty? What was it like for you?

So, here is a question. What is a witness? A Witness is someone who sees, hears, experiences, or knows to be true, information about an event, or knowledge of a subject. In court, a witness is someone called to testify concerning that knowledge.

Our study is about two witnesses. Ironically both are named John. John the Apostle, son of Zebedee, and John the Baptist, Son of Zachariah, whose story is more fully told in Lukeís Gospel.

John the Apostleís Gospel and letters are like some movies where the story is told in segments. John carefully (under the Holy Spiritís guidance), chose certain parts of the life of Jesus, 8 particular miracles, or incidents that show Jesus doing only what God could do, and things that Jesus said, to verify in His own words, who He is and what He came to do. Look once again at 20:30-31:

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. Notice that John says, that only chose some of the stuff that Jesus did and said. Hold this and look at the last verses of the book over in 21:24-25: This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

Turn for a moment to 1 John 1:1-4. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of lifeó 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to usó 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

Johnís Gospel and letters are like tracts, Johnís singular purpose is for people to read or hear what He has written so they will clearly know who Jesus is and why He came to this world. Jesus is Godís search and rescue plan. And, there is no verse that says it more concise than John 3:16. Say it with me, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Our Second Witness is in Jesusís own words, the greatest man that ever lived (Matt. 11:11). John was a miracle child, born with a distinct purpose as Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 40:1-8. Turn back to Luke 1:76-80, and look at his fatherís prophecy and blessing;

"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;

For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,

77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people

By the remission of their sins,

78 Through the tender mercy of our God,

With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;

79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,

To guide our feet into the way of peace."

80 So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

John the Apostle tells us that John the Baptist was a man of destiny. He was sent from God. May I say to you, that I believe with all my heart that each of you were specifically designed to be a person of specific purpose for God. When I was a young man and felt that God was calling me, I fought it. I did not want to be a preacher, I wanted to be a policeman. And there are plenty of times when I wished I would have been. I thought God made His first mistake. I am too young. I am an introvert. I am not a people person. Then I read Jeremiah 1. Turn there or listen, "Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." 6 Then said I: "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." 7 But the Lord said to me: "Do not say, ĎI am a youth,í For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you," says the Lord. 9 Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth."

That destiny has been defined by Jesus. Look at Acts 1:7-8, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But 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."

Now, letís clarify some things. There are many ways to be a witness.

ē You can take an evangelism course, and there are some very good ones, like The Way of the Master, or Won by One, or Evangelism Explosion, or others. These are good as they give you the witness, a concise presentation of the gospel. You can then go door to door, or visitation evangelism. These are good, but too often the presentation comes from your head and not your heart.

  • You can commit to fulltime ministry. You can become a pastor, a missionary, an evangelist, etc.
  • You can volunteer to teach and preach at rescue missions, nursing homes, and jails.
  • You can send letters, tracts, etc., to people you know or to neighbors
  • You can host a Bible study on your home and invite people who are not yet Followers of Jesus.
  • You can build relationships intentionally, in hope that someday you will have permission to share the story of Jesus.
  • You can study apologetics, that is the evidences of why you believe, so that you can present them to people who use science or reason as a reason for their unbelief. People like Ravi Zacharias and Josh McDowell have been greatly used in this way.
  • You can volunteer at a charitable organization to show love and grace to hurting, sick, or people in poverty, or in foreign countries in hope that they will see your love and want to know why.

Now there are probably more. All of these are good and have been effective. And I will not tell you, there is a better or best way. I just want you to understand that neither of these guys are different than you and me. As I already have shown you, both spoke or wrote, what they experienced or know to be true. So, letís talk about being a witness this morning.

I. A Witness must have a Clear Certainty

So, here are some reflective questions. This is a homework assignment for you. What do you know to be true about Jesus? What has Jesus done in your life? How is your life different because of Jesus? What have you seen God do in your life or in answer to prayer? What do you have that you really want others to have? Do you know the basics of why people need a Savior and Lord?

John the Apostle, wrote what he saw, heard, touched and experienced (1 John 1:1-3). He says we beheld His Glory. That is, we saw the invisible God made visible in this guy. We received Grace for Grace, or Grace on top of Grace. We understood the true intent of the law. We saw and heard truth. Thatís what I am talking about.

John Baptist spoke what he saw, heard, knew to be true and experienced. Look at John 1:29-34. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ĎAfter me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.í 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water."

32 And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ĎUpon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.í 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God."

II. A Witness should know the Condition of those who donít follow Jesus.

A. Generally and true of all. People are lost and destined to perish without Jesus. Everyone is terminal and few know the proximity of the time of their death. Because God is Holy, and we are not and we cannot expect to be good enough to enter Godís presence on our own. People are dead vertically. People are slaves to sin. People are lost and blinded by Satan. Paul once went through a list of sinners and people who will not inherit Godís Kingdom in 1 Cor. 6, and then he says, "and such were some of you." We need to remember that, "There go I but for the grace of God."

B. Specifically of people you know. Some are trapped by poverty. Some by illness and health issues. Some have experienced great loss. Some are frightened by the future, or even the present. Some are tired of chasing a dream that never truly satisfies or delivers. Some have no peace. Most have no hope. We are not Jesus, but Jesus was aware of the woman at the wellís need of love and the deeper thirst she had. He knew of the hopeless condition of the man at the pool of Bethesda. He knew Zacchaeus was friendless and not comforted by his money. He knew the heartache of a mother who had lost her son, and a dad who lost his 12 year old daughter, and a Father who wanted to be free of his father and squandered all he had. He knew of the empty heart of a woman who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, and more. He knew that people need bread but even more, they need Him.

You also know people who want peace, hope, meaning, love, and who need patience, strength, grace, and forgiveness.

III. A Witness must have a Consistent, Christ-like, Character!

I want to tell you, that here is where the Church in America is really messing up. John the Apostle had a testimony as I shared with you several weeks ago. He was loud, impatient, ambitious, a man with means and influence. And Mr. Thunderman changed because of Jesus. His life became one of grace, love, and truth. Like the old camp-fire song, they knew he was a Christian by his love, by his love. Yes, they knew he was a Christian by his love.

John the Baptist was a weird looking desert, live off the land guy, who was humble. It is tempting to see him as a fiery evangelist; like a turn or burn preacher. But testimony about John is that he was humble. The welfare of people, the will of God, and the revealing of Jesus was his life. Look at:

1:15

1:25-27

1:30

1:36

3:26-36

Johnís mantra was Him B4 me, and you before me. I believe that when John spoke of hell, he did so with a tear in his eyes.

Too many Christians today just want to condemn those who are not where we are. We are slow to show grace and patience. We are not consistent in our walk. We have our church self and our out of church self. Like a man from our church (20 years ago) who chewed a cashier out because she rang up the wrong price on a tube of toothpaste. He did not know my daughter was in the store and saw his behavior.

Our views on the condition of our society have clouded over our call to show grace. Remember the words that follow John 3:16? They remind us that Jesus did not come to pronounce condemnation. He warned of that day in the future. He came to save the world. He came to find the lost, to save the condemned; to offer hope.

Where there is no humility, no forgiveness, no reconciliation, no grace, no patience, no understanding, no remembrance of our condition before someone shared the hope of Christ with us, we have no testimony. We are just the hypocrites that those who are not yet Christ Followers so often talk about.

Remember 1 Cor. 13?

Or Galatians 5:22-24?

Here is another. 2 Peter 1:2-9

IV. A Witness Must Demonstrate Compassionate Concern

People want to see grace and mercy. They want to see compassion in action. They want to know that you believe it is more important to give than to receive. They need to see forgiveness and reconciliation and compassion in action. When Jesus saw the crowds of people He saw their hopeless conditions and it moved Him to compassion. It stirred His insides and motivated Him to action.

V. A Witness Must Communicate Compelling Truth their own Person.

You can use tracts, show movies, write letters, but people want to know your story as you tell His story. This is how I found peace, hope, truth, and more. This is what I experienced. The person listening has to know that this is you and not a sales presentation.

Do you know what the word Christian means? Little Christ. Last pointÖ.

VI. A Witness Must See His or Her life as Communion with God.

This brings us full circle. You have been rescued so that God could use you to rescue others. Your life is a conduit, not a bucket. Grace was meant to flow through you, not to be stored. Every one of us have been rescued for that purpose.

Maybe you have heard this before, but over 1500 people from the Titanic perished in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Many could have been saved. The majority of the life boats were only half full. But they shoved off, in fear that those without a lifeboat would cause their lifeboat to capsize. So, despite the cries and screams of the dying, the saved did not go back to rescue the lost. They could not have saved them all. But they could have saved a many.

This is our life mission. This is our commission to be witnesses. We canít save them all, but we can save a lot. I know that Jesus does the saving. But he does it through the testimony, and the grace shown by the rescued.

And here is the easy part, Itís not all on you. God has already gone ahead of you. When you are with those who are not yet followers of Jesus, God is already there. Just share grace, love and truth from you, not a can. And God will do the work.

So, your homework is.

What have you seen, heard, experienced, and know to be true?

Who do you know that needs grace?

Do you pray every day for an opportunity and the wisdom to speak or show grace?

Will you commit yourself to the purpose for which God created and rescued you?

Letís pray about it!

If this article has spoken to your heart, would you write to me at pastorgarybuchman@gmail.com and let me know or if you have any questions about following Jesus, I would be glad to try to answer them for you. May God bless you as you seek to do His will.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman