Monday, May 4, 2015

Reflections on Witnessing – I

I’m not sure how witnessing to others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ has become an option for Western Christians rather than a mandate, but the fact that it has should cause us concern. Perhaps it started in our own congregations? After all, if we are unaccustomed to proclaiming Jesus’ call to repentance and obedience to Him in our congregations it stands to reason that folks in the pew will be uncomfortable in sharing Jesus with others outside their congregations.

If we are not equipping our congregations with confident and competent Biblical knowledge then how will they have the wherewithal to be obedient to Jesus in witnessing to others? It leadership is uncertain then congregations will be uncertain. If leadership values harmony and job security over Biblical truth, then congregations will do the same. Courageous leadership, convinced of the Gospel, will inspire others to be convinced and courageous.

When Jesus is the focus of sermons and teachings, when He is the North Star, when pastors and elders are passionate about Jesus Christ, then hopefully their flocks will learn to be passionate about Jesus too.

Can we imagine a group of Christians discussing whether in the coming week they will lie or steal or commit adultery? Hopefully we have not yet descended to such a depth. Yet, we see no incongruity in discussing whether or not we will witness to others about Jesus Christ – when the command to witness, to share the Gospel, is just as clear as the commands to not commit adultery, not to steal, and not to lie. After all, Jesus’ final words to His followers are that we are to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel, making disciples.

In Mark 8:27 – 38 we see the following progression:
1.    Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ.
2.    When Jesus then speaks of His impending crucifixion Peter rebukes Him.
3.    Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests but man’s.”

4.    Then Jesus summons the crowd and says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Note that Peter confesses Jesus and then seeks to spare Jesus from the Cross. Was Peter seeking to simply spare Jesus from death, or was Peter also seeking to spare himself from following Jesus to the death?

Jesus does not leave Peter’s confession hanging in the air any more than He leaves Peter’s attempt to spare Him from the Cross hanging in the air – Jesus drives home what it means to confess Him as Messiah, and He drives home what it means to repudiate both Satan and the interests of fallen man – it means denying ourselves and following Him, and following Him includes confessing Him before mankind.

Our private confession of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, as God’s Son, is consummated in a life of following Him in self-denial and in confessing Him faithfully before others. Note Jesus’ warning lest we misunderstand the seriousness of witnessing, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words…the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him…”

Jesus speaks of “this adulterous and sinful generation.” To be married to Jesus is to be in a monogamous relationship with Him (see 2 Cor. 11:1 – 3). We are not to act like we are married to Jesus on Sunday mornings and then act like we are married to the world Monday – Friday. We are not to put our wedding ring on for Jesus on Sundays and then take it off on Mondays. To do these things is to live in adultery. Can we hear James (James 4:4a) saying, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?”?

How tragic it would be for a man to marry a woman and never tell anyone about his wife. How tragic it is when we are ashamed of Jesus.

But oh the joy of sharing the Good News about Jesus with others – after all, it is the only true hope any of us will ever have. 

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