Sunday, November 11, 2012

An Uncommon Witness


Acts 1: 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

There they were gathered together before Him. Some had actually seen Him be crucified while others had known the story, But now they listened intently, and once again their attention seemed to have the wrong focus. They were interested in the prophetic schedule as it pertained to the nation of Israel. That nationalistic spirit was still deeply entrenched within their hearts. Christ had died and risen from the dead, and He was standing alive before them, and yet they were still interested in their earthly nation. Oh my, my. Can you see the painful mirror in this portion of Scripture?

They still have failed to see completely Who Christ was and what His mission was. But the Lord was very patient because He knew that without the Spirit His followers would be clueless and powerless to be used in His glorious mission. And so they walked in confusion. Instead of seeking Christ and being consumed with His worldwide mission they still were tethered to their own interests and the parochial nature of their vision. They failed to open their eyes to the expansive landscape of the fields of harvest and how the heart of God was beating for the entire world. But soon the Spirit would come in great power and indwell these followers and in a moment they were changed.

Peter, who shriveled up when questioned by a little girl and openly cursed and denied Christ would march outside and publicly proclaim Christ even though a few weeks ago they had put his Master to death. No longer fearful about his own safety, he preached with great conviction and power. No longer is there a concern over the fate of Israel, now His message was to the whole world.

Acts. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Imagine this, within the hour of the Spirit’s entrance into the hearts and lives of believers they spilled out into the streets consumed with reaching lost sinners. There were thousands of people right there in Jerusalem and they had come from all over the world. But these followers of Christ did not take a survey to see who was conservative and who was liberal. They were not concerned with the state of their sexual lives or if they had any political views. They only knew that the Spirit drove them into the streets and had opened their mouths to speak the wonderful works of God to every ear that could hear. Relevant? In those days it was assumed the message of the cross and the resurrection was always relevant.

What an uncommon witness! No longer embarrassed or frightened; no longer interested in themselves; no longer seeking their own interests; and no longer focused on prophetic charts and the divine fate of the nation called Israel. These men were now witnesses for Jesus the Christ and part of this glorious calling for most of them would include martyrdom. Yes, they would give their lives for Jesus. This beginning of the ministry of God’s Spirit through the church had begun with a prayer meeting. Yes, there were no glossy pamphlets designed to draw people to their attractions. No well written and cleverly crafted statements of faith. No, these men and women were now bondslaves of Jesus and they were dedicated to sharing His message and sharing His life.

What a transformation! Just a few weeks ago they were interested in restoring earthly kingdoms but now they preached a kingdom not made with hands. A nationalistic spirit had been replaced with a heart for the lost regardless of who they were or where they lived or what their ethnicity But do you not think there was rampant sin all around? The temple itself was desecrated with greed and heresy. Poverty was pervasive, and the socio-economic divisions were very deep. The Romans ruled the land and their theory of government was violent totalitarianism, and they thought Caesar was a god. The political leaders, both Roman and Jewish, were profoundly corrupt. Money open and closed doors and had people put to death while pardoning others. The entire culture was completely putrid and consumed with sin and injustice. Democracy? Human rights? Political leverage? None at all.

So here are these Spirit filled believers. Would they come and right the wrongs or begin a new and more conservative movement? Perhaps now the Jewish people would be brought out of Roman bondage. This would be a great day of political power and national pride! Perhaps now a Judeo-Christian ethic could purify the culture. Oh no, you have missed the entire mission. These men and women would not be dissuaded by the ebbs and flows of political power or any earthly nation. Peter himself would say that they were a holy nation and a peculiar people. This was the birth of the kingdom of God come to earth and their King was Jesus and their home was heaven. Their message was singular and not divided among the obvious moral needs of the day.

Redemption was now their lives. Did they not see the sin running rampant all around them? Of course, and when Paul would one day come across the idolatry in Athens would he gather a crowd of anti- idolaters and confront the idol worshipers and throw them out of office? No, the leading of the Spirit was always the same. Preach Christ to the lost. These Greek sinners were humanists and they had even created what is commonly called “democracy” centuries before. They had believed man to be a god and that he could rule himself. But Paul preached Christ to them.

Would Paul see this democratic system and adopt it as his own? Even when Paul addressed our approach to government he insisted we honor the king for the gospel’s sake. The king? How unenlightened. And yet the church would one day embrace democracy as if it came down from heaven and millions would give their allegiance to earthly nations rather than seeing them for what they were. And this kind of compromise goes against everything we know about the Scriptures and how the early church saw themselves, their mission, and their Lord.

The witness of the church has been severely diminished and in some ways compromised to the point of being death rather than life. No longer a light set upon a hill, the church has joined their light unto a kingdom of darkness and thereby extinguished the light that should mark us as different. Instead of Jesus being the unquenchable pursuit and witness, He sits now on a doctrinal backseat. Many “orthodox” preachers bristle at the term “followers” since they believe it presents the wrong message. What?? Being a follower of Jesus is now too liberal? We can embrace evangelical, orthodox, reformed, religious right, and even names like Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and others are welcomed in our labels, but being followers of Jesus is way too liberal and too wild?

What has happened and how deep have we been compromised? What happened to the faith that once drove men into the streets speaking His name and that would drive His followers joyfully to the gallows and the funeral pyres? Listen as believers are marched publicly to their own deaths because of their refusal to deny Jesus. Incline your ears and you may well hear hymns emanating from trembling lips. And in a glorious revelation of the unseen ministry of the Spirit many sinners came to faith in Jesus based largely on the uncommon witness that these martyrs exhibited while they gave their lives for Christ. No one ever came to Christ because he heard believers complaining and murmuring about their uncomfortable circumstance.

This western culture is looking for an uncommon witness that seeks the souls of sinners and not the desires of their flesh. Hundreds of millions of sinners reside right next door to us and most will never hear our personal testimonies to say nothing of an uncommon witness of a remarkable life. What kind of faith have we constructed? Where is our broken submission to Jesus in all things? Why do we seek financial gain instead of the rewards of eternity? When we are so comfortable why do we seek more and more? Why are we surprised by spiritual darkness? Are these not the people to whom we are sent? How can we castigate lost sinners instead of sharing Jesus through our lips and lives? Why is the moral welfare of a fallen nation more important than the spiritual welfare of sinners? How can we even claim to be serving Christ anymore?

We need to seek His face and beg Jesus to once again let the Spirit fall upon us with His power that manifests itself with an uncommon witness.

When was the last time we witnessed to someone in an uncomfortable situation? When have we last handed out a track for Jesus? When have we been driven from a prayer closet out into the crowd among us with a witness for Jesus on our lips? How many cultural layers have we allowed to buffer us from the need of those around us? Have we allowed fear and intimidation to build forts around our hearts and lives? What kind of Christianity presents written documents as evidence of our faith and remains content with our orthodox doctrines? The early disciples spilled out into the streets and hazarded their lives for the sake of Christ while the western church spills out into post-service restaurants and hopes their football team will be victorious that day.

Oh dear Jesus what have we done? Perhaps we should see a common witness before we attempt any uncommon witness. But do not wait until any church repents and wades into deeper spiritual waters. The Spirit is calling individuals and we are responsible for what we allow our ears to hear and how we obey the Spirit’s voice. Even if not one sinner will even listen to you or be affected by your life, just living a surrendered life to Jesus has a glory all its own. What a Savior! Not only are we given the privilege of being co-laborers with Christ, but we are also promised a divine blessing and reward for doing what should be our reasonable service. The wonder of it all is beyond words.

Let us get out of our cultural boats and begin to walk by faith toward Jesus on top of the waters of this world. We have a choice, but let’s face it, compared to the passing pleasures of this world what choice is there? And when we see the surpassing treasure of knowing, serving, living, and being a witness for the One who we never deserved in the first place, there really is no choice. We do not need a spiritual tweaking or another program. We need a complete revolution which if seen as anything but fanaticism will be just another religious diversion. We need a witness that is startling, arresting, remarkable, and uncommon. Do what You need to do in and through us, Jesus.


Anonymous said...

This is a call to ALL believers. We need to stop mourning our nation and way of life and put on the full armor of GOD and get out there and witness the salvation of Jesus. I pray that all believers will heed this call.

Steve said...

" not wait until any church repents and wades into deeper spiritual waters. The Spirit is calling individuals and we are responsible for what we allow our ears to hear and how we obey the Spirit’s voice. Even if not one sinner will even listen to you..."

I testify that this is God's witness to my heart as well.

In Jesus, Steve