How to Be an Effective Witness: Your Testimony

How to Be an Effective Witness:  Your Testimony – The One Thing That No One Can Take Away from You

Acts 22:1-16Acts 26:4-23

The passage we just talked about in our introduction revealed something rather unique – the chief priests could not stop the effect that Lazarus’ resurrection had in bringing Jews to seek Christ.  The only way they could think of preventing its spread was by killing Lazarus, so they planned a way to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.  But if they thought about it carefully, would killing Lazarus have solved the problem?  Likely not, because the story of what Christ had done in raising Lazarus from the dead would likely still be told.  That witness, that story, that testimony could in no way be taken away, destroyed, or invalidated.  Lazarus’ testimony of what Christ had done in his life could not be taken away from him.

Every Christian has his own unique story of how Christ came into his/her life and changed it.  Sometimes the dramatic parts of the story come when they first meet Christ.  For others, the story heats up only after years of growth as a disciple.  Whatever the case may be, this testimony of what God has done can never be taken away.  No matter what questions people throw at you about apologetics, no matter how much they try to argue with you about the existence of God, no matter how much they discourage you, they can never take away your testimony.  It is the one thing they cannot rebut or debate, for it is your personal experience with the Lord.  And this testimony can be one of the most powerful witnessing tools in a Christian’s arsenal.  Paul, one of the greatest apostles and the writer of almost half the New Testament, understood the impact that a testimony could have and used his testimony twice to share the Gospel with people (Acts 22 and 26).  Tonight we will be looking at both these passage to see two things:  1)  What are the key components in a testimony (specifically of salvation) and 2) What should we emphasize about God in our testimony.  For those of you, who have yet to receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, please continue to listen, for there is also some truth for you to hear as well, because in hearing Paul’s testimony, you will learn a lot more about God’s mercy, love, and grace.

1)  God’s mercy is reflected in the situation you were in before you knew Christ.

Paul begins his testimony by recounting what his life was like before he met Christ on the road to Damascus.  These are detailed in Acts 22:3-5 and Acts 26:4-11.  There are two major things we can take note of in Paul’s testimony about his life before he knew Christ.

  1. No matter how “righteous” you may seem to be, you still need Christ.

Paul had one of the greatest pedigrees for Jewish scholars before he met Christ.  He sat under the teaching of Gamaliel, a well-known rabbi of the time.  In addition, he was born a Roman citizen and likely of a wealthy or learned family, being that he had the time to sit under the teaching of such a renowned teacher.  Added to that, he was a Pharisee, a Jewish religious sect that adhered to the law strictly.  Likely based on the law of Moses, Paul would be almost without reproach.  But no matter his pedigree, no matter how “righteous” he was in his own sight and in the sight of others, all this meant nothing to God.  He was still considered a sinner in need of God’s mercy and grace.  Without Christ in his life, Paul was completely lost without a clear understanding of God’s desire or will; therefore, he did the only thing he thought was right, which was to persecute the early church.

  1. No matter how “evil” you may have been, Christ can still save you.

This persecution made Saul, the most feared man in Christian circles.  He was like the “boogeyman,” ready to capture and kill any Christian at any time.  According to his description, Paul not only imprisoned Christians, but he also tried to make them recant their beliefs and to put them to death.  He didn’t even stop within his vicinity; he went out purposefully looking for Christians to persecute and kill.  In Acts 7:58 and 8:1, when Stephen was martyred, Saul was said to approve of his execution.  Saul was outright fighting against Jesus Christ.  Saul was the ultimate persecutor.  This was a man that Christians today would likely have been praying for God to strike down in an instant.  But when Christ met Saul on the road to Damascus, he didn’t kill him for his sin, but instead, he took the time to speak to Him.  He showed Saul mercy instead of judgment, which he so rightly deserved.

MERCY means that we do not get what we deserve.  As humans, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  According to Romans 6:23, the payment for this sin is death.  Yet, instead of receiving the death, we do deserve, Christ died for us.  While we were His enemies, He allowed Himself to be put on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.  Instead of striking us down, He showed us mercy by extending His hand to us to restore us.  One of the most important parts of our testimony is what we were before Christ.  Before we met Him, we were wretched sinners in need of a Savior.  We were people deserving of hell and taking one step closer towards that direction every day.  But in our sinful state, God showed us mercy.  When we share our testimony, we can begin by being vulnerable, sharing who we were before Christ came into our lives.  We can share all the dirt and messiness, no matter how bad, for even the chief of sinners “Paul” was shown mercy.

2)  God’s love is reflected in the situation you were in when you came to know Christ

When Saul was heading toward Damascus to persecute the Christians in that city, he was met by Jesus Christ.  God had every right to strike him down and kill him on the spot.  He was torturing and hurting His people; Saul was vehemently seeking to destroy Christianity.  But instead of coming as a God of wrath and judgment, Jesus Christ met Paul with a different attitude – an attitude of love.  Although Christ came in His glory, appearing in a bright and blinding light, he didn’t come swinging a sword, but He came ready to start a conversation with Saul saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  Saul having no clue who he was talking to asked, “Who are you, Lord?”  To which Jesus replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”  This does not sound like a conversation between a vengeful God and an enemy of His, but one between a Father seeking to bring home His wayward son.  He even says, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” an agricultural metaphor referring to how oxen who are being yoked to a plow are taught submission by using a spike at their heels to keep them from kicking themselves out.  God was trying to reach Saul right there.  He was trying to meet Saul and show him His love – an unconditional love that sought restoration while Saul was still an enemy.  This love was displayed through a disciple Ananias, who was God’s physical loving hands and feet to Saul at this moment.

When we come to know Christ, at that specific moment, we are experiencing His love for us at its fullest.  Yes, the action of His love was seen on the cross, when He willingly laid down His life for us.  But we experience His love for the first time, when we submit to Him as our Lord and Savior.  It is at that moment, we receive the Father’s love, as He accepts us as His child; the Husband’s love, as He accepts us as part of His bride – the Church; and the Ultimate Friend’s love, as we accept the gift that He gave when He laid down His life for us.  When we share our testimony with others, we must be sure to share the moment we came to accept Christ, for it is at that moment we passed from death to life.  It is at that moment, we go from orphans to adopted.  It is at that moment, we switch from sinner to saint.  It is the most important part of your life.  Now, I have to admit that I personally do not have a specific time or day, but when I share my testimony it is a series of situations over a range of time that led to my life finally be given fully over to Him; for me a share a process instead of a moment.  But whatever the case may be for you, when you share your testimony, don’t forget to share the time you finally gave your all to Him.

3)  God’s grace is reflected in the situation you are in after you came to know Christ

After meeting Saul on the road to Damascus, showing His mercy and love to this wicked persecutor, Jesus Christ followed up by showing Saul His grace.  Although Saul was a wicked man with an awful past, one that could be considered by many to be unforgiveable, Jesus Christ did not just rebuke Saul and then leave him to wallow in his guilt and misery; instead, Jesus Christ gave him a job – to be a witness to the Jews and Gentiles of who Christ was and what Christ did for him.  He was given the opportunity to be a servant of the Lord.  Saul was given a chance to make up for all the pain and suffering he had caused.  This was a grace – a gift that he didn’t deserve.  Christ showed His grace to Paul by saving and forgiving Him, by restoring his sight, and by giving him a life’s purpose.  God would continue to show His grace towards Paul for the rest of His life, whether it was by protecting him in certain cities, preserving him in a shipwreck, providing for Him strength in his weakness, or giving him the words to speak when sharing the Gospel.  From that point forward, God would shower His grace on Paul.

Like Paul, during and after we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are showered with His grace.  We clearly see His grace in the eternal life He gives us.  We see His grace when He prepared for us a place in heaven.  We see His grace when He calls us to be witnesses for Him throughout the world just like Paul.  We have the wonderful opportunity to be servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This may sound like a weird statement, because our world has taught us that we need to be independent and masters of our own destinies; but one of the greatest gifts God has given us is the opportunity to be a part of His work.  Imagine if you were Neil Armstrong when you first took that step on the moon.  Although he was serving his country, he was given a privilege, an opportunity to be the first man on the moon – a servant role was also a gift.  Let us not take for granted the grace that God shows us when He gives us the opportunity to work with Him.  And let us definitely not take for granted the continued grace He shows us in our lives. He makes so many promises to Christians, and all of them are things we do not deserve – they are graces shown to us by the Heavenly Father.

When we share our testimony we should definitely take the time to share all the amazing things that God is now doing in our lives since we have come to know Him.  We can share His grace by sharing about how He is using us sinners for His glory.  We can share His grace by describing all the changes He has made to our attitudes and characters.  We can share His grace by describing the hope we now have in our lives of an eternity with Him.  Great Grace!

As Christians, we are given one thing that no unbeliever can argue with us on – our testimonies.  If you have yet to receive Him, look at the testimony that Paul shares here and see the mercy, love, and grace that He wants to show you today.  Make Him a part of your life, so you have a testimony to share.  There is no sin so deep that He cannot show you mercy; you are not so wicked, He cannot show you love; you are not so tainted, that He cannot use you for His service.  But if you are already a Christian, then take the time now to remember what you were like before you came to know Christ, how you came to know Christ, and what Christ is currently doing in your life.  Craft your testimony, for it is a powerful witnessing tool that God wants to use today.

How to Be an Effective Witness – Introduction

*The next series of posts on “How to Be an Effective Witness” are a series of sermons that I shared for a youth camp this past weekend.  I hope by sharing these with you, you also can become an effective witness for Christ.

For the whole passage please read John 11.  

John 11:4 – “But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death.  It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’”

John 11:45 – “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him…”

John 12:9-11 – “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.”

To help you understand why I selected “How to be a witness for Christ” as the topic for our camp this year, I want us to reflect on a story in the Bible that helped inspire this theme.  The story is that of Lazarus, one of the close friends of Jesus.  In John 11, we are told of a time when Lazarus was very ill – to the point of death.  During that time, his sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus to hurry back to Bethany to heal their brother.  Instead of immediately running to the city, Jesus instead chose to stay longer in the place where He was at and stated the words found in vs. 4, “This illness does not lead to death.  It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Jesus stayed behind, so that God would be glorified in the situation.  When Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead for four days and was buried.  How could God be glorified in the death of a loved one?  This is probably the question that popped up in the heads of both Mary and Martha.  How could this friend of theirs, Jesus, who claimed to love them, not be there to heal their brother?  They had no clue what was about to come.  Later that day, Jesus would come to the tomb, ask the people to roll the stone door of the tomb away, and say, “Lazarus, come out.” (vs. 43).  At that moment, Lazarus was raised from the dead.  Jesus had just performed a miracle unlike any other; He had just raised someone from the dead (the only other account of this is with Elisha in 2 Kings 4).  Verse 45 says that because of this miracle, “Many of the Jews….believed in Him….”  One of the worst and most horrific situations that Mary and Martha and Lazarus could have gone through became a tool for brining God honor and glory.  Lazarus’ death and resurrection would be a witnessing tool that brought many to a faith in Jesus Christ.

The part that inspired me the most though came later in John 12:9-11.  Here we are told that although the crowds came to see Jesus; they came not only to see Him but also to see Lazarus, who He had raised from the dead.  The life of Lazarus was a witnessing tool to bring people to seek Christ.  It was so effective of a tool that the chief priests stopped seeking to only kill Jesus but also to kill Lazarus, because on account of that miracle, many Jews were turning to Christ.  These verses forced me to reflect on my own life – to ask myself the question, “Is my current witness for Christ so effective and useful that the Devil and others who oppose Christ would have to dispatch of me in order to stop my witness?”  Was I living in a way that caused others to see Christ so much, that the Devil was afraid of how God could use my life for His glory?  Was my life a witness for Christ?  It was this passage that inspired the series of messages we will be talking about in camp this weekend.  So for the next few days, I want us to take the time to think about these questions:

  1. Am I living my life as a witness for the Gospel of Christ?
  2. Am I being an effective witness for Jesus Christ through my words and actions?
  3. Would I be a threat to the Devil based on my witness?
  4. How can I be a better witness for Christ to those around me who are watching today?
  5. Who around me can I share the Gospel with and how?

Quick Note – 1 Chronicles 12:33 – Singleness of Purpose

1 Chronicles 12:33 – “Of Zebulun 50,000 seasoned troops, equipped for battle with all the weapons of war, to help David with singleness of purpose.”

After King Saul, the first king of Israel, died, the Israelites sought another king to rule and guide them.  The person they decided on was David, who was previously anointed by Samuel and chosen by God, to be the next king.  1 Chronicles 12 recounts the mighty men of war who came to meet David at Hebron and make him king over all Israel.  Although most readers would just skim over verses 23-37 (assuming that there is nothing of consequence since it just lists the tribes of Israel and the number of men who came to make David king), if one reads these verses a little more carefully, he will see that there are interesting lessons that can be learned between the names and numbers.  One of these interesting lessons is found in our passage today, which describes how the men of Zebulun came to make David king.  Verse 33 states that the troops from Zebulun came “to help David with singleness of purpose.”  They did not have ulterior motives; they did not have another plan in place; they did not come distracted.  They came with one goal in mind – to help David become king.

We as Christians can learn something very valuable from these Zebulunites – when we come to God, we must come with the single purpose of honoring and glorifying Him.  More often than not, we come to God with a heart full of ulterior motives and desires.  When we pray, we are not seeking to know His will but to give Him a list of things that we need Him to do.  When we worship, we are not seeking to bring Him praise but to entertain ourselves.  When we share the Gospel, we are not seeking to bring people to Christ but to convert them to our own opinions.  When we serve, we are not seeking to be God’s hands and feet on this earth but to bring praise to ourselves.  We come to God with other purposes that are more focused on ourselves than Him.  We are distracted and choked by the things of this earth.  Unlike the Zebulunites, we have multiple purposes.

To overcome this problem, we need to develop a heart and mind that is completely focused on Him.  We must be like Paul who took captive every thought to obey Christ (1 Corinthians 5:12).  This is not easy, for the flesh will always battle against the Spirit.  But if we make an effort to seek Him first and to have His Word fill our hearts and minds at all times, we will eventually develop the singleness of purpose to make our God Lord and King.

Quick Note – John 6:5-9 – “What Are They for so Many?”

John 6:5-9 – “5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

In the early 1900s, a woman by the name of Gladys Aylward felt called by God to become a missionary to China.  Although she did her best to apply to work with the China Inland Mission, she was rejected and seen as unfit for missionary service due to her test scores, age, and maybe even stature (She was a short woman physically.).  Although she was rejected, she was determined to go and saved up money every month from her job to buy a train ticket to China.  Eventually, she arrived in China and began her work as a missionary.  With little money and little support, she began by telling Bible stories at an Inn being run by a fellow missionary.  Over the years, she also became a “foot inspector” for the Chinese government, making sure that the practice of foot binding was no longer continued.  During and after this time, she also continued to share the Gospel and began to care for orphans.  After twenty years of service, when she returned home, she was well-beloved by both the Chinese people she served as well as the church back home.1  This woman has gained so much respect that her life was even featured in the 1958 movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness which starred Ingrid Bergman.  Gladys Aylward is an inspiring example of a person that was seen by the world as nothing but was used by God to do something incredible.  Who knows how many people have been affected by the work that she did?  The person everyone thought was useless was used by God to bring His name countless glory.

Our passage today is an excerpt from John 6 that describes the miraculous “Feeding of the Five Thousand.”  To summarize, a huge crowd of people that numbered 5000 men not including women and children came out to a secluded place to meet Jesus.  After spending the day with Him listening to His teachings and watching Him perform miraculous healings, these people must have been exhausted and hungry.  Knowing this, Jesus asked His disciples to feed the people.  All His disciples could not believe what they had just heard come out of Jesus’ mouth.  How could they find enough bread to feed this many people?  According to Philip, even if they had two hundred denarii (two hundred days’ wages) worth of bread that wouldn’t be enough to feed all the people.  It was at this time that Andrew, another disciple, would tell Jesus that all they had was five barley loaves and two fish and “…What are they for so many?”  All the disciples were seeing was the impossible.  They saw what they had and felt inadequate.  They saw the small insignificant meal and could not imagine how it could be of any use.  Jesus then took the bread and the fish, prayed to God, and began to share the food.  In the end, the supply fed 5000 men not counting the women and children.  Jesus took what every one of His disciples thought was worthless and used it to bring His name great glory.

When we as disciples of Jesus Christ feel inadequate for God’s task for our lives at hand, when we feel like we are useless or pathetic and incapable of being used by Him, when we feel like we are too stained of sinners to bring God glory, we need to remember that God takes the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, the weak of this world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).  We need to remember that God can take any one of us no matter how small, no matter how stained with past sins, no matter how unsmart, to bring Him glory.  God took 300 men with Gideon to conquer the Midianites.  God took David, the youngest of his family, to be one of the greatest kings of Israel.  God took Rahab, who used to be a prostitute, to be a descendant in the line of Jesus.  God took the things that the world saw as useless, as insignificant, as worthless and brought His name praise through them.  Let us never forget that God takes those who are humble and willing to be used by Him for His work; not just those things that the world has labeled worthy of success.  God took and used the small woman Gladys Aylward to care for many in China and to inspire missionaries today, and God can use you if you would just be willing to submit your life to Him.  I want to close today with a quote by Gladys Aylward:  “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China. There was somebody else. I don’t know who it was — God’s first choice. It must have been a man — a wonderful man, a well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing. And God looked down and saw Gladys Aylward.”1

1 “History of Mission:  Gladys Aylward.”  The Traveling Team. 2015. http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/gladys-aylward.

Quick Note – Luke 8:38-39 – Declaring All That God Has Done for Us

Luke 8:38-39 – “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’  And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”

Maybe I am speaking for myself, but I think everyone loves to be appreciated.  When you do something for someone (although you are not doing it for recognition), it is always nice when that person is so happy that they want to share what you did for them with everyone around them.  For example, I am overjoyed, when I do something nice for my girlfriend and she posts it on social media.  It’s not because I want a whole bunch of people to know what I am doing, but it makes me feel like she is proud of me and appreciates what I did for her.  It makes me feel like she is not ashamed of me.

And I am almost certain we have all been on the other side of the equation, in which we experienced something so amazing we couldn’t wait to share it with everyone around us.  Based on what I have seen with friends and family as well as television, some of the guaranteed times this happens is when someone has just accepted a proposal/been proposed to or has a child born.  Since I have not experienced either of these things, some examples when I personally felt this feeling was when I got my first training grant, when I bought my new car, and when I was first going out with my girlfriend (Some of my workmates can attest to how I couldn’t stop talking about her).  Good news is just hard to keep in!

In our passage in Luke 8 today, we hear of a man who was demon possessed in a region of Israel known as the Gerasenes.  This man was possessed by so many demons, that the demons called themselves Legion (likely as a reference to a legion of Roman soldiers).  Although he would be restrained by the people in the town, he had a tendency to break out of them and run around naked in the wilderness that surrounded that town.  When Jesus came to that place, he exorcised the demons, leaving the man in his right mind.  When Jesus was leaving the country, the man wanted to go with Him, but Jesus told him, “No!”  instead He wanted the man to go back home and share that all that God had done for him.  In other words, Jesus told him to go home and share the good news.  (As a side note, take a look at vs. 39 and how it describes that the man shared what Jesus had done for him, after Jesus told him to share what God had done for him.  This is a clear indication that the man recognized Jesus as God as we should too.)  The man then went home and did just that.  He shared what Jesus did for him with everyone in the city.  He did this likely because he appreciated all that Christ had done for him.  He recognized how much Christ had changed his life.

We as disciples of Jesus Christ have also been given the same command by Jesus Christ, “Declare to everyone you know how much God has done for you.”  God has given us life and health and protection.  God has given us His Son and salvation.  He has given us grace and mercy.  He has called us to Himself and made us His children.  Yet many of us feel ashamed to share the Gospel.  Many of us feel ashamed to tell others about what God has done and is continuing to do in our lives.  We often fail to show our appreciation for all that he has done for us.  We unlike the man in the Gerasenes take for granted all that God has done for us.  Let us change our attitudes and begin to reflect on all that God has done for us.  Let us then go out and share with everyone we know what he has done in our lives.  Let us share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, praising and worshipping our God, by declaring His wondrous works to the world.  For Jesus has done so much for us.