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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Witnesses Beyond Just Words

By Randy Hurst
May 19, 2013

"You will receive power and be my witnesses ... in every part of the world." Acts 1:8

Can every Christian be a witness? Yes.

The Bible clearly shows that personal witness is not limited to a few who are especially gifted for evangelism. Sharing Christ is the responsibility of every one of His followers. Extensive studies have shown, however, that almost all personal witness to nonbelievers is done by less than 10 percent of any given congregation.

Why do the significant majority of Christians not share their faith? Some think it is because of apathy, but I believe the reason is because they are not confident.

Evangelism is both the privilege and responsibility of every follower of Christ. Sadly, most people’s understanding of being a witness is focused only on what they say to nonbelievers. Although proclaiming the gospel involves words, being a witness means much more.

In the final hours before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His disciples both commands and a promise, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper. ... He abides with you and will be in you.”1

Jesus went on to say, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”2

The Spirit is “the Promised Helper.”    

What is the essential purpose of the Spirit’s empowerment in our lives? The Holy Spirit enables us to do what our Lord has commanded. The most important enablement the Spirit gives is simply to follow Christ — to live like Him.

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus promised His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”3 The Greek word translated “power” in this verse is wonderfully comprehensive. It simply means “ability” and applies in very practical ways to all of life.

Jesus clearly stated that the essential purpose of the Spirit’s enabling is to be Jesus’ witnesses.

Many people equate being a witness merely with speech, but following Christ requires a witness beyond words. The apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Thessalonica: “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”4

Paul’s witness was not merely what he said (“not ... in word only”), but also how he said it (“in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction”) and who he was (“you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake”).

Our witness is comprised of what we speak, how we speak and who we are.

Enabled in What We Speak

Our message is Jesus. It is the Christ-centered message the Spirit will honor and use. After the Day of Pentecost, the first Christians boldly and clearly witnessed about Jesus as He promised they would.5

In Acts 2, Peter clearly and boldly preached Jesus Christ, and about 3,000 people were added to the church that day.

In Acts 3, Peter and John were going to the temple to pray, and a man lame from birth was healed. Peter again used the opportunity to proclaim Jesus, and about 5,000 believed the message.

In Acts 4, the priests, captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees were so disturbed that they put Peter and John in jail. The next day the rulers, elders, scribes and high priests challenged them: “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”6

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke boldly about Jesus: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”7

When the Early Church was born, the message of the believers always focused on Jesus.

Today this same message — Jesus — must be clearly communicated to the spiritually lost of this world. Those who don’t know Christ must be given an adequate witness and opportunity to accept His offer of forgiveness and everlasting life and follow Him as Lord.

Enabled in How We Speak

How we say things communicates as much as what we say. Passion is contagious. It is not necessarily conveyed by volume, but rather through evident sincerity and conviction. To be convincing we must first be convinced. If we’re not moved by our message, it’s unlikely we will move anyone else.

Our emotions, attitudes and actions are as much a part of our message as our words. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul said, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”8

The apostle Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”9

Notice that both Paul and Peter emphasize a witness beyond words. Paul says our speech should “always be with grace.” Peter says we should speak “with gentleness and respect.”

Enabled in Who We Are

The validity of our witness is related to the credibility of our lives. Effective witness depends on character. This has always been true. But in a culture that is increasingly skeptical of Christianity, it is even more critical. The content of our message will be greatly hindered if our manner and actions are inconsistent with our words. With many people, especially those we know personally, our personal testimony of the difference Christ has made in our lives and its consistent proof through our actions will be what compels them most.

In many countries, Christianity is not a prominent religion. The Christian population is small, and Christian media do not exist. This can offer a great advantage in evangelism, because the first witness unbelievers in those countries receive is from someone they know personally whose life has greatly changed after receiving Christ. They do not have to overcome negative perceptions that come from knowing people who communicate a Christian message but whose lives do not affirm it.

In a society in which people are rapidly losing faith in the integrity of leaders in government and the business world, the personal credibility of Christians is not merely an added blessing in witness, but an essential requirement.

The apostle Peter wrote, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”10 The Holy Spirit enables us both to do and be whatever our Lord has purposed for us.

1 John 14:15-17
John 14:26
Acts 1:8
1 Thessalonians 1:5
Acts 2:16-18; Joel 2:28,29
Acts 4:7
Acts 4:12
Colossians 4:5,6
1 Peter 3:15,16, NIV
2 Peter 1:3

Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

RANDY HURST is commissioner of evangelism for the Assemblies of God.

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