Committed to witness!

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, November 4, 2012.

READINGSPsalm 37:3-5, Acts 1:1-8, John 11:32-45

This week we’re finishing up our series on commitment.  As United Methodists we believe that every committed person of faith is called to uphold the mission of Christ through the local church by freely and fully offering their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.  When everyone is upholding the mission of Christ in these ways, we believe that the world will become a better place transformed, by the grace of God, into the Kingdom of God, Heaven here on earth.

We started this series by talking about our commitment to PRAYER and our need to set aside intentional alone time with God so that our souls might be nourished and our lives given direction.  We then talked about our commitment to PRESENCE.  God demands and needs our full presence—body, mind, and soul—so that we might truly grow in love with God, each other, and the world God so loved and came to save.  We talked about our commitment to GIVING.  We each have an obligation to earn all we can and save all we can (be frugal) so that we can give all we can.  Last week, we talked about our commitment to SERVICE.  We each have an important part to play in the community—so important that when we’re not each serving, we cripple the body of Christ (the church).  Today we reach the conclusion of this series as we talk about our commitment to WITNESS.  Will you commit to sharing your faith story?  Will you commit to being a witness so that you can effectively bear witness to God’s love and grace at work in the world?

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world.  Amen.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Many Christians are intimidated by the idea of sharing their faith story.  Here are some of the most common excuses (with rebuttals)?

  1. “It’s the pastor’s job, not mine.” (According to Ephesians 4:11-12, [my] job is to equip you to do the work.)
  2. “I don’t know what to say.” (We are going to tackle that one head on in just a minute!)
  3. “I just live the gospel with my life.” (Good, now open your mouth and declare the good news!)
  4. “I’m waiting for the perfect timing.” (There’s no such thing!)
  5. “I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” (Well, I don’t have the gift of mercy, but I still should show mercy!)
  6. “They could reject me.” (No, Jesus said they will reject you…at times anyway).”
  7. “I have bad breath.” (Testa-mints!)
  8. “I don’t know how to bring it up.” (How about just ask, “How’s your day going?”)
  9. “I’m terrified.” (So am I. So was Paul! Let’s ask God for boldness like he did! Ephesians 6:19)
  10. “They may ask me a question I don’t have the answer to.”(You don’t have to know all the answers. You just need to introduce them to the One who does!)[1]

We each can give excuses for not sharing our faith.  We all, at times, find it difficult to share our faith story.  But, Jesus never intended it to be difficult.

Jesus never intended the Great Commission to be an impossible burden.  God meant for us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ through the natural outcome of living for him.  We make it complicated.   We think we must complete a 10-week course on evangelism and apologetics before getting started. God designed an easy…program [for sharing our faith stories].[2]

We complicate the process.  God simply wants us to walk with Christ and tell people about the amazing things we see along the way.  God desires that we be witnesses of Jesus Christ so that we can bear witness to God’s love active in the world God so loved and came to save.

In a courtroom, witnesses are expected to offer faithful accounts of an event. In the family of Christ, we have seen and experienced the transforming love of God in Christ. Our witness to the world is to offer a faithful account of the truth we know, the freedom and power of God’s love to change the world. Our witness shines in the way we live our daily lives, and in how we share the story of God’s love—the good news of Jesus Christ—with a hungry and hurting world.

Witness is as old as the Christian faith. The life of Jesus of Nazareth provides the perfect example of faithful witness to the love of God. We are not perfect, but our vow calls us to enter the struggle together to become like Christ.

As with the vow of service, faithful witness is the outward sign of the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. It is as if we are filled with light and have no choice but to shine. Witness grows through prayers and presence; it is nurtured by our gifts of generosity and spirit; it fills our service with joy. We are all one in Christ, and we are all called to grow in God’s love and to share it with others.[3]

We are called to be a witness before we bear witness.  We are called to share how God’s love has influenced and been at work in our lives.  We don’t have to come up with fancy arguments.  We don’t have to be confrontational.  We just need to be faithful in sharing our faith stories—the stories of how God’s love has made a difference in each of our lives.

Be a witness.

We cannot share what we do not know.  We cannot give what we have not received.  Therefore, before we can share our faith story (bear witness), we must first be a witness to the love of God found in Jesus Christ.

In what ways have you experienced, seen, or known (witnessed) the love of God at work?

In what ways do you place yourself in opportune places to see God at work?

I’m convinced that most of us have a hard time sharing our faith story, because we have a hard time acknowledging the ways Jesus Christ actually makes a difference in our lives.  We have a hard time talking about Jesus because we’re not quite sure what difference he really makes in our lives here and now.  I’m convinced that we have a hard time bearing witness because we’re not very good at spotting (witnessing) the ways in which God is working in our lives let alone in the world.

Over the last several weeks we’ve talked a lot about what it means to commit fully to the mission—the way—of God found in Jesus Christ.  We’ve talked about the importance of praying alone to God for at least 30 minutes a day; we’ve talked about the importance of joining with the community of faith regularly in worship at least 48 weeks a year and in bible study at least 26 weeks a year; we’ve talked about the importance of giving at least 10% of your income back to God so that the Christian community can clothe the naked, feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, and care for all God’s children; we’ve talked about the importance of serving your neighbor at least 5 hours a month.  Each of these things—prayers, presence, gifts, and service—provide you an opportunity to join in on the work of Christ and witness the amazing things he’s doing, through church, to save the world.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

Jesus was sitting along the banks of the Jordan River when he received news that his good friend Lazarus had fallen ill.  Jesus waited a few days, but eventually told his disciples he needed to go see Lazarus.  The disciples were afraid.  Bethany was in the region of Judea not far from Jerusalem.  The disciples pleaded with Jesus: “You can’t go back there.  They’ll kill us all!  You know the religious leaders are looking for every opportunity to arrest, mock, and kill you.  We cannot go back to Judea” (see John 11:8-13).  To which Jesus replied, “We must go.  Lazarus has died and you’re about to be given new grounds for believing.  Now let’s go to him” (see John 11:14-15).  Well, you know what happened from our reading for today.  Jesus arrives on the scene after Lazarus has been dead for four days.  He has Mary, Martha, and members of the community who were mourning with them open up the tomb.  They were reluctant.  Once the stone was rolled away, Jesus prayed, and then shouted into the tomb: “Lazarus come out!”  And, what do you know, he did!

Can you imagine the stories the disciples and all the others who were there must have told after seeing such a sight?  I bet you couldn’t shut them up for days, weeks, maybe even years.  I mean this story did make it into John’s Gospel and he was having to be pretty discerning on what went in, I mean the last verse of his Gospel states that “Jesus did many other things as well. If all of them were recorded, I imagine the world itself wouldn’t have enough room for the scrolls that would be written.”[4]

When we witness the love of God at work, we can’t help but tell others what we have (witnessed) seen, heard, or known through our own experience.

We must be a witness before we can bear witness.

After you have witnessed the amazing love of God at work, tell others about what you’ve seen.  All too often we complicate sharing our faith.  Jesus just wants us to walk with him, take part in his mission of outreaching love, and then tell the world the amazing stories of Jesus.

In what ways do you place yourself in opportune places to see God at work?

In what ways have you experienced, seen, or known (witnessed) the love of God at work?

Who needs to hear about all that you’ve seen, heard and/or experienced?

Be a witness so that you can bear witness to the great love of God found in Jesus Christ.  Share the love you’ve known with everyone.

How has the love of God made a difference in your life?  How freely do you share that story with others?  Today, as we wrap up our commitment series, will you commit to witness?  Will you tell others about the love of God found in Jesus Christ? the love you’ve known and experienced?  I pray so: for you may be the only Bible—the only story and testament to God’s love and grace—that a person reads or hears.  I pray that you’ll commit this day to being a witness in order that you might bear witness to the love of God so that all might come to know and experience God’s love and grace.  Every disciple has a story to tell about God’s love; and it is the disciple’s responsibility—our responsibility to pass those stories on.

May it be so.  Amen.


[1] Adapted from “10 Lame Excuses for Not Sharing Your Faith” by Greg Stier < http://www.churchleaders.com/youth/youth-leaders-blogs/157855-greg_stier_10_lame_excuses_for_not_sharing_your_faith.html> Accessed November 2, 2012.

[2] “How to Share Your Faith: Faith for Me-Then You-In That Order” by Karen Wolff <http://christianity.about.com/od/practicaltools/a/shareyourfaith.htm> Accessed November 2, 2012.

[3] “Membership and United Methodists,” Cokesbury Brochure (Nashville: Cokesbury, 2010).

[4] John 21:25, Common English Bible.

Advertisements