Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cross Training: Witness

The final topic in No Greater Love Ministries' Cross Training is Witness.
Cross Training is basic discipleship, focusing on four areas:

This illustration helps us remember these areas. At the bottom of the cross is Study, the foundation of our relationship with God. Time spent studying the Bible will help us know Him better, learning how to serve Him and what pleases Him. Knowledge of God's Word is absolutely essential to a successful Christian life. I wrote a lot more about this topic here.

The top of the cross is Prayer. This is our communication line with God. James 4:8 says when we draw close to Him, God draws close to us. Prayer isn't a one way monologue - it's a conversation. When we pray, God answers. James 5:16 says "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." Study and Prayer help us form our vertical relationship with God. I wrote in greater detail about prayer here.

The horizontal crossbeam consists of Fellowship and Witness. This represents our relationship with people. Fellowship is the way we relate to other believers. Spending time with other Christians is essential to our spiritual growth. Hebrews 10:25 says "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another," Through fellowship, we receive encouragement, accountability, insight and comfort. It's a lot more than potluck dinners. Much more about this topic here.

The other half of the horizontal relationship with others is Witness. This is a primary way we are to interact with unbelievers. Of course, every contact with non-Christians will not be a witness opportunity. There are certainly other ways to relate to people. But witnessing is how Christ directed us to live our lives.

The very last thing Jesus said before ascending to heaven was "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere..." (Acts 1:8 NLT) What we call the Great Commission was Jesus' instructions to all who would follow Him: "Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT)

As a young Christian, I thought witness equaled "evangelism". And I found this to be rather intimidating, because it turns out I'm not an evangelist. Oh, I tried. I learned the Four Spiritual Laws, practiced D. James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion, and went door-to-door with surveys.
I went to schools and prisons, to nursing homes, assisted living and homeless shelters. I have passed tracts, stood on street corners and preached, taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and traveled overseas to minister in churches and on the streets. I have performed with puppets, drama, music and as a clown. I've pastored Children's Church and led youth groups. And for a long time, I felt like a failure, because I just didn't see the kind of response that I expected.

The real problem was, my definition of witness was way too narrow.
Evangelism is certainly a part of it. But not everyone is an evangelist. God has given every member of the body of Christ gifts to be used in building up His Kingdom. I Corinthians 12:7 says, "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other." Some of those gifts are wisdom, knowledge, faith, and healing. (verses 8 & 9) Some are apostles, prophets, and evangelists; some are pastors and teachers. (Ephesians 4:11) God uses each of us to help witness for Him, utilizing the unique gifts He has given.

Witness is living every moment of our life for Christ. Witness happens when you represent Jesus in everyday living. When a whole busload of NGL brothers invades a restaurant, we make sure they understand that a generous tip is part of their witness. We can sit around the place talking about Jesus, pass tracts and stickers, sing our blessing and pray for the staff. But if we don't honor their service with a decent tip, all the rest will end up being hollow and meaningless.
As Christians, we should treat others better than anyone else does.

If we live our lives angry, bitter, hateful, unforgiving, demanding, curt and uncharitable, our witness is pretty much destroyed. Who wants to be like that? I've heard too many people say, "If that's what a Christian is, forget it!" Sadly, many claim to be Christian while displaying anything but godly character. Jesus said that true Christians would be evident not just by their actions, but by their character qualities. (Matthew 7:15-20 MSG)

The definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 really sums up the way we ought to live:
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (verses 4-7 NLT)

I can look at this list and think I'll never measure up. In my own strength and abilities, I never can be like this. But the Holy Spirit, God Himself, lives inside me and gives me the power to reflect the life of Jesus in my actions and attitudes every day. Remember what Jesus said in Acts 1:8?
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses."
What power was Jesus promising? I'm convinced it's the power to actually live this Christian life, to develop and display the character qualities of a true believer. It's not an overnight transformation - really, it's a lifelong process. "The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image." (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT)

When we live our lives to please Christ, witness just comes naturally. God has been so good to us - how can we not share the good news? Even though I'm not an evangelist, I regularly participate in outreach opportunities like the ones I listed earlier. Doing so helps fulfill the Great Commission. But more than that, as I am obedient to Christ's instructions, I grow and mature spiritually. I build relationships with other believers. It helps me develop regular prayer and study habits. In short, I become more like Jesus as I obey His call to witness.

My purpose in witnessing isn't to convince people to pray some fire escape prayer and then go their way unchanged. My desire is for them to meet the one true living God and have Him change their life the way He's changed mine. Becoming a disciple is a process which takes time.
My hope is to help people learn of Christ and get connected to Him. It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict of sin, to draw them to Christ, to regenerate them and help them develop godly character qualities. Christians are to "worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it." (1 Peter 3:15 NLT)

If we do this, we'll be a successful witness for Jesus Christ.

I'll write one final post in this series, talking specifically about the ways No Greater Love trains men to share their faith, and how God uses NGL mission trips to change lives. 
I pray you'll come to know Him better and learn to live for Him every day.

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