I want to pick up a theme from our teaching two weeks ago – how Jesus told the healed demoniac that he is to tell others about how God saved him (Mark 5:19).
A part of what it means to be a Christian is that we are to bear witness for Jesus. We are to give our testimony, from our own personal experience about who Jesus is and what he has done in our lives and in the lives of others. Jesus tasked us with this job in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses.”
I want us to look at Jesus’ words and actions this morning to see how to do this. My goal is to keep us focused on our task and to encourage us to do it. Here we go –
1. You can begin right where you are
Yes, God calls apostles, prophets and pastors who travel around from one place to another. But primarily, I believe, God works through ordinary Christians right where they are.
Remember once again, the story of the man possessed by Legion in Mark 5:19. Jesus said to him – “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Share where you are! You don’t have to go anywhere (unless God is calling you to this). Share in your family setting, in your work environment and with the social connections you have. You are where you are by God’s providential oversight, not by accident.
2. Be motivated by love
Matthew 9:36 says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” You can see Jesus’ heart here.
And then notice the connection with what comes next in vs. 37-38. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” Love for others leads us to reach out to them.
People today are still like sheep without a shepherd; harassed and helpless. People are stuck and need to be set free from things like greed, pornography, drug addictions, worship of power and worship of self.
So many people are living hollow, empty, and miserable lives. They may look fine on the outside but they are not on the inside. Jesus can deliver them. And so we need to tell them this.
3. Make sure your words and your life line up
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
It’s not just the testimony of our words, it’s the testimony of our lives that people take into account.
I’m not saying you have to be perfect, but there needs to be some connection between your words and your life. There needs to be some light shining! And also humility, when you don’t live up to what you believe.
4. Rely on God’s power
When Jesus sent the 12 disciples out to minister, they didn’t go in their own strength. He gave them power and authority to get the job done.
He gives us this as well. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.”
By God’s power I mean gifts of the Spirit, help, guidance, and the strength we need to love others (because it’s not always easy).
Let’s look more closely at one example – God gives us the right words. We are always concerned, you know, ‘what will I say?!’ In Matthew 10:19-20 Jesus said, “Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
He’s talking here about when you are persecuted. I look at it his way, if in this extreme case, God will give us the right words, how much easier is it for God to give us the words in a normal, everyday situation. It’s not hard at all. And God can give us just the right words for the situation we are in to speak to people’s hearts.
Rely on the Spirit’s empowerment to help you as you bear witness for Jesus.
5. Be bold
Jesus said in Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Instead of shame, we’re to speak out for Jesus. I don’t mean being rude or using silly antics to get attention. You just need to be courageous enough to seize the open doors God gives you with others.
You need to keep an eye out for ‘Spirit moments,’ where someone comes into your path and there is an opportunity to share. When this happens, instead of giving in to fear, choose to step out and say something for Jesus.
6. Don’t exclude anyone
Jesus went out of his way to relate to those who were considered outcasts – Luke 15; for instance, sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors.
He went to those of low education and social status; common folk. In Matthew 11:25, Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.”
He also went to the broken, the hurting, the poor and those needing deliverance. In Luke 4:18 Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
Now, he also spoke to everyone else. But he went out of his way to make sure the weak, the lowly and the outcasts received his attention, and so should we.
What if God brings a homeless person across your path? What if God opens an opportunity to share with someone involved in a same-sex relationship? Do you draw away, or share in some appropriate way the good news of Jesus’ transforming power?
In Luke 6:37 Jesus says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned” He is saying, don’t condemn others as beyond God’s mercy and transforming power – so that you exclude certain people from your sharing. Only God can judge! It’s not our place. We are to focus on mercy and bearing witness to all.
7. Don’t water down the message to get results
Jesus was looking for disciples, not crowds. We see this in Luke 14:25-26. “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.’” He goes on to talk about taking up your cross and giving up your wealth. This is all hard teaching!
He also tells two parables which teach that every person is to count the cost before they become his follower. Jesus is challenging them. Do you know what you are getting into? Are you sure you want to be my disciple?
Today we would say, “Oh Jesus! Don’t do that, you’ll scare off the converts!” We think, “first we have to get them in, and then we will read them the fine print.” And we fill up our pews with people who have little commitment to Jesus, because they think, “if I didn’t have to change to get in, why should I have to change to stay in?”
Jesus always challenged people with his radical demands of discipleship up front. He wanted to see where there heart was. He wasn’t interested in crowds. He wanted disciples, people who will put into practice his teaching and example.
8. Remember that Jesus is with you
Ever been on a new job and someone tells you quick what to do and then leaves, and you really have no idea what is going on? I have. When I was a freshman in college I was a janitor in the men’s dorm. I was cleaning away thinking I was doing a good job. But I found out two weeks later that I was also supposed to clean two other bathrooms/shower rooms. It was quite disgusting. I didn’t get the message!
Well Jesus doesn’t do that with us. He gives us the job, but he also stays with us.
He was with the apostles. Mark 3:14 – “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” He called them to preach, but also he was with them.
And he will be with you as well. Just after the great commission we read in Matthew 28:20, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is with each one of us. We are not left alone in our job.
So what do you do with a teaching like this?? Well, if you want to take it seriously I would ask you to bow your head and ask God to put someone in your path this week that you can share with about Jesus. Let’s spend just a moment in quiet and ask God to do this.