Witnessing; Where Do We Begin?

Every Christians knows that we are to be witnesses for Christ. This is a central message that is preached in one way or another each Sunday morning.  I have anchored this truth many times to my own congregation by referring to 1 Peter 2:9.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood…” 1 Peter 2:9.

The text is straight forward and needs little interpretation. If we are truly the chosen of God, His redeemed people, then we also are to be His royal priesthood. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are to proclaim of His grace to the world. We can go elsewhere for proof of this high priestly calling such as the book of Romans.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14.

Francis of Assisi is credited with the famous quote, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Basically stating that simply living out our faith is enough, and preaching Jesus with words to others is a last resort. But however popular this saying may be, it is quite faulty and goes directly against what the Apostle Paul was relaying in Romans and against the scriptures as a whole.

Beginning with the prophets all the way to the post resurrection Apostles, the model for leading others to Christ has always been the preaching of the Word of God. It is not enough to live a moral life. Just as Peter and John said standing before the Sanhedrin on trial in the book of Acts (Acts 4:20), we must not be reserved about speaking of the one who saved us.

Gospel proclamation is not only a mandate to be followed by God, but preaching Christ to the lost is the heart cry and passion of a person who has truly seen the beauty of Christ. It is not as if they are under a burden to speak of Christ, but rather the new nature that now lives in them has produced a desire to speak of the Lord. Jeremiah expressed this new nature very well.

“If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9.

Once again, we know through the Word of God that sharing the Gospel with others is commanded by God and one of the signs of genuine faith. Our own redeemed hearts should testify to this new desire. However, I feel at times that ministers, myself included, have done a poor job at actually instructing others on how to do this. It is one thing to tell others to preach the Gospel to their lost friends and neighbors, but it’s another thing to actually disciple them on how to go about this task.

Take my six-year-old son Lincoln for example. Last year, Linc really wanted to learn how to ride his bike with no training wheels. It was something he desired to do. Imagine if I had told Lincoln to just go and begin riding His bike. I did not take time with him to teach him how to do this, I merely gave an order. Although riding the bike was a desire of his little heart, Lincoln would have had a very hard time.

So where do we begin? Knowing that God commands us to be His royal priesthood and preach the Word, how do we get this conversation with a lost person rolling? Many have begun by asking their lost friends if they would rather go to Heaven or Hell. But I honestly don’t know of anyone who would choose Hell. Also, if we use this method of attempting to lead a person to Christ with this proverbial “carrot on a string” tactic, then we neglect to show them the beauty of Christ. In doing this, we teach others to seek God for His gifts and not for God Himself.

Others would make a bee line to the Gospels. Possibly John 3:16 in particular.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

Although this verse displays such a wonderful truth, it begs the question, “What have I been saved from?” It is impossible to have a deep appreciation of your own salvation if you do not have a proper understanding of why you needed saving to begin with. In order to understand the rich mercy and grace of God, we must first have an understanding of our terminal condition before God.

When sharing the Gospel with a lost person, we don’t start with the beauty of Christ, we must begin with the depravity of man. Because in knowing this, Christ’s beauty is magnified. And to do this, we must always point our hearers back to the law. Many of the great theologians throughout history have attested to their dependence on God’s law to help see our great need for a savior.

“I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the Law. The Law cuts into the core of the evil, it reveals the seat of the malady, and informs us that the leprosy lies deep within. They must be slain by the law before they can be made alive by the gospel.” -Charles Spurgeon

“The essence of evangelism is to start by preaching the Law; and it is because the Law has not been preached that we have had so much superficial evangelism. True evangelism must always start by preaching the law.” -Martyn Lloyd Jones

“Unless we see our shortcomings in the light of the Law and holiness of God, we do not see them as sin at all.” -J.I. Packer

“The man who does not know the nature of the Law, cannot know the nature of sin.” John Bunyan

“God’s grace cannot be faithfully preached to unbelievers until the Law is preached and man’s corrupt nature is exposed. It is impossible for a person to fully realize his need for God’s grace until he sees how terribly he has failed the standards of God’s Law.” John Macarthur

“The first duty of the Gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and show the nature of sin.” Martin Luther

“The only way we can know whether we are sinning is by knowing His Moral Law.” Jonathan Edwards.

A cancer patient does not see his need for a doctor until he has first seen the diagnosis that he is terminal. Likewise, it is an impossibility to rightly see Christ as savior and treasure if we do not understand our need for Him. The law of God was not given to save man. The law does not have that power. Rather, God gave His laws to Moses to reveal to man the cancer within. God have the law as a mirror of sorts to show us how wicked and unable to save ourselves we truly are.

“Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised.” Galatians 3:19.

In a day and age where the predominant post modern belief is that good people go to Heaven, we desperately need to inform others that yes, a good person does indeed deserve eternal life! But the great problem is that according to scripture, none of us is good. Due to the fall of Adam, we were born wicked and condemned.

“The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” Psalm 58:3.

Many self-righteous people would scoff at this thought of a little baby not being seen as innocent before God. But I would beg the question, “Who taught your baby that biting another child or throwing a temper tantrum was a proper way to get a toy they want?” No one teaches this reaction, they are mere side effects of our depraved nature from birth.

Upon taking a person through the Ten Commandments, they will soon realize that it is not just that they have broken one of God’s laws, but rather every one of them! Paul ran into this same issue in dealing with the church in Galatia wherein people would pride themselves in morality or being a “good person.” Paul responded by saying this;

“But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. ” Galatians 3:10-11.

The law shows us that we are under the curse of sin. We are born with this malady. Notice Paul points out that “cursed is everyone who does not obey ALL OF THE COMMANDS.” In short, Paul is telling us that if we were to break only one of God’s laws only one time, that alone is enough to condemn us and separate us from God forever. The problem in our culture today is we no longer have a proper understanding of the Holiness of God. We do not comprehend the depths of His righteousness. It is not just that God dislikes sin. God is so very Holy, He cannot have anything to do with sin! We get a broad picture of this throughout the Old Testament with all the washings and blood sacrifice rituals the people of God had to go through in order to come into His presence.

God’s wrath burns not merely against our sinful actions. God’s wrath burns against who we are. We are corrupt from head to toe. There is nothing good in us. Even the things we do that we would call good, without the blood of Christ upon a person, are viewed by God as filthy rags.

Imagine a person who was eaten up with leprosy. Their skin was rotting off of their body and bloody sores were on every patch of skin. So in order to make this person more presentable, you wrap them in the finest clothes and spray the best perfume on them. You have changed their outside for only a moment. Because it is just a matter of time before the blood of their sores begins to show through those nice clothes, and the rot of their skin begins to overpower the perfume. Those once good clothes are quickly viewed as filthy rags due to the leprosy.

Our good works are viewed as filthy before God because they don’t solve the problem (Isaiah 64:6). Sin has corrupted us completely. Just as fellowship with someone who has leprosy would be for them to be cured of leprosy, the mandate for fellowship with God is perfect Holiness! We do not just need cover up a few sins, we are in need of being made into a totally new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.

When we understand the seriousness of God’s law in light of our inability to uphold even one of them, we then begin to see the depths of our problem. We cannot save ourselves. It’s not just that we are sick, we are terminal. Every one of us deserving of death for the breaking of God’s law. And if anyone would scoff at this or deem it to be too extreme, they only belittle the unfathomable Holiness of God and prove to have no understanding of the depths of His great righteousness. We are born into sin, enemies of God.

Did you know that the night-time stars are still in place even in the day time? Due to the light, the stars cannot be seen. But against the black backdrop of night, in the dark the shine the brightest. This  bleak picture of our depravity must be painted to a lost person. Because like the stars in the sky, their light can only be seen in the darkness.

God can not merely forgive our trespasses without a price being paid. If an earthly judge simply let a murderer go with no punishment, he would be viewed as an unjust judge. The only person that would think that to be good and fair would be the murderer who got off with no consequences.

Before God, we are like that murderer, deserving of the death sentence. And God is not an unjust judge. Therefore a price must be paid for the crime. So how do we escape this punishment that we rightly deserve?

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Jesus imputed to the children of God His righteousness by living the perfect life that we could not live and upholding all of God’s laws perfectly, and took upon Himself our sins, enduring on the cross the wrath that we deserved. Therefore when God looks upon the children of God, He does not see anything in you or I that would merit our pardon, but rather God sees the blood of His own Son. We are saved by the grace of God and not by anything in ourselves. Jesus commands those who believe in Him to repent and turn from their sins. And in our corrupt nature, we do not have the power to do this. But Christ gives the believer a new nature. It is not by own works that we muster up a repentant heart. But rather, it is made possible by the Holy Spirit of God-given to the believer in Christ Jesus. Even the new heart and the faithful obedience we live as believers is not produced in ourselves, but is a supernatural working of God.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:26-27.

When witnessing to your lost friends and family, begin by taking them to the law of God. Show them through the mirror of the law that there are not only sick with sin, but terminal. A realization of God’s standards and our inability serves as a road sign to the cross. You cannot see the brightness of the savior unless you view Him against the blackness of our soul. God did not save us from only sin. God didn’t even save us from ourselves. God saved us from God. God saved us from His own righteous wrath. And in this realization, we can rightly see how great the grace and mercy of God through Christ truly is in our lives. Oh, what a savior we have in Jesus!

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