You Are My Witnesses
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 14 August 2004
Many years ago the head of a rescue mission in London accepted the challenge to debate a well-known sceptic, but on one condition: He would bring with him 100 people who would tell how believing in Yah'shua (Jesus) had changed their lives. He invited the sceptic to counter his 100 Christian witnesses with witnesses to the benefits of being unbelievers. When the day for the debate came, the Christian came with his 100 witnesses, but the sceptic never showed up.
Getting atheists, agnostics and others to debate Christians is never a problem. Any number of men and women would be happy to do that. The Internet chat rooms are full of them. But challenge them to bring witnesses as to the benefits of their belief and you will find they have major problems.
I remember debating with a man who, as I recall, was an atheist who was almost evangelical in his attempts to win Christians to atheism. The more I talked with him, the clearer it became to me that he was not so much interested in converting believers to atheism, but in converting Christians away from Christianity! His belief was an anti-religionist - and as history attests, anything that is build on a negative goal does not last very long because it lacks a sustaining life-force. It is, for instance, one thing to be an antifascist but another to be for something.
The best witness for Christ is not logic, philosophy, science or theology but a change in character. You can be the most brilliant intellectual in the world, know how to defend Christianity using the Bible, science, and logic and yet be a devil. Paul, the brilliant theologian, writer and preacher knew this only too well when he said that what is important is "to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge" (Eph.3:19, NKJV) or the way I was taught it in the Anglican tradition, "that surpasseth all understanding". The means by which we, as true believers, would be identified, was no more clearly stated than by Christ Himself when He said: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35, NKJV).
The greatest witness there is to anybody anywhere is Christ-like character and conduct. When Yah'shua (Jesus) delivered a demon-possessed man, what did He tell that man to do? "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things Yahweh has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you" (Mark 5:19, NKJV).
We are all of us witnesses because all of us are visible. The behaviour of children reflects back on their parents and the behaviour of Christians reflects back on Christ. We may not be conscious of our witness, but we are witnessing whether we know it or not, or like it or not. The way we look, the way we speak, the things we do, all witness who or what we are. Children are witnesses of their family name and believers are witnesses of the Name of Deity, as it is written in Isaiah:
""You are My witnesses", says Yahweh, "And My servant whom I have chosen,
That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me.
I, even I, am Yahweh, And besides Me there is no saviour.
I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed,
And there was no foreign god among you;
Therefore you are My witnesses," Says Yahweh, "that I am God"."
Our behaviour witnesses whether there is a God or not, whether that God has touched our lives or not, and what sort of a Being He is. Time and time again when I talk to unbelievers I get the excuse that they refuse to believe in God because of the bad behaviour they see in other Christians. Admittedly it is a bad excuse for not believing - and yet, what is there to attract them to truth if that truth can't be seen? We are supposed to be Christ made visible for others to see.
When a missionary read from the Bible to people in a remote village in South America, they were hearing about Yah'shua (Jesus) for the first time. After the man finished reading, a villager asked him: "Do you know the Man in the Book?" The missionary assured him that he did. Later, the missionary recounted the story to a friend. He said: "Thank God, I did know the Man in the Book. I knew Him as my Lord and Saviour, And I was able to introduce Him to these people who had never experienced His love and forgiveness."
The only Christianity that is worth sharing is the one worth having. Out there in the world you will find all sorts of 'Christianity' being witnessed about but the bottom line is always: "Is my Christianity actually doing anything for me and for others." If it isn't then it isn't much earthly use.
I have known different types of 'Christianity' in my life - some of it dead, some sleeping, some staggering half-alive, but every now and then you come across that 'everlasting life' that Yah'shua (Jesus) talks about. I am not a Christian because I am satisfied that the scientific evidence points to an intelligent and loving Creator. I am not a Christian because I love theology and the study of the Bible. I am a Christian because I see the miraculous transformation that Christ does in people. I am a Christian because I have never known love so deep. I am a Christian because the Gospel brings complete harmony and peace to my thoughts, feelings, and essential being. I am a Christian because I have met Christ - not just the first time when I was born-again, but many times as He has unexpectedly 'dropped in' to my situation and reminded me that He is very much alive and engaged in my life. I am a Christian because Yah'shua (Jesus) is who He says He is. I have found not only life but also truth and a sure path to walk.
Though my life since being a Christian has sometimes witnessed great trial and tribulation on the outside, I ceased looking for the ultimate answers to life from the moment I met the resurrected Yah'shua (Jesus) in Oxford in 1977. Since then I have just been tying various loose ends together. Before that time my inner life was chaotic.
I am not sure what sort of a witness I was before that day in March 1977. I don't think I was conscious of witnessing about anything. I was intellectually curious, wanted a wife and a career, and to pursue my various interests and hobbies. My goals were all short term. In the longer term I wanted a home and to raise a family. I was searching for 'truth' but getting nowhere fast.
Most people don't find Christ because they are searching for something abstract like 'truth' as I was. Most meet Him out of the despair of their hearts when life seems to be collapsing around them. Others just 'suddenly' encounter Him because a Christian made the effort to witness on the street, at work, or privately. A series of Bible lectures offered by the World-wide Church of God in Oxford was one of my several springboards and made me confront various prejudices I had about the Bible. Actually, a whole string of events occurred that led me to my meeting Yah'shua (Jesus) 'face to face' for the first time. And so it is with everyone who meets Him. Sometimes Christ can be staring you right in face and yet you remain utterly blind and insensible to His presence. There is no fixed recipe for meeting Him, no single Way, because it is He who breaks into our life and not the other way round. And He does so when He chooses.
Man is never really happy unless he is creating something. The passion of my hands was making model planes. The passion of my mind was designing new government systems or inventing new games. All of these gave me great satisfaction once until I realised that what I was actually created to do was to produce spiritual offspring. My greatest joy as a Christian is leading others to the living Christ and witnessing their elation. There were years, however, when I was, to all intents and purposes, 'barren' in that department, just as some of the great women of the Bible - like Sarah, Rachel and Hannah - had to wait for years before Yahweh gave them children.
I remember once sitting and meditating about the purpose of life before I became a Christian. I asked such questions as, What on earth is everybody doing, and why? The lives of most people seemed pointless to me. They were born, grew up, and did three things: got married and had children, earned an income, and then taught their children to do the same thing generation after generation. What, I reasoned, was the point in that, especially as the world was in a mess? Is that the only reason we are here - to multiply and teach people to do the same or similar things to ourselves? The accumulation of things is exciting at first but it becomes boring after a while. Falling in love and getting married is also thrilling but either that settles down to a kind of humdrum normality or things go seriously wrong and you end up with a lot of misery. Some people get hooked by the 'power game' - they want to be powerful and have influence on others. But amongst the teeming billions on planet earth, most people don't 'get on top', and nearly all who do are not happy. Though I briefly flirted with politics and fantasised what it would be like to be a Prime Minister, or a President, it was soon obvious to me that I lacked what it took to achieve such success. So I contented myself with modest goals like having a decent middle class income, finding a loving wife, and having a couple of children, and generally enjoying the simple things around me.
In retrospect, had that happened as I had wanted it to, I am quite sure I would not have been happy once those 'goals' have been met. Even successful people get bored and are seduced into lives of sin, if they have not already fallen for that before, as most do these days. Boredom only results when we get out of alignment with the purpose for we were created. Creating materialistic goals only alleviates the boredom for a short while, and life simply becomes setting more and more goals and getting better and better things. But what's the 'top'? And are most people happy at the 'top'? No, they aren't, because what consumes them is a greed that can never be satisfied. That path is the path of the flesh, and it never brings contentment and happiness.
We are barren without Christ because we cannot have spiritual offspring. We can raise physical offspring but more often than not they turn out to be ungrateful, and sometimes even hostile, monsters if you have not birthed something spiritual in them too. Even believers can get spiritually barren when, because of carelessness, they lose the way by focussing on the wrong things.
I once had a letter from a man in England about the NCCG.ORG web page. This is what he wrote:
"It has recently just come to my attention, Mr.Warren, your page is much too long! What has possessed you, sir, to accept upkeep of such a page? Or are you some rich yuppie who pays people to do your college work for you, yay in and day out slaving, working, striving...."
I am not quite sure what kind of an image he had of me or whether he fully understood what I was doing. I don't think I answered his letter, which was written several years ago when the web page was a fraction the size it is now, so perhaps now is the time I did.
"Dear Sir, Thank you for your letter. No, I am not a rich yuppie who pays people to do my college work for me. I have created this web page, and work hard on it every day, and get paid nothing, for several reasons. Firstly, God told me to do it - it was not a job I had ever dreamed of. Secondly, because He told me to do it, I was able to channel my energy into a task that I knew would be pleasing to Him. Thirdly, I do it because every time I write, He reveals new and unexpected things to me which enrich my spiritual and temporal life. And fourthly - and most importantly - I do it because of the sheer joy I experience when I see God supernaturally working on my readers through the resurrected Christ when truth enters their hearts. When I experience this, I experience the joy of my Father in Heaven, and am completely satisfied. It's very hard work sometimes, and on occasion I wonder why I am doing it when I get so little feedback from the nearly half million readers of the web site. But I continue in those grey days because of the original commission and the memory of the testimonies of those who I know have been blessed. If He opens other doors for me to pass through, I will happily go through them too, and throw in my energy, such as I have, with the same enthusiasm and hope."
Abraham was a herdsman all his life. He tended sheep and goats. What was it that kept him going? What was it that drove him forward? Yahweh spoke to Him many times and yet all he seemed to be doing was looking after animals. There was the occasional break in the monotony - the quarrelling servants of his nephew lot, the raid to rescue Lot when he was captured by the Mesopotamians, a hair-raising experience with the Egyptians, and a few other incidents. But mostly it was goats and sheep. Was he bored? No. Yahweh had given him his task, to bring forth the Messianic seed. But Isaac didn't come. He waited, and waited, and waited. His faith did not waiver, though. When the boy did come, he devoted nearly all his energy in time in teaching the boy the commandments and admonition of the Most High. He was fulfilling his calling. Yes, it was a long wait - a very long wait, during which time he got impatient once and tried to hurry the boy along into the world by marrying an Egyptian. His first wife lost hope when she passed the menopause but got a pleasant surprise. All the while, Abraham was witnessing of his faith, even when things looked hopeless. He was a man of integrity, uprightness, and spiritual greatness. Was it because of great things he had done? Was it because he was a wealthy rancher? No, it was because of his pure faith and it was because of that faith, that Yahweh justified him. Then his real mission began - He became the father not only of millions but of faith. And we -- all of us who believe in Yahweh -- are his spiritual offspring just as we are Christ's.
A lot of people lose faith or never obtain it in the first place. They don't need to be like that. Whoever you are, Yahweh has a mission for you. But first you must believe, and act out on that belief. It's no use trying to straddle the fence of belief and unbelief - neutrality is little different from unbelief. Lot went his way and messed it up. He lost almost everything. And he fathered a nation who would become enemies of the children of Abraham. He sought the high life - the rich life - the prosperous life ... and paid dearly for it.
If you feel that you are 'spiritually barren' and feel discouraged then it is either because you are not exercising proper faith (and the evidence of that will, in part, be that you don't feel like witnessing to others) or because you have made some wrong decisions - like Abraham did when he tried to take a short-cut - and need straightening out. That straightening-out may take a while but it is better than failing because you did nothing. I have met so many people who have bewailed the fact that they did not start acting in faith until most of their lives were over ... after they had tried the 'cities in the plains' as Lot did and emerged from them utterly destitute and crushed.
It is written: "By faith Sarah ... bore a child when she was past the age" (Heb.11:11) - by faith, by trusting. At different times of my life people have told me that I have wasted my life doing this or that instead of pursuing wealth or fame, but I see in retrospect that I have not. Everything I have been taught and learned I have been able to put into service of my Lord and to produce spiritual offspring. And in that I am satisfied. I shall measure my true wealth in the next life, where it is being held in a deposit account for me. In the meantime, I feel rich down here even if I am not wealthy materially.
Am I deluded, as many think, wasting my time and talents? Well, only faith will answer that question, as faith answered Sarah's. In conclusion, let me share you a short poem by Mildred Dillon which summarised my thoughts and feelings on what I have been saying today. I hope they will speak to you:
I wish you knew my Yah'shua (Jesus)
For if you knew my Yah'shua (Jesus),
Then you would love Him too.
This page was created on 28 September 2004
Last updated on 28 September 2004
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