"We are to be witnesses FOR Someone TO someone."
-Pastor Patrick J. Walker
Remember prepositions? If it wasn't for Miss Puccarelli, my 4th grade teacher who taught us the list of prepositions by singing them to the tune of "Yankee Doodle", I wouldn't remember them either. She did what she could, but I start drawing blanks after "during". Anyways...
This past Sunday I was blessed and challenged by God through a major sermon from my Pastor. As a congregation we were exhorted to expand and exhaust our opportunities to testify as "star witnesses" on behalf of the Lord--especially to those who don't know Him.
My followers on Twitter know that I quote @PastorPWalker ad infinitum, ad nauseum (take your pick) almost every Sunday. This is so much so that when I don't tweet on Sundays around 8AM to 8:30AM, I get texts and IMs asking if I'm sick or out of town! But the quote above captured my attention because of, strangely enough, the prepositions "for" and "to".
The sermon was crystal clear as to Who we are commanded to be a witness FOR. Every Christian is privileged to serve as ambassadors for Christ (2nd Corinthians 5:20). Not only do we have relationship with Him, it is an honor to speak on His behalf. Pastor Walker also made it plain who we are witnesses TO. As it is written, "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men..." (2nd Corinthians 5:11). Since we know that the "meek and mild" routine isn't in view for the Second Coming, we are duty-bound to warn and make appeals to the unbelieving that they would repent and believe... which leads to the meat of the matter:
If we know Who we testify for (Christ) and know our audience (unbelievers, primarily), what is the message? In other words, we know who FOR and we know who TO, but do we truly know and understand what we bear witness OF?
My fear is that if professing believers were asked, upwards of 80% would say that they were called to bear witness of how Christ changed their life. The formulaic presentation would be something like this: "Before I knew the Lord, my life was (enter tragic events, tales of woe, and bad self-image here) but then I met Jesus (enter exciting details, lots of smiles, and over-used platitudes here). It breaks down to Jesus as a product that once tried, revolutionizes the life of the user/consumer. But consider this:
Commercials practically say the same thing about antiperspirants, toothpaste, cars, pills and gym memberships. A college education is said to have the power to "change your life" too. And if the truth be told, many a convert to Buddhism claims to have found "peace of mind". Many prisoners who convert to Islam can also say that they have "found a new purpose in life".
We could go on and on but I think that the point is clear: If your witness amounts to "Here's what I experienced in my life when I asked Jesus into my heart..." what could you possibly offer as an to answer someone who says that they tried Jesus but didn't have your experience of favorable events, circumstances, and feelings? If our message is tied primarily to our experience of how Christ has filled our lives with positive emotions, physical/material benefits, etc. aren't we inviting our listeners to search out the trappings of a blessed life rather than seeking Christ Himself?
Stay tuned for Part 2 later...