You Shall Be My Witnesses
I’ve had jury duty on several occasions. The last time I was called to serve on jury duty – at Federal Circuit Court in Greeneville, TN, the experience was different. Unlike other times I’ve been called but not chosen, on this particular occasion I was actually called to to sit on a jury to hear a case.
One by one witnesses were called to the stand to give testimony. Even in an ever-increasing secular society, each witness, upon taking the stand, was asked and responded affirmatively to the question, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
The two-day case was a fascinating experience, as witness after witness strolled up to the stand to give their account from their unique perspective regarding the events and circumstances in question.
As followers of Jesus, one of the foundational responsibilities of our Christian life is to be a witness. Just before ascending to heaven, Jesus’ last words to His disciples were both instructional and inspirational:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Instructional in that He gave them direction for their lives going forward, this was to be their mission. One can only imagine the disciple’s experience just after hearing these words, “a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Stunned, they certainly would recalled His parting shot, the very last things He said before ascending into heaven. They had received their marching orders!
Inspirational in that He promised them the resource that would empower their mission, for they would not be alone! The Lord had previously explained the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit to His disciples in John 14:15-31, just before He was crucified. The Spirit, among other things, was to be their Helper (John 14:16, 26).
How would the Spirit help them be His witnesses? He would teach them all things – including how to be His witnesses, and bring to their remembrance all things the Lord had told them (John 14:26). And what had the Lord told them? The truth! In short, the Holy Spirit would be the engine that powered their witness for Jesus!
Just as a witness on a jury stand gives a personal testimony to the truth of what they experienced, we as followers of Jesus are called to give testimony to the Truth – that testimony of who Jesus is and how He has touched our life.
The Apostle John opens one of his epistles by providing a personal witness to the reader:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us (1 John 1:1-2).
Although you and I have not seen and heard, as we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we testify that the life was manifested to us. This reality is a personal encounter with the living God through faith in Christ. Because when we put our trust in Jesus, we are indwelt with the same Holy Spirit as were the first disciples. Therefore, our testimony is personal.
Part of our testimony is proclaiming the truth of who Jesus is and part of our testimony is how He’s impacted our life.
As I sat in that courtroom with 11 other jurors, listening to the testimony of witnesses, we were instructed both before the first witness was called and after after the last testimony given, to weigh the credibility of each witness.
For even though each witness takes an oath to tell the truth, we had the personal liberty to weigh the credibility of a witness. In other words, believability was an issue that would shape the jury’s view of the evidence provided and testimony surrounding that evidence.
As followers of Jesus, we are all witnesses for Him. How credible is our witness? In our lives, there are people who are watching and listening to us and coming to conclusions about our testimony. For our witness includes more than our words, it includes our actions! You see, being a witness for Jesus is about the show and tell of our lives – proclaiming the gospel and demonstrating God’s love. For both proclamation and demonstration of God’s love in of our lives will give evidence to our audience as to the credibility of our witness! Therefore, we should strive to have our words and our ways be in harmony. And to the degree our words and ways match up with the truth of God’s Word, to that same degree will be the credibility of our witness.
The words of our witness impact our credibility. In general, our everyday speech is a testimony, as Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus:
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29).
More specifically, we also need to be ready to share spiritual truth – the truth that sets men free – with people, as God opens doors of opportunity:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).
The works of our witness are also important and will lend credibility to our testimony. Jesus spoke directly to this issue to His disciples, when He said:
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Love would be a distinct characteristic of discipleship for them and it certainly is for us. It was the tangible expression of their faith, characterized by love, that would lend credibility to their witness. Simply, our behavior is also an important component in our witness.
After hearing the testimony of the witnesses in the case, the judge gave the jury some final instructions. We were to weigh the evidence and come up with a verdict. We had the evidence and heard the testimony surrounding the evidence. We were now called to make a decision.
As people weigh the evidence of my witness, I wonder at times how credible a witness for Jesus I am. I know people in my life are watching and listening, perhaps more intently than I’m even aware. And to add, I ponder how the Lord is working in and through my testimony for Him, as I seek to make a case for Christ in word and deed? What decision will they ultimately make about Jesus?
May the Lord Jesus grow the credibility of our witness, to the end that many would come into the same fellowship with Him as we have experienced! Amen.
…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ – 1 John 1:3