GPS: God’s Parcel Service
(A Personal Look at Discipleship, Pt. 7)
Study Guide , January 28, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
We have been doing a review of the 5 disciplines of the obedient Christian life: Prayer, The Word, Witnessing, Fellowship, all centered around Abiding in Christ. And although four of these disciplines are pretty comforting and edifying…one of them tends to be a bit intimidating for most Christians. Can you guess which one that is? Witnessing…the discipline of Witnessing. But through the years here at the Chapel we have made attempts at lessening that ‘intimidation’ factor for us by recommending various concepts and developing some helps in order to encourage each of us to carry out God’s commission for us to be God’s witnesses in the world around us. And today we are continuing this attempt.
One of the surprising things about this discipline of witnessing is finding out what is already in the works. For example; when it comes to ‘witnessing’ what is already in the works is that once a person is born again he or she is already a Witness. That’s what Jesus said to his disciples: “You shall be My witnesses.” (Acts 1:8) Being a witness for Christ is one of the birth-rights for each Christian. So before you ever do any witnessing for Christ you are a witness of Christ’s; you are a Christian Witness. Therefore one of the helps in even thinking about this discipline of witnessing is to not just think of witnessing as something you now do for Christ, but to now think of yourself, as to your very identity, as personally being a witness for Christ. In other words, witnessing is what I now do because a Witness is who I now am! And so now you and I just need to find some ways that our personal activities in witnessing can better reflect our personal identity of being a Witness.
And why again does that help us right there? Because the more clearly I understand my true identity and dwell on my true identity the more apt I am to live and act according to my true identity. Or, what I do will now be more connected with who I am. That’s why God had the Apostle Paul give us even more help in thinking about our true identity. 2 Cor 5:20- “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” NASU
Maybe in addition to calling each other Brother Tom or Sister Jane and so on, we should also call each other ‘Ambassador Tom’ or ‘Ambassador Jane’ and so on. This would reinforce our thinking about our true identity. You and I have been appointed by God as Ambassadors to the United Nations of the World, and even the divided nations of the world (which there seems to be more of those than the other). Pretty impressive title though, right? ‘Ambassador of Christ to the Nations of the World’ But we can start carrying out our work as Ambassadors right in our own neighborhoods, too.
Another help here in connection with us being Ambassadors of Christ to the world is to realize that a great deal of the work of an Ambassador is trying to help others more clearly understand the person or the entity that they represent. In other words, an Ambassador realizes and comes to accept the fact that most of the people they are going to deal with do not clearly understand the one that they are representing. And in accepting that fact they also then expect to be somewhat misunderstood by those they are trying to reach. And they are okay with that. They don’t expect a favorable response right away. They know its going to be a process.
Do you see the point here? One of the reasons so many Christians avoid witnessing is because they have not yet come to the place where they expect to be somewhat misunderstood by those they are trying to reach. And so, they are not okay with that. In other words, they become discouraged by people’s resistance toward their attempt to help them because they had a false expectation about how most people would respond to their attempts. Again, as long as we carry an expectation that others will readily understand and appreciate what we are trying to do as representatives of the Biblical Jesus Christ and His gospel, we may never get to the place where we are somewhat okay with others resistance or reluctance, or at least understand it. Praise God when some do respond with appreciation and acceptance of the Biblical Gospel. But the thing that Ambassadors are to expect initially is some resistance and reluctance from others because they realize that before they came to this person with accurate information about the Biblical Jesus and how anyone can have a relationship with God, all that person knew about any of this was based upon faulty information or misconceived ideas. And when a person lives with a distorted understanding of who Jesus is and lives with a contorted view of how one has a relationship with God, you ought to expect some initial resistance.
That’s what we, as Christ’s Ambassadors, are to understand about non-Christian people around us. They have not come to know or understand the Biblical Jesus Christ nor His gospel. All they know is what they have received from faulty information and misconceived ideas about God and religion. And since that’s all they know then that’s all they will live by and also defend, until some Ambassador, who represents the Biblical God and true Messiah and the genuine gospel, begins to share information with them that starts clearing up their previously confused ideas about it all. But again, this may take some time, as in, it may take many exposures to this new and different information than what they have always believed.
That’s why we hear Jesus saying: “You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” John 4:35-38 NLT And that’s why we hear the Apostle Paul saying: “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” 1 Cor 3:6-9 NLT
The work of an Ambassador is often work that has been continued from the work of other Ambassadors who have been sowing and planting and watering. Which also means that in witnessing we don’t have to assume that our responsibility is to close every case. I’ve heard it put this way: In a courtroom the witness is to share accurate information about the case, but the witness is not also the lawyer, the judge, and the jury. No, he or she is the witness. It’s like that in sharing the gospel of Christ. Our part is to share accurate information with others about the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is God the Holy Spirit’s part to bring conviction, cause repentance, and bring re-birth to that person’s soul and spirit.
What a relief that is, right? But again, God is depending on His witnesses to share the information, to sow the seed of the Gospel, to be His Ambassador and represent the true God and Savior to others in this world who have been living, thinking, and acting according to faulty information they have received and even misconceived ideas of their own. No wonder so many people live like they live, and act like they act, and talk like they talk…all they have ever known is based upon false information and distorted teachings about God, the Bible, and religion. What we should expect to see from those held captive by the false god of this world is ungodliness and worldliness. That’s all they know. What we should expect to receive from those held captive by the false god of this world is resistance and defensiveness against whatever they don’t know about the true God of this world. I had a friend that used to say, “Remember: whatever people aren’t up on they’re down on.” Makes sense, right? But again, once we come to better understand this about people and even expect this from people, then we won’t be as personally upset nor deterred by it. Plus, just like an Ambassador understands, we will then also better understand that if our message is not favorably received, it is not us that they are resisting or rejecting, it’s the One whom we represent. Remember Jesus’ words? Luke 10:16- “Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever listens to you listens to Me; whoever rejects you rejects Me; and whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent me.” TEV
An Ambassador understands that as he or she is seeking to help others better understand the One they are representing that people’s reactions toward them is really a reaction toward the One they are representing. And although it’s certainly not pleasant, once we have come to understand this and somewhat expect that, then we can also come to better accept that, and not be as discouraged about that. What it also does is then equip us with the attitude that it is also not going to stop us from carrying out our assignment from God to be His Ambassador to a world that does not yet understand or know Him.
Now, its also very important for a Christian Ambassador to understand something else that’s going on. In other words, it’s not only very important that we have a clear understanding about our identity as Witness and Ambassadors, but it’s also very important that we have a clear understanding about the identity of those who have not yet received Christ as Savior. So here it is: Those who have not yet been born again are either ‘Seekers’ or they are ‘Non-Seekers’. And why this is very important to know is that it answers the question about why some people will be very open and receptive to the Person of Christ and the good news of the gospel and why others are resistant and even rejecting of it. One of the fundamental verses for us Witnesses to know is Jer 29:13- “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” NASU
That is one of the most encouraging and liberating truths to know and understand about God and other people in this world. It’s encouraging in that God assures us that no one who truly wants to know God and seeks to be saved will be lost, but will indeed find the Lord. And then it’s also liberating in that it assures us that we don’t have to be polished evangelists or powerful debaters or walking Bibles in order to help a Seeker find their Savior, because if they are seeking the Lord with all their heart they are going to find Him. God can even use our mumbling and stumbling attempts to share Christ with others because He is our Spiritual Translator, speaking into hearts and souls of those we are trying to reach out to. And so our part is just to either give to them or share with them something of the truths they need and have been seeking so that God the Holy Spirit can then use His truths to help them find their Savior. And how wonderful that is to know!
And so what this means is that every person in your neighborhood, every person in your office or on the job site, every person you see or meet on the street, every person in every country around the world is either a Seeker or a Non-Seeker. So our part as Witnesses is to let God use us as His Ambassadors to reach the Seekers and to convict the Non-Seekers, and pray for discernment to recognize the difference. And one help in this is to review how Jesus explained this very thing to His disciples as He sent them out to various places to share the Gospel message. Matt 10:11-14- “Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. When you enter the home, give it your blessing. If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing. If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.” NLT
How people respond to the message of Jesus and His gospel indicates whether they are a Seeker or a Non-Seeker. Again, some Seekers may still be a bit resistant, but a Non-Seeker will be hardened in their resistance. But the point is that the symbolism of shaking off the dust from their feet was to help relieve the Disciples from any sense of guilt about their attempts to witness for Christ. Everyone is responsible for what they do when they receive the message of truth about the One who is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. All that we are to do is to distribute this message, either by word of mouth or the written word, so that the Spirit of Truth can use His truths to convict and convince and then create a new spirit within the one who has been searching for God with all their heart.
What this understanding also does is that it takes the pressure off of you. Like when it comes to others around you, you can know that they are already either a Seeker or a Non-Seeker. So ‘seeking’ is something they are already doing, or ‘not seeking’ is something they are already doing. Either way you don’t have to fret about it, you just need to be faithful about it in sowing the seed of the Gospel to them. What they do about it will reveal which they are; a Seeker or a Non-Seeker. It’s also meant to inspire us to, instead of starting our thinking about witnessing like, “I ought to share something with this person or I have to get the gospel out to that person”, and so on, to instead putting the focus onto thinking about or looking at another person in terms of; “I wonder if this person is a Seeker? If so, then what I have to give to him or her or share with them is something they have already been seeking for and can then use as they continue their search to find God and be saved.” In other words, if this person is a Seeker then they already want what you have to help them in their search. Or if they are good soil, or ‘seeking soil’, that means all they need is the seed that you carry as a Sower of the Gospel.
So we are to know that Seekers are seeking what we already have, the Gospel of grace, the message of truth…the words of life. We just need to find ways to get it to them. And that’s what we will explore next time as we continue to develop ways to more faithfully practice this Discipline of Witnessing.