Quite a few years ago I saw an attempted murder. When the police arrived, they
asked if I would testify. I agreed to do so and eventually was called as a witness
for the prosecution at their trial. After I was sworn in, the attorney asked me to tell
the court three things: what I saw, what I heard, and what I felt.
That’s a good definition of a witness. A witness tells what he sees, hears, and feels.
Such was the testimony the apostle John bore of Jesus in 1 John 1:1-2: “What
was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life .
. . we proclaim to you also.” That’s what a Christian witness is—someone who tells
others of his or her experience with Christ.
The Bible doesn’t view witnessing as optional in the Christian life. Such passages as
Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8 make it clear that all believers are responsible to
be witnesses for Christ. You don’t have to be well-versed in all the intricacies of
theology to be an effective witness. The blind man healed by Jesus in John 9 didn’t
know how to answer all the theological questions posed to him by the Pharisees,
but he could say, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (v.
25). He was able to tell what Jesus had done for him. That’s something all
Christians, regardless of how much theology and apologetics they know, can do.
We can all share what Christ has done in our lives.
Witnesses in a courtroom don’t always present their testimony in an orderly
manner. They often share things that are irrelevant. But a good attorney will take
that testimony and apply it to the case being tried. The Holy Spirit will do the same
thing with our testimony. Some of what we say may be right on target; some may
not. We have the confidence, however, that the Holy Spirit will take our witness
and use it to accomplish His purposes. The Holy Spirit uses our testimonies to build
His case for Christ.
If you are a Christian, you have witnessed what Christ has done in your life. The
only question is whether you’re willing to give your testimony. The victim in the
attempted murder I witnessed was too frightened to testify. He certainly was a
witness; he knew perfectly well what had happened to him. But his refusal to
testify meant that his testimony was useless in bringing those criminals to justice.
Similarly, our testimony of what Christ has done for us is useless if we don’t share
it. Being a witness is not always easy. But if we are to be effective witnesses for
Jesus Christ, we must care more about what the world thinks of Jesus than what it
thinks of us.
Dependence on the Holy Spirit
People are not saved because of your testimony. They’re not saved because you
argue them into silence or because you use a clever “sales pitch” to present the
Gospel. No one has ever been saved, or ever will be, apart from the working of the
Holy Spirit. Although the apostle Paul shared the Gospel with Lydia, she was not
saved until “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul”
(Acts 16:14). It is the Holy Spirit who will “convict the world concerning sin and
righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Even knowledge of biblical truths will
not save anyone, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).
That’s a liberating truth. Sharing the Gospel would be a terrible burden if people’s
salvation depended on our persuasiveness. How comforting to know that we are
responsible only to be diligent and faithful and to allow the Holy Spirit to use us.
People sometimes ask me if I’m disappointed whenever people don’t get saved in
response to my preaching. I am disappointed for their sake; yet I know that I have
been called to preach the Gospel, not to save people. That’s the work of the Holy
Spirit. All you and I can do is be faithful witnesses for Jesus Christ and allow the
sovereign Holy Spirit to do His work.
The Importance of Follow-up
Our responsibility to those we lead to Christ doesn’t end with their conversion.
Rather, our goal is to disciple them and bring them to the level of maturity that will
allow them to make disciples of their own (2 Timothy 2:2). Jesus charged us to
make disciples of those we evangelize (Matthew 28:19-20). If at all possible, you
should establish a discipling relationship with those you lead to Christ. If you can’t,
try to refer them to someone who can. At the very least, point them to good
books and tapes that will help them grow in Christ.
How do you disciple someone? You meet with him regularly and teach him both
doctrinal and practical truths from the Bible. Be concerned about his life, and warn
him of the consequences if he continues in sin. If the persons you are discipling
have problems handling money, teach them biblical principles relating to finances. If
they struggle with lust, teach them biblical principles for handling temptation.
Whatever areas of their lives need work, share with them biblical truths that apply.
Admonish them if they persist in those sins. Be sure to set an example of godly
living in your own life that they can follow. Otherwise your lifestyle will undermine
the truth you are teaching them. Above all, love them. Serve them with a sense of
humility. Make yourself available to them. Be their friend.
The call to witness and make disciples is urgent. Jesus said in Matthew 9:37-38,
“the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of
the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Are you one of the Lord’s harvesters?
Permission kindly granted to Faith & Reason Forum by Crossway Books. Excerpted from The Keys
to Spiritual Growth by John MacArthur, © 2001, Crossway Books.