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Into All The World: Witnessing (8)

L McHugh, Belfast


Having defined the goal of personal witness as presenting a relevant Scripture, this then leads us to consider the remaining points.

Present the Word of God

We must present the Word of God, engage the conscience, and leave the results with God. I suggest that when we present the Word of God that we seek to swing a conversation. This is where we can present an appropriate verse which will engage the conscience and which the Holy Spirit can use to convict. By passing on a relevant Scripture, be it verbally or in writing, that declares either what men have done, what Christ has done, or what God has done or will do in judgment, we have reached our goal as a witness. We can rely on the Spirit of God to use that word to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.

The goal and the end

Remember that presenting a relevant Scripture is a goal in itself yet it is not an end in itself. We would possibly want to follow up and try to get someone to come to a meeting to hear more, with their salvation in view; we would want to see them saved, baptised, received into assembly fellowship, and going on for the Lord. This is a longer term end. The goal is short term, the end is longer term. I see a difference between a goal and an end. A goal is something we can reach, in fact it depends on us, but an end only God can achieve. I hope I can make it clear that presenting a suitable text is to be our goal. We work, we think, we try to create opportunities to do that, but then we leave it with God because only He can achieve the end. We can see the principle set out by Paul: Paul may plant, Apollos may water, but only God can give the increase (1 Cor 3.6). Can God be relied on to give the increase if we plant and water? Of course! We cannot even plant or water effectively without Him. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: "For without me ye can do nothing" (Jn 15.5).

So how can we achieve the goal of presenting a relevant Scripture simply by entering into a conversation with someone? A relevant Scripture is a Scripture that suits or fits a person’s circumstances and that they can relate to because of their condition, interests, job, or their lifestyle. This makes the goal of personal witness very challenging and exciting. It is not only about going out with tracts and giving them out to everyone we meet. I do not say that there is not a place for this, because, as the Word of God says, "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly" (2 Cor 9.6), but here we are considering one-to-one personal witness with a stranger, just a chance meeting (another way of saying, "a divine appointment"). This is an opportunity to give a word in season.

An alternative way

If you are good at memorising Scripture and applying verses to everyday life, and find making conversation easy, then swinging a conversation to present a relevant Scripture and thus achieving your goal will possibly not present you with too many problems. However, I suggest that most us are not so quick on our feet. Often afterwards in the quiet of the evening I can clearly think of verses that I could have used, or a link in the conversation only comes to me when the discussion is over. I am sure that there are many like that. So for those of us who are not so quick with the tongue let me suggest another way to swing the conversation round.

Use an object

Simply use an object to do it, preferably an object with something written on it that you can refer to. It may be a particular tract, or a bookmark, or a calendar, a tape, or a CD. I refer to Paul in Acts 17 using the altar "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD". He was able to bring something of spiritual relevance out of it that the Athenians had not considered. We can do the same; all you have to say is, "Have you seen one of these?", or, "I’d like you to have a look at this", or, "Can I give you one of these?", and immediately the focus of the conversation is changed. Simply using an object has changed it. I was in the foyer of our hall one evening after the gospel meeting, speaking to a man who was wearing quite an old looking, heavy black coat. He told me that it was his "witnessing coat" because it reminded him of salvation. When he first started work, the firm that employed him supplied every new start with a coat just like that one. He said, "It was just what I needed, it was free and one size fitted all". He used it as a means of introducing the gospel.

What an exciting task lies before us. Having defined the goal of presenting a relevant Scripture, reaching that goal can be held before us as a vision, a stimulus involving our energy and creativity as to how best we can get that word in season before the people. Consider the Old Testament prophets. It is really quite fascinating what lengths they went to in order to get the attention of the people: they made models, baked cakes, wrote letters, wore strange things (all at the commandment of the Lord) with the purpose of bringing the word of God before the people.

Let us take encouragement to pass on that relevant Scripture realizing that witnessing is a spiritual work that we are called to do, commanded to do, and also constrained to do by the love of Christ.

A verse is for life

A relevant Scripture, a word in season, a timely verse given to someone will remain with them for ever, it will never pass away. It will pop up into their mind just when they don’t want it to, and will be used of the Holy Spirit in conviction even into the small hours of the night.

Does not a soul get saved through the operation of the Holy Spirit using the Word of God to bring conviction, repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ? How many testimonies have you heard where the speaker said that a verse had been quoted to him, just maybe four or five words of Scripture, and those words never left him. He tried to forget them, ignore them, not think about them, but it was impossible. Peter in his first epistle speaks of the Word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Pet 1.23) That good seed of the Word of God, planted, will engage the conscience, and the Spirit of God will use it to speak to that individual, and so we can have great confidence in leaving the results with God.

When we were first married, we bought a house that had a garden out the back in which there was a rhubarb plant that just seemed to thrive in the neglected conditions. At first I quite liked it; we had raw rhubarb, rhubarb pie, rhubarb stew, rhubarb soup (you get the idea), until I decided that the rhubarb plant had to go. So I cut it down to the ground. To my dismay the next year it was back, so I dug it out. The following year it was back again as strong as ever. I dug it, sprayed it, and hacked it, but do you know something? It just would not go away, it just kept popping up when I did not want it to. When we present an appropriate word to someone we are planting a living seed that will grip the conscience again and again just whenever they do not want it to. Is not that a powerful thought that we ought to take great confidence from? We want to encourage ourselves by remembering how powerful it is to pass on a relevant Scripture. As Solomon says, "A word spoken in due season, how good is it! (Prov 15.23).



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