Being a witness of Christ Jesus is simply telling others about the great hope that we have in the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus. All of us are witnesses, because what we say or fail to say always says something about Jesus. The question then is whether we are going to be a good or a bad witness.
There are some common things that get in the way of being good witnesses. Of course, because of our sin, we are not perfect witnesses. But there are some misconceptions we’ve all had that make being a good witness harder. Here are three misunderstandings that get in the way of us being good witnesses, and how the truth of God’s Word addresses each of them.
“It’s my fault if someone goes to hell.” Much of American Christianity is influenced by a false teaching called Arminianism that teaches that every person needs to make a decision to believe in Jesus to be saved. If that is true, everyone who is not given the opportunity to make that decision is lost, not by their own fault, but because some other Christian didn’t present them with the decision to follow Jesus. But this isn’t what the Scriptures teach. The Bible teaches that God has chosen from eternity every single person who will be saved (Ephesians 1:4-10). We cannot increase or decrease the population of heaven by a single person. God will save all of his elect, with or without our witnessing. The pressure is off! God is in the business of giving faith and salvation when and where He wills. We can’t thwart his plans by our mistakes and failures. Knowing that helps us to witness with joy, because it isn’t our job to bring people to faith but simply to plant the seed of God’s Word.
“I might say the wrong thing.” This fear is tied to the idea above. We worry that if we don’t speak the Gospel perfectly, we may even turn off the person even more to the Christian faith. But God gives faith as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-10), when and where he pleases. The Holy Spirit is at work through the Word, even when we are imperfect witnesses. It has pleased God to have His Word proclaimed through broken and sinful people like us, and through that Word to bring many to faith.
“I don’t live a perfect Christian life. They will think I’m a hypocrite.” Being a witness is not about telling someone else how put-together our lives are because we are Christians. The truth is that we are just as broken and sinful as anyone else in the world. Being a witness is not about telling people how they can be less sinful, but about pointing them to Jesus, the perfect Savior of sinners. Or, as I once heard it, it’s about one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. Christians are simply beggars who have found Jesus, the bread of life.
“I witness to Jesus by how I live.” This is true to a certain extent. The way you live will tell your neighbors about what really matters in your life. As Christians, our lives should look different. It’s not that we will be less sinful, but that our lives will be oriented around receiving the forgiveness of sins in Word and Sacrament and serving our neighbors in love because we have peace with God. But the problem is when we use this as an excuse to avoid speaking about Jesus. Our lifestyle doesn’t point anyone to Jesus on its own. The Word of God alone brings people to the faith (Romans 10:17), and that word is proclaimed by one Christian to another.
These are just a few things that can get in the way of being a good witness. But the answer to all of them is the same. We are good witnesses by sharing the good news of Jesus with our neighbors. Faith is given by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God that we share. This gives us confidence and courage because we know that the results don’t depend on us.
In September, we’ll spend six weeks going through the new LCMS witnessing training course called Every One His Witness. Going through this six week course will better prepare you to be a good witness of Jesus Christ in your everyday life. This class will be held Sundays at 9:15am in the basement fellowship hall on the following dates: September 9, 16, 23, and October 14, 21, and 28.
Even if you’ve never attended Bible Study before, consider attending this six-week course to receive training in being a good witness. Even if you cannot attend all six sessions, please consider joining us when you can! Because this course uses a workbook, please call the church office (996-7530) so we can reserve you a copy.