Saturday, May 4, 2013

Summoned To Testify


Historical Note: Western Church tradition commemorates the Crucifixion of Jesus on “Good Friday” each spring followed the celebration of His Resurrection three days later on what many call “Easter Sunday”. Immediately following that first Easter morning, Jesus appeared to many and for 40 days He gave infallible proofs concerning His resurrection.

It is noted in scripture that on the 40th day after His resurrection Jesus assembled with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, only a few hundred yards outside the city of Jerusalem. While there He gave them instructions concerning the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The disciples interrupted Jesus and asked:

Acts 1:6 "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Jesus answered them saying that it was not given to them that they should know the times and seasons which the Father has reserved to Himself. However, Jesus continued:

Acts 1:8 “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."

In short – God, who takes care of the timing, will also supply the resources and in the mean time, for whatever period of time it may be until He comes, we His servants should simply do our part. What is our part? To be a witness.

Immediately after Jesus uttered these words of instruction, while His disciples watched, Jesus was taken up in a cloud out of their sight. The disciples kept staring intently while Jesus ascended into the heavens and all of the sudden two men in white clothing appeared and stood beside them. These two were clearly messengers from God. They said:

Acts 1:11 “Why are you standing here gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

This is the historical account of The Ascension of Christ. Although we are not commanded to commemorate this event each year or set it aside as a Holy Day, it nonetheless is an important reminder for us to consider as we remember the promise of our Father to send Christ once again from heaven to earth. Upon His return He will rapture His Church and gather the saints from the whole earth.

Those who have died “In Christ” will He bring with Him, their bodies will be resurrected and we which are alive and remain until His coming will be changed in an instant. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; our mortal bodies shall put on immortality and we shall be changed to be like Jesus for we will see Him as He is. Once changed, having put off this corruptible flesh and put on the incorruptible image of God we will be clothed with glory and we shall ever be with the Lord. The promise of Christ’s return is central to the message of Ascension.

According to this year’s calendar of events, today marks the first day of Ascension week. Ascension Day is determined by counting 43 days after Passover or 7 days before Pentecost. The Jewish calendar for this year puts that day as Tuesday/Wednesday of this coming week, other calendars account it as Thursday and still some Churches have traditionally celebrated Ascension on the Sunday following Ascension Day and they will therefore observe it this next Sunday.

Don’t get confused … remember … “It is not given to us that we can know the exact time which the Father has reserved to Himself”, whether calculating the exact date Jesus Ascended or the exact date He will come again. However, just as Jesus declared to His followers on that day, we need remember that we have been given a Great Commission and the power of the Holy Spirit with which to accomplish that Great Commision. All while we continue to trust in the truth which says:

Jesus is coming in a cloud of God’s glory one day but we are His witnesses every day.

What does it mean to be a witness?

I have heard that what we do speaks louder than what we say.

I don’t deny this is true in some respects however, I can’t remember ever leading someone to repentance or salvation in Christ without using words. Although it is quite important that our actions confirm our speech and that in the end we do not live hypocritical lives, yet if we fail to share our testimony with others along the way, we fall short of being the witness Jesus has called.

It is certain that the followers of Jesus should live a life demonstrating the moral convictions contained in the Holy Bible and encapsulated in the 10 Commandments. Commandments such as:
·        Don’t Lie
·        Don’t Cheat
·        Don’t Steal
·        Don’t Commit Adultery
·        Don’t Murder
·        Honor Father and Mother
·        Don’t Take the Name of the Lord in Vain
·        Don’t Worship Idols

To name a few – Basically: Love God with all your heart, mind, strength and love others as much as you do yourself.

Yes, we should definitely live as a good witness to our faith. However, simply demonstrating a spiritual conviction by the choices we make in life may bring us credibility or give others confidence in us or a reason to listen when we speak … but without words, others may never know why we chose to live life as we do. You may be a good neighbor but do people know why? Actions may be accepted as evidence but words are used by a witness.

Even if someone were to follow your example and live better, cuss less, stop drinking, act kind to their spouse, spend time with their children, take vacations, argue less or even attend Church – unless someone tells them about Jesus, His death, resurrection and coming again … they and their family may never know the true peace and eternal life which accompanies salvation.

Romans 10: 14  But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? (The Message)

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to be good … but good won’t get anyone into heaven. We must tell others the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. That is being a good witness.

When I think about the term “witness”, it reminds me of a courtroom. Have you ever been in a courtroom or perhaps watched the proceedings on TV? Courtrooms are filled with important people. There are judges, plaintiffs, bailiffs, attorneys, stenographers and jurors. However, nothing is settled or moves forward until a witness gives account. Then all eyes are focused on and ears opened to the testimony provided. It can be in writing, come from one party or another or be provided by a third party.

Physical evidence is often so important to the final determination however evidence is most often provided to prove the claim … without a record, without a testimony of that claim, there is nothing to judge.

The whole world is a court and you have been summoned as a witness to testify on behalf of Jesus. Daily you will face both opportunity and adversity as you open your mouth to speak the truth of the Bible. You will not be required to play the part of a judge, the jury or an executioner. Each one of us is merely summoned to be a witness and to testify on behalf of Jesus. We have been given the right and ability from heaven’s eternal Judge to tell others the truth concerning Jesus and the Gospel.

A good witness is one who confidently recalls and repeats the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth with honesty, integrity and conviction. You have been summoned to be a witness this week. Make sure you are ready to give your testimony when called. Lives hang in the balance.