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You shall be MY witnesses

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You Shall Be My Witnesses (Acts 1:3-8)

No one reading the New Testament for the first time could mistake the intention of Jesus Christ for those who follow Him. He intended those who follow Him to give personal testimony to Him as a way of life. Something different has happened. Most polls indicate that 5 percent of Christians regularly witness to their faith. Jesus did not even tell us to build His church. He said, "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). Each of the Gospels ends with a commission to witness to Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; John 20:21). We can recover Jesus' original intention when we understand the centrality of witness in His purpose.

Understand the Basis of Witness

Only one fact justifies the Christian world witness—the actual, factual resurrection of Jesus Christ. Short of that no one had the right to ask Paul, you, or me to lay down our lives for a fraud. The resurrection is based on the presentation of proof: "by many infallible proofs" (v. 3, KJV). Why should anyone believe that Jesus Christ is alive? Only on the basis of the evidence. The risen Christ presented evidence which removed all doubt concerning His resurrection. He made at least eleven appearances both at day and night, inside and outside, in Jerusalem and Galilee, both to individuals and crowds. The disciples handled Him and ate with Him (1 John 1:1-4).

His resurrection had a duration of presence. For forty days He intermittently appeared to the disciples. This gave them time to reflect, analyze, and even invent new tests for the reality of His resurrection. They could have been stunned by a single appearance; they could not be fooled for forty days.

Appropriate the Power for Witness

While the disciples were closely crowded in a room sharing a meal with the risen Christ, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. They were to begin their witness in the very place the facts could be validated. They had to wait for Pentecost. We no longer have to wait. The power came then and is available now.

The power for witness is promised. The prophet promised it. Joel 2:28-29 promised the coming of God's Spirit in universal power upon all people regardless of age, sex, or social standing. This would be a worldwide revolution in God's dealing with His people. The forerunner promised it. John the Baptist compared his physical baptisms with water to the spiritual baptism with power yet to come. The Christ promised it (John 14:16). The power for witness came and comes as a direct result of God's promise. We have no reason to believe any promise if we do not believe this promise.

The power for witness is purposeful: "You shall receive power; . . . you shall be witnesses" (Acts 1:8, NKJV). A modern tragedy of the church is the connection of the Spirit with some kinds of bizarre behavior. Healings, speaking in tongues, being slain in the Spirit and countless other eccentric activities have eclipsed the sole reason the Spirit was given. The Spirit gives power to those who witness to the facts concerning Jesus Christ.

Avoid the Evasion of Witness

We often avoid witness by speculation about the secondary. The disciples wanted to know if Jesus was about to restore the national fortunes of Israel (v. 6). The coming of the Messiah was connected with the overthrow of Israel's political enemies, the literal establishment of a worldwide dominion in Jerusalem. The disciples had often argued about their place in this political, national scheme (Mark 10:35ff.).

Jesus always countered speculation with a call to duty (Luke 13:23; John 21:22). We have replaced obedience to Jesus Christ with all kinds of speculation about church functions, organization, doctrines, and last things. He moved their attention from speculation to proclamation.

Accept the Vocation of Witness

Accept the reality of witness. Jesus' words are not an admonition but a statement of fact: "You shall receive power; . . . and you shall be witnesses" (Acts 1:8, NKJV). He was not giving an injunction but stating a description. His people would be witnesses. Such a witness is not just an activity but what you are in your person for the Lord Jesus.

Accept the personality of witness: "witnesses to Me." The Christian witness is not first of all to recount a personal experience of Christ. Although personal testimony may be part of witness, the central witness is to the mighty facts of God in Jesus Christ. We are to recount again the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and God's offer to pardon through that death, burial, and resurrection. Our witness may be a brief word of truth, a personal testimony, or a full presentation of the gospel.

Accept the locality of witness. You are to begin where you are. It is always easy to avoid witness by dreaming of witnessing where you are not. They began at Jerusalem. The need for your witness is closer than you think. Your Jerusalem are those immediately around you. Go home and tell it.

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