Today, February 20th, I preached during the worship service at St. Etien Cathedral. My message was titled "Witnessing by Living a Christlike Life" based on Romans 13: 11-14 and Matthew 10:24-33. For the month of February, the church was focusing on the theme of "Witnessing." Here is the summary of the message.
Jesus remained on earth for 40 days after His resurrection (Acts 1). During this time, He did the following:
1. He showed His disciples that He was indeed risen. His disciples became hopeless and were in despair after the crucifixion of Jesus although Jesus told them that He would rise again. He had to prove that indeed He was risen.
2. He reminded His disciples to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit because without Him they would be powerless. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Christ (John 14:26) and He would indwell the disciples and all saints so that He could help them through their lives.
3. He urged/commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-21) as witnesses of all that happened through Jesus. Witnessing was a mandate to obey, therefore, not an option to consider as Hudson Taylor said.
The most valid and strongest witness is eye witness. Apostles were eye-witnesses of Jesus. What about us who have not seen Jesus with bare eyes?
There are some essential components required for Christians to be effective witnesses:
1. Our witness should be experiential. Our witness should deal with 'Who Jesus is', 'How I was', 'How Jesus worked in me' and 'How I have changed because of Him.' Experience is seeing through our minds, hearts and lives. Without experience, our witness will be powerless and unconvincing.
2. Our witness should be based on a willing desire, not based on obligation. In other words, witnessing should be done not because we have to do but because we want to do.
3. Our witness should be done not by our power and strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 reads "...but you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes on you..."
4. Our witness should be done not only in words but also in deeds or lifestyles. We will dwell more on this point today.
From the two scriptures read for today, we will be learning three lessons:
1. Acknowledge the urgency: Romans 13:11,12 talk about this urgency. The Kingdom of Heaven is near. John the Baptist, Jesus and all apostles said the same thing. The Kingdom of Heaven is near. The end times are near. The end times are near not only in light of God's salvation plan but also in light of individual salvation. Every day many people perish unexpectedly. I shared briefly that we at UOB lost one of the staff on Friday due to her car accident. It was totally unexpected, but it happened. We as Christians should live with the sense of urgency, making conscious efforts to witnessing/sharing the gospel with others.
2. Attain the Christlikeness: Romans 13:14 reads "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ..." Christlikeness is to be like Christ. To be like Christ is to imitate Christ's personality and attributes. It is to attain His righteousness and to have compassion for lost souls like Jesus did. Christlikeness is godliness. 1 Tim. 4:7,8 urges us to "train yourself to be godly." "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Tim. 6:6)
Attaining Christlikeness should be done on two principles: Principle of Incarnation and Principle of Sanctification.
John 1:14 says "The Word became flesh..." It means not only that the Christ/God became human to dwell among us but also that the Word became part of the flesh or deeds or behaviors. It is the principle of incarnation.
Sanctification is becoming holy or righteous. It is the present and continuing aspect of God's salvation. We have been saved already, but our salvation has not been completed yet. It is the "already but not yet" theology. We are living this life to attain practical righteousness or purity until the ultimate righteousness or purity is obtained since we have received the positional/imputed righteousness or purity. This is a life long process and cannot be attained over night. How to attain it? Through an on-going process of daily crucifixion of old selves, like Paul confessed, and totally surrendering our lives to the Holy Spirit because the sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit. (2 Thess. 2:13)
3. Anticipate the persecution: The scriptures are pretty clear that if we Christians live the godly lives genuinely, it is inevitable that we will face the worldly persecution. 2 Tim. 3:12 reads "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Phil. 1:29 reads "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him."
However, today's scripture Matt. 10:28 is encouraging us not to be afraid of those who kill the body but not the soul. Rather we should be afraid of the One who can kill our body and soul in hell.
Matt. 5:10-12 say that those who are persecuted for His righteousness are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. If people insult you, persecute you and say all evil things against you because of Jesus, rejoice and be glad for great is the reward in heaven. What a statement and how powerful it is ...
We are encouraged to witness Jesus and share the gospel no matter how hard it may be because the reward will be great. Moreover, such troubles or hard times or persecution will be only temporary, but the reward that will be given will be eternal, outweighing all troubles/hardships combined.
2 Cor. 4:17 read "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."
Brother and sisters in Christ, let us clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ to live a godly and Christlike life. It would be the best witnessing of Jesus and the gospel of love to the ungodly and unloving world. May this message bless you all! - Jeffrey