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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shut Up, For Christ's Sake!

From almost my first breaths as a baby Christian believer, I have been taught to witness.  My job, once I came to understand the gospel, was to get it out there.  Christ's last instructions to the disciples, after all, were to testify to all the world, weren't they?

Yes, they were.  But He gave the instruction to testify as His last direction, not His first.

And what is witnessing, anyway? God tells us:
 You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and my servants from whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.--Isaiah 43:10

Hmm.  Nothing about saying anything to anyone.  
Witnessing, in God's estimation, begins with knowing and believing and understanding.  Evidently that, at least initially, is enough.  Even the outspoken apostle Paul began with years of silent study and communion with other believers and the Lord Himself before he ever went anywhere or said anything to anybody.

Witnessing has a pre-requisite.  In other words, we have to be qualified before we intentionally speak about God.  Unless He is putting words in our mouths similar to the way He put them in Balaam's donkey's, then we are well advised to spend the time getting to know our subject matter, that is, Him, before opening our mouths. 

There is a reason for this, and I am learning it every day.  God is so darned BIG!  There is so much to know about Him, so much He has to show me, to teach me, to change in me.  Yes, there are times to speak out, but as His joy within me grows, I understand more and more that God is not what He does, which we learn first about, but who He is.  To know Him just flat takes time.  

And He knows this about me, too.  He knows it and is fine with it.  Listen:

I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.  I have revealed, and saved, and proclaimed.  I, not some foreign god among you.  You are my witnesses that I AM GOD.--Isaiah 43:11-12

His witnesses that He is God.  Yes.  There is a time to speak, and boldly, but my witness must start and end with the nature and person of God Himself.  And once I fully know that, I will be a witness whether I speak or not.

21 comments:

  1. we are neigbors @ jennifer’s...oh great words of truth here...I used to think if was my responsibility as a believer to “speak the truth”...YOu are so right...first it is to know the TRUTH...He is a person...and than live truth in my life...I love francis of assisi’s quote...”preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words. glad I stopped in today...blessings~

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  2. I hear you -- oh, I wish that I had known Him better at times when I have opened my mouth! I pray that I will always be an accurate and loving witness to Him!

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  3. This is a fascinating and helpful approach to witnessing. You are wise to remind us that we don't need bullhorns on street corners to get the message out about Jesus.

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  4. Thanks for the thought-provoking post! I agree that we ought to know what we believe, and that we should study the Word to show ourselves approved. Depending on our maturity as believers, and the depth and time of study in His Word, we may be more or less equipped to teach others. That being said, the Bible has many stories of those who immediately witnessed (verbally) of the new creation they were once they were saved, such as the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Paul began to preach as soon as his blindness was lifted and he had spent "certain days" being strengthened. (Acts 9:20 -- And straightway (i.e. immediately) he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.) I think that even the newly saved can tell others of the great miracle Christ has done in their life, even though they may not yet be well-versed in doctrine or theology.
    Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on Saved by Grace! Your blog is a blessing and I am now following it, and I invite you to follow Saved by Grace also:
    http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/
    Love in Him,
    Laurie Collett

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    1. Yes, you are right that new believers have a witness to share, too, and one that is powerful because it focuses on their miraculous salvation and God's wonderful work in them. This is an important part of our witness, and one that sometimes fades with time. I find, though, that His miracle of salvation is only enhanced by study and understanding, not necessarily of theology (which can lead to Phariseeism) but of who God is. Effectively, study allows me to repeatedly thrust my hand into His side, and say over and over, "My Lord and My God!"

      And yes, I am happy to follow you. Your Mind of God post was singularly helpful. Do you have an email subscription available?

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  5. Sometimes we are simply to smile and give confidence and encouragement. Sometimes it is to speak clearly and straightforwardly but with peace flowing. OCCASIONALLY, it is to be very blunt and precise about the Word of God and the Truth of our Lord Jesus.

    The Key: do what God prompts to be done, at the exact moment.

    I've been in all those spots over these many years. The bluntness worked much better in Uganda, b/c they understand the need to see it straight and compared to other gods or focuses. In the States, we usually have to be careful that no one is offended.

    Doing what the Lord calls us to do is all we can.

    Good post. Very good thought process.

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    1. I do so wish we didn't think so much about offending someone. Having said that, though, we do need to consider whether we steal someone's dignity, whether we talk down to them, or whether our replies lack the love we should apply to them. Of course, that may be what you meant in the first place.

      Thanks so much for all your input. I really appreciate it.

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    2. Since I'm a "yammery" person... I'd say "woman" but I've been this way since I was a very small child ... I really need to try to stay on alert re: my mouth. And follow the Lord's nudging in my heart more than my knee-jerk reactions.] My husband is just about the opposite. In some ways, it's much easier for him. He rarely offends anyone. That's a good thing.

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    3. Boy, I understand that. My knee-jerk reactions are not trustworthy either. I keep remembering that God not only wants us to guard our mouth but that He volunteers to be the guard Himself.

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  6. "... my witness must start and end with the nature and person of God Himself."
    Such good stuff here! We also witness, often much more effectively, through our actions--and that takes years of growing in the Lord. Blessings.

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  7. "...my witness must start and end with the nature and person of God Himself. And once I fully know that, I will be a witness whether I speak or not."

    Yes.

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  8. That is remarkably painful to hear because I had a rather bitter experience with another believer and the group she was associated with. I have recently learned that there is never a wasted pain in our lives, but it's hard as wait to see what God is going to do as a result of my trust, which was damaged when dealing with her, and how He will redeem that time in general. For her to have said she was a witness of Christ and then act the way she did towards me, especially when I needed to confide in her, it all actually invalidates her witness. Even to me.

    I have had this conviction about learning discernment of when to and when not to speak particularly to people I don't know. In the same way that lady (once a stranger until we began studying together) had not really known me, neither do I know the people I see in commonplace settings nor do I know their pain. Only God does and I need His utmost direction and wisdom about how to carry myself among them all.

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    1. I don't know, Sandy, whether this was true in your case, but situations in which I spoke to people about God or godly living in which I was led by obligation or by instinct rather than by God Himself always turned out badly. And it is true that ungodly behavior invalidates godly witness in a person, but it does not invalidate God's Truth itself, fortunately. One of the hardest circumstances about rubbing up against fellow believers is that, though they profess faith, they do not example it. I once heard a young woman bemoan the fact that should she marry, she would have to marry no one but another sinner. So it is with the body of Christ. It is composed of sinners who continue to sin. But you are right--if we are steadfast, God will redeem it all.

      Thanks for sharing.

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  9. "Yes, there are times to speak out, but as His joy within me grows, I understand more and more that God is not what He does, which we learn first about, but who He is. To know Him just flat takes time."

    Amen - a lifetime of learning and we still won't know everything. That is not to say we shouldn't speak about Him, but we should never forget to listen and learn!

    Blessings,
    Joan

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  10. This is such wisdom. I wish I'd heard it long ago. I knew it vaguely somehow in my spirit as a "young" believer, but the human pushiness of enterprising modern evangelism kept making me feel guilty for wanting to know Him better and grow more in Him first and foremost, and let my witness bloom and fruit from that. I think I somehow (miraculously) had more evangelical wisdom then than in later years when all the feeling of "obligation" shoved in front of God!

    I especially appreciate finding this today, because little more than an hour ago I journaled about my struggle with "human obligation," despite Jesus' example of never getting influenced by that! He Himself left the needy crowds to spend His needed time alone with the Father. I'm certainly not going to do well without plenty of it myself! It's not just knowing my Bible facts. It's not just knowing how to articulate a canned message. It's about knowing HIM more and more fully.

    I love the wisdom I'm reading here. I'm going to subscribe now by email. Many blessings to you, "Mrs. P."!

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    1. So glad to hear from you again, Sylvia. We are not the only ones putting expectations into perspective. If you have time, pay a visit to Jen Ferguson at Soli Deo Gloria. Her button is on the left side of my page and she has something worthwhile to say about this today, too.

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  11. OH wow, A-M-E-N!!!! I always felt this way but could never really put words to it like this! I just had to let it go and trust that God would tell me when to speak and what to say. For me it is also a bit like casting my pearls before swine in many circumstances - therefore, I am unwilling to do so unless provoked by the pearls (God) themselves (so to speak.) My faith is so much the core of who I am, that to hear people say God doesn't exist or that He doesn't care, etc. is painful and personal. All that, plus I just haven't felt released to witness in the traditional sense. Anyway, thank you for saying it. :)

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    1. "My faith is so much the core of who I am". Yes. If we can say that and mean it, then we are witnessing whether we open our mouth or not. It is that sweet, sweet aroma of Christ...
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  12. Thanks for posting this, very eloquently stated! I'm visiting from the Wknd Blog Hop; I'm glad you linked up. I'm now following via GFC and Bloglovin so I can keep up. I hope you'll visit sometime.

    Angie @ gloriousIMPERFECTion.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks, Angie. Stopping by, for sure.

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