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TEXT: I Peter 3:15
SUBJECT: Baxter on Witnessing #1
Tonight with the Lord's blessing, we'll continue our study of Richard Baxter, taking up another chapter in his great book, "A Christian Directory". Being a good Puritan, he used the wordiest title he could come up with--"Special Directions for Christian Conference, Exhortation, and Reproof".
Who wants to guess what the chapter's about? It's about witnessing for Jesus Christ. We all want to do this--I think--though fear, ignorance, and worldliness often get in the way. Baxter wrote the chapter to help us witness more and better than we do. It's made up of three parts: (1) Why to witness for Christ; (2) How to do it; and (3) Special words on rebuking sin and exhorting others to godliness.
For now, we'll take up the first part--or about half of it. Baxter calls it
"Motives to Christian Conference and Exhortation".
Or, why to speak up for Christ.
He has twenty good reasons, some of which we'll now take up.
1.It's what your mind and mouth were made for.
"Consider it is the exercise of our humanity. Reason and speech make us different from the animals. Our reason is given to us that we might know God and eternal life...and our speech to communicate them to others. Use your tongue for the end for which it was created".
God did not give you a mind to think nonsense. He didn't give you a voice to fill the air with drivel. Minds and voices were given to praise Him. After the Fall, a big part of praising God consists of winning others to Christ.
A bird was made to fly. Clip its wings and it becomes something less than God intended. Believers were made to witness. Shut our mouths and we become less than what God wants us to be.
A bird in a cage makes me sad; a fish in a bowl does too. They're safe in their prisons--and well fed. But, somehow, they lose some of their "birdness" and "fishness" by being put there. We too are safer when quiet, but we lose some of our redeemed humanity in the bargain.
If you want to make the most of your potential, then dedicate yourself to witnessing for Christ.
2.There is nothing better to talk about.
"There is no subject so sublime and honorable for your tongue to be employed with than the matters of God and life eternal".
Much of life has to be spent on secondary issues. You have to talk about your work, for example, Or your health; or your car. Unless you want to be rude, you have to make small talk with people you meet. There's nothing wrong with discussing these things.
But why settle for them? When you get the chance, why don't you bring up matters of greater importance? Sinners are lost and perishing! Christ died for sinners! God offers eternal life to everyone who believes! There is a heaven to be won and a hell to be avoided!
What if the President couldn't discuss a nuclear crisis because he was talking about Soap Operas? You'd say he was unfit to be president; that he wasn't serious enough. And you'd be right. Yet our business is much more serious than his. If the US were blown up tonight, that would be less tragic than one soul being sent to hell. There is no subject more important to talk about than the Gospel.
Now go do it.
3.It is good for others.
"It is the most profitable subject to the hearers. A discourse on riches can, at most, tell them how to get rich. A learned discourse can make them learned. But a holy discourse tends to make men holy".
Do you believe in helping others? If a stranger asked for directions to San Jose, would you tell him how to get there? If an old man slipped and fell, would you help him up? If the lady next door was trying to carry in a heavy box, would you give her a hand? Most people would. Even unsaved people.
Most people can help others in these ways. But only Christians can help others in the most important way. By all means help any way you can. Give the directions; help up the old man; carry the box for the lady. But don't forget there's another "good" you can do. A "good" much more important than these. The Christian can do more good than the doctor or the attorney or the fireman or the lifeguard. He can point sinners to Christ. Galatians 6:10a.
4.It helps you.
"Holy discourse is also most profitable to the speaker himself. Even in instructing others and opening truth, we are often led more powerfully to further truth ourselves than by private studies".
Have you ever witnessed to others and said things you'd never thought of before? I have. Sometimes in answer to a question or an objection; sometimes it just "comes to mind". This is God's Spirit at work. Our Lord promised He would do just that,
"But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you" (Matthew 10:19-20).
Maybe the Lord doesn't help us learn because we don't use what we already know! Start witnessing and God will open up His Word to you in a new and deeper way. The Proverb says,
"The merciful man does good to his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh" (11:17).
5.It is pleasant.
"Holy and heavenly discourse is the most delectable. What should best please us but what is best for us and others--and in itself best? A holy mind has a continual feast...and the communicating of such thoughts to others is a more pleasant feast".
If there's one thing better than eating a delicious meal, it's eating it with your friends. Hospitality not only makes the guests feel good, but also the host.
Why not throw the best party your friends will ever attend? And serve the best food they ever tasted? You do just that when you witness.
Have you ever felt guilty about witnessing? You're sad if your friends laugh or get mad, but are you disappointed with yourself? Or, God? Or, His Gospel? Never.
The best cure for depression is getting out of yourself and helping others. And nobody does that better than the one who witnesses for Christ.
6.God commands it.
"Our faithfulness to God obliges us to speak His praise and to promote His truth and to plead His cause...Is he true to God and to His cause who will not open his mouth to speak for Him?"
Well, what do you think? If the Lord commands us to speak up for Christ--and gives us the chance to do it--are we faithful to Him when we don't?
The answer speaks for itself.
"Then I shall not be ashamed when I have respect to all Your commandments" (Psalm 119:6).
7.The worth of a soul demands it.
"How precious a thing is an immortal soul and therefore, not to be neglected. Did Christ think souls to be worth [His time and efforts]? And will you not think them worth speaking to?"
"Actions speak louder than words". Judging by what He did to redeem souls, did our Lord think them precious? He did; He thought them valuable enough to become a man to save them; to suffer a lifetime of abuse and poverty; to die on the cross. Surely this means Souls are worth your time and efforts! You don't have to die for them! You've only got to talk to them!
If you loved your neighbor's soul as your own, you would.
8.The greatness of your neglect is seen in the neglect of unfaithful pastors.
"See also the greatness of your sin in the negligence of unfaithful ministers. It is easy to see the odiousness of their sin, who preach not the Gospel...and why should you not perceive that a silent Christian is also condemned? Is not witnessing your duty as well as the minister's? How many persons condemn themselves while they speak against unfaithful pastors! Being themselves as unfaithful to families and neighbors as the others are to the flock".
The wording is a bit dull, but the meaning is razor sharp. What do you think of a pastor who won't preach the truth? Either he's too lazy to study or too scared to tell like it is?
He disgusts you! But is it only the pastor's job to "preach the Gospel to every creature"? Or, is it your job too? If you condemn laziness and fear in him, condemn the same faults in yourself. If he does badly, you do better!
9.Witnessing is cheap.
"Consider how cheap it is to be merciful to souls! Words cost you little. What will a man do for God or his neighbor's soul who will not open his mouth to speak for them? He seems to have less love than the rich man in hell who would send a messenger to warn his brethren".
Some evangelistic efforts cost a lot of money. If you're printing literature, for example; or broadcasting over the radio or TV; or supporting a team of missionaries. And so on.
Most Christians cannot afford to do these things. But what does personal evangelism cost you? At the most, it's a tract or a Bible. But most of it is "word-of-mouth". And that's free.
Nothing gives you more "bang for the buck" than witnessing.
CLOSE AND APPEAL
Richard Baxter has given us nine motives for witnessing. They're all painfully obvious. Now let's take them to heart. And start witnessing.
May God bring it to pass. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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