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TEXT: I Peter 3:15
SUBJECT: Baxter on Witnessing #2
Tonight with the Lord's blessing, we'll continue our study of Richard Baxter on Witnessing. Baxter was an English pastor who died in 1691. His books provide Puritan counseling at its best.
The chapter is made up of three parts (1) Why to witness, (2) How to witness, and (3) special words on rebuking sin and exhorting others to holiness. We started with the reasons or motives to speak up for Christ. Baxter gives a long list; we looked at the first nine. Here they are:
1.Witnessing is what your mind and mouth are made for.
2.There is nothing better to talk about than the Gospel.
3.Witnessing helps other people.
4.Witnessing is good for you.
5.Witnessing is pleasant.
6.God commands you to witness.
7.The worth of a soul demands your witness.
8.The greatness of your sin is underscored by the neglect of unfaithful ministers.
9.Witnessing is cheap.
Now we'll look at eight more. If these seventeen reasons don't encourage personal evangelism, I don't know what will. May God make us doers of His word--and not just hearers or preachers. For Christ's sake. Amen.
1.Witnessing is not as hard as you think it is.
Mark Twain once said, "I've suffered many things in life--and most of them never happened". In other words, many fears are groundless. And if we'd simply face them, they'd melt away. Witnessing is not easy, of course, but it's not as hard as many people make it. A certain sort of man says,
"There is a lion in the street! A roaring lion in the open square!"
What kind of man is that? A coward, right? No. He's "The slothful (or, lazy) man" (Proverbs 26:13).
Too lazy to work, he made looking for a job extremely scary! Maybe that's our problem. Deep down, we don't want to witness, so we make up difficulties in doing it.
But Baxter says it's not that hard. For example,
"You may choose your time; if one time is not fit, you may take another. You may choose the person, where your labor is likeliest to take. You may choose your subject".
In other words, there are many ways to get to the Gospel. If someone says, "It's a beautiful day, isn't it?" You might reply, "Yes, isn't the Lord good?" Or, if someone is bitter, can't you think of some way to bring that problem to the cross? I went to lunch with a friend one day and the host was named Samuel. My friend says, "Ah, Samuel? Do you know what that means? Asked for from the Lord". When I bought my bed, the salesmen asked, "Will you be home at 5:00 today?" "The Lord willing" I said. He picked up on it. Not everybody does, of course. But some do. Be creative. Find ways to break the ice. And let God do the rest.
The first step is always the hardest. But you'll never get anywhere without it. Step out to witness and see if God doesn't bless your little efforts in big ways.
2.Witnessing is legal.
"No man questions and no law forbids speaking up for God and man's salvation in private conversation".
Baxter lived in a rough time for preachers. Being a Puritan, he was expelled from his church in 1662 and kept out for 17 years! John Bunyan suffered even worse persecution. And, of course, thousands in the Soviet Union went to the work camps for public ministry. In Saudi Arabia converting a Muslim to Christ is a crime punishable by death.
But for us at the moment, it is still legal to speak up for Christ. Men may laugh at you, but they can't send you to jail or the gas chamber for witnessing. We ought to be thankful for this blessing. And make the most of our freedom of speech.
Will believers in China suffer jail and worse for the Gospel while we worry about making someone uncomfortable?
God has nowhere promised to keep witnessing safe and legal. It is for now. So let's do what? "Redeem the time".
3.You were probably converted through someone's witness.
"Has not the witnessing of others in your days of ignorance, done you good? What would have become of you if others had left you alone? And does not justice require you to do good to others, as others have done to you?"
Of all the Christians I've known, I can name only one who was converted with no human witness. Most of us were saved because someone cared enough about us to risk embarrassment and tell us about Christ. "Freely you have received, freely give".
4.The devil's servants are eager to preach his gospel.
"Consider how forward the devil's servants are to forward his cause! How readily and fiercely will an ignorant, drunken sot pour out his reproaches and scorns against religion! How zealously will a heretic promote the interest of his sect and convert others to his party! And shall we be less zealous and serviceable to Christ than the devil's servants are for him? And do less to save souls, than they will to damn them?"
I'm not sure I've read a truer and more painful paragraph than this one. Just think of how loudly and constantly the world advertises its products, like immorality and materialism. And think of how hard the cults work to make men believe Jesus Christ is not Divine!
Will they work harder for their god than we will for ours? A few months ago, a college student told me about one of the men in her dormitory. He was a Communist and very committed to his cause. When she told him she was a Christian, he asked, "If you are, why don't you try as hard to win me to Christ as I do to win you to Communism?"
She didn't know what to say. Neither do I. What would you say? Is Satan worthier than Christ? Is his good news better than God's?
5.You've wasted enough time.
"In your time of sin and ignorance, if you have not spoken against religion and taught others to sin, at least you have spent many hours in idle, fruitless talk".
Some people grow up horribly. They like nothing better than laughing at Christ and enticing others to sin. Others are not so bad. But even they waste years talking nonsense.
Since you've wasted a lot of time already, what should you do now? Waste more? Or make up for lost time by evangelizing as often as possible? Peter knows.
"He should no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God...For we have spent enough of our past lifetime doing the will of the Gentiles--when we walked in lewdness, lust, drunkenness, reveries, drinking parties and abominable idolatries".
Do you follow the reasoning? You ought to live for God now because you've already lived enough for Satan. And talked enough for him too!
6.Witnessing will prevent foolish, idle talk.
"Men will not be silent for long, but will talk of something. If they have not good things to discuss, they will discuss vanity".
This works in two ways: (1) When you're talking about Christ, you're not talking about sinful or stupid things. (2) When people know you talk about Christ, they won't be so eager to bring up their sinful topics. Think about it: Who do you talk to about sports? People you're used to talking to about sports. If you bring up the Raiders or Giants to my wife and--you'll never do it again! In the same way, if your friends know you love Christ, they won't bring up their dirty jokes or gossip, or other things. At least not as often.
7.Sinners need witnessing to!
"Consider what great need there is...in the multitude of the ignorant...the numbers of sensual and stubborn sinners...the power of their blindness...the multitude of temptations they face...the cleverness of Satan...the weakness of man...the lack of holy pastors".
What can I add? Most people you see every day are going to hell. And don't even know it. If they do, they're too stubborn to repent. Satan has fooled them and enslaved them. Even people who go to church rarely hear the Word of God preached properly and put to their conscience.
The world is an awful mess. And nobody in the world knows why or what to do about it. Nobody but Christians.
8.You haven't got much time.
"Consider how little time you have to speak. Death will quickly stop your breath, lay you in the dark, and tell you that all your opportunities have come to an end".
You're not going to live forever! While you're living, you can witness. When you're dead, you cannot. "Teach us to number our days, that we may attend to wisdom".. And one branch of wisdom is evangelizing the lost. "He who wins souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30).
CLOSE AND APPEAL
The motives for evangelism are many and powerful. Now let's be moved by them and "Preach the Gospel to every creature".
God help us, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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