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TEXT: I Peter 3:15
SUBJECT: Baxter on Witnessing #3
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll carry on our study of Richard Baxter on Witnessing. Thus far, we've looked at seventeen good reasons to witness. God's command is one of them; the worth of a soul is another; your own happiness is a third; and so on.
Now that we've seen the "why" of witnessing, we'll take a look at the "how". Or, what you must do to effectively speak up for Jesus Christ.
PURSUE KNOWLEDGE AND HOLINESS
"The most necessary direction for a fruitful tongue is to get a well-furnished mind and a holy heart".
Knowledge and holiness. Many think one or the other is enough. In fact, both are needed. You've got to know what you're talking about and you've got to live in such a way as to make what you say credible.
How do you obtain knowledge? Baxter says,
"Spare no labor to get understanding. It is a weariness to hear men talk foolishly of anything, but nowhere so much as about Divine and heavenly things".
This is a good comment. If a doctor needs to know something about medicine and a mechanic needs to know something about cars, shouldn't believers know something about Christ? You don't have to be a genius to witness, but you should do the best you can to get the knowledge you need. That's only had the hard way: Through study and prayer.
As for holiness? That too must be pursued by the hard work of confession, repentance, and humble obedience. The importance of holiness cannot be overstated. Baxter says,
"Learning and good utterance are very helpful. But it is holiness that is most apt to produce holiness in others. Words that proceed from the love of God and a heavenly mind, tend powerfully to create in others that love of God and heavenly mindedness".
We all know people who don't practice what they preach. They talk up the love of God very well, but they don't show it in their everyday lives. They do more harm than good.
There's a story of Alexander the Great that is worth telling. In a fierce battle one day, he saw one of his soldiers running away in fear. "What's your name?" he shouted to the man. "Alexander, Sir" the soldier replied. "Either fight like an Alexander--or change your name!"
I've never advised anyone to not witness. But if you won't live like a Christian--please don't tell anyone you are one. You make the rest of us look bad. And not just us, but the Lord too.
There's no trick to witnessing. If you want to be good at it, pursue knowledge and holiness. That's Number One.
"See that you truly believe what you say to others. Secret unbelief will make you speak heartlessly to others. But if you believed these things, how earnestly you would speak of them!"
Maybe we don't warn sinners of hell because--deep down, whatever we say to our believing friends--we don't really believe there is a hell (except maybe for the Hitlers of the world). But is there? Yes there is. And if you really believed in it, maybe you'd plead with sinners to "Flee the wrath to come".
FEEL FOR SINNERS
"Keep a compassionate sense of the misery of ignorant, ungodly, impenitent souls. Think of what a bondage they are in; think of how quickly they must die; think that they must stand before the Lord and how miserable they must be forever".
Unbelievers are in terrible misery right now. And, unless they repent, their misery must become worse and worse--forever. Jesus Christ feels for them, why don't you? He's "Moved with compassion", why aren't you?
There's only one possible reason: You've forgotten what you were. It wasn't so long ago that you were in the same condition they're in now. You too were once "Foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice, hateful and hating others".
And someone felt sorry enough for you to tell you about Christ. Now, having received that favor yourself, why don't you pass it along to someone else?
I know the word "compassion" is bandied about too much today. And many who claim it are hypocrites. But there is such a thing. And you ought to feel it for lost sinners.
DISOBEY YOUR FEARS
"Subdue foolish shame or bashfulness, and get a holy courage of mind."
This is a hard one for some of us--especially shy people like myself. But there's no way of overcoming fear but by facing it in the power Jesus Christ gives. Baxter reminds us that it's a sin to be bashful about the Lord; and that, if we are ashamed of Him now, He'll be ashamed of us one day, cf. Mark 8:38.
John tells us how to get rid of fear. It's not by psyching yourself up, but by loving others. "Perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18).
Back in the 70's there was a football player for the Kansas City Chiefs. One day he was at a park and saw a child fall in the lake. The man jumped in to save the boy--though he didn't know how to swim! Was the man afraid of deep water? Of course he was--anyone who can't swim is! But he loved the boy more than he feared drowning. The man's "perfect love cast out fear".
The same thing happens every day in the military. Ordinary men run through enemy fire to save wounded buddies.
We have to love our lost friends more than we fear their laughter. Disobey your fears!
"If you go into the fields to labor, you bring your tools with you. In the same way, when you go out, take with you the things you need for edifying conversation".
A carpenter doesn't go to work without his hammer. Why do we go into the world without taking what we need to witness? It may be a material thing, like a Bible or tract. Or maybe something more spiritual, like a prayer, a holy desire, an eagerness, and so on.
Maybe God doesn't give us more opportunities because we wouldn't be prepared for them if He did.
STAY ON THE BIG THINGS
"Speak most of the greatest things and choose not the smaller things of religion to spend your time on".
Most unsaved people are not religious. But those who are tend to focus on secondary things. Without being rude, don't let them stay on things like baptism, speaking in tongues, women pastors, the Sabbath, personalities, and so on. For them, there's only "One thing needful". Stick with it!
FIT YOUR WITNESSING TO THE PERSON YOU'RE TALKING TO.
"Suit all your discourses to the quality of your hearers. That which is best in itself may not be the best for every man. Vary your subjects according to their knowledge or moral qualities...A wise physician will vary his remedies, not only according to the disease, but to the patient".
What if your friend at work is a Jehovah's Witness? How would you approach him? By telling him that the Bible is God's Word? Or, that he shouldn't get drunk? He agrees with you on these points. With him, you need to start with the Deity of Jesus Christ.
What if your friend claims to be born-again, but curses all the time, boozes every weekend, and cheats on his wife? What do you need to tell him? That Jesus is God? He already knows that. No, with him you need to start with repentance.
Other people need things more basic than these: There is a God, that we have a soul, and so on.
Don't recite to people when you witness, but speak to them. Have you ever gotten a phone call from a salesman who's reading a script? He's not talking to you, but going through a spiel. This turns me off. It is not an effective way to sell products; it is an even worse way to preach the Gospel.
DON'T FORGET YOUR FAMILY
"Be sure to do the most where you have most obligation. He who neglects his family while seeking the conversion of strangers, shows much hypocrisy, and proves something other than love for souls or a sense of duty which carries him on".
This is not a big problem with us, I don't think. But it is with many sincere believers. I've heard pastors encourage parents to ignore their children so they could go door-to-door witnessing for Christ. The Bible sure doesn't teach this, cf. I Timothy 5:8.
"Never speak of holy things but with the greatest reverence and seriousness you can. The manner, as well as the matter is needful to the effect. To talk of sin and conversion, of God and eternity, in a careless way is worse than silence as it lowers them in the hearing of others".
Don't be morbid, of course. Don't lower your voice an octave. But be serious when you talk about Christ. I can't quite explain it, but it's still true: How you say it is often as important as what you say. Serious things should be spoken of seriously.
"Condescend to the weak and bear with their infirmity. If they give you foolish answers, be not angry or impatient with them. Not even if they contradict and blaspheme. `For the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing opposers, if God perhaps will give them repentance and the acknowledging of the truth'" (cf. II Timothy 2:24-25).
Most people are not save the first time you witness to them. Some ignore what you say, others mock, some even get mad about it and persecute. But be patient. The farmer doesn't reap the same day he plants. But reap he will if he stays at it long enough.
If people will listen, keep talking. If they won't listen, pray for them. In any event, keep at it. And see if God won't use you to win others to Christ.
APPEAL AND CLOSE
Baxter has given us ten good ways to witness. Are they true and agreeable to God's Word? If they are, let's start using them. As soon a possible. "Sow, water and may God give the increase". Amen.
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