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TEXT: I Peter 3:15

SUBJECT: Baxter on Witnessing #5

Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll finish our study of Richard Baxter on Witnessing. Thus far, we've seen why and how to do it. Now, in the last chapter, he tells us how to make our witnessing more credible.

The Gospel is true, no matter how we live. But if we want people to believe the Gospel, we've got to back up our good words with a good life. That's the topic for tonight. Baxter calls it "General Directions for the furthering of the salvation of others".

What you can do--apart from witnessing--to bring others to Christ.

YOU CAN LOVE YOUR FELLOW CHRISTIANS.

"The unity of Christians among themselves is a great help to the saving of others. When the ignorant hear Christians splitting with each other and condemning each other, it teaches them to reject them all and to hold piety in contempt".

To prove his point, Baxter cites John 17:21:

"That they may all be one, as You Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in us, that the world may believe that You have sent Me".

I needn't labor the point: The unity of God's People helps others to believe in Christ. The opposite is also true: When believers despise and mistreat each other, people assume our Lord is no better than theirs.

I'm not sure we recognize the seriousness of the matter: When we don't love each other, we not only make ourselves look phony; we make Jesus Christ look phony! And, if He seems phony, how can we ask anyone to believe in Him?

What does it mean to love each other? I Corinthians 13 makes it clear. Love is an attitude or habit which: "Suffers long and is kind...does not parade itself, is not puffed up...does not behave rudely, does not seek its own...is not provoked, thinks no evil...and so on.

To put it in plain English: Love means we don't lose our tempers all the time or stay mad; we don't show-off or look down on others; we don't call names; we put others first; we aren't suspicious or jealous or envious.

In the first centuries after Pentecost, the Church grew with amazing speed. And without big money or modern technology or specially trained experts. It was love that made the Gospel credible to the Roman Empire. The pagans had a saying,

"The Christians--

How they love one another!"

I haven't heard anyone say that lately. Have you? Maybe our unsaved friends don't believe because they see us treating each other the same way they treat each other!

What can you do to make your witness more effective? You can love your fellow Christians. That's Number One.

YOU CAN LIVE A HOLY LIFE

"The blameless, humble, loving, heavenly lives of Christians is a powerful means of winning souls. Preach, therefore--everyone of you--by such a life to all your neighbors whom you wish to be saved".

The Gospel promises, not only an escape from hell, but a holy life. Now, if you don't live a holy life, how can you recommend it to others?

On this point, Nike can teach us something. While other shoe makers were advertising on TV, radio, and magazines, Nike was putting their shoes on the best players. Michael Jordan was not only hawking the shoes--he was wearing them! It's campaign was brilliant: It wasn't "Do what Mike says", but "Be like Mike"

We need to apply this principle to witnessing. "Do what I say" is a very poor way to recommend holiness. "Do what I do" is a whole lot better.

In short, if holiness is good for others, it's good for us too! "Jesus can change your life" rings hollow if he hasn't changed yours.

On this point, we have to be particular. If you want to win your family to Christ, you've got to be "the real thing" at home. If you want your co-workers to be saved, you've got to work hard, show respect, and be content.

Matthew Henry said,

"A holy man is an awful weapon in the hand of the Almighty".

If you want people to take your witnessing seriously, live a holy life.

YOU CAN GIVE THEM A BIBLE OR OTHER GOOD BOOKS.

"Engage them in the reading of the Holy Scriptures and other books of practical divinity".

Not everyone reads. Those who don't shouldn't be harassed or given a thousand books they'll never open. But if your friends do read, you can give them a Bible and encourage them to read it. Most won't--I suspect--but some will. Reading the Bible doesn't save a person, but God often uses His Word to bring one to faith in Christ--Romans 10:17.

Let's face it: The Bible is not an easy book to read. If your friend won't read the it, give him something else--a book for some, a short tract for others. They too may be used to save him. Or, at least to stir his interest in things spiritual.

In choosing books, be wise. Stick to the basics. Get good authors who write in clear and modern English.

Our friend, Carolyne Rohrig, wrote a very good little tract. We have some in the storeroom. Highly recommended. Ultimate Questions by John Blanchard is longer, but excellent. Books by R.C. Sproul and J.I. Packer are great for people who like to read.

If they won't read a book, maybe they'll listen to a sermon on tape. Or, a video, or a DVD. A lot of good stuff is available in these formats. Sproul, in particular, I recommend here. Good websites can also be profitable.

Millions have been converted through books and tracts. Why not one more?

If they won't listen to you, give them a book, pray over it, and let God do the rest. That's Number Three.

BE GOOD TO THEM.

"If you would have these means effectual for their salvation, show them your love and kindness and do all the good you can for them...A kindness to the body is thankfully received (by most) and may prepare them to receive a greater benefit. Love is the most powerful preacher in the world".

Maybe you cannot witness to everyone you meet. But you can be good to them all. Little things, like making eye-contact, smiling, or saying "hello". Or, bigger things, like helping them carry something or lending them money.

These things are good in themselves. If they never lead to anything more, they're still good. But who's to say they won't lead to anything more? Matthew 5:16. In short, Galatians 6:10.

GET ALONG WITH THEM.

"Be sure that you have no fallings out with any to whom you would do good".

This is a biggie! If you want to reach others for Christ, don't be rude or offensive. If you are, apologize to them. What's more, don't be so "thin-skinned" yourself. If they're not very nice, overlook their faults or forgive them.

If you want to help others, you've got to be on friendly terms with them. Before you "blow up" at somebody at work, just remember what effect that's likely to have on your witness. You may be in the right--but so what? It's not he who wins arguments-but "He who wins souls [who] is wise".

DON'T BE A NUT ABOUT EVERY LITTLE THING.

This is not an exact quote from Baxter! But I think it makes his point pretty well. He says,

"See that in matters of religion you do not run too far from such men in things lawful...You will harden them by your singular [i.e., weird] and violent opposition to things indifferent...This makes the ungodly think that religious persons are self-conceited, brain-sick, superstitious people, who condemn all who are not as they are. Lay not such stumblingblocks before any whose soul you desire to be saved".

Under the Lordship of Christ, the believer has a lot of liberty. I choose to not watch TV. Apart from a few games, I haven't watched anything in years. That's my choice. There's nothing wrong with it.

Unless I turn "my choice" into "God's Law". And emphasize it when I talk to unbelievers. If I do that, I make their salvation harder than God makes it. And what's worse, I make the Lord seem foolish.

CLOSE AND APPEAL

That's Richard Baxter on Witnessing. May God make us doers of His Word. For Christ's sake. Amen.

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