Thursday, August 26, 2004
Being or Doing: That Is The Question
Commentary To The Sabbath School Quarterly Lesson
Matthew 12:41-44 related a story we’ve probably all heard. It says,
Matt. 12:41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the
people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
Matt. 12:42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
Matt. 12:43 And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them,
Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all
they which have cast into the treasury:
Matt. 12:44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
What a lesson for us about witnessing. The poor widow's humble witness still carries until this day the message of the Gospel. She loved God supremely, and her neighbor as Christ loved her, and that is why she gave all she had to the treasury. She gave quietly. Not one word was said. No announcement was given. No press conference held. In fact, had it not been for Christ pointing out her action, it would have been dismissed. She gave witness to those who heard the story then, and to those who hear it now.
So is it our actions which give witness, or is it our words? Is it possible to really give an accurate witness of what we've seen, heard and understood, without both? Our fast paced and driven world loves the doers. Yet, if you are an accurate witness, would you not be able (or enabled as we shall see) to relay your experience in such a manner that others too will see, hear and sense it? After all, what is the use of a witness without a judicial system to utilize the testimony given?
Christ calls on all His sheep to give witness, a testimony as it were, to His benevolence, and goodness, as well as to His character of Love-- to the Universe. As well we know, the Godhead is the "One" on trial. If you were in His cosmic shoes, would you not desire the truth to be told about you? Of course, the master strategist, and "accuser of the brethren" desires a false witness to corroborate his view of things, and so the battle ensues. In order
not to be deceived into testifying to a lie, the believer--the true witness-- needs power, for he is no match for the adversary. Hence Christ advises His disciples (and us) in Acts 1:8:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Notice the phrase as it is written. It does not say that we are to do witnessing
activities, such as hand out tracts, knock on doors or ingather. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with these particular activities. Instead, notice how the scripture stipulates that it is with the Holy Spirit's power coming upon us that we shall be witnesses. Notice, in the following verses, that the disciples were to wait together, in prayer, for the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence, and power.
You know, there is a big difference between the concept of being -which is an inside job, and that of doing which merely implies taking action. Today there is such an emphasis on methods, techniques and numbers that we may have forgotten how Christ won people to Himself. According to Sister White as
quoted in our Sabbath School lesson recently, Christ mingled with men as One who desired their good. It was not His method to make them feel good, which is what is often interpreted from the quote, but instead desired that they might be with Him eternally (John 14:1-6, John 3:16).
When we try to witness to others with our activity, most of the time they will feel something is missing. Unless we demonstrate unconditional, self-denying love for them -not to be confused with acceptance of their ungodly attitudes and behavior- we shall be branded phony, insincere and hypocrititical. Haven't you ever met someone whom you sensed had an agenda, and whose motives
were ulterior? Didn't you just want to get away from that person as quickly as possible?
As much as we'd like to view Apostle Paul as the driven, go-getter disciple, outside of John the beloved, it is he who discusses in depth the love the follower of Christ will have through the indwelling Holy Spirit. He not only describes it, he implores us to allow the Spirit to give it to us by faith. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that Paul was enabled to be all things to all people, and win them to Christ.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:
1 Cor. 9:19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
1 Cor. 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
1 Cor. 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without law.
1 Cor. 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
1 Cor. 9:23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker
thereof with you.
He did not mean by this that he was an Oscar winning actor. Ellen White
says that he shaped His message to the person and the particular circumstance, just as Christ did. The Spirit enabled Paul to be aware of each person's needs, and prompted him with the content of the message (gospel) as well as when and how to deliver it. Sister White adds that we should be many-sided men (and women), not just having one approach for everyone we meet. Being filled with the Spirit does not mean negating the study of various
methods and techniques to win souls. On the contrary, it means being led by the Spirit as to our target audience as well as what sources and timing to use.
The Holy Spirit coming upon, and abiding in us bears fruit. Then we become witnesses of what we have seen and heard, rather than a group of individuals merely engaged in "doing" witnessing activity. While this does not guarantee conversion, the truth about the character of the Godhead as that of
unconditional love, mercy, justice and grace will have been told by those of us who love Him. The scripture says, " and they will know we are His disciples because we embody His love." The question now is, will you let the Spirit come upon you so you can become a witness?
Raul Diaz and Maria Greaves-Barnes
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