Thursday, September 11, 2014

WITNESSING GOD'S WAY (Colossians Chapter 4)

Colossians 4:3-6, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

Missionary C. T. Studd once said, “Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”  Witnessing to others regarding Jesus is not something we are merely obliged to do, it is something we are privileged to do as Christ’s ambassadors.  This passage delineates several “keys” to maintaining an effective witness before the lost.

The Apostle Paul was the greatest missionary the church has ever known.  He possessed a “dauntless desire” in making the gospel known.  His motivation was such that no amount or degree of threats, persecution, or sufferings could work to deter him.  He was in prison because of his preaching of the gospel (Cf. Colossians 4:3),  And, writing this letter from his prison cell, his concern was not so much for himself, but his witness (Cf. Colossians 4:3).  The gospel message is a message worth suffering for (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:8, 2:8-9; Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 1:11; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 3:8).  Love for Jesus and compassion for the lost motivates us to share it (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:8; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 2 Timothy 2:10; Romans 10:1).  Pastor Lee Toms once said, "In this day, the cause of godlessness and unbelief does not suffer from timidity; it is bold and brazen in its manners and message.  A fainthearted Christian message will never compete in such an atmosphere.  The day calls for heroics in the heart.  We cannot be cowed or intimidated into silence or a soft-pedaling of truth; we must set forth our message simply and strongly.  This boldness is born of undeviating faith in our message, of unquestionable conviction as to the nature of our calling and inviolate loyalty to the Captain of our salvation, the Master of our service.”

This kind of bold and effective witnessing is born also out of devotional dependence (Cf. Colossians 4:3-4).  The Apostle Paul recognized his dependence on God in his witnessing efforts and asked others to pray for him (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Ephesians 6:19).  Not only do we need to pray for ourselves and fellow believers in our witnessing efforts, we need to pray for the lost (Cf. Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1, 4).  J. Hudson Taylor once spoke to the matter this way: “J. Hudson Taylor, “Brother, if you would enter that Province, you must go forward on your knees.”

There is a need to for a discernible difference in our lives if we are to maintain an effective witness regarding Christ (Colossians 4:5, “walk in wisdom towards outsiders”).  Your walk goes before your talk, your life before your lips, and your practice before your profession.  St. Francis of Assisi put it this way, “Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words.”  Here the particular difference has to do with walking in “wisdom toward outsiders” (Colossians 4:5).  Other Scriptures emphasize other distinguishing characteristics of our walk: love (Cf. John 13:35); holiness (Cf. Philippians 2:15); hope (Cf. 1 Peter 3:15).  A good question to ask is: “If you were to be accused of being a Christian would there be any evidence in which to convict you?”

An effective witness involves deliberate decision-making.  We are to be “making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4:5).  When we consider…our own experience in having been saved by grace; the glory of our Savior and His gospel; the reality of hell and the lost estate of those who don’t know Him; the brevity of our stay here upon earth; the soon return of Christ; and the reward or loss we will experience at His judgment seat…it makes perfect sense to order our lives accordingly--giving undistracted time and attention to our walk and witness.  As C. T. Studd once wrote, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

In sharing the gospel it is important not just that we share, but how we share (“Let your speech always be gracious”, Colossians 4:6; i.e. “a deferential defense”).  People are not won to Christ via threats or argumentative speech, but by the convicting work of the Spirit of God (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5).  Our part is to share truth, God’s part is to save souls (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7).  It is important that our speech should “always be gracious” (Cf. Ephesians 4:29; 1 Peter 3:15).  It is only to the extent that we are Spirit-led and Word-filled that our tongues can be tamed and trained by God.  God will give us the words to speak, according to the particular need of the moment, if we avail our tongues to Him (Cf. Exodus 4:10-12; Luke 12:11-12).

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