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Christian Witnessing Part - II


    The Divine-human situation:  Traditional Christian witnessing (evangelism) directly starts with the issue of “eternity” in their evangelism campaigns as though that issue is humanity’s first preoccupation.  This indeed is the traditional ‘religious’ formula.  However, Christ’s ministry shows that the beginning of his ministry was that of care of the suffering humanity. As such, in serving the people, Jesus showed that God was mindful of human condition on earth.  In His Son Jesus, God is present among humanity in their difficult life.  People believed in Christ as God-sent because he showed them God through his word and work. Otherwise they would have treated him simply as another prophet.   In Jesus, God became relevant to the suffering humanity by being present in His Son (John 14:10, 23b, etc.).  Even so, Jesus talks about ‘serving’ (servant, slave, served, to serve: Matt 20:26-28).  Jesus was manifesting the fact of the ‘Divine presence with the suffering man’ as predominant fact for people to first understand. 

     Traditional evangelism model lost sight of this powerful principle. As such, the unique character of ‘life-touching-and changing-power’ of the divine presence in the message has been lost. We preach to ‘covert’ and bring the ‘converts together’ as church, if possible. The job ends there. 

     Three principles stand out as the character of the work they have been called to do.  Christ’s witnesses need to bear this in mind. 1) God enters the human field in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. 2) In the Son Jesus God Himself ‘suffers’ for the suffering humanity in showing His care and love.3) God’ Power is made manifest among humanity in the Person of Jesus, the Son of God. These three principles show that the witnesses are called to be with the people in their condition, making God’s love and care real and showing the power that can change their life to one acceptable to God.  All these shall be made manifest in the very model of the life of Christ. Thus, being witnesses to Christ is to being the witnesses to God’s work that is revealed to us that returned to God through Christ.   

      Once people appreciated the “care of God” they could appreciate the divine grandeur of “His forgiveness” of the corrupt human nature.  As such, Jesus brought the subject of his death on the cross later in his ministry, which was of care and preaching.  Even then the references to his death were very, very few and surprisingly brief (Matt 16:21; 17:12, 22; 20:18, 28; 26:2).  Other gospels attest to this pattern.  This is just one example of how, even God’s Son, took care of human life-concerns first.  God knew and His Son with Him, that the people first need to understand the love of God.  Such God who cares is God unto eternity.    In this came out the truth, - “God suffering with humanity is God trustworthy for Eternity.” In the process of the Divine participation in human suffering, people fully understood Jesus as the Son of God that came as the Son of Man to suffer and die in human suffering, and for its sin.   

      Christian witnessing should be exact representation of this God-participation in human life.  That was Jesus’ mission. That must be the mission of his followers and disciples.  If this is the process God has set to continue in the world, just declaring “God’s forgiveness, and salvation in Christ, and baptism” as a message does not satisfy the scope of God’s mission for the Christian witnesses and the church. Nor does the mere promise of “prayer to God to ease our suffering” satisfy people’s grave crises in life.  True witnessing is the extension in our life of God’s presence in Christ among today’s humanity.  It should be in the model of the work of Christ’s first disciples (his witnesses).  Take up your cross and follow me is the call eternally standing before those who would follow Christ (Mt. 16:24). ‘Suffering’ is the subject of this statement.  Followers must be prepared to ‘suffer’ as their Master ‘suffered’ in making God’s message of love real in the life of the people. Just as Jesus walked as the ‘witness’ to God’s care and love of the people so must his followers ‘witnesses’ as well.  It also means making the listeners of the gospel feel to realize that Christ’s suffering was made close to their lives today. 

     The Presence of the Power of God:   Christian witnessing is propagating the power of God given to humanity through Christ His Son. It was the power of God given to humanity that comes to God in true repentance and with dedication to new life of a new being in Christ.  That change is what humanity seeks to see.  That is also the distinctive of the Christians message, - a message not about ‘salvation’ only, but about God’s power through Christ to change humanity to become ‘new beings’ now walking in the Path of the Divine Virtue (truth, justice, righteousness and love).

     Communicating the message to humanity of pragmatic mind requires this approach. In this the Christian witness first manifests God’s presence and His care of “that person” with whom we seek to converse.  It’s allowing God in Christ to be relevant to the person who is hearing our message about him.  *That a) representative divine role is the first trait every Christian witness shall acquire and reveal.  The power of Christ’s Spirit in his follower b) to stand by the suffering humanity as God did through Jesus His Son is the second.  This also signifies the meaning of “carrying one’s cross and following Jesus.” Then, to “that person,” the statement “God loved the world” makes sense. In this ‘serving mode’ of the witnessing person, the message of ‘the cross’ comes naturally because, Christ’s witness is practicing the cross in his life.  Thus, the cross of Christ epitomizes God’s love at its best manifested now through His servants on earth.  [*These are the two aspects of the existence of the power of God working through His witnesses.]    

      In conversations on the message of God in Christ mere spiritualization and talk of ‘eternity in heaven’ with God just won’t help the suffering humanity.  Today’s evangelistic method mostly follows this method.   A few ‘decisions’ could, no doubt, come from this or from any method. However, there are billions of people that need reaching.  Winning a handful of them by a few dedicated workers is not doing God’s work in fullness. It must be the work by all Christians.  In that situation, the truly divine mode that Jesus practiced and taught his disciples would alone bring the desired results. God works when His servants, - His ‘witnesses’ - work in the manner He worked!  We must try God’s way shown to us through Christ His Son.

     The presenter of God’s message needs to acquire a few things before he/she ventures on witnessing (evangelism) for God. In addition to the ‘divine mode’ mentioned above, skills for the witnessing task come from three factors:  a) Better grasp of any subject in the Bible, b) The ability to concisely define the subject or an issue; c) Ability with insightful skills to relate to aspects of life (without much spiritualizing), and d) Good skills with theological reasoning and terminology in communication.  ‘To communicate’ also means ability to converse with reason, and respectfully listening to the spiritual and religious propensities and concerns of the other person (while with holding our criticism with hasty refutation).

      No faith has ever existed or can ever exist purely on transcendental (heavenly) goal. Religious faith, internally and externally, is relative to life on earth (pragmatism). This is unavoidable.  Any religious faith, including the Christian that avoids pragmatism cannot convince a human being about the usefulness of faith in God.  Such ambiguity keeps a person shifting tentatively among religious faith-concepts. This cliché illustrates the point of a person’s faith direction: A poor person in a village asks: “If I believe in Jesus, how better would my life become?”  Thus, “How faith in this or that god helps in my life’s struggles” stands as a dominant question related to real life. 

      What is a person’s first priority in life?  Religious faith (abstract)?  Or, the mundane things of life (substantive matters)?  Another example: The waiting bus-commuter was preoccupied with his attendance at work on time.  He has been looking for the bus; one comes and passes away. He looks at the watch. There is no time to wait any more.  At that moment an enthusiastic evangelist comes, offering a pamphlet confronting him with the question of “heaven or hell.”  What is the priority of the anxious bus-commuter? Is it about the bus? About his attendance at work if his job depended on it? Or, matters of ‘heaven and hell’? Though the pamphlet might cause him to think a bit, the story here is about the life’s priorities.  Even if the person has some time to speak, the issue he is confronted with is about eternity and hell, - an uncomfortable subject at the Bus-Stop. Religious faith cannot subsist on the ‘message about eternal life’ alone without addressing the question of relevance to daily life.  

       In the reality of human life-situation, Christian faith, based on God’s work as the entire Bible presents, has answers for both priorities: Answer to pragmatism, and to matters of heaven.  It is this insight and resource that the ‘preacher’ of God’s work in Christ must acquire. Only good grasp of the word of God – the Bible, helps! In these present essays, all observations and insights are based purely on the Biblical comprehensive message of God that the entire Bible carries. 

      Humanity needs to know what God is saying about its life on earth as well. This knowledge is relevant to matters of a) the human conduct on earth, b) the issues of human suffering, c) human accountability before God, d) the Final Judgment, and e) the work of the Kingdom of God.

      For Christian witnessing, mere interpretation of some favorite stories, passages, verses and words alone do not help. God’s message is comprehensive with the character of continuity.  Sectional study of one favorite theme always remains incomplete, and at many turns untenable.  That is why many preachers struggle trying to give a hundred twists to the same theme, - mostly spiritual. They lack depth in comprehensive knowledge of the ‘message of God’ of the Bible. For this reason, some preachers set the Old Testament aside thinking, even publicly saying, OT is irrelevant. The work of Christ can be extremely convincing when the Scripture – (the Old Testament) is comprehensively understood and expounded.  The grasp of the Divine Virtue of the Divine Being – God, presents the rationale for God’s work that the Bible carries.  Such rationale shows “Why God should sacrifice His Son,” - a perpetual question the people of other faiths confront us with.  And, the ‘hearer of the gospel’ must be brought in to look at the work of God the Creator whom, he perhaps, might have ignored in favor of gods he had set up. 

     God’s work in Christ can be presented with greater power if the preacher can grasp and use God’s word in its comprehensive form and character of continuous thought that the Bible as a whole presents. Themes such as ‘God,’ ‘idolatry’ ‘forgiveness,’ ‘sacrifice of God’s Son,’ etc. can be explained in the context of the comprehensive understanding of the Bible.  Continuity of the biblical themes shows connection with their purpose and content as God desired them in His will from the beginning of time. This understanding enhances the appreciation of the need for Christ’s appearance on earth and everything he did. 

     Another critical issue pertaining to the relevance of the Scriptures (Old Testament) is the reference to God the Father who is present in His Son Jesus, and the Father who sent His Son to do His will on earth. As John in his gospel reports, Jesus was showing that everything he was doing was what he heard and saw in His Father’s presence in heaven; and that all things people see Jesus doing are things God himself is doing in and thorough His Son.  If so, God of the Old Testament is actively present in Jesus.  Jesus also said that he could do nothing without his Father’s will and hand.  This clearly means that the mind, word and work of God of the bygone times in history are still present in the mission of Jesus (John 5:17).

     Jesus says that he came to complete the work of the Father.  Unless we know the very essence of the pattern of God’s intent and work in the Old Testament times, we cannot adequately explain the complete work of Jesus.  Thus, simplifying it all by saying ‘Jesus came to save us’ is missing a large part of God’s work. Other parts are equally important to God’s over all work on humanity.  These are: the purpose and the subject of the teachings of Jesus (why did Christ start his ministry with teaching?), the Kingdom of Heaven, continuity of God’s work through Christ’s followers (us) based on the eternal divine virtues (truth, justice, righteousness and love), and finally the ‘church’ in the witnessing ministry till the Day of Judgment arrives.     These web pages would shed greater light on these issues.

[These articles and the larger essay, “The Bible” (“Understanding the Bible”) that concurrently appear on this website, are written on this scheme for the benefit of Christian witnessing.]

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Last modified on Sunday, 09 September 2012 04:13
Dr. John Reynolds

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About Path of the Divine Virtue

Some understanding of the term *The Divine Virtue is necessary. The series of articles on Biblical themes, study of the biblical topics (Bible Study), topics on Christian witnessing, theology, understanding the Bible Read More..