Thursday, February 17, 2011

Our Tireless Witness

I know many of you can relate to the discouragement we experience in our witness to the lost members of our family and to our friends.  Their rejection can be heartbreaking.  The Gospel we bring them is often met with stubbornness, an unwillingness to hear it, and a desire to debate you.  It is met with defiance because they want to believe in a god of their own choosing, rather than the True God whom you are introducing to them.  They believe you are exclusive by insisting that there is only One Way, One Truth, and One Life.  They demand that you be inclusive and tolerant for those with different beliefs, doctrines, ideologies, or philosophies that do not line up with the Word of God. 

They refuse to believe in a Jealous God that commands belief in Him, and Him only.  Submission to Him is out of the question; they prefer to maintain their self-reliance, their works, their pride, their arrogance. They seek after mediums, palm readers, and attempt to "channel" the spirits of the dead in vain attempts to soothe their consciences.  Their days are filled with fulfilling selfish wants and desires, chasing after unholy and lustful lifestyles that will only bring them greater pain and drive them farther from Him.  Heeding His call goes unheard.  Yielding to Him is seen as a sign of weakness.  And just when you thought your heart was completely broken over their response, you find that it is able to break even more.  You wonder if there is any hope for them left.

In one of Charles H. Spurgeon's sermons, I once read about a conversation he had with his Christian mother before his conversion.  Apparently, he was a bad boy around the age of 15 who loved the things of the world and involved himself in them to the point that she feared for him and pleaded with him, begging him to consider Christ.  According to Spurgeon, she concluded by telling him that when she was at last in Christ's presence, in her glorified state and watching as He judged unrepentant sinners, she "would have to say amen to his condemnation." 

I have been giving this a lot of thought the last few days, and I must agree with Mrs. Spurgeon's declaration.  The heartbreak she felt over her son's wayward life is the same heartbreak I feel over the unwillingness of those I love when they refuse to consider what I bring them.  However, when I am at last in my Lord's presence, when I am at last freed from my sinful state, I will not weep over those I loved who refused Him in this life and are condemned to an eternity of suffering.  Heaven would not have it.  As Spurgeon's mother said to him, I will also say "amen" to their condemnation.

Before you think I am heartless, let me explain.  Because we will at last be perfected like Jesus Christ in all ways, we will rejoice to see His enemies finally be put to eternal shame and destruction.  Sin that now resides in every atom of our being will be completely and utterly removed from us.  The concept is such an alien one to us at this point in time that we can not conceive what it will be like to be free of sinful thoughts and actions.  But then - ah then! -  it will be fully understood!

When we, His Saints, return with Him to bring an end to evil, we will rejoice because we will better understand the hatred and unbelief the world has had for Him.  We will see sin through God's eyes.  We will look upon them with more disgust than we ever experienced in this life; their sinful wickedness appalling and detestable because it is aimed at our King, our Lord, our Almighty God - the One they denied so vehemently.  He will be our Champion, our great Victor who has conquered His enemies, and we will praise Him for all of eternity for doing so.

I look forward with tremendous anticipation to that day of victory for my King's honor.  But while He tarries, my love for my unbelieving family and friends still whispers within me.  And because of the deep love I have for them, the desire I have for their salvation is even greater still because I understand the implications of eternity without Jesus Christ.  Regardless of the responses we receive from those who have not yet believed in the One Who has done all to secure their salvation, we must continue in our witness.  Jesus commanded it: "...and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8b,  NIV) - and it is our duty to Him to fulfill it.

We must use Jesus' example. Never should we allow rejection to cause us to quit.  Like our Lord did, we must meet the woman at the well in Samaria and the Scribes and Pharisees at the temple.  His Gospel can not be silenced.  No threats of persecution, whether physical or emotional, ever stopped it from spreading across the earth.  Nor will it stop it in our lifetime, or the one after us, even if it comes from family and friends.  Our words must be from His Word, never of our own making.  They must be clear and transparent and never deviating from the Truth of Scripture.  Our testimony must be His testimony; never boasting of ourselves, but of Him.  The work we do must be dictated by Him, never becoming our own, rather pointing out His work.  And the love that we shed abroad upon the hearts of our loved ones must never be lacking the fullness and reflection of the immensity of our Lord's great love for mankind.

 Spurgeon exhorts us with the following:

Do not watch the clouds or consult the wind.  In season and out of season, witness for the Savior.  If it happens that, for Christ sake, and the Gospel's sake, you must endure suffering in any form, do not shrink from it, but rejoice in the honor thus conferred on you, that you are counted worthy to suffer with your Lord.  Rejoice also in this: your suffering, losses, and persecution will be a platform from which you can witness for Christ Jesus even more vigorously, and with greater power.  Study your great Exemplar, and be filled with His Spirit.  Remember that you need much teaching, much upholding, much grace, and much humility, if your witnessing is to be to your Master's glory.

"Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good."  (Eccl 11:6, NASB)

The heartbreak we feel over unyielding hearts can be discouraging, but it must never cause us to faint or turn away.  We must sow; in the morning or the evening, in good times and in bad, never allowing ourselves to become weak over insults or slights.  Nor should it cause us to minimize the Gospel in order that we not offend anyone with a part of its Truth.  Jesus never spared His hearers of the complete and true nature of God, His will, or His purpose.  His descriptive words revealed a loving and kind God, but also a wrathful One Who would ultimately destroy sin forever.  He knows the ones He has chosen, and one or all of our loved ones may be among those He will spare. There will come a time when our work for Him is done and we are able to at last turn our faces away from this sinful world.  But now is not that time.  We must faithfully continue with tireless devotion, drawing upon God's strength and heeding His direction until, at last, all of His children are drawn into the safety of His arms.

So, to my beloved family, to my cherished friends, I will tirelessly continue to witness to you.  I will bring you the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ, and to exalt Him above all of creation and the false things you have embraced.  It may not be something you want to hear, but I am compelled by a Force greater than myself to give it to you.  The decision whether or not to heed the warnings I bring will be your own.  But our Lord will  receive glory and honor, either because of that decision, or in spite of it.

"Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."   ( Philippians 2:9-12 NIV)

1 comment:

Cory R. said...

I empathize with you over family, and the reminders in your article have done much to refresh me. A person can get so discouraged when there does not seem to be any fruit, or even seedlings, to show for their efforts. It can be hard to remember that our Lord desires not that we harvest this many or this much in this time period, but a heart that is faithfully and steadfastly obedient no matter what the human outcome. How much I pray to be content in whatever circumstances, whether reaping much or lovingly tending a patch of seemingly barren soil that several years from now someone else will harvest.
I loved how you put Churchill and Spurgeon together! It may sound funny, but I think I will remember this exhortation better because you did. I may just put this in my prayer notebook to encourage me on those rough days.
Thank you, Karen, again for a lovely article.