I was seriously considering an article on the subject of Personal Witness when I saw the Daily News editorial "A Beef with Baptists." My thanks to the Editor for printing an opinion which is exactly ours. We have received a few calls over the years from folks complaining about our Visitation ministry. My response is simply, "Don't answer the door" or "Just say no thanks."
Following the earlier article "The Beef with Baptists" was the Sunday, Jan 23rd commentary of almost a full page: "Private Property, Public Piety." Following the title was this broad and bold statement: "Private property rights are important not just in law but in the practice of religion, too. So, as Southern Baptists launch a crusade to convert Jews, they had better tread carefully." The writer's warped view comes through clearly with this statement: "The Baptists would pose no serious threat while trying to convert Jews if their proselytization extended only to peaceful expression of ideas, confined to their publications and to preaching in places where they have private jurisdiction - where they worship and in the homes of the faithful." So, now we are being told we can only witness in our Church and in our home!
The Jews, Catholics and so-called Christian clergy in Chicago do not really believe the Baptist mission would "contribute to a climate conducive to hate crimes." What they really fear is the true conversion of sinners which would free them from dead religions which have held them captive for centuries. Sharing the Soul-saving, Life-Changing Gospel with lost people is not a "Hate Crime." In fact, the greatest love this world has ever known compels those of us who are saved to tell those who are not saved the good news of the Gospel. Dr. Billy Graham of necessity had to come out in opposition to the mission because of his ties to the Roman Catholic church. What does the Bible say about personal witness? Should we be confined to our homes and Churches in our witness? God has been kicked out of our Government and our Schools, and next it will be the Highways and Hedges. Luke 14:23.
The laws regarding freedom of speech cannot be categorized by subject, but that is exactly what is taking place in America. How is it that a man can curse God, blaspheme God's name, use all sorts of vile offensive language at work and go unrebuked and a mere mention of the name of Jesus causes a stir?
Last week I referenced two separate Daily News articles of late which dealt with the issue of free speech. Then Sunday's Jan. 30 Commentary section presented yet another almost full page, "Tragedy of the commons" written by Freedom's advisor, Tibor Machan. While the subject seems at first to be directed toward the anti-abortion protesters, it seems to grow into a similar one-sided argument against religious freedom of speech. The argument goes like this: "Streets are for transportation... Roads are for vehicle travel... sidewalks are for pedestrian travel and parks for recreation." Later on in the article this example is given and touches close to home: "Thus, for example, if a preacher came out of his church to preach in the middle of the park, stopping him would not constitute freedom of speech or religion, but a protection of the designated function of the park. Similarly, if one isn't permitted on a public sidewalk to come up to a disinterested, unwilling person to stick things into that person's hand or make a plea, that does not constitute violation of anyone's rights." Then the article ends with this statement: "Public places would not be the sites of massive demonstrations and clashes, just as they are not the sites of church services."
Before I get into what the Bible says about the subject of personal witness, I would like to pose some questions. Could we define what things could not be stuck in our faces? What about cigarettes? Curse words? Newspapers? (Go to Pensacola to see 4 or 5 people in the middle of major crossroads selling newspapers). What about nudity? Should my grandsons be forced to see this on a public sidewalk? How do we know the person we have offered a tract to is "disinterested" until we ask, "May I give you a tract?" What about so-called music we are forced to listen to in restaurants? It is usually the wrong kind and too loud.
Freedom of speech was a major issue in the early New Testament times. In fact, the early Believers were beaten, jailed and in some cases killed over the issue of freedom of speech. All this was over the issue of Preaching Christ to a lost and dying world. Please read Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, and Acts 1:8.
Part 3I hesitate to even bring up the John Rocker episode, yet it must be abundantly clear that some subjects are exempt from freedom of speech laws. We may not agree with what he said, but we believe he had the right to say it. Here again our Daily News took a correct stand on the issue. There is a growing movement in America to limit some subjects and liberate others.
I have warned my congregation for years that the time is coming when laws will be made to limit my freedom of speech about certain subjects from my pulpit. This is where I believe all this is leading.
Sensitivity training and re-education will never change what God's Word, the Holy Bible, says about the responsibility of Believers to give a personal witness to the world. What the average American does not understand or does not want to accept is the fact that Christians are under a higher command to give personal witness to a lost and dying world. It is our responsibility to share the Good News and it is yours to receive it or reject it. Jesus gave the Great Commission to the church in Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47. Believers have given their lives over this issue since the time of Christ. John, the writer of Revelation, was the only apostle not martyred and he was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. Revelation 1:9 states, "I John who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the Isle of Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Acts 1:8-9 gives us the very last words spoken by Jesus before He ascended to heaven after His resurrection. "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 Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight."
The last words of Jesus concerned personal witness: "and ye shall be witnesses unto me."
Look at 1 Thess. 2:10-20 and notice:Verse 10, The Believers behaved themselves; Verse 11, They exhorted, comforted and changed the Believers; Verse 13, The Believers received the Word of God spoken by men as though it was God speaking; Verse 14, New Believers began following and suffered; Verse 15, "Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us: and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: (v16) Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the utmost."
Part 4In article #3 I showed how Believers are under a higher command and authority when it comes to speaking the truth in love. (Eph. 4:14) In Acts 4 we have the first persecution of the early Church Saints. The issue was the personal witness of the believers. Three thousand people have just been saved and Peter has just preached his second sermon. In verse 1-2 we see as they speak with the people, "the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people..." By now we are up to "about five thousand" according to verse 4. Peter addresses the Sanhedrin, still preaching Christ. In verse 13, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." Now in verses 15-16 they send them out and have a council meeting and conferred among themselves, "What shall we do with these men?" Then in verse 17, bingo! "But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus." NOW WATCH THIS RESPONSE OF PETER AND JOHN IN VERSE 19-20: "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What could the authorities do? Verse 21 states, "So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done." Then they had a worship service, verse 23-31. Please read and be blessed. Notice especially verse 29-31: "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."
I will come back next week, but look at Chapter 5:17. The second persecution of the early Church is over the issue of freedom of speech, personal witness. Look at verse 27-28. Here they are before the council again. "Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine..."
Part 5Last week I pointed to Acts 5:28 where the high priest asks, "Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Look at verse 29 for Peter's response: "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men...." Then in verse 30, Peter said, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree." See verse 31 and notice verse 32, Peter tells them, "We are his witnesses of these things..." Then in verse 33, "When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them." In verse 34-39, Gamaliel, a doctor of the law steps up and sends the apostles out and tells them, "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men." He then gives two examples, Theudas and Judas, and shows how their work "came to nought", verse 38. In the first part of verse 38, Gamaliel said, "Refrain from these men, and let them alone...". In verse 40 they agreed, called the apostles, beat them again, and commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. In verse 41, "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." Then in chapter 6:8 God raises up Stephen, "full of faith, and power." Verse 10: "And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake." In verse 12, "And they stirred up the people, and the elders... caught him, and brought him to the council." In verse 13 they "set up false witness." Now, look at this in verse 15: "And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." Now read chapter 7. Notice verses 54-60. Stephen preaches such a scathing message that they were cut to the heart, and gnashed on him with their teeth and cried with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord. Well, what do you know? While they were stoning Stephen, they laid their clothes at the young man's feet, whose name was Saul. Stephen paid the price of his life for the Gospel message, and from the place where he fell down dead, sprang up the greatest witness of the Gospel. Saul became Paul after his conversion. THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL CANNOT BE CONTAINED! Paul doesn't get saved until Acts 9, for in verse 1 he is "yet breathing out threatenings, and slaughter against the disciples." However, once he meets Jesus, he could not be shut up. Everywhere he went he stirred up the authorities. The issue was always centered around his message. Saul was free to speak and breath out the threatenings and slaughter, until he got saved. All of a sudden he is on the wrong side and his freedom to speak is denied.
It is sad that we are at a point in American history where we can freely speak of those things which are anti-Scriptural, anti-Christian and anti-Christ with the utmost freedom. I am amazed at the people who think we do not have a right to speak the name of Jesus Christ. There are people who fear they are breaking the law by ending a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ They will say "in thy name" or "in your name" or some other sanitized version. The mere mention of the name JESUS created a stir in the New Testament. Do you realize that the Apostles gave their lives over the issue of personal witness of Jesus Christ? Do you realize that the number of people who have given their lives for their personal faith and witness of Jesus Christ outnumbers those killed in all wars? There have been several Letters to the Editor as well as several local columnists who credit "Christians" with killing Christians. This of course is not true. The False Church has persecuted the true Body of Christ by killing Christians who boldly spoke their witness of the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. When a person or group is martyred for their faith and witness of Jesus Christ by those who claim to be "Christian", it should be obvious that they are not Christians. You cannot find in church history a thread of evidence that Bible believing, Christ-exhalting Believers who held to the great fundamentals of the faith ever put people to death for their refusal to become fundamental Believers!
My dear friends, the Christian Martyrs were put to death by the false State Church over the issue of Personal faith and Personal witness! Church History has been neatly sanitized just like American History is being sanitized today. Men and women, even children have paid with their lives through the centuries up until this day for their faith and personal witness of Jesus Christ as personal Savior. This fulfills the words of Jesus in John 16:1-2, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." Revelation 12:11 states, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."
Though we have a God-given right to share our faith with others, the time is approaching when the door will close in America just as it did in Russia, China, the Middle East and various other places in our world. Believers, let me urge you to speak up and witness for Christ while you can.
Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."