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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Scared to Witness? Part 1

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he was inspired to write, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20). That’s a pretty awesome honor and privilege; to be God’s representative and instrument of outreach and witness to the lost. That’s a pretty serious calling. It’s also an intimidating responsibility. But most importantly, this verse is not directed at a select few with the gift of evangelism, it is directed at “we,” that is, every Christian.

Why is it then that there are so many closet Christians? Why are so many Christians incognito? Why are so many Christians scared to witness? How is it that despite the numerous clear statements in scripture that the believer is to witness, that it is estimated that 55% of Christians still don’t believe it is their responsibility to witness? Why is it that estimates indicate that only about 2 % of Christians share their faith on a regular basis?

There are two basic reasons for this terrible situation. Before we go to those reasons for the lack of witnessing we need to ask is the lack of witnessing terrible? Yes, it is terrible. Why is it terrible? Because while Christians are neglecting their God given opportunity, privilege, calling and responsibility to witness people are going off into a permanent dark tormenting eternity in a place called hell where there is no love and only loneliness and regret. That is terrible. Hell is just as real as heaven and just as permanent (Mat. 25:46). When we don’t witness it is as though we stand outside a burning home where its occupants are asleep and though we could wake them up so they could get out, we refuse to do so. That is not only terrible in its consequences, it is terribly immoral.

Why aren’t Christians witnessing? First, people don’t witness because they are paralyzed with the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25 states, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Fear of man ensnares us and keeps us from the joy of God’s calling on our lives. The Bible says heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10). It’s a joyful thing when someone is saved from their sin and its consequence. But the fear of people keeps us from that. The fear of people causes us to care more about what people may think about us or do to us. The fear of people and what they might do to us or think about us short circuits any use we might be to God and for His glory.

The kissing cousin of the fear of people is the desire to please people. The apostle Paul wrote, “For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10b). It’s not a sin to want to please people. It’s a sin to want to please people more than to please God. When the world discourages witnessing by referring to it as proselytizing and Christians refrain they are putting the fear of people and desire to please them above their calling and command from God. Those who say Jesus is the only way to salvation are called intolerant, bigoted, narrow minded and a host of other derogatory things by the world. We don’t want to be seen as unsophisticated or shallow minded. We want to fit in and not stick out like a sore thumb. And so we keep our mouths shut and cower in what we often suppose people would think of us if we shared the gospel with them. They go off on their unassuming hell bent way and we shrink smaller and smaller spiritually with regret and guilt at having failed to heed God’s call.

It’s not a sin to have a healthy respect for people, it is a sin to fear people more than you fear and revere God. Jesus said, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5). Based on what Jesus said, if we are paralyzed and prevented from witnessing because of the fear of people, we need to have a change in perspective. In Hebrews the Lord states, “But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb. 10:38). If you want to please the Lord, (and any true Christian does) you must learn to deal with your fear that causes you to draw back from God’s calling; especially your fear of people.

Is fear ever good? What’s the difference between good godly fear and sinful fear? How can we overcome the fear that prevents us from witnessing? That is what we will consider in part two of Scared to Witness? I invite you all to read on and I hope you’ll invite your friends to do the same. Be His ambassador and let Him plead with the lost through you. God bless you

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