The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Scared to Witness? - Part 2

In Part 1 of this study we started by noting Paul’s inspired words, “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). We said that verse contains a great honor, privilege, calling and responsibility and that it is directed to every Christian. Then we asked why aren’t Christians fulfilling this calling. Our answer was the fear of man and its kissing cousin a desire to please people. How do we overcome this problem?

Where does fear come from? We need to understand that there is good fear that is God given and there is bad or sinful fear that comes from Satan. There is a fear of the Lord, a holy awe and reverence for God that is edifying. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:7; 9:10), helps us hate evil (Prov. 8:13), brings confidence (Prov. 14:26), brings riches, honor (Prov. 22:4), leads to life (Prov. 19:23), and is a fountain of life (Prov. 14:27). The fear of the Lord is associated with peace, life, comfort and spiritual growth (Acts 9:31), is an incentive for holy living (2 Cor. 7:1) and to serve the Lord (Heb. 12:28-29). The fear of the Lord is also an incentive and motivation for evangelism (2 Cor. 5:11). The fear of the Lord is a healthy fear of harming or bringing any pain, sorrow or disappointment to the one you love. The fear of the Lord is something that is good and that we need. But there is a satanic counterfeit fear.

The big strong fisherman Peter once expressed a commitment to stand by Jesus no matter what only to later deny Jesus three times because of his fear of people (Mat. 30-35, 69-75). Later, after Jesus had restored him, he wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is a bully. He seeks to manipulate by intimidation. He deceives and instills fear in us by getting us to look at ourselves and our weaknesses. He puts thoughts in our heads that tempts us to focus on perceived weaknesses in relation to the opportunity to witness at hand. Sinful fear comes from the enemy and always aims at getting us to disobey God or turn a deaf ear to God’s calling and direction. This kind of fear is not from God (2 Tim 1:7). How can such fear be overcome?

We need to realize having fears is not abnormal. The apostle Paul experienced fear in ministry. He testified, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). Paul trembled? Yes, he did. Courage is not the absence of fear but the management of fear. How can we manage our fear so that it is only good fear of the Lord and not satanic sinful fear of people? The next verse after Paul speaks of trembling with fear gives us the answer. He says, “And my speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5). The second reason Christians don’t witness is they are not empowered by the Holy Spirit. The solution to the fear problem is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

What was it that changed fearful Peter into fearless Peter? What was it that changed all those fearful disciples, (who ran away when Jesus needed them most) into fearless disciples? What was it that changed the 150 cowering in the Upper Room to those who busted out of that room preaching the gospel powerfully in a way that impacted the entire world? One thing, One Person, made the difference, the empowering of the Holy Spirit. In fact Jesus instructed the apostles and others to wait for the empowering of the Holy Spirit before they went out witnessing (Acts 1:4-5, 8). They waited in prayer and when the Spirit came upon them in power they were transformed into a mighty force of unstoppable ambassadors for the Lord (cf. Acts 2 and the rest of the book of Acts). The solution to our sinful fears is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

How can we be empowered by the Holy Spirit? Later in Acts when Peter was describing this empowerment he said, “So God who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:89). Notice God does not discriminate and this empowerment is available to all (compare Acts 2:39). What God did in empowering the early believers with the Spirit He will also do for us. What happened to them? It says God purified their hearts by faith. What does this mean? It means God purified the hearts of the people who fully surrendered to Him through faith in Christ and His promise of the Spirit.

There were probably a lot of things God cleansed out of those Christian’s hearts. One thing He cleansed and purified out of their hearts was fear of people. On his own big strong Peter who had boasted of his loyalty and steadfastness to Jesus, cowered and ran due to the words of a woman (Mat. 26:71). But once He was empowered by the Spirit He stood with the other apostles in Jerusalem, right where Jesus had been crucified and boldly proclaimed the gospel in the presence of the enemies of Jesus. Pentecost is a testimony to the power of the Spirit to overcome paralyzing fear.

The apostle John said, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4). The empowerment of the Spirit that helps us overcome fear to witness is the full surrender in faith to God so that our love for Him is our supreme motivating force in life. The empowerment of the Spirit is loving God so much you’d do anything for Him. It is loving God so much you live your life to please Him. With that love we will follow His every command. It is that love that is poured out into our hearts by the Spirit (Rom. 5:5). It is that love that assures us Jesus is always by our side (Heb. 13:5). It is that love that helps us overcome our fears because in the face of the fear of people we hear the assuring words of the Spirit saying, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). With God on our side whom shall we fear? No one! (Rom. 8:31-32). Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39).

Fear the Lord. Receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit. In faith completely surrender to God and His call to be an ambassador. If you do, sinners will be reached and those who are saved will be a source of great rejoicing. Serve the Lord and enter into the joy of the Lord. Witness!

In the final part of Scared to Witness? we will look at a very effective yet unintimidating entry level way to get involved in sharing the gospel. 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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