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Bearing Witness

Bearing Witness For the Lord



Last year on Mother’s Day, I shared some momisms. Statements that seem to be common out of the mouths of mothers. A few of them were these. “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?” “Don’t eat those. They will stunt your growth.” “If you don't eat those, you will stunt your growth.” “Because I'm your mother, that's why.” “Yes, I am the boss of you.”

    

For this year’s Mother’s Day, I looked for some statements made by children about their mothers. What I found was a comparison between how some mothers assess their parenting skills and how their children see them.


Here is what some mothers said in an interview. “I am too much of a perfectionist.” “I have a lot of doubts about my ability to be a mother.” “I have too much of a temper.” “I am too impatient.” “I need to take more time to sit and listen to my children.” “I need more confidence.”


The mothers interviewed did not express much that was positive about their parenting, but then the children of those mothers were interviewed. Listen to what they said. “She is totally awesome.” “She is fun to snuggle with.” “She is pretty.” She is funny.” We watch movies together and color and stuff.” “I like to jump on the trampoline with my mother. We go really high.” “She will care for me forever.”


I share that to encourage those who are mothers. I of course do not understand all that goes into being a mother since I am not a parent of any kind, but how many times are mothers more critical of themselves than their children are of them. And yes, even as nice as I was when I was growing up, there were arguments from time to time. Maybe some rebellions from time to time. I guess maybe that is part of the growing up process, but by and large, comments made by children are very positive concerning their parents.


Which brings us to the topic for today’s message, which centers on a quality the Bible teaches that God wants His people to have.


Throughout this month of May, there are four qualities that will be highlighted. Last week we talked about the quality of mercy. The quality to be discussed two weeks from today is courage. Next week, the quality of discipline. For today, the desire to bear witness for the Lord. To tell others about Him. That of course applies to all of us who are followers of Jesus, but, since this is Mother’s Day, this will, from time to time, be applied to mothers.


Bear witness for the Lord. Tell others about Him. The desire to do that is a quality God wants His people to have. One place that is taught - the first of five passages to be discussed in this message - is at the very end of Matthew 28. It was taught in a conversation Jesus had with His disciples at a meeting between His resurrection and His return to Heaven.


The teaching was given to His disciples - the 11 closest followers of His who remained - but I think it applies to Jesus’ followers even now. I think the teaching is for us, too


What is the teaching? Verses 19 and 20. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”


There was something else Jesus included. the disciples to whom He talked were to baptize the new disciples. Speaking of mothers on this Mother’s Day, they are not likely to baptize their children unless they are ministers, but the baptizing was to be done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which describes the three forms of God mothers are to teach their children about.


And it is to go beyond just teaching or telling. Consider the words “make disciples.” A disciple is someone who follows someone else. A follower who wants to learn from that someone else. A follower who will be determined to do what is learned.

That is what we who are Christians are to do for others. What mothers can do for their children. What all of us are to do. We are to bear witness for the Lord. We are to share the good news of Jesus with others, doing all we can to get them to join us in being disciples of Jesus.


The disciples were told to go into all the world. As that applies to us, I wonder. Does it sound scary to go and make disciples?


It had to be scary for His disciples when Jesus spoke to them at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. That was shortly after Jesus was crucified. It had to still be dangerous for Jesus’ followers to be out and about. To go from there and tell others about Jesus? It had to be a scary thought.


Going and telling might seem scary to us. What if someone laughs at us when we talk about Jesus? What if someone yells at us? What if what we say is rejected?


It can be scary to think of going and making disciples. If that is the case for you - or for me - listen to the last few words of the conversation in Matthew 28. “Lo, I am with you always [which includes everywhere], to the close of the age.” 


What a promise that we can overcome any fears we might have. That we will be able to survive being laughed at or yelled at or rejected. That we will be able to keep doing what we are supposed to do in bearing witness for Jesus because He did promise to be with His people everywhere forever. Which is a promise that still holds true today.


Again, the disciples were told to go into all the world. We usually think of that as teaching to go to other countries to bear witness to the Lord. Indeed, that is part of our responsibility, but let’s think of what is taught in Acts 1:8, the second passage for this message.


We will go in reverse order of what is recorded, but in Acts 1:8, Jesus - this happened right before Jesus returned to Heaven - repeated the challenge to bear witness for - to tell others about - Him.


In that conversation, Jesus promised His disciples power. Power from the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus some specific places. 


Where? To the end of the earth. That means around the world, as in other countries. 


Some of us have had opportunities to be in the Central American country of Costa Rica for missions trips. We as a congregation help children in need in other countries. We help support missionaries on Yap and in Malawi in Africa and in the Middle East.


We are to bear witness for Jesus to the end of the earth. We do that, as did the disciples who personally heard Jesus give that challenge. Some of them went to Asia. Later, Paul, who was a later disciple, went to Europe.


We are to tell others about Jesus, doing so to the end of earth. We are to do that as well in Samaria, which, at that time, housed people who were rejected by pure Jews. A few centuries earlier the people of Samaria, during a time of domination by foreigners, intermarried with other cultures. Pure Jews greatly disliked what the Samaritans did. That is why the people in Samaria were rejected, but even those people were to be told about Jesus. 


Perhaps that means we are to tell those who are now not the nicest or most respected people about Jesus. To not just tell them, but work with them to help them become disciples of Jesus.


We are to tell others about Jesus, doing so to the end of the earth, in Samaria, and in Judea, which was the area around the capital city of Jerusalem, which was the area of Palestine in which the disciples lived early in the Book of Acts.


For us, that represents our state and the region of the country in which we live.


We are to tell others about Jesus. We are bear witness for Him to the end of the earth, in Samaria, in Judea, and in Jerusalem, which represents our own city.


We do that by providing cookies and prayer support for the fire fighters across the street and by helping serve meals at the People’s City Mission and by offering Vacation Bible School each summer, inviting anyone and everyone who can come.


May I suggest that bearing witness in Jerusalem might also refer to our own homes. To our own children. Which of course returns our attention to mothers. What a unique opportunity you have to teach your children, and maybe the friends of your children - no matter their age, young or grown - about Jesus.


And again, not only teach them, but help them and guide them into becoming disciples - personal followers - of Jesus.


As suggested at the beginning of this message, there may be days you question your ability to do any kind of parenting, but remember that research shows your children love you. They will listen to you.


May all of us - not just mothers, but all of us - take seriously the challenge to make disciples of others,doing that wherever we can, including at home. May we remember we can be successful because of the promise that the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, will be with us always and everywhere.


There are two Biblical examples of people who told others about Jesus who came to my mind as I thought about this message. They were not mothers, but there are things we can learn from each of them.


One is told about in chapter 1 of today’s third Bible reference, the Gospel of John. That one’s name was John. He was known as John the Baptist.


What was John the Baptist’s role? Verse 7. Born six months before Jesus, he was “sent from God for testimony, to bear witness to the light [to Jesus.]”


John the Baptist’s purpose was to tell others about Jesus, working to get them ready to accept Jesus and become disciples of Jesus. He did that by preaching, sometimes very forcefully, sometimes with pretty nasty words and tones of voice to get the attention of those who were reluctant to change.


Do you suppose John is an example we are to follow? To be forceful when that is needed? Mothers, does that sound familiar? Do you sometimes use a strong tone of voice to get your message across, if not to your children, maybe your grandchildren? Or for any of us, anyone with whom we share about Jesus?


That may be the case, but listen to verse8 of John 1. John was not the light. He was not the Savior. But he came to bear witness to the light. To lead others to Jesus as the Savior.


To me, that represents humility on the part of John. In fact, he expressed humility when, later in John 1, when asked who he was, he made it very plain he was not the Christ.


It seems John had enough followers to claim he was more than he was, but he strongly stated he was not the Christ. He admitted he was only the one who had been sent from God to prepare people for the Lord. He went so far as to let his closest followers leave him to go to Jesus.


May we remember that as we bear witness, we, too, are to lead others, not to ourselves, but to Jesus. 


John the Baptist is an example. I also thought of Paul, who, in Acts 26 - the fourth passage - was also given the challenge to make disciples. In fact, in Acts 26, as Paul recounted his conversion to being a follower of Christ, he stated that was his purpose.


In the middle part of Acts 26, Paul, speaking to the Roman King Agrippa, told of when he was on his way from Jerusalem to the Syrian city of Damascus to search for Christians there, his intent being to find them, arrest them, and send them to Jerusalem to be imprisoned until they gave up their belief in Jesus, and if they did not, to kill them. 


On the way, Paul had been confronted by Jesus, who, Paul reported, had this message for him. Verse 16 through 18. “Rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for the purpose of appointing you to serve and bear witness to Me among the Gentiles. To open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, they they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith.”


Think what Paul gave up to answer the call of Jesus to bear witness for Him. Paul had been an important and respected religious leader. He gave that up. He had enjoyed stability of employment. He gave that up. Some suggest he gave up his home life - that his wife was not at all pleased with his conversion and may have given him the ultimatum of her or his faith. Paul chose his faith in Jesus.


Paul worked hard at bearing witness for Jesus. Many times in his New Testament writings he shared the difficulties he experienced. All the way from being rejected to being beaten and imprisoned. All the way from having no comfortable home to being threatened with death by other people and by nature.


Paul overcame the difficulties he faced. He did that so he could bear witness for Jesus. We, too, are called to work hard at telling others about Jesus, doing that to make more disciples. 


How was Paul and how was John the Baptist able to stay strong? The same way we are to do that. Remembering the promise of Jesus that, through the Holy Spirit, He will be with us always and everywhere, to the end of the earth and in our homes. 


One more Bible verse for today before what I hope will be a touching ending to this message. I Peter 3:15. This verse is shared because we might wonder what we should say to others as we bear witness for Jesus.


One answer to such wondering is I Peter 3:15. “In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord.” That means to love Him, respect Him, and be devoted to Him. It means to study His word, learn His word, pray about doing His word. 


As that happens, we will be able to accomplish what comes next. “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.”


What can we say - what are we to say - when bearing witness for Jesus? We are to state our hope. How Jesus is the fulfillment of our hope for happiness now and Heaven later. We can do that by using Scriptures we learn. We can do that by recognizing how Jesus has helped us and is helping us, sharing that with others.


The last part of I Peter 3:15 is also important. “Give an account of your faith with gentleness and reverence.” In other words, the call is not to browbeat other people, but in love for them, tell them about Jesus. How Jesus has affected you. How they, too, can be disciples. Telling them with kindness.


Once again, that can be applied to you who are mothers. Mothers of any age. May your children always love you and respect you and call you funny and awesome. May they know you will care for them forever. But what wonderful joy when you - when any of us with our children or with anyone else - can lead others to accept Jesus as the Savior. As that happens, we will have succeeded in bearing witness for Jesus.


OK. At the beginning of this message, comments were shared about what mothers often feel about their parenting skills, which is often not very positive. Then comments were shared that were spoken by the children of those mothers. The words of the children were much more positive.


last Sunday, I asked three of our Sunday School teachers to have their students share their opinions of their mothers. In some cases it is their grandmothers, or what they remember of their mothers if their mothers are gone, or maybe a mother figure in their lives. 


Listen to the comments. May they inspire us to remember our children are loving. Because of that, they are listening. What a joy to share with them - and others - about Jesus as we bear witness for Him.


Here are the comments shared by some of our younger ones about their mothers. “My mother is kind and teaches me about home living.” “She is generous and kind.” “She is amazingly faithful, strong, my rock beside Jesus.” “Kind and loving. She reads stories to me, cooks food for me, takes us to fun places like the pool, does my hair for school, and helps me with my homework.” “She gets toys for me, gets somebody to help me, helps me eat, helps me color.” “My mom is loving and caring.” “My mom is nice.” “ She helped me with homework and not getting angry with my brothers.” “Loving, puts a bandaid on me when I get hurt, takes me to fun places like Pizza Hut, takes care of me, plays games with me, grows flowers.” “My mother is pretty, kind, and sweet.” “Mom, thanks for being the best mom ever.”


To all our mothers - and grandmothers and mother figures - Happy Mother’s Day. Please know you are loved by your children. Each day be encouraged to continue to bear witness, telling your children about Jesus. Again, their love for you means they are listening. 


May all of us bear witness. That is what God wants His people to do.


Today’s closing song is a reminder to tell others about Jesus. It is the hymn Tell What He’s Done For You. We will sing verses 1, 3, and 4.


Have you found rest and peace within,

Rolled far away your load of sin,

Stepped from the old life to the new?

Tell what the Lord has done for you.

O tell what He’s done for you,

Of His love so strong and true;

O tell what He’s done, what He’s done for you;

Others may need Him, too.


Have you been saved His love to show,

Who by your side each day shall go?

Looking to Him to help you through,

Tell what the Lord has done for you.

O tell what He’s done for you,

Of His love so strong and true;

O tell what He’s done, what He’s done for you;

Others may need Him, too.


Have you a joy that ne’er shall fail

E’en when you walk through death’s dark vale,

Someone whose power great things can do?

Tell what the Lord has done for you.

O tell what He’s done for you,

Of His love so strong and true;

O tell what He’s done, what He’s done for you;

Others may need Him, too.



Verse 2 of the closing hymn will serve as today’s benediction.


Have you a Friend whose wondrous grace

Lights up with joy the darkest place?

You do if you have accepted Jesus. 

That make Him your friend.

He is the one who will, to the end, still prove true.

Because of that, tell what the Lord has done for you.

O tell what He has done for you.

Tell of His love that is so strong and true.

O tell what He has done. 

Tell even your children what He has done for you.

Why? Because others do need Jesus, too.


Amen.