Acts 1:8 is often used to teach that we should be witnessing to the lost world. Sometimes I think we forget what the verse really says. It says, “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.” It doesn’t say “do witnessing for me”, it says “be witnesses unto me.” The difference is where we will find the greatest hindrance to soul-winning in our society today.
Excuse me if I seem to put a lot of emphasis on the meanings of the words, but we are talking about the Word of God. God did promise to preserve the words pure.
As a noun, a witness is one who is something. As a verb it is a person or thing that bears testimony of something. This verse says we are to “be” witnesses, not we are to “do” witnessing. A witness will, by nature, do witnessing. The problem is when one is not a witness and tries to do witnessing.
I John 1:1-3 gives an example of what I am talking about. It says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
The apostles were witnesses because they had heard, seen, and touched the Word of life, Jesus Christ. Because they were witnesses they could declare. See how being comes before doing.
Now that I have laid the ground work, let me tell you what I think is the greatest hindrance to reaching the lost in our world today. I already touched on it when I said people try to do witnessing before they are a witness.
The first, and most obvious, area where many are trying to do witnessing while they are not yet witnesses is in their lifestyle. I Peter 1:16 says, “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” This means that we, as Christians, are to live separated from the world and separated unto God. We should avoid anything that even looks bad (I Thessalonians 5:22). We are also told that we are to be different as Christians (Titus 2:14).
When we can’t tell the difference between a professing Christian and a lost person there is a problem. When Christians look the same (same dress, tattoos, body piercings, same music, etc.) something is seriously wrong. A worldly person is not a witness to the life-changing power of God. If the lost can’t see something different, why should they want what we have to offer?
The second, and less obvious, area is those who think it is what we look like on the outside that makes us spiritual. Extreme examples would be the Amish and the Mennonites. However, in fundamental Baptist circles we have the same thing. We recently moved from Washington state to North Carolina. While we were looking for a house, we were also looking for a good church. One church website had pictures of their kids at youth camp. All of the girls had ankle length skirts. There is not a thing wrong with this, as a matter of fact it is a good thing. As I went through the pictures I was shocked to see the girls learning to box. This showed me that they were more interested in what showed on the outside than what the girls were on the inside. I Peter 3:4, in the context of how women should behave, says, “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Does boxing teach women to have this meek and quiet spirit, which to God is of great price?
When the outside is more important than the inside it scares prospects away because their first thought is something like, “If I become a Christian I am going to have to become a weirdo and my friends will all mock me.” This will close their minds to the Gospel.
It almost seems like I have contradicted myself. I believe that the outward appearance of Christians should be different than that of the world. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t make are particular beliefs on outward appearance be the measure of our spirituality. Just using the issue of whether or not women should wear pants as an example. There are good people on both sides of the issue. I have seen people teach their children to say things like “Yuk, she has pants on.” How do you think that attitude is going to set with the lost you are trying to reach?
There is much more that I could say about these things but let me bring this to a close. If we want to reach the lost we must be witnesses to God’s life-changing power. This means we should live holy lives, separated from the world. On the other hand, it means we should not make the outward appearance a measure of spirituality. The outward appearance will be a reflection of the inward. Modesty and holiness dictates that we dress appropriately, but if we make our view of what is appropriate the standard without a solid biblical basis we become like the Pharisees. If our attitude is that the outward appearance is what makes us spiritual it will show and will be just as much a hindrance to reaching the lost as worldiness.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved