The Great Commission gives Christians our purpose in life: We are to go and make disciples of all nations and teach them what the Lord has said (Matthew 28:19-20, paraphrase). We are not just saved from eternal condemnation. We are not just saved to go to Heaven one day.
We are also saved to live here on earth as witnesses – witnesses for Jesus.
If this is what all Christians are supposed to do, then why does it seem so hard? Why is it so intimidating? The answer is simple. The enemy opposes us and tells us lies like these: “It’s too hard.” “It’s too scary.” “I don’t know what to say.” “I haven’t been trained.” “I don’t have the right pamphlets.” “I cannot memorize all those verses.” “It’s not my spiritual gift.”
Don’t listen to the enemy’s lies. Instead, listen to the truth of God’s Word: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The truth is plain: we will receive power and we will be His witnesses.
When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we confess that we are hopelessly and desperately wicked with no path of reconciliation to a holy God apart from Christ. We ask for forgiveness. He forgives us and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (see 1 John 1:9). Then He goes a step further: He gives us His Holy Spirit to live in us forever (see Ephesians 1:13-14).
If we have the Holy Spirit, then we have the power to witness, but what do we say?
In an encounter with the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus gave simple, yet insightful, instructions about how to witness and what to say. John the Baptist was a special prophet – the first one since the time of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. About 400 years elapsed between the Old and New Testaments and then John was born. His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus, the coming Messiah, the coming King.
John had preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He had said, “…He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11b-12).
Then John had baptized Jesus and declared publicly that Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He knew who Jesus was. Not long after this though, John was arrested and thrown in prison. His ministry came to a halt – it is hard to baptize people from prison. Meanwhile, Jesus began to preach, teach, heal and do all sorts of miracles.
John was still in prison when he heard about these good deeds of Jesus. He must have wondered about his own sermons…where was the wrath of God? Jesus didn’t seem to be “burning the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Perhaps John didn’t understand that Isaiah 61:2 referred to two comings of Jesus (“…to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” referred to the first advent: Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. “The day of vengeance of our God” referred to the second coming of Jesus when He will rule as King on the earth.). Perhaps John thought, as many did at that time, that Jesus would set up His kingdom immediately.
So, John sent his followers to Jesus to ask this pointed question: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Jesus’ response to John’s friends was simple, yet profound: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5).
Go and tell what you hear and see.
These words are instructions for us too. Tell what you hear and see, with emphasis on “you.” As Christians, we have firsthand experiences with the Lord that we can share. It starts with our salvation experience – who we were before we met Jesus and how He has transformed our lives. I have heard some say that this is your testimony. Perhaps there will be times when this is the most appropriate experience to share with someone, but the conversion experience is just the beginning of a life-long, eternal relationship we have with God through Jesus. It is like the wedding day of a life-long marriage. When I tell people about my husband, I don’t talk much at all about our wedding day. Occasionally, I will share the story of how we met, but most often, I am telling people about what we are doing together right now – about our jobs, children, illnesses, losses, vacations, renovations, adventures, etc. We are continuing to add chapters to our marriage story, just like we, as Christians, continue to add chapters to our God-story. This is personal.
Go and tell what you hear and see.
So then, what do you hear? What is the Lord teaching you right now? Think twice before you say, “Nothing.” We have the Holy Spirit with us and He teaches us all things and reminds us of God’s Word (see John 14:26). In order for Him to do this, we need to spend time in the Bible. Hebrews 4:12 says that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Read it, and listen to it. Pray and ask Him to teach you. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus invited us to come and learn from Him! Listen to what He is teaching you and share that with the next person you meet.
Go and tell what you hear and see.
What do you see? What is the Lord doing in your life right now? Before you say, “Nothing,” remember this truth from God’s Word: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). In all things. God works. Sometimes, we just need to pray that He will open our eyes to see Him at work! What circumstances can you see around you that God has worked together for your good? How do you see Him transforming your life? Where do you see doors being opened to you? Watch to see what He is doing and share that with the next person you meet.
The next person you meet will fall into one of two categories: those who believe and those who don’t. If he is not a Believer, he needs to know that God is real, that Jesus loves him and died for him, and that there is real hope for peace with God. If he is a Believer, he may need to be reminded that God is still at work, that He is still good, and that He is still in control. Regardless of the condition of the hearts of the people we meet, we are to be witnesses. God knows what they need to hear. Our part is to speak up, to tell what we hear and see.
When we tell others about what we hear (what God is teaching us from His Word) and what we see (what He is doing in our lives), our words will flow from our own experiences and we won’t need a memorized speech in our heads or evangelistic tools in our pockets. Our testimony will be genuine and passionate, and it will impact others because of the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
So then, go and tell what you hear and see!