Each One Reach One, Part 2:
You Are My Witnesses
May 4, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
6When they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
We’re continuing a sermon series this morning, “Each One Reach One.” This is part 2, and our topic today is “You Are My Witnesses.” Those are the precious and priceless words of our Lord, Jesus Christ. What an invitation! Jesus Christ wants us to be partners with Him. And I tell you, I’m excited about it.
A few weeks ago, as I began to prepare for the sermon, I was not quite sure what the leading of the Lord was, but as I studied the Word, I was so impressed with the story from last week, where the apostle Paul stood before the Athenians, stood before the Greek people, who didn’t know Christ, but he did. And Paul said to them, “People of Athens, I can see that you are religious in every way.” There was something about that that captivated my attention. What a gracious and winsome way to talk to people, to recognize their spirituality, and then to be a witness for Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful thing.
And so, I’m inviting us to consider it. I’m inviting us to think about accepting the invitation of the Lord Jesus Christ to be a witness for Him. Are you a witness for the Lord? I invite you to ask yourself that question. And if you are, how so? How are you a witness for Jesus Christ? Friends, I ask that you embrace these words, and that you hold them close to your heart. “You are my witnesses.”
You see, that’s what Jesus said to His disciples, just before He ascended into heaven. It was His last shot at earthly words. It was the last moment that He had to address us from His spiritual body, from His risen body. The next time we would hear from Jesus, it would be when He came back to the earth in the form of the Holy Spirit, and we’re celebrating that next week. But this is one of the things He said: “You will be my witnesses.”
You know, I have to mention to you, there is a very humanizing aspect to this whole thing. Even at this last moment, when Jesus was ready to be taken into heaven, did His disciples get it? Was He leaving an enlightened group behind? Check it out. It says in our lesson, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Just before He ascended into heaven! Jesus might have slapped His forehead and said, “How long have I been with you?” But instead He said, “No, it’s not about restoring the kingdom to Israel; it’s about redeeming the world, and I need you; I need you to be my witnesses.”
Let’s take a close look, before we move on, at those precious words. “You will be my witnesses.” The first word is ‘you’. It’s personal. It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s an invitation from Him. It’s not “They will be my witnesses” or “Someone will be my witness” or, my favorite, “Somebody really ought to be my witness.” No, it’s “you” and “me.” His invitation is personal. To be what? A witness? A sort-of, kind-of witness? No, “my witness.” There’s a caressing quality to it. He says, “You and I [Jesus Christ] are going to be partners”—if you say yes to Him.
And what will you be? What is a witness? A witness is somebody with a story to tell, who tells it. You’ve got to have a story to tell. You’ve got to experience something in order to be a witness. Have you? Do you believe in God? Do you know Jesus? Have you asked Him to be your savior? Have you experienced the positive difference in your life because you have faith? Do you love your church? Has something good happened to you because of your church? Has your life been better, more reassured, more confident, because of your faith? Well, if you can say yes to any of those questions—and some of you can say yes to all of them—you’ve got something great! You’ve got something to share. And I feel strongly that Jesus is inviting us to share that with the world. He’s a spiritual savior that doesn’t impose, but He depends on us to help His kingdom grow. So, let’s say yes! Yes, Jesus, I will be a witness for You.
How can we do it? There are three ways—how you act, how you help, and how you invite. How you act, I think, is the most important way. People are won to Christ, first and foremost, by watching you and me and saying, “I want some of that.”
I’ll never forget a woman (I don’t know her first name), Mrs. Rapp. I knew her when I was about 11 or 12. She was a Methodist Sunday School teacher. This little Roman Catholic boy was encountering this Methodist Sunday School teacher. I remember her fair rosy skin and her wonderful gray hair. She had the most wonderful quality about her—she loved to sing hymns, and she loved to talk about her faith in the Lord. She never imposed it! But I saw the joy that her faith gave her, and I thought, “I want some of that! I believe in God. I like going to church. But her faith—wow! That’s something special.” And I tell you the story so many years later about the witness of that United Methodist Sunday School teacher.
Let me ask you this—does your faith result in being boastful, arrogant, rude, pushy, judgmental? Is that a good witness for the Lord? I don’t think so. But does our faith result in us having love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control? Ah, there’s a witness. There is a witness for the Lord. The first and best witness, I believe, my friend, is how we act. That’s the way we can be a good witness.
There’s a story about a lady who was stopped in traffic, totally stopped. She was getting more irritated by the minute. And from behind her she hears a horn blow. “Oh,” she thinks, “What’s the matter with this guy behind me?” She looks in her rearview mirror, and the guy is smiling. “What’s the matter with this guy? Can’t he see I can’t go anywhere?” She’s sitting there, and he blows his horn again. She’s getting really irritated. She looks in her rearview mirror; the guy is waving. She is barely staying in control of herself. Honk, honk, honk. She’s had it. She’s over the top. She gets out of her car, slams the door, walks over to the guy, and knocks on his window. He rolls down the window, and she says, “What is the matter with you? Can’t you see that I can’t move in this traffic?”
And the guy says, “Well, lady, your bumper sticker says ‘Honk if you love Jesus,” and I love Jesus and thought maybe you did, too.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot about my bumper sticker.”
How we act is an important part of our witness. I’ve got a truth for you. I wish that I’d written this, but I didn’t. It’s challenging, yet exciting. Here’s the truth: “You and I are the only Bible some people will ever read.” May I extend that? You may be the only Jesus some people will ever meet.
Now, we can’t be perfect, and we don’t go around with our hands folded. I don’t wear this clerical collar all the time. But you know what, in the midst of our humanness and our brokenness, we can let the spirit show, can’t we? How we act is our most important witness.
Second of all is how we help. You never know whose angel you’re going to be. You never know how God is going to use you in a certain situation. I invite you simply to slip God in when you’re helping out. Maybe a ‘God bless you’ at the end of the encounter, maybe an invitation to church. But let your light shine when you’re helping folks.
I never dreamed God would put this in front of me—11:07 PM last Tuesday night I was driving in my car, coming home from my Starlight Chorale rehearsal, and I was heading southbound on Route 1. In the middle of nowhere, on an unlit portion of Route 1, my headlights caught the vision of a man on the side of the road. He was dressed in fairly light clothing, and he was walking alongside a bicycle.
Now, late at night, on a lonely stretch of Route 1, miles from anything, a man is walking alongside his bicycle. What do you think is going on? Flat tire, right? Flat tire. So, I stopped the car and backed it up and went over to him and said, “Sir, are you okay?”
He said, “Yeah, I guess so.” He was perhaps of Hispanic background, a quiet and gentle fellow. Our conversation continued.
“Do you have a flat tire?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Where are you going?”
“I live in Dayton.” Now those of you who don’t know the geography of the area, it was 14 miles from where we were.
“Would you like a ride?”
“Oh, sir, if there were anyway you could give me ride – I’ve already been walking for an hour – that would be great.”
So I opened the hatch of my van, and then we had the next miracle of the day—my car was empty [the whole congregation laughs, knowing the usual state of Pastor Tony’s van], praise God! We were able to get his bicycle in there, no problem, and we drove through the night.
I asked him his name; it was Louis. “Louis, what brings you bicycling out here in the middle of the night?”
“I visit my son and his mother out in Edison, and that’s the only way I can get there.”
“How often do you go?”
“Every day, if I can.”
“Do you work around here?”
“Yes, I work the night shift at the A&P. It’s my night off.”
I introduced myself, and he said, “You’re an ordained minister? Is that like a priest?”
“Yes, very much so.”
“You do weddings and baptisms?”
“I sure do. Consecrate communion, the whole thing.”
“Do you wear that black shirt?”
“Yes, I do, but I’m out of uniform tonight.” He thanked me for the ride, and I got him home. He lives in a hotel. I had some food and money that I could give him.
“Sir, are you sure this is okay?”
I said, “I am sure it’s okay. God bless you. God bless your son and your son’s mom. And remember, God loves you.”
He said, “Thank you, sir.” And he went with his bike into the night. I’m hoping that maybe there was a seed planted. Maybe God needed us to meet up at that point. Who knows how the Lord is going to invite you to help folks and to bless folks and to be a witness for Him.
And just very quickly, last thought – we’re a witness by how we invite. I invite you to have courage. I invite you to invite somebody else to church, to invite somebody to our neutral events like the organ recital and the comedian and stuff like that. Invite them to church so that they might know how sweet the Lord is and how sweet His family is and that God might begin to work in their hearts. Won’t you accept it as a personal invitation to you? “You are my witnesses,” says Jesus Christ. Not them – you and me.
You never know how God is going to use you this week and how He is going to invite you. I came to the Methodist church for the first time because Mrs. Rapp’s daughter invited my sister and me to a play. And look what happened. You never know how God can work in someone’s life because of you. Let’s accept it. Let’s be excited about it. Jesus says, “You are my witnesses.” And I invite each of us to say, “Yes, Lord, I am,” because God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski