Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Legacy Series Week 4: Legacy of Witness

Several years back, the town had a local charter school. It mainly focused on high school, but served several towns in the area. In it’s last two years of operation I was able to coach their baseball team. During this time, the church had moved Marika and I over to Herb Kell’s home, which the church rented for us, as our family began to grow. One of the great perks of that house was the fact that it had a hot tub. Which, during the baseball season, I took full advantage of. Being a pitcher by trade, I threw batting practice of about 25 pitches to each player. We tended to have between 10-12 players, so at the minimum I was pitching 250 balls every offensive work out, which was twice a week. That means every week I was throwing about 500 pitches, only hitting the players once or twice.
Suffice it to say, that when I got home, my shoulder was hurting. And so I would spend anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour in the hot tub, usually alone. One night I was sitting in the hot tub looking towards the eastern mountains and three orange lights appeared in the sky. They shown for a few moments and then disappeared. They didn’t make a sound like a fire cracker and they didn’t explode like one either. They just appeared and disappeared. I had never seen anything like that before. And of course no one was around to share the experience, so my mind started to run through the possibilities. And of course, my mind settled on aliens. I mean, I’m a logical being, and so it must’ve have been aliens. 
I told wife, trying to get her to help me figure it out, but that got me no where, because she didn’t see it. I talked to a few more people, but all I got was some weird looks, as if I was crazy. It wasn’t until a few days later, when I was talking to Zee Still. She also saw the lights, which was a big relief because I knew now that at the very least I wasn’t crazy. But it wasn’t until later that I heard that it was a military exercise that happens from time to time. Since then, I have seen the lights serval times. Sometimes in the east, sometimes in the west. This past summer I even got to share it with the interns, and of course I told them the truth. It’s the aliens, and I tell them the story of the UFO Marika and I saw under a tarp going down the road, but that’s a story for another time. 

But it’s this idea of witnessing an event and sharing what we have experienced that we are going to talk about as we come to the end of our legacy sermon series. And as we talk about witnessing, what better place to jump into, but Acts chapter 1?

So if you have your Bibles, open with me to Acts chapter 1 verse 1. And as we get into God’s Word today, let’s catch up with the last several weeks in our legacy series.

In the first week of our legacy series, we talked about about the difference between leaving legacies of eternal worth rather than of temporal wealth. Saying, that temporal wealth legacies are easily destroyed and usually last one or two generations. But the legacy God desires us to leave, is one that works with him to produce things that are of eternal worth. A legacy that is focused on eternity, is a legacy that has it’s focus on Jesus and making his glory the most important thing in our lives. This legacy builds up rather than tears down, and moves beyond the right now, into the world to come.
In the second week, we started to ask the question, how can we have enteral worth legacies? It’s here that we started talking about different components of this legacy. The first one being trust. Is the trust I have in Jesus so real to people, that people realize I have it? Or is my trust in Jesus so light weight, that people cannot see it in action, and therefore do not realize that I even trust in Jesus as my Savior?
Then last week we talked about making sure that the Word of God is central to our lives. Do people understand that I build my life upon God’s Word, or does it not show? Has God’s Word transformed me, or have I been changed by other forces? Is there dust on my Bible, or is it highlighted and marked up?
There are other components that we could cover, but it’s these two, and the one that we’re going to talk about today, that are a good place to start.

So now, let’s get into our last component of leaving a legacy that is of eternal worth. Let’s start reading in Acts chapter 1 verse 1.

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

There are a couple of similar accounts within the Gospels of this sending out of the disciples. But the thrust of this passage is in verse 8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The disciples wanted a question answered that they had been at the forefront of their mind, probably as long as they had been following Jesus. That question dealt with when Israel would become a great nation once again. They wanted Jesus to be the conquering King, and now that he had conquered death, they wanted him to conquer earth.
But Jesus tells them that, that information is not for them, but rather they have their own job to do. Which is to be Jesus’ witnesses to the world, starting where they were at in Jerusalem.

And it’s this word witness that I want us to focus on. What is a witness? One of the things I teach our teens as they are going through our leadership program, is to ask questions about the text. Because a lot of the time we assume we understand words or phrases that are being used, but that can get us into trouble from time to time.
So let’s ask, what is a witness? Well there are two parts, there’s the noun and the verb. The noun would be someone who sees something happen. They have experienced an event. Like I experienced those three orange lights in the eastern sky. The verb, would be that person relaying what they have seen. Like how I told my wife and others about the lights.
And in Jesus’ telling the disciples that they would be his witnesses, he was telling them that they would be both a person who has witnessed, and one who would be relaying that witness. In other words, they were a witness witnessing. And in fact that is what the Greek language is implying here. Martus is the word used in this passage. It means both a person who is a witness, and a person who witnesses.
But what’s interesting about the Greek language, is that the same word can have a different spelling, but mean the same thing.

A little later on, in Acts 4:33, were told this about the disciples, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” 
The word witness in English isn’t there. Instead we see the word testify, which is the action of the witness. And the Greek word that is there is Marturion, a variation of the word Martus, but their meanings are the same. It’s a witness witnessing.

And so we have two words in English, witness and testify. One is the person, the other is the action. In Greek we have one word, Martus, with a variation of it Marturion. They both imply a person and their action of telling of an event they have experienced. 

But, the big question is what are they witnessing to? Right? Because that is the definition of a witness. Someone saw something, they’re a witness, and if they tell someone, then they are witnessing or testifying to what they saw.
So the disciples are witnessing to what? To the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What do we call this? This is the Gospel. And you know what, there’s a passage in Matthew that talks about the Gospel being witnessed.

Matthew 24:14 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

That Greek word for testimony is Marturion. And what were the disciples to do? They were to be the witness of the Gospel to the whole world. 

Now none of this should come as a surprise if you’ve been to any amount of church services. Especially in the Alliance, we like to talk about sharing the Gospel with people. There are tracks, acronyms, guides, and a whole lot of other information out there about sharing the Gospel with people. So us talking about sharing the Gospel is not something new. But the question we are asking today is, are we leaving a legacy of sharing the Gospel to those we desire to leave a legacy to?
Are the people that we will be leaving behind known how to share the Gospel by our example? Or do they have no idea what it means to be a witness and give a testimony about the Gospel?

There’s an old adage that says, “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” Why? Because these are two areas of life that can get heated. But because we are taught this, people see no need for Jesus, because his witnesses have decided it’s not a topic that needs to be talked about. And look were that is leading us today. We have a large swath of a generation that has walked away from Jesus. Not to mention our current state of politics.
There’s another saying, “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” This is attributed to a man named Francis of Assisi, but one it’s a false attribution, and two it’s unbiblical. We are to be witnesses of and witnesses to the Gospel.
Hence the reason Paul says in Romans 10:14, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

You and I, at the moment we accept Jesus, became witnesses of the Gospel. So what does that mean? How am I a witness of the Gospel?

What is a witness again? Someone who sees something, and then relays it. So the question we need to be asking is, what has Jesus done in my life? How has he effected me? How has the Gospel changed my life? Now, who can we share that with? Who has God brought into your life that needs to hear the message of Jesus? The message that has changed you?
Because this is the last component of leaving a legacy that is of worth that we’re going to be talking about, being a witness of the Gospel. Both in the noun and the verb sense.
Because if we are not a witness to people, then what are we leaving behind for them? Aren’t we just leaving behind a story from a book? One that we might read daily, but no one has heard how it has changed us? Aren’t we leaving behind a belief? A trust that, to us, might be real, but to others, they don’t know why we trust in this Jesus? And aren’t we leaving behind a legacy that wasn’t eternally focused, because we did not think it necessary enough to speak about it?
And what does that tell the next generation? If we are not a witness, or we’re scared to be a witness because we don’t want to offend or lose friends or make situations awkward, doesn’t that tell them, that Jesus is a personal life choice, and not a transformational movement from death to life?

In these past weeks I’ve had several legacy stories shared with me. One was from a lady who’s two grandson contacted her. One thanked her for showing Jesus to the family, and the other asked her to pray for him as he is seeking a raise at his employment. Here is a grandma that is sowing an eternal legacy.

I want to end this series with a reading from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce. In this book, Lewis gives us an image of heaven and hell. In the eleventh and twelfth chapters, he writes this, “But once more my attention was diverted. ‘Is there another river, Sir?’ I asked.
“THE REASON why I asked if there were another river was this. All down one long aisle of the forest the under-sides of the leafy branches had begun to tremble with dancing light; and on earth I knew nothing so likely to produce this appearance as the reflected lights cast upward by moving water. A few moments later I realized my mistake. Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.
“First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers-soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honor all this was being done.
“‘Is it? ... is it?’ I whispered to my guide.
“‘Not at all,’ said he. ‘It's someone ye'll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.’
“‘She seems to be ... well, a person of particular importance?’
“‘Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.’
“‘And who are these gigantic people . . . look! They're like emeralds . . . who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?’
“‘Haven't ye read your Milton? A thousand livened angels lackey her,’
“‘And who are all these young men and women on each side?’
“‘They are her sons and daughters.’ 
“‘She must have had a very large family, Sir.' 
“‘Every young man or boy that met her became her son-even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter."
“‘Isn't that a bit hard on their own parents?’ 
“‘No. There are those that steal other people's children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.
“‘And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”’ I looked at my Teacher in amazement. 
“‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end?’”

Where will our legacies end? Where will ripple in the pool dissipate? If it is a legacy of temporal wealth, it will end sooner than we would like.
But if it is an eternal worth legacy, showing trust, build on God’s Word, and spoken about through our witness, who knows when the ripple will end. Only God knows the work that he will do through his servants.

My challenge for you this week, is to do two things: First, write down your witness of what God has done in you through Jesus and his Gospel. Write it down in a simple, direct and loving way. And in a way that you are comfortable speaking out loud. Then, go before God, asking him to give you people to witness to. 
Remember, Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:20 that he will be with us. And we’re told in Acts 1:8, that the Holy Spirit is upon the believer. So let us be Jesus’ witnesses to the Gospel. Both as the noun of who we are, and the verb of what we’re relaying.

Let us be the people who God has called us to be, people that desire legacies of eternal worth. Not for our glory, but the glory of God who has saved us. Amen.

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