Jeremiah could not keep still! As you read through the Book of Jeremiah, you discover that the prophet suffered many things because of his testimony and his preaching. He was threatened so many times that he came to a point in his life where he decided to quit his career as a prophet. He would be silent and preach no more. How much easier life would be for him if he did not have to tell the people the truth he had received from God. After being silent for a while the prophet realized that he could not be silent. He writes in Jeremiah 20:9 “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then my heart, it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.”
In Acts 4, Peter and John were threatened by the Sanhedrin. They had been preaching in the name of Jesus and had just healed a cripple man. They were arrested and told that they could certainly continue healing people and they could go on with their preaching, but they could no longer preach in the name of Jesus nor heal people by His power. Peter and John reply: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard.”
“We cannot stop!” They were irrepressible witnesses. They had seen and heard the Lord Jesus. How could anyone expect them to stop witnessing for Jesus? They knew Him to be the Christ! They had seen Him die on the cross and they were witnesses of His resurrection. They knew that He was the one for whom all of Israel had been waiting. They had to tell others what they knew to be true!
Because of Pentecost, we should feel the same way as Jeremiah, Peter, John, and a host of others who have witnessed for Christ because they could do nothing else. How can we ever stop bearing witness of our Savior when we know what He has accomplished for us. We must proclaim that He is the ONLY way to heaven.
That truth is widely contested today. We live in an age when tolerance has become the latest fad and the most dominant religion. We are told not to argue with those who offer salvation through something other than Christ. Christ may be your way to salvation, but other people may attain peace with their god some other way.
It really does not matter how many people tell you that we live in a pluralistic society or that there are several ways to heaven. They are wrong! First of all, it is not their decision to make. Only the One whom we have offended can declare the way that the offense against Him must be reconciled. How we are to be saved, then, is God’s decision to make. And He has — it is thru His Son.
The thing that boggles my mind is that if there were another way to heaven, that is, if you could be saved by works, or you could be saved by following Mohammed instead of trusting in Jesus Christ, why would God give up His one and only Son? Why would He who is very God of very God pour Himself out to become one of us? Why would He have to ask the Father, “If there is some way that this cup can pass from me…” Why would He ask for the cup to be removed from Him if there were some way for this human race to be saved without the Son of God needing to suffer and go to the cross to die? Why would He have to be forsaken by the Father if some other way of salvation were available. If you could be saved thru Joseph Smith, Buddha, or Mohammed, then Christ would not have had to drink that cup! There would have been another way. But drink it He did and believe in Him you must.
This is the story we cannot help but tell the world. Witnessing must become a very personal thing for us. It must be something that we cannot help but do. The trouble today is that so many of us think that we are witnessing for Christ when we talk about religion or about the church. Witnessing to others is not going around telling people that your church got new pulpit furniture. Witnessing to others is not talking about the differences that the URC has with the CanRC. It is not talking about religion, the church or, for that matter, talking about some of the doctrines of the church. Witnessing to others is bringing them to an understanding of how much they need Jesus Christ as their Savior. That means making them aware of the fact that they have sinned against the most holy God and that they need to be reconciled to Him.
If you take the time to read Peter’s sermon on that first Pentecost day, you will notice that he does not mince his words. Peter is very straightforward in what he tells the crowd that has gathered together. He explains who Jesus is, and then tells them, “This Jesus, whom you crucified...” People have to know that they cannot go on living in sin; they cannot live an anti-God life and expect God to save them. If you know that is true, why aren’t you telling people about that?
Read the testimonies of Paul. Paul tells people everywhere about what God had done for him through Christ. He was a changed man because of what Christ has done for him. By the power of Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit in you, you are a changed person, too. Why are you keeping it to yourself? “You will be my witnesses,” Jesus said. How are you going to be an effective witness if you are afraid to talk about what Christ has done for you?
When you witness for Christ, you are not doing that on your own. Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” That power comes from Christ. The Greek word that Christ used for “power” is the same word from which we get the English word for “dynamite.”
What we receive is the dynamite of the Holy Spirit! It is the dynamite of the Holy Spirit that enables saved sinners like us to testify about Christ and His marvelous work. By the power of the Spirit, thousands of saints have had the courage to face persecution; they had courage to stand in front of kings and tell them about Christ. Hebrews 11:36, 37 tells us: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were put to death by the sword, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated” but they did not waver. The Holy Spirit gave them the power and the strength to continue to be witnesses for Christ in spite of the hardship they faced.
Even the wicked rulers in Acts 4, who told Peter and John to no longer speak about Jesus, marveled over the courage and ability these men had. Acts 4:13 puts it: “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”
They had been with Jesus. Even the Sanhedrin had to acknowledge that a special power was enabling these men to do what they did.
That power is the Person of the Holy Spirit.
In Luke 11:13, the Lord promises that special power to the church. He will give the Holy Spirit to whoever will ask for Him. The one hundred twenty men and women in Acts 2 who received the Spirit as He was poured out were essentially the first New Testament church. Throughout the New Testament, the church received the gift of the Spirit. That has not stopped. With the power of the Holy Spirit leading you, you are to be His witness to all the world.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is also editor of The Outlook.