Publication: Pastoral Letter, May 2012
Dear Friend in Christ:
I want to address what I believe is the number one issue now for churches and all followers of Christ: spreading the Gospel through personal testimonies and in personal relationships, which is the biblical way. The model for this statement can be found in John 1:29-42. I do not discount all other forms of evangelism such as preaching or use of media. But the primary issue, I believe, is the relational (not institutional) means of sharing our faith. This is vital to our family, friends, communities . . . and our world.
In the New Testament times there was no print, TV, or media, yet the “Good News” spread rapidly and forcefully. It quickly affected nations primarily by word of mouth. I remember in the 1960s and 70s, traveling to many parts of the United States and abroad, and giving my own personal testimony; many lives were affected. I have heard and been affected by the wonderful testimonies of others. Personal witness or testimony is so revered that it is used in courts of law.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah. He came preaching repentance and vast crowds came from everywhere to hear Him preach at the inconvenient location of the Jordan River. One day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the word.” He recognized Jesus, not by sight, but by the Holy Spirit (see 2 Corinthians 5:16). The next day, he saw Jesus again. Two disciples were with John and he repeated the statement, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and testified to them that Jesus is the Son of God. The two disciples followed Jesus.
When Jesus saw the two disciples, He asked, “What are you seeking?” They responded, “Where are you staying?” Jesus said, “Come and see.” The disciples followed Jesus to His place and stayed with Him several hours. One of the disciples was Andrew and he, immediately after being with Jesus, found his brother, Peter, and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” He brought Peter to Jesus.
When Jesus saw Peter, He said to him, “You are Simon; you will be Cephas, a stone.” In our vernacular, He would have said, “I am changing your name to ‘Rocky’”. Jesus was giving Peter a prophetic word-“This is who you will be.” This is an early example of how the Good News spread by testimonies. Let’s look at the testimonies involved in the chain of events.
- The first testimony is John the Baptist’s testimony. He made several personal observations that in fact are the Gospel. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin on the world.” John knew this by the Holy Spirit as he saw the Spirit on Jesus. John knew the Holy Spirit personally because he had been filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (see John 1:15, 41; 1 John 4:2; 1 Corinthians 12:3.) We can say that the first New Testament testimony of Jesus is from John the Baptist by the Holy Spirit; that Jesus is the Son of God and the Lamb of God that takes away sin.
- The second testimony is Andrew’s testimony, “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew not only heard John and was affected to seek, but heard personally and received Jesus for Who He is. He had a personal experience. Andrew’s experience and excitement sufficiently affected Peter so that Peter came to see for himself. The testimony of personal experience can and will cause people to see for themselves (see John 4:39-42).
- The third testimony of Jesus is what He told Peter: “You are, but will be. . .” This is the testimony of prophecy (see Revelation 19:10). The power to truthfully prophesy the future is evidence of the presence of God. Notice that I did not say, “Predict the future.” True prophecy is not a prediction based upon evidence. It is a declaration based upon a revelation from the One who sees the end from the beginning. Peter was so affected by Jesus’ ability to see into Him and the purpose of his life that he too became a follower.
These three testimonies are relevant to us: John the Baptist’s, Andrew’s, and Jesus’ prophecy. I regard the prophetic accuracy as the greatest confirmation of authenticity. We must be careful at this point because other spirits know things too. But true Holy Spirit prophecy testifies to Jesus; that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
I have received prophecies. My own name is a prophecy. My dedication as a baby was prophecy. In 1972, Dick Mills, a prophetic evangelist, gave me Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” I accepted it as from God, but missed a clue-weapons would be formed against me. I suspect that they are formed against you too; it helps to remember the prophetic word.
- The Gospel is Good News and spreads most effectively by testimonies. If you know Jesus, you have a testimony and you should be giving it to someone who needs to hear it.
- The testimony is simply that you have found the One who takes away sin-your sin and theirs. The removal of sin through repentance and receiving Christ’s sacrifice is the key to so many good things: Eternal life, deliverance, healing (see James 5:16), marriage and a host of other blessings.
- People need their sins removed. All have sinned and if anyone says that he or she has no sin, they are calling God a liar (see 1 John 1:10). When confronted with the question of sin, there are four options: A person could say, “There is no such thing as sin; that is an old fashioned idea.” Sin is the most easily provable reality in the world. Anyone who has eyes and ears knows that the law is continually being transgressed. That is what sin is.
Another possibility is that a person could say, “I have never sinned.” Really? Let me shake your hand. Besides Jesus, you are the only one! Never lied? Never stole? Never cursed? Never committed adultery, not even in your heart? Never had a selfish motive? Never coveted? Absurd.
A third option could be that a person responds by saying, “I do the best I can, more good than bad.” In other words, “I’ll just bear my own sin and take my chances.” There are lots of problems with that answer, and that is where so many really are. Un-removed sin has a malignant affect upon the soul and body. Guilt, even suppressed guilt (or especially suppressed guilt), eats away at our peace, our sleep, and our relationships. To bear our own sin and continue in it is to become our own sacrifice-to die in our pride.
But the fourth option is truly the best news possible! We can have our sins removed, never to be remembered against us. We can have peace with God and the peace of God! Removal of the load of guilt and the possibilities of faith, hope, and love are the greatest gifts God could give us. No religion can do that. No religion offers us the “The Lamb”, the sacrifice that took our sin and satisfied God’s justice and the claims against us. Not Judaism, not Islam, not paganism or any other. To love all mankind is to tell them of God’s offer in Christ Jesus (see 1 John 1:9). On that basis, I had my sins removed.
- Another lesson from this story is that we should go to those closest to us first. Andrew and Peter were brothers-a good place to begin. The Gospel begins in transformation at home. They know us best. They are the best witnesses to what has really happened. It is easier sometimes to talk to strangers or those more removed from our lives. The real test is those who know us best. If they have seen something that endures in us, they too can have their sins removed. Beyond that, there are neighbors, classmates, co-laborers and in fact, the entire world.
- The final lesson that I take from this story is that we must see people in the Spirit and not as they appear. That is how John saw Jesus and how Jesus saw Peter. Who would have guessed that fisherman Peter would become what he became. Jesus saw past what others saw. He saw into Peter’s heart and into the Father’s heart for Peter. He saw a future in spite of all Peter’s weaknesses. We must learn to see no man after the flesh (see 2 Corinthians 5:16).
When I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, Ken Sumrall (who prayed for me) confided, “You are the last guy that I thought would have that experience.” I replied, “Praise God!” “Praise God for what?” he asked. “Praise God that you are not doing the picking!”
We do not pick the candidates for salvation or any other experience with God; He does. We do the obeying and if we do, we will have a great joy! (See Psalm 126:5-6.)
COME AND SEE – GO AND TELL!
The Gospel saves people, we do not. We are just “farmers” sowing seed. Your experience, the Word of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit are the means to spread the glorious Gospel. As author John Sherrill said, “A man with an experience is not as the mercy of a man with an argument.”
People need forgiveness and a future. Jesus offers both. There are two types of evangelism in John 1:29-42: come and see; go and tell. We can do both. We can invite them to come and see what the Lord is doing and we can go tell what He has done for us. God bless you as you join me in spreading the Good News.
Please continue to remember CSM in your prayers and in your budget each month. We are tested daily as we work to declare the Gospel of Christ’s Kingdom among the nations. Even as the challenging global economy has made it more difficult for people to support us financially, it has also created increased needs in people’s lives, and a corresponding openness to the Gospel. We want to be faithful to respond to the call; thank you for being a part of our mission.
You are invited to be with us this month, May 16-18, for our CSM Leadership Conference in Gatlinburg, TN, at the beautiful Doubletree Park Vista Resort Hotel. Our theme this year is “The Power of the Prophetic Word” and we believe it is very timely. Marc Dupont and Michael Coleman will join me in ministering, along with others, and we will enjoy times of worship together with the team from Abundant Life Church in Mt. Juliet, TN. For more information, please call us today at 251.633.7900 or visit us online at www.csmpublishing.org.
We would love to see you! Again, we thank God for you, and remember you often in our prayers.
P.S. For encouraging new audio Bible teaching resources, please visit us online. I believe you will be inspired by “The 300” and “Something About Ruth”!
Scripture Reference: John, 2 Corinthians, 1 John, 1 Corinthians, Revelations, Isaiah, James