Can I Get A Witness?

witnessMost of the time when we hear of the concept of being a witness, we think about someone who testifies about what he has seen, heard or has knowledge of. Certainly, this is also one of the meanings the Bible means when the term “witness” is found. However, there are some other aspects and meanings of the term that would also enlighten and enrich our understanding of the concept of being witnesses if we properly understood them.

The first occurrence of the word in the Old Testament is in Genesis 21:30, but I’m going to start the citation at Genesis 21:27 and go through verse 32 for context: “And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant. And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, ‘What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?’ And he said, ‘For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.’ Wherefore, he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them. Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.” (Gen 21:27-32 KJV) Note that Abraham said that the seven lambs were a witness that he dug the well. Of course, we know that the lambs could not talk, therefore they could not testify of what they knew, seen, or heard, so obviously, they were a witness in another context of the term. So how were they a witness? Abraham used the term; “witness” to mean, evidence or proof! The Abraham gave the lambs to Abimelech so that they might serve as evidence or proof that Abraham had dug the well and as evidence or proof of the covenant the two of them made concerning that fact. So it is indeed interesting to note that the first introduction of the concept of witness or witnessing in the Bible is not about testifying, but rather about evidence or proof!

The concept is used in a similar manner in the Greek in James 5:3, where the author wrote to the rich men of his day: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (James 5:1-3 KJV) Note that whereas the sheep couldn’t talk in our Old Testament example, but yet they served as a witness, here, the inanimate rust of the rich men’s gold and silver served as a witness! Again, the idea is not that of testifying, but rather that of being evidence or proof!

witness crossNow, I cited these two examples of the use of the word “witness” in its Hebrew and Greek origins to emphasize the point that being a witness in the Bible was not always just about testifying or speaking! Sometimes, it was about being evidence or proof! Could it be, that when Jesus spoke to his disciples about being “witnesses unto me” in Acts 1:8, in addition to their verbal testimony, he may have also had in mind  that they would also be physical, living proof and evidence that he was indeed who he said he was? That seems to have been the idea in our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17. He prays to the Father in John 17:20-23: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:20-23 KJV) Do you see the connection? Jesus prayed that his disciples would be “one” just as he and the Father were one because that unity would serve as proof to the world that he was sent by the Father! Yes! According to Jesus, the unity of his disciples; past, present, and future was and is the witness; the evidence and proof to the world that he was sent by the Father!

It is also interesting to note that the Greek word translated as “witness” is a word that means; martyr! A martyr was one who proved their faith to Christ by suffering a violent death! In the New Testament, the word; “witness” was, in a sense, a synonym for one who died a violent death!

So these are some things we should be mindful of the next time we hear somebody asking in church: “Can I get a witness?” They may just be asking for an “amen” or some form of acknowledgement to something they said. But when the Lord asks the question: “Can I get a witness?” I think the Lord is asking for a whole lot more! The Lord is asking for someone who will not only just confess with their mouth, but also who will be an example, proof, and evidence of the presence and reality of Christ! The Lord is asking for someone who is willing to die for the faith! No! “Can I get a witness” is not just a simple call for an “amen.” “Can I get a witness” is a call to be true disciples and followers of Christ! Can I get a witness?

The Ministry of Jesus

servant leaderThis is the last installment of a series investigating The Message of Jesus, The Mission of Jesus, and The Miracles of Jesus. As we look at the ministry of Jesus, I would like to note what Jesus said about his ministry and what his disciples’ concept of ministry should be: “. . . Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)

Note, that Jesus indicated his disciples’ ministries should reflect his own ministry, which was diametrically opposite of the world’s concept. In the world’s concept, the leader is served, but in the Kingdom of God, the leader is the servant of all! Jesus was the perfect embodiment of this principle because everything he did was for others! He came for others! He lived for others! He died for others! Every miracle he performed was for others! He did nothing for himself! Everything he did was for others!

Perhaps many modern-day ministries would do well to remember the very core of ministry is about serving others! That is what every Christian has been called to do: To serve this present age! So as we celebrate this season remembering the coming of the Savior, let us remember that he came, not as a conquering king, but rather as a suffering servant! The Servant-King calls upon all of his followers to follow and emulate his example, thereby fleshing-out the paradoxical nature of his Kingdom! In the Kingdom of God, the way up is down! The way to the top is to lift up others! The characteristic of true leadership and ministry is not to be served but rather to be a servant!

The Miracles of Jesus

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;”

John 20:30 ESV

miracles of jesusAccording to writer of the Gospel of John, the record of the miracles of Jesus we have in the Bible is really just a sample of all the miracles Jesus performed! There were many miracles performed by him that were not recorded. However, of the recorded miracles of Jesus as they are presented in the Bible, there is an obvious pattern of principles. For one thing, Jesus didn’t perform miracles just to be performing miracles. All of the miracles he performed were deliberate and purposeful.

We can gain some insight into his purpose in performing miracles by taking note of the terms the Greek New Testament uses to describe them. In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the Greek word used to denote the miracles of Jesus was “dunamis.” This word is commonly defined by Greek scholars as “mighty works.” Usually, the miracles perform by Jesus recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke were for the purpose of demonstrating, illustrating, and verifying the power and presence of the Kingdom of God.

In John’s Gospel, there was a different Greek word used to denote the miracles. John used the word; “semeion.” This word is usually translated as; “signs.” In the Gospel of John, the miracles Jesus performed were signs or proofs that he was indeed the Son of God! They were proofs to authenticate his ministry and his claims of being who he said he was.

I also find it interesting that Jesus DID NOT HEAL EVERYBODY he came in contact with! In John 5, Jesus encountered many sick people at the pool of Bethesda, but he only healed one man, who is lying in the back in the corner! In the New Testament writings, the miracles healings of Jesus were performed according to God’s will, the person’s faith, and the Master’s purpose. It is also interesting that Jesus usually went to where the sick people were! His healings were not restricted to a certain place and time. Perhaps many of the modern-day-faith-healers would really prove the power of God if they would quit insisting people come to their church with an offering to be healed, but rather go to the hospitals where the sick people are!

Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that I don’t believe in healing, because I do! However, I believe that ultimately, the determining factor is not our faith or our offering, but rather God’s providential will. Yes! God does have a miracle with our name on it! It is called: Salvation! The greatest miracle of all is the miracle of new life in Christ Jesus! Does God perform miracles today! You can bet your life on it! Just look at me: I AM A MIRACLE OF GOD!

The Mission of Jesus

Mission of JesusTraditional Christian thought has maintained that the mission of Jesus was to go to the Cross and die for the sins of mankind, thereby, providing a way for man to be reconciled to God. John 3:16, states: For God so loved the world that God gave His only Begotten-Son that whosoever believes in Him (the Son) should not perish but have everlasting life. Indeed, the mission of Jesus was one of reconciliation and restoration but I think we have traditionally not realized the full implications of that mission. We have made Jesus and the Cross the end, when according to the Bible, they were not the end but the means to the end! Now, I am in no way attempting to minimize the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross, my point is; I think we have finished the meal, leaving far too much food still on the plate! In other words, I think that traditionally, we have not fully appreciated the extent of what Jesus came to do! Traditionally, we seem to have simplified the mission of Jesus to the simple point of just providing a way for believers to go to Heaven when they die! But, it was so much more than that!

But before we look at the “so much more than that” let’s investigate the idea that Jesus was not the end but the means to the end. Who better to prove the point than Jesus himself? In John 10:7, 9, Jesus said: “I am the door.” Do you know what a door is? A door is a means of access, a thru-way, an entry-way. You don’t stop at the door because the door is not your destination! No! You go through the door to get to where you want to be! Traditionally, we have stopped at Jesus; the Door! But Jesus said; “I’m not it! I’m not your destination; I’m your means of access to get to your destination!” (Millerized Version). He said in John 14:6: “I am the way!” Again; “I’m not where you are going, I’m just the means to get you to where you’re going!” And what is the destination? Jesus is the door and the way to what? The answer is God the Father! The mission of Jesus was to provide the means and the way for us to regain access to the Heavenly Father God! Not just when we die and go to Heaven, but while we yet live everyday! Jesus said to his disciples on one occasion: “In that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. . . At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. (Joh 16:23, 26-27 KJV) Do you see that? Jesus said that at that day (When the Holy Spirit comes) believers would not have to ask him, but would have direct access to God themselves through his name! The mission of Jesus was to provide the means for us to regain an amiable and intimate relationship with God!

In the “preaching circles” I grew up in, the main focal point of the Gospel story was the Cross! But the Cross was not the destination; the Cross provided the means and removed the obstacle to the destination! Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the Cross so that we might regain access to God via the Kingdom of God! We preach the Cross, but Jesus preached the Kingdom of God! The purpose of the Cross was to deal with sin so that we might have access to the Kingdom! The purpose of the Cross was to provide cleansing and atonement so that we might again have fellowship with God. Again, I am by no means trying to minimize the importance of the Cross, I’m just simply trying to point out the fact that the Cross was not the end-goal, but the means to the end-goal! Just as Jesus was and is the “way” to the Father, the Cross was and is the “way” to gain access to the Kingdom! At this point, I think I need to bring out the point that my reference to the Kingdom is NOT synonymous with Heaven; I am referring to the Kingdom of God in reference to the power, rule, and authority of God. Hence, the mission of Jesus was to provide access to what Adam lost. Adam didn’t lose access to Heaven; Adam lost access to the dominion of the Kingdom!

The mission of Jesus was to provide a model of the Kingdom life! His favorite description of himself was “Son of Man,” indicating that although he was God, during his earthly sojourn, he functioned as a man fully indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Hence theoretically, whatever Jesus did, we also have the potential of doing! He said in John 14:12: “”Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 ESV) In Acts 1:1, Luke wrote: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. . .” (Act 1:1 ESV) Note that Luke said “all that Jesus ‘began’ to do and teach!” The implication seems to be that Jesus didn’t finish doing and teaching! Indeed, every generation of the church has the awesome responsibility of continuing what Jesus began to do and teach! What did Jesus do and teach? His mighty works were signs and demonstrations of the imminent presence and power of the Kingdom of God among men and much of what he taught was concerning the Kingdom of God! Hence the mission of Jesus was to be the “last Adam!” He came to live, to demonstrate and to empower us to live the life that Adam failed to live.

I don’t want to make this into a thesis on the subject, so I will come to a close at this point! But, I think it would be good for us to re-think some of our limited traditional thinking in regard to the mission of Jesus. He didn’t come to take away our sins just so we might have “pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die-in-the-sweet-by-and-by!” The mission of Jesus was so much greater than that!

Who Is The Church For?

I think the church today is making the same fundamental mistake that Israel made back in the Bible days! God’s purpose for choosing Israel to be His peculiar people was so that Israel might introduce and show God to the world! But instead of fulfilling that task, Israel became introverted and tried to keep God as her own peculiar treasure. Instead of being a conduit to share God with the world, Israel became a pool and tried to isolate God and herself from the world! Not understanding that God wanted to use her to reach the world, Israel concluded that her selection by God meant that she was better than the rest of the world and that God’s favor was for her exclusively.

churchliquorIsn’t that exactly what has happened to the church today, especially in America? Visit any urban city in America and you will observe an interesting phenomenon. In most locations, you will find a church building on many city blocks. However, within those same city blocks, you will also find buildings that provide housing for illegal drugs, prostitution, and liquor stores! In some locations, the church house and the house of ill repute are even situated next door to one another! You would think that one would offset the other! How in the world can they seemingly peacefully co-exist?

I think there are several reasons for this happening. First, just like Israel in the days of old, the church today has misunderstood her calling. Instead of being “for the world,” most churches today are mainly for themselves! And many of the ones who are evangelistic are making the fundamental mistake of trying to be like and liked by the world in a futile effort to win the world!

The Bible is clear on this subject and we should use the Carpenter from Galilee as our model. Jesus said; “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV) Jesus did nothing for himself, but rather his whole life was for others! He was born for others! He ministered for others! He performed miracles and healings for others! He was crucified for others! He died for others! Early that 3rd-day Sunday morning, he was raised from the dead for others! And one day, he’s coming back again for others! Yes! Jesus, the Head of the church, was for others! And just as Jesus was for others, the church should be for others!

The church will be what God called her to be, have the power and influence God ordained for her to have when she comes to the realization that she does not exist for herself but rather for others! Real power will return to the church when church members repent of their selfishness and come to the realization that the church does not exist primarily to serve them. Real power will return to the church when church members come to the understanding that they are members of the church so that their talents, time, treasure, gifts, and abilities might be used to fulfill the church’s mandate to reach, save and serve others for sake of Jesus and the Kingdom of God!