By citing what Christian martyrs faced centuries ago, I want to focus you upon what God has been making for thousands of years: witnesses of Himself.
Jesus said in Acts 1 that power would be given to His disciples (and to you and me) in the person of the Holy Spirit in order that they would be “witnesses of Me” (Acts 1:8). He didn’t say they would become “good speech-makers.” Not even “good people.” Witnesses. Oh, what a big deal this is.
What God did with them was to die for. Jesus didn’t tell them that they HAD to die for what He was about to do, but that the result of His interaction with them would be so captivating that it would become the truth and experience that defined life. And so the meaning of the word, witness: to see Him so well because of what He does with you, that you couldn’t help but die if someone tried to make you lie about Him. You’d go that far.
What God does with you is what you witness; He has planned for that! He’s working toward it every day. What God does with someone else is their witness. Alone.
God has planned to give you a unique experience, a secret-between-the-two-of-you familiarity that He gives to no one else in quite the same way. It’s yours with Him—your witness—on purpose and by design. No one can talk you out of it; no one can take it from you, no matter the lions. It’s yours with Him. This is how He creates and builds His own testimony in the mouths of His people. He loves His work! There’s the witness He’s working on with you, and there’s the witness He’s working on with me. Everything else is supplementary to your witness; what Bible version you choose, what kind of worship music you like, whether all dogs are going to heaven or only some, and whether or not you, the church, collect together in a building. These are supplemental to God’s witness of Himself to you; salad, not main course. Sideshow, not main event. Opinion, not witness. Unfortunately, many of us have come to live on opinion, confusing it with witness from God because it ignites fire in us—ugly and scalding—for all who disagree. It might be the best passion we know. And that’s confusing.
Why is this important?
Because what’s happening to us today is that we’re majoring upon and trying to nourish ourselves with surrogate witness; that which is actually not to die for. And, while there is no such thing—you and I either see Him or we don’t—we’ve accepted the lie that it’s good enough. And we’re being cheated from Him, distracted from Him by what is lesser. It’s not actually to die for, because it’s not Him witnessing Himself to us.
Star Trek fans might think of visiting the Hollow Deck on futuristic space ships, the fantasy room where nothing was actually real. Can you imagine how good the buffet could be? I’ll bet you can. What a feast. How fun! However, the moment you leave the Hollow Deck and go back to reality, emptiness and dissatisfaction haunt. But if that’s the best meal we’ve found, even though it’s not real and not ours, we’ll act like it’s to die for.
That is what I see happening today. I see it in how ugly we get when speaking to each other about supplement and surrogate, salad and sideshow. It’s obvious where our focus is, and it won’t bear it. We can’t bear it! We’re not made for it.
The apostle Paul assured the Corinthian Christians that the terrific news He was giving them was true by writing, “I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it . . . ” (See 2 Corinthians 1:20-24.)
This is what God is working to give you. It’s not tangled. It’s not overwhelmingly theological. It doesn’t require a degree. He’s not working to give you the Bible—every bit of it, from beginning to end—He’s working to give you something undeniable with Himself, something you witness with Him which becomes the foundation of your days. Yes, the Bible is a perfect assist toward knowing Him, but being a biblical witness is not the same as being a God witness.
If I ask you, for example, “What do you like about God?” I am not asking what you like about the Bible, as good as it is. The bible is the very greatest witness of God that there is—aside from you, and what God is working out with you. That’s the best witness many people will ever see, and that’s the one that God has planned from a long time ago should carry Him in you.
I want to encourage you to pay attention to what God is giving just to you. Prize it as the treasure it is. I want to hear about that, and I’m not alone. We all need to hear about it because that’s the plan. That’s how He’s making His own testimony. We should be enjoying Witness Days at our church gatherings, where people tell what God is revealing to them that makes Him their treasure—their personal, saving, rescuing, shepherding treasure. Do you know how beautiful that sounds? How true and authentic? Everyone loves it because they’re so deeply encouraged by what God is doing with other people. It’s obviously not a time for people to tell each other what to do, who to vote for, or where to give money. The power of authentic, God adoration expels anything else as shabby.
There are plenty of times for you and me to give our opinions, of course. That’s important. But we need to be willing to distinguish opinion from witness. You’ll benefit, and I will too.
(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Beauty & The Beast” (Witness versus Opinion), and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click http://youtu.be/zT2C_bw5Ggk, or scroll down this page. And if you like, share it with a friend.)