Witnesses; January 25, 2018

Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.

In a sense, Jesus quoted this verse after His resurrection. “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.” (Acts 1:8) The point is, God has repeatedly and consistently chosen people to represent Him to the rest of man­kind, particularly from Abram on. As He did with Abram, changing his name to Abraham by the addition of the ruach, the letter of the Hebrew alphabet that also means breath or spirit, He gives His Spirit to His agents to enable them to perform His work. That’s exactly what Jesus said. Many people are confused as to the purpose of God pouring out His Spirit at Pentecost, and His baptizing believers in His Spirit even today. They get all caught up in thinking about spiritual gifts, such as tongues and miracles, when those are all secondary to the primary purpose of being witnesses. In the Western world people don’t think much about conflicting gods, but in places like Japan and India, pagan gods are everywhere. (Buddhism avoids the word, god, but instead makes people into buddhas after they die.) Even without the terminology, people in the West worship all sorts of things, with technology, particularly smart phones, currently ascendant. It is the task of those who know the Creator, and particularly those who know His Son, to testify to those around them of His reality, so that people’s eyes may be opened to repent and believe for their salvation.

I am thankful that God withheld spiritual gifts from me, even though I was seeking them, until He could give me the revelation of the purpose of His Spirit coming upon me. After I realized that God is totally faithful, so if I asked for His Spirit I should simply thank Him for providing it according to His Word, rather than setting any conditions, a few days later I abruptly realized that I was talking to a total stranger about Jesus, and Acts 1:8 came to mind. At this point my life as a whole is a witness to the presence and power of God, and I am deeply grateful. I am not to fail to speak as God gives opportunity, but it’s like Francis of Assisi said, “Preach constantly. When necessary, use words.” As a pastor, I urgently desire that each of the believers grasp this vision of their purpose in life. Japanese in particular seem very hesitant to speak openly of their faith, and since society as a whole is very polite and civil, the differences between believers and non-believers aren’t so obvious to casual observers. I need to help them understand that they are indeed chosen and commissioned by God as His servants and witnesses, just as this verse says, so that they may rejoice to fulfill God’s purposes for them.

Father, thank You for this reminder, particularly as I got my own first smart phone yesterday. Keep me from letting it distract me from being the witness You intend for me to be. May I not preach to others and then fail to follow through myself. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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