His Presence Extended in Witness
Christopher B. Harbin
Psalm 68; John 17:1-11; Acts 1:6-14; 1 Pt 4:12-14, 5:6-11
We often think of witnessing as a task assigned to the church. Sure, we would like it to be assigned to missionaries, pastors, or maybe deacons--just as long as we are not among those charged with the mission. As Baptists, we have grown up with the Great Commission as a hallmark of our faith, tradition, and essential understanding of our identity. Dealing with witness as a task, however, may actually do us more harm than good.
Robbie was out mowing yesterday. I can see evidence down to the tractor, awaiting his return to a seemingly constant task. I can tell that someone was busy this week cleaning the church facilities. The bulletins in your hands are testimony to Shirley's accounting, copying, and folding. The recorded balance on hand tells us Bruce has written more checks. Task after task, job after job, the process of life in our church community goes on and on. We like jobs with visible results. We also like jobs that have a definite endpoint. Eventually, we tire of adding on to the daily grind. How can our witness rise above a list of jobs we have to get around to accomplishing? Can it ever become more than just another job?
People of the ancient Near East saw God's presence visible in the clouds. They pictured gods riding through the sky with storm clouds to drop water on parched lands. Rain proclaimed divine action. Our own insurance companies will be talking about last week's tornadoes as "acts of God." The coins in our pockets proclaim God's existence, but isn't witness to be more than some recognition that God is real or somehow responsible for things we can't control. Somehow such witness does not challenge us to faithful dependence on God.
When Jesus spoke to the disciples about his own witness, he focused on clarifying the identity and character of God. That is the essence of the term "glorify"--to reveal wh ...
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