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Words of Witness (Part 2)

Charlie Boyd - 7/4/2021

We are continuing in our summer sermon series entitled “The Word(s) We Use” and we’re picking up where we left off last week as Jim talked about “Words of Witness.” Today, I’m going to focus on two of Jim’s four points from last week and drill down a little deeper on them. It’s true—the longer you look at something, the more you see. That proverb applies to a lot of things, especially the Scriptures. The longer you look at Scripture, the more you see. We can never exhaust the richness of the depth of Scripture—the more you read Scripture, the more you meditate and reflect on Scripture—then the more insights and aha’s you receive—the more Scripture works its way into the very core of who you are and how you live. And that’s been true for me this past week as I continued to look at Jim’s excellent message from last week. The question we’re asking and answering is this: “How do we talk to people who aren’t trusting Jesus about the real and eternal life that’s available to them in and through him? Or, as my friend Todd puts it—How do you talk to people about Jesus who are far from God, but close to you? What do faithful words of witness sound like? 

SCRIPTURE: Acts 2-3 and 17

Now, the first passage I want to revisit is Peter’s first two sermons in Acts 2-3. Jim only covered Acts 3, but there’s something instructive for us in both of his sermons. Here’s my first point: When Peter speaks to the Jews in Jerusalem, he uses a lot of Old Testament Scripture to help them see that the Jesus they crucified was in fact the Messiah that they always wanted. Now, I’m not going to read through the two sermons. I’m just going to point to some of the Scriptures he uses to make his point. In 2:17-21, he quotes the prophets Joel and Ezekiel. In vv25-28, he quotes what David says about the Messiah in the Psalms (Ps16). In vv34-35, he quotes David again, this time from Ps110. In his second sermon in Acts 3, in vv22-24, he quotes Moses from Deut18. He quotes God’s promise to Abraham recorded in Gen12 that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through the descendants of Abraham and, especially, THE descendent, Jesus the Messiah. You can go back and read through those passages later, but my simple point is this: What do faithful words of witness sound like? When you are talking with “religious people”—people from rule and ritual based, church backgrounds—people who think God will accept them based on how good they are—when you’re talking to people like that, anchor your faithful words of witness in Scripture. Some of the Scriptures that will help you here are Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7; John 5:24; John 6:28-29; John 6:47; John 10:28-29; 1John 5:10-13. Just knowing these seven passages, and being able to walk someone through them can lead someone from darkness to light, from death to life, and from fear to faith.

The second passage I want to revisit is Paul’s sermon to the Greek philosophers in Acts 17. In Acts 2-3, when Peter speaks to the religious-minded Jews in Jerusalem, he quotes Scripture, but when Paul speaks to irreligious, pagan people in Acts 17, he talks Scripture. Peter quotes the Bible. Paul talks the Bible. Read Acts 17:1-3. Did you notice that Paul follows Peter’s approach when he speaks to the Jews in Thessalonica? Read Acts 17:17-34. Notice how Paul talks Scriptural truth without quoting from the Old Testament. He quotes more from Greek philosophers and poets than from the Bible. Last week, Jim’s point was—“Understand how culture thinks as a way to engage others where they are.” And taking that observation down one more level, what I want you to see is this: When talking to irreligious people, talk the Scripture in a way they can understand. Talk the Scripture—talk about Jesus. Tell stories about Jesus before you quote Bible verses. Secular people have no context for the Bible and they may be very put off by what they think about the Bible. So, talk Scriptural truth to them and tell them Jesus’ stories. His story really is a better story than they know. A great resource for learning how to do this is the book “How to Talk about Jesus Without Being That Guy” by Sam Chan.

It’s true. The longer you look at Scripture, the more you see in Scripture and that’s true with these passages we’ve now spent two weeks unpacking. Here’s my summary: When you talk to religious people, use Scripture to point them to Jesus and the “by-grace-through-faith” way of salvation God has made possible through Jesus. This is as simple as knowing 7 key passages that help people understand what makes us right and keeps us right with God. When you talk to irreligious people, talk the Scripture to them in a way they can understand—in a way that springboards out of the cultural background in which they live. This can be as simple as telling people the stories you learned about Jesus in Sunday School or you learned by reading through the Gospels. Begin with the cultural issue and end with Jesus.

Two final thoughts. First, one of the most powerful statements found in the book of Acts comes out of Acts 4. Peter and John had healed a crippled man and it caused a huge ruckus. They were arrested and the religious authorities threatened them never to speak about Jesus again. This is what they said to the religious leaders: Acts 4:19-20—“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard. This is why the early church exploded in growth. This is why the Gospel message of the early church was irresistible. There was no written down New Testament—they were the living New Testament. This is why the church grew in the midst of persecution. Why? “We can’t stop talking about Jesus.” Until the church in this country regains the passion of Peter and John and the early disciples, we’re dead in the water. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to re-ignite a passion for talking about Jesus. And, we need to know the Word well enough to quote it or talk about it in order to tell people a better story than the one they’ve been living. And, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to speak through us as we step out in faith to talk about Jesus with people who aren’t trusting him for the life he died to make possible. 

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.