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Summary: The three keys to effective testimony 1. Being God’s witnesses 2. Waiting for God’s timing and 3. In God’s power

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Sharrington/ Swanton Novers/ Blakeney

12-05-02

Acts 1:6-14

Story: A man was arraigned for murder in Los Angeles about 70 years ago. The case against him looked pretty good, but his lawyer thought of an ingenious ploy.

In his summing up speech, he said: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, you must find my client not guilty of murder if there is the slightest doubt in your minds that he is the murderer. And now I have one final witness. The true murderer is about to walk through the door.”

All eyes swung towards the door but no one came in.

“ You see” the lawyer continued: “there is doubt in your minds about my client’s guilt, otherwise you would not have looked towards the door.”

The jury retired to deliberate and came back after an hour with a “Guilty” verdict. The lawyer was beside himself.

Before the judge could pass sentence, he sprang up and said “But I proved beyond doubt - that you had a doubt about my client’s guilt.

A shrewd old man in the jury stood up and replied:

“As everyone looked towards the door, I watched your client’s eyes. He didn’t look towards the door because he knew no one was coming through. Why? Because he was the guilty one.”

This morning/evening I want to look at the subject of witnesses – but unlike in that Los Angeles courtroom, I want to look at effective witnesses.

And I would like to base my comments on the reading we have just had from the Book of Acts.

The Book of Acts tells the story of how Christianity spread from Jerusalem - an obscure outpost of the Roman Empire to Rome - the very capital itself.

When Jesus died on Good Friday almost two thousand years ago, conventional wisdom said that this was not a great way to start a world religion.

So how did an obscure carpenter from Nazareth, who

never wrote a book,

never held high office,

never led an army and

died an ignoble death on a Cross

become the man to have affected civilization more profoundly than any other?

1.1 His Death and Resurrection

One reason for the spread of Christianity lies in the fact that after Jesus died, He rose again from the dead – an event that we remember at Easter every year.

In our reading from Acts 1, Luke records that Jesus “showed himself to the apostles and gave them many convincing proofs that he was alive.” (Acts 1:3)

The late Lord Darling, a judge in the English House of Lords once said that:

……there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true“.

1.2. The Power of the Holy Spirit

Another reason for the spread of Christianity lies in the fact that the Power of the Holy Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost (as recorded in Acts 2) - an event we will celebrate next week (19th May 2002) as Whit Sunday or Whitsun.

The power of the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost - to enable the disciples to share their experience of Jesus with the world. In other words, to be His WITNESSES.

And with that in mind I would like to focus on Jesus’ final words to his disciples - that were read to us earlier from Acts Chapter 1.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8).

It seems to me that Jesus is saying that there are three ingredients if we are going to be effective in sharing our faith with others. These are:

1. Knowing what kind of witness you are called to be

2. Knowing God’s timing and

3. Knowing God’s power

1. The first ingredient to being an effective witness is knowing what kind of witness God has called you to be

The disciples were called to be God’s witnesses. Witnesses to what? To the life, teaching and resurrection of Jesus that they had experienced.

In a Court of Law, a witness can do one of two things

He can be a witness of events that occurred. In which case, he simply recalls what he has seen or experienced.

Alternatively he can be an expert witness, who explains to the Court the meaning of the evidence (usually it is a complicated set of facts).

And throughout history the Church, there have been both types of witnesses.

God has called those who have had an experience of Him to share that with others.

And he has called others to be expert witnesses who can explain the Christian faith. These people are what we call Apologists.

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