Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Two Witnesses of the Church Age

"And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
Acts 5:32

When it comes to the work of evangelism, we have the responsibility to be the Lord's witnesses.  God has commissioned us to go out and "teach all nations", "preach the gospel to every creature", and proclaim "repentance and remission of sins."  In Acts 1:8, Jesus said, "Ye shall be My witnesses."

But isn't it interesting that in Acts 5:32, God teaches us that being a witness is not only something WE do...it's something that HE does, too!  The Holy Ghost is also a witness.

Often, we have a tendency to do one of two things:

1) We don't witness.  The reasons for such disobedience can be exhaustive, and to enumerate them all is not the purpose of this article.  The fact of the matter is that many Christians don't witness.  I wonder if sometimes the failure to "let your light so shine before men" has to do with a erroneous belief that human instrumentality is unnecessary.  "For," we might think, "God will draw men to Christ whether we share our faith or not."  And perhaps it's this deterministic view of evangelism and of the sovereignty of God--this tendency to think that the Holy Ghost alone bears the responsibility of drawing men to Christ--that salves our conscience and justifies our passivity.

2) We witness by ourselves.  That is, we view the whole process of evangelization as a work that is initiated, kindled, and pursued unto completion by we ourselves and we alone.  Soulwinners often, in their zeal to save the souls of men, forget that the Holy Spirit must convict the lost of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  The Holy Spirit must open their understanding and their hearts.  The Holy Spirit must prick their hearts.  The Holy Spirit must teach and testify in their hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.  And without these divine works of the Spirit operating in the background of a man's heart, there will be no saving faith nor "repentance unto life".

So what is the point?

1) Remember that "we are His witnesses." The Holy Spirit does His work as we do ours.  If we don't share the plan of salvation with the lost, neither will the Holy Ghost.  If we don't testify to men, He will not testify to the hearts of men.  For you see, He speaks silently as we speak audibly; He speaks to the heart as we speak to the ears.  Be faithful to preach the Word everywhere (Mark 16:20) and be "ready always to give an answer" (I Peter 3:15).  We are His witnesses!

2) Don't try to do the work of the Holy Ghost.  For one thing, you don't have the ability to bring conviction and repentance to another man's heart.  And secondly, in your zeal to convict and persuade, you might cause someone to obey YOU rather than GOD.

This can be very dangerous, especially if the "new convert" is given assurance of a salvation that he doesn't possess.  I'd hate to assure someone that he is a child of God, leaving him alone to believe he is "all set", when he is actually no less a "child of hell" (Matthew 23:15) and is in no less "danger of eternal damnation" than he ever was (Mark 3:29).

Note: It's interesting to see the contrast between those who "obey Him" (Acts 5:32) and those who "obey" men (Acts 5:36-37).  Those who obey God, thus receiving Christ through the inner-working of the Holy Spirit, are born again.  But those who obey men, after a while, scatter and disperse.  I wonder if the reason why so many professed converts fall by the wayside is that they were merely led to follow a man rather than God.

3) Remember that you're not alone when you witness.  Success in evangelism is not dependent on your abilities, experience, knowledge, or persuasiveness.  You are responsible to share the Truth--to share the gospel.  In your own words, in your own way, based upon your own experience, and with heartfelt passion, share with the lost what God has said in His Word.  Tell them that Jesus died on the cross.  Tell them that He did it to pay for our sins.  Tell them that He rose from the grave and that He's the only Lord and Savior.  And then exhort them to turn to Him, believe on Him, and call upon Him to be their personal Savior.

The rest is up to your Partner.

A Virtuous Woman (Reflections on my mother, based upon Proverbs 31)

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies...her children arise up and call her blessed."
Proverbs 31:10, 28

Virtuous women are scarce.   They are far less common than precious gems.  On any given day, you can go to the local mall, and find dozens of rubies, emeralds, and even diamonds—all out on display at one of several jewelry stores.  But not so with virtuous women.  I would dare say that, on any of the 365 days of the year, given the task of seeking out virtuous women, you would be hard pressed to find a mere handful.  The dearth of virtue among ladies of this culture reminds me of the absence of righteousness in ancient Sodom and Gomorrah.  God had promised that He wouldn’t destroy those two cities if only there could be found ten righteous people; but alas, ten couldn’t be found.  The same is true today of virtuous women—very difficult to find because very few exist anymore.  Thus, if you ever happen to find and know one, you know she is precious!

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her,
 so that he shall have no need of spoil.

Faithfulness is one of the salient attributes of God.  It is because of His faithfulness (i.e., His trustworthiness) that we can entrust to Him our hearts, completely and without reserve.  To trust in God is not to exhibit some excellent quality of my own, but rather to recognize the excellent quality of trustworthiness in my God.  The same is true of a virtuous woman—the very fact that a husband can safely trust in her reflects her character of purity and devotion, and yes, trustworthiness.  A man who is married to a virtuous woman never worries about her fidelity.  He never fears her absence.  Other men aren’t threats to him, not because of who he is, but because of who she is.  She gives no hint of betrayal; for she has made a covenant in her heart to stay true.  And this her husband knows.

12 She will do him good and not evil
 all the days of her life.

So many men find their wives to be a burden, so few a blessing.  A virtuous woman is a blessing to many in general, but especially to him in particular.  How common it is for a wife, through the wearing down of time, to become selfish and indifferent to her husband!  So many young ladies start out in marriage eagerly excited to make their husbands happy, but end up distancing themselves from their husbands, focusing on their own self-interests and hobbies.  But the virtuous wife is committed to doing her husband good for all the days of her life. 

In all of this, the children of a virtuous woman are educated, conditioned, and molded by her life.  They learn from her qualities, and, as they grow older and gain life experience, they begin to deeply understand how remarkable their mother is!

They find that the good qualities that have propelled them in life are qualities they learned from their mother.  They find that so much of what makes life difficult, confusing, and distasteful stems from a lack of virtue in the world.  And this they know, because they were immersed into a home where virtue was modeled and made prominent by their mother.

Children of a virtuous woman see the depravity of man more clearly than others; for the selfishness and pride of this world stand in stark contrast to the thoughtfulness and humility of the one who crafted their character.  The hatred and violence of the world is so loathsome to those who have tasted the sweetness of a tender and loving mother.

The children of a virtuous woman know they have a precious gift from God.

13 She seeketh wool, and flax,
 and worketh willingly with her hands.

A virtuous mother teaches by her example first, and her words second, that hard work is to be eagerly accepted.  She is like the Proverbial ant, who needs no ruler or overseer to ensure his diligence in a task.  Her work-ethic transcends the industrious success stories of the corporate world; for they do it for a reward, but she, for others.

14 She is like the merchants 'ships;
 she bringeth her food from afar.
 15 She riseth also while it is yet night,
 and giveth meat to her household,
 and a portion to her maidens.

A virtuous mother puts the needs of her family before the needs of her own body.  She suffers while they sing.  She aches while they dance.  She prays while they play.

16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it:
 with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

The niceties of home are not by chance.  Gardens don’t just appear.  And so often, it is the calloused, thorn-pierced hands of a virtuous mother that plant the vineyard from which the family drinks the juice.  It takes planning, risk, sacrifice, and toil.  And so shamefully often, the recipients of the fruit never realize, consider, or appreciate the work of the one who planted the vineyard.  Yet—she will plant again next Spring, and will so continue for as long as her hands can work.

17 She girdeth her loins with strength,
 and strengtheneth her arms.
 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good:
 her candle goeth not out by night.
 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle,
 and her hands hold the distaff.

How rare to find a woman who is strong for the sake of serving!  Many there be of women who spend countless hours and innumerable dollars to be fit.  They work out, they exercise, they join fitness programs, they train, they discipline themselves.  But for what? 

A virtuous woman is strong, not only because she serves her family, but in order to serve them.  She takes out trash, moves furniture, and works in the yard.  She scrubs floors, hangs Christmas lights, and carries children in her arms.  And though she’s weak, she doesn’t faint.  Though she tires, she doesn’t quit.  Though it hurts, she doesn’t relinquish her responsibilities as the “keeper” of her home.

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor;
 yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She is compassionate.  She sees not that the poor are deserving of their poverty; but that she is no less deserving than they.  She doesn’t avoid the needy; rather, she tries to find them.  She is not afraid to touch the afflicted and diseased, for she knows that the brutality of the plague is most heavily felt, not by infirmities of the flesh, but by loneliness of ostracism.  “Blessed are the merciful”—it’s true, and the virtuous woman knows it.

21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household:
 for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry;
 her clothing is silk and purple.

Fashion is not her thing.  Yet she fashions herself in a way that clearly identifies her character.  She is chaste, thus she covers herself.  She is a lady, thus she wears silk.  She is honorable, thus she chooses the color of royalty.  She doesn’t “dress to impress”—that’s not her goal.  Yet she makes an impression on all that see her!  And what is it that people see?  Virtue!  Virtue!  Virtue!  What a contrast to what the discerning eye can see of the pride and vanity that women shamelessly display by their obsession with style and fashion!

23 Her husband is known in the gates,
 when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

Some men are just lucky!  At least, that’s what her husband’s co-workers think!  While most men don’t have time enough to recite all of the grievances and heartache engendered by their wives, the husband of a virtuous woman can only share with his colleagues the marital blessings occasioned by his beloved.  He can’t partake in their griping, for to do so would make him a liar.  And when they see his freshly pressed clothes every day, and his lunch sack chock full of the homemade goodies he loves, and when they observe her stopping by the office just to tell him she loves him, and when they see all of the homemade cards made by his children plastered all over his office—the men in the gates, the elders of the land, know—they know—that he is a blessed man!

24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it;
 and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
 25 Strength and honour are her clothing;
 and she shall rejoice in time to come.

Women who live for themselves rejoice for a season.  They laugh, sing, and dance…but then the night falls.  The virtuous woman bites the bullet for now, so that she can laugh in the end.  The mourning of the night is replaced by the joy of the morning.  When she sees that her husband has been raised up…when she sees that her children have been trained up…when she sees that the poor and needy have been lifted up…then she will rejoice!  And this she knows, and this she believes, and this is that for which she continues.

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom;
 and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

Law is a strict governor.  There is no variance in law.  And a virtuous woman has in her tongue the law of kindness!  She is not critical.  She is kind.  She is not harsh.  She is kind.  She is not demeaning or venomous.  She is kind.  She doesn’t seek to slander, embarrass, or cut down; for she is kind.  She doesn’t mock or ridicule; for she is kind.  She doesn’t use her words to punish, threaten, or intimidate; for she is kind.  Kindness is the law of her tongue. 

27 She looketh well to the ways of her household,
 and eateth not the bread of idleness.

Her focus is not on herself but on others, especially those of her household.  She doesn’t waste time that could be otherwise utilized for the well-being of her family.  She is not a couch potato, she’s not addicted to soaps, and she doesn’t sacrifice involvement with her family so she can be involved with the lives of fictitious characters on television.  She is more concerned about what is going on in the lunchroom, the locker room, and the bedroom of her child—far more so than what is going on in the Middle East, the White House, or the Superbowl.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed;
 her husband also, and he praiseth her.

They can do no other.  And it’s not a coincidence or luck on their part.  It is because they were blessed of the Lord to have a mother who is unlike most.

29 Many daughters have done virtuously,
 but thou excellest them all.

There’s a big difference between doing virtuously and being virtuous!  The virtuous woman is not virtuous because of what she does; she does virtuously because of who she is.  Most sons believe their mother is “the best”; but the son of a virtuous woman knows his mother is the best, for she “excels them all!”

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain:
 but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands;
 and let her own works praise her in the gates.


 These reflections of Proverbs 31 were not occasioned by a desire to give textual commentary; rather, the purpose for these expressed thoughts was to give honor to the virtuous mother with which God has blessed me.

Nancy Krampert is a virtuous woman.

She is everything that these twenty-two verses depict.  Anyone who knows her, including those who are closest to her, knows this to be true.

She is faithful.  Never has anyone in our family ever doubted her loyalty to us or to God.  She never quits or rests until she has finished the task.

She is diligent.

She is strong.

She is a lady.

She is known in the gates.

She is kind.

She is virtuous, and she is to be praised!