“WITNESSING YOU” Part 3
1. Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 12.1-3. When you find that passage, please stand so we can read our text from God’s Word together:
1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
2. Two weeks ago I urged you folks, most especially those of you entering a new phase of life, to consider your witnesses. You have others who observe you, besides yourself. You have witnesses natural and witnesses supernatural. Witnesses holy and witnesses wicked. Witness allied to you and witnesses who are your adversaries. And you have witnesses created and the three-in-one witness Who is your Creator.
3. Last week I urged you to consider and seriously reflect on your challenges, and mentioned that there are three types of challenges that any believer can assure himself he will face, with those challenges leaving him with consequences directly related to how he has faced those challenges of life.
4. There are challenges that result from your own folly, challenges that result from temptations you face, and challenges that are the direct result of God’s testings. Life is not easy. Life is hard. But it doesn’t have to be as hard as we oftentimes foolishly and sinfully make it.
5. As well, life can seem very complex sometimes. It is true that sin tends to complicate life more than it needs to be, and it is true that a life that is lived in obedience to God is a far simpler life than is lived by those who try to be clever and live by their own devices. But there are times when even the wise and godly Christian’s life can be distractingly complicated, with things coming at you rapidly from different directions that can completely overwhelm you.
6. I could review for you the experiences that my friend Jim Johnston and his wife, Char, are going through, with her sudden physical collapse and the necessity for Jim to tend to her physical needs much as she tended to the needs of her eight children after they were born and until they were able to feed, dress and bathe themselves.
7. I could review the trials Archie and Shirley French have been going through for the last few months. With Shirley’s surgery and radiation treatments, with the after effects of those procedures and the physical therapy and other things she has faced like a trooper, the only thing we hear from Archie are requests that we pray for his sweetheart, the mother of his children, and his life’s companion. And I, for one, have been praying.
8. But I think I will pass on to a man most of you do now know, and his wife that I am sure only my wife knows. Harry Jackson and his wife Meredith. Married for about 40 years, Harry and Meredith are in love like Jim and Char Johnston and like Archie and Shirley French are in love. They’ve raised their children, they’ve stuck by each other through thick and thin, and they’ve served God together as partners.
9. And as Jim and Char Johnston and as Archie and Shirley French have faced some really tough trials together, Harry and Meredith are facing a really tough trial together. Only, instead of one of them having to fight a fierce struggle, with Harry and Meredith it has come down to both of them being in the fight.
10. In April, Meredith was diagnosed with breast cancer, herself being from a family in which almost every member has fought cancer. She had a radical mastectomy and is now watching the calendar, waiting for the days to pass until her next physical, and praying with her husband and kids that everything will be all right.
11. And then, last week, Harry was diagnosed with cancer on the valve that joins the esophagus to the stomach. He had a CAT Scan last week and surgery has been scheduled for this coming week. So, they are now both in it, and find themselves not only comforting each other, but also needing each other’s comfort.
12. I use this as a real life illustration that sometimes events come upon you so suddenly, and they can be so overwhelming, that you have very little time to think, and you have no time to decide what you believe . . . you’d better already know. You need to be able to say, because the issue has already been decided, that “I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,” Second Timothy 1.12.
13. Here is something for you that may seem to be unrelated, but that will come together with what I’ve already mentioned to you just before this evening’s sermon begins. It’s a story about me, and it culminated Monday night at a preacher’s meeting.
14. I took Kevin Scott and Jason Grim with me. They may not have noticed, or been aware, but there was a couple at that meeting that used to be members of the Church I pastored in Brawley. When that Church was dying at the hands of their last three fool pastors, this family and others sought refuge in Imperial, where pastor Johnston was serving. And they are still in that Church, which is now pastored by the fellow who preached to us preachers Monday night.
15. The amazing thing last Monday night was that a Church couple and three men who had been or still is their pastor fondly greeted each other, and them, and enjoyed each other’s company and fellowship. That doesn’t usually happen, folks, I promise you. I’ll tell you why.
16. Most pastors, including me when I entered the ministry, have little or no training in the fine points of pastoral ethics, and have no clue regarding its importance. As a matter of fact, most pastors are as willing to steal sheep as any thief, and have no awareness of the relationship that exists between unethical sheep stealing and a cleverly masked inability to get real conversions.
17. I asked a pastor who teaches a Bible college ethics course for and obtained from him his notes for the ethics course he teaches. It amounts to 20 or 30 pages of single sided, double spaced typing, and doesn’t even mention a pastor’s ethical responsibilities concerning other pastors or members of other Churches.
18. But I hold in my hand a book given to me by David Guerrero, which was written by the Puritan, Richard Baxter. This book is titled “A Christian Directory,”  and though it is somewhat broader in scope than the Bible college teacher’s ethics course, it still has an astounding 387 of its 900+ pages of small, tightly packed print, devoted to ethics. Considering only the differences in space devoted to ethics we see reflected the current sad state of pastoral ethics in the United States at the present time.
19. My own introduction to pastoral ethics came about shortly after meeting pastor Johnston in the Imperial Valley. He called me and introduced himself over the phone, invited me to meet with him and become his friend, and greatly blessed me as a young pastor by allowing me to spend time with him, all the while teaching me practical and valuable lessons about the Christian life and the pastoral ministry.
20. At some point in our friendship a Southern Baptist pastor from my town resigned his Church and took an assignment at a very large Church in San Bernardino, where he is serving to this day. His successor stepped in and had great difficulty with the people, in part because the former pastor insisted on maintaining friendships in the congregation after he left. His sentimentality made it impossible for some of the Church members to develop the love and loyalty for their new pastor that was needful.
21. Reflecting on that situation, pastor Johnston told me that a pastor has no business maintaining friendships after he has left, for two reasons: First, because a pastor’s relationship should never be a friendship relationship in the first place, but a pastoral relationship. Therefore, the relationship should all but end when he is no longer the pastor. Second, a pastor has no business maintaining friendships after he leaves because his contact with former members creates problems for the succeeding pastor.
22. When God called me to Calvary Road Baptist Church it was necessary to put those lessons on pastoral ethics into practice. And it was hard, because I love those people in Brawley, and also because Church members simply don’t understand the dynamics that are involved. When pastor Johnston, himself, left the Imperial Valley to rescue a dying Church in San Antonio he also practiced what he preached.
23. But look at the result. When I left Brawley my refusal to initiate any contact with those I once pastored (though I was always courteous when they called or visited) made it possible for former members to develop a strong bond with pastor Johnston (I’m simplifying the entire process considerably). And when he left, his ethical behavior made it possible for those same people to bond effectively with the man who is now the pastor.
24. In short, having learned what pastor Johnston taught me (which I would never expect a Church member to really understand or agree with), I and he both conducted ourselves in such a way that the family we saw Monday night has been able to be content with their pastor, and their pastor has never felt threatened by our insistence on maintaining an inappropriate relationship with those who are now his sheep to shepherd.
25. Thus, last Monday night there were three pastors, and a couple, happy to see each other, no one having violated the others unethically, and no one even appearing to be doing wrong by messing with someone else’s sheep.
26. Folks, I don’t get mad at preachers very often. I get exasperated and frustrated. But the only preachers who make me mad, and who I have a real problem not unloading on, are preachers who mess with someone else’s flock. I think decisionists are wrong. But I love and can fellowship with decisionists.
27. That young preacher, however, who has taken several of our members, has infuriated me. It’s all I can do not to unload on him when I see him. Why? Because I am a God-called under shepherd and I am very protective of the sheep God has given me. Wrong me and I’ll get over it. I’m not much anyway. But I have a difficult time being in the same room with a sheep stealer who messes with those who are not his to shepherd.
28. So, how do these two life situations come together to prepare for the message tonight? In this way: You will have an impact on people with your life. No one is without impact. Everyone has an impact. But, as with the Johnstons, and the Frenches, and Harry and Meredith Jackson, it’s clear that sometimes events come upon you so suddenly that you have no time to plan the impact that you will have on other people. The character and the commitment and the convictions need to already be in place.
29. But there are also times when events unfold so gradually that you very much can determine what the impact you have will be. I find myself surrounded by mostly unethical pastors. There are only four or five men in Los Angeles County that I am comfortable would not try to steal one or two of you families if they got a chance. And only three of those men do I think would actually send you back here if you got upset at me and started attending there.
30. Despite that great disparity, I clumsily strive to be an ethical pastor. I won’t let someone attend here if they come from anything like a decent Church, unless that pastor tells me he doesn’t want them because they’re no good, like the Arnold’s and the Imm’s pastor said to me. Now, I am not perfect. I have great flaws, as you no doubt observe for yourself. But I am concerned about the impact my life and ministry will have on the lives of those who witness me.
32. I hope you, too, will be concerned about the impact you will have on those who witness you.
3A. Tonight I Would Like You To CONSIDER YOUR IMPACT
1B. First, On Your Self
1C. What are you doing to yourself by the decisions you are making and the life you are currently living? I am speaking to you who are Christians when I ask, What kind of person comes from the ingredients you are now mixing into your life?
2C. Do you have a devotional life that you guard and protect from interference? When you observe yourself, and you do observe yourself, what do you see? What kind of a man or woman are you? Do you come before God each day and ask Him, “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths,” Psalm 25.4? Or are you haphazard and sloppy with this precious gift of life?
3C. God’s children need frequent and meaningful communion with God. We need intercourse with the Father. We need times of instruction and encouragement, times of prayer and pleading. There are times we need to be reminded of who and what we are, because we forget.
4C. Psalm 27.1 declares that “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Is it not less likely that a man or woman who has read that kind of thing from God’s Word first thing in the morning, and who has then spent meaningful time in prayer to the Father seeking grace for the day, will then see himself differently than he might have had he gotten up late and rushed out the door to work, shoving God into the background of his life?
5C. You have an impact on your self. And as you live out your life, what kind of impact do you have on your self? Do you have godly expectations of yourself? Do you see yourself as shouldering responsibilities? Do you recognize the duties and obligations that rest upon you as a child of God and as a joint heir with Jesus Christ?
6C. If the answer to those questions is “No,” then you need to examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith.
2B. Next, Consider Your Impact On Your Family
1C. Look, we know that the animals of the wild kingdom eat their young during times of stress and hardship. But don’t we expect human beings who claim Jesus as their Savior to live a bit better than beasts of the field? Sure we do.
2C. There are few things that surprise us about the conduct of the unsaved toward their young. Romans 1.31 shows that those unconverted who have been turned by God over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not convenient are “without natural affection.” They don’t love their children, and their behavior toward their children shows it all too clearly.
3C. The wicked murder their young before they are born, with the god of convenient sex fully taking the place in our society of the ancient god Molech, to whom newborn children in Bible times were sacrificed.
4C. Still others abuse their own children and other children to fulfill their wild and perverse fantasies, while most parents mindlessly turn their children over to the care of a nanny named television, or a nanny named Play Station, or a nanny named Internet.
5C. But what about you who name the name of Christ? What impact do you have on your family, your children specifically? Will you deposit into your child’s mind any memory of daddy ever having served God, of mommy ever having served God? Would your children even think that you resorted to God’s Word when wisdom was needed, or to God Himself in prayer during a time of crisis or profound need? When have they ever seen you study God’s Word or pray?
6C. Are you raising your children in such a way that the congregation is seen by them to be profoundly important? Or do you trivialize Church, making the prohibition against forsaking the gathering of yourselves together, as the manner of some is, minimized and basically ignored?
7C. Why do you think most kids wash out of Church after they graduate from high school? Why do you think they stop doing what they once had to do and began to do what they could get away with doing when it reached the point that they weren’t made to attend Church?
8C. Do you think they concluded that serving God wasn’t a big deal, not terribly important? Where do kids get such an idea? Who are the most influential people in any child’s life, unless they behave in such a way that they diminish their own influence? Parents! Why don’t kids catch from their parents the urgency of serving God and faithfully attending Church?
9C. Dad, mom, do you want your kids to have a pastor? Do you think they will need a pastor? Then you need to have a pastor. Do you want your kids to serve God? Do you want them to think serving God is important? Then you need to serve God. Do you want your kids to have a personal devotional time? Do you think your kids will need to seek God’s face to obtain grace for the day? Then you need to have a personal devotional time.
10C. Consider your impact on your family, specifically your own children. Ask yourself, “What will my son grow up to be like, spiritually, if he becomes exactly what I am like?” Some unsaved guys spend so much time being confused about Bible doctrine that they fritter away their time and opportunity to get saved, while at the same time dragging their own children into Hell with them. Don’t be like them. Do right and drag your kids along with you while you’re doing it.
3B. Third, Consider Your Impact On Your Church
1C. A Church is a congregation of born again, Scripturally baptized believers in Jesus Christ, who have banded together to worship God and to work together to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2C. It is the Church that is the pillar and ground of the truth, First Timothy 3.15. It is the Church that is authorized to administer the ordinances of believer’s baptism and the communion of the Lord’s Supper. And it is the Christian’s efforts in his Church which will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ, First Corinthians 3.14.
3C. Baptists are by virtue of our theological convictions congregating people. We do not subscribe to the irresponsible notion of free lance Christianity, but believe that God’s plan for each believer is to unite with a Church for worship, for service, for edification, and that our efforts for Jesus Christ in this lifetime are in great measure efforts that are to be channeled through the congregation to which we have been joined by baptism, First Corinthians 12.13.
4C. This being the case, what kind of impact do you have on this Church? And if this is a difficult question, or one you’ve never before considered, then ask yourself one or two other questions. What kind of Church would our Church be if every member was just like you? And what kind of Church will your children inherit, in part, as a result of your ministry and efforts and giving and prayers?
5C. Are you one of the members who brings family members to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you one of the members who brings friends to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you one of the members who brings coworkers to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Or are you one of those members, and we have too many of you, who have never in the time you’ve been here brought a single visitor? What kind of impact on a Church is that?
6C. What kind of impact do you have on the Church by your giving? How about by your singing? How about by your faithful attendance to every service? How about by your encouraging cheerfulness? Do you have a kind of Christianity that others would want, or the kind that causes other people to say to themselves, “I don’t want what she’s got, whatever that is?”
7C. Now, you may be one of those people who thinks to yourself, “I have no impact on that Church. No one cares where I live or die.” Now, that may be true. But if it is true it’s your own fault. Love, real love, loves people, meets their needs, befriends them in times of trouble, lifts their spirits, boosts their morale.
8C. But if you’re a selfish miser who comes to Church only for what you can get out of it, not for what you can put into it . . . then, sure, you’ve guaranteed that no one cares much whether you live or die. But it’s because you’ve squandered the opportunity, not because there’s so much wrong with the rest of the congregation.
9C. If you died tomorrow, what kind of impression would you leave behind here at Calvary Road? There are some in this auditorium who, if you died tomorrow, would leave behind exactly what is left behind when a finger is carefully withdrawn from water . . . nothing. That’s sad. But there are others who, should God take them, will leave behind a terrible big wound that God would have to heal over time.
10C. What you ought to leave behind are people come to Christ by your efforts, people whose lives are changed by your encouragement and by your instruction, and people who will never be the same because of your impact.
11C. When I die I want you to miss me. I want you to think of me when you rehearse God’s blessings in your life. I want to be an impact player in the Christian life, and the thought of having little or not impact is a nightmare to me.
12C. I remember Daved Magnifico, a member of our Church who died almost two years ago. He was a con, a thief, a liar, and abusive. He ripped off everyone in this Church gullible enough to let him, including me. But then he got saved. And after he got saved he made an impact in my life. I miss Daved Magnifico. I love him and I miss him and I thank God for him . . . after he got saved. I want it to be the same for me. And I want it to be the same for you.
13C. Speaking of a Church congregation, Paul wrote in First Corinthians 12.24, “God hath tempered the body together.” Let me encourage you to so live your life that others can see that you recognize the reality of this statement, that God has tempered you and me and the others here together.
4B. Finally, Consider Your Impact On The Cause Of Christ
1C. Though your life is substantially wrapped up in ministry and service to God through the Church that you are a part of, the cause of Christ is bigger than any congregation.
2C. The great tragedy of today’s contemporary so-called Christianity is that they so oftentimes see the bigness of the cause of Christ while they at the same time ignore or completely overlook the importance of the intimacy and the responsibility one is supposed to have toward his local Church. God mainly works these days through Churches like ours, though they don’t see it.
3C. When that happens you have Christians who see themselves as being too big for one Church, too important to be confined to one congregation, too spiritual to submit to the oversight of a pastor. That produces what I call big shot Christianity, with affluent Christians leaving their Church and moving on to one bigger, more appropriate to their station in life. But this is not right. Church membership isn’t supposed to change with professional success. Who puts Christians into their congregations, anyway?
4C. Or, to put it another way, Since when did sheep determine which flock they were to graze with, or who their under shepherd was supposed to be? Doesn’t First John 2.19 say something about so-called Christians leaving their Churches to join somewhere else? “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
5C. So, there is a danger associated with the cause of Christ and a failure to understand your proper relationship to the cause of Christ as a whole. Faithfulness to your Church is paramount. But there are times when your labor for Christ’s sake will not and cannot translate to involvement in your Church.
6C. Do you keep your mouth shut when you are on a business trip, just because you can’t bring the guy in the next seat on the plane to Church with you? No. Witness to him. Do you let your aunt go to Hell because there is no way to get her into a Gospel preaching Church where she lives? No. Witness to her as best you can.
7C. My friend, it is most appropriate to use the means of grace where the means of grace are available. When you can get sinners to Church you need to get them to Church. But when the means of grace are not so readily available you need to do the best you can to serve the miracle working Savior. After all, with God nothing is impossible. So what if you can’t get all your ducks in a row to get a loved one into a good Church to hear good preaching? Do the best you can and commit that loved one to the grace of God.
1. Impact. What kind of impact are you going to have? And recognize, you have an impact because people are watching you, because people witness you.
2. Your son watches you, dad. Don’t consign him to Hell by your own indecision or confusion. Your Church watches you, to determine what you think about the preaching, what you think about the importance of serving, what you think about propriety and modesty in the house of God. And others will watch or listen when you are far away and no one except God will know what your impact for the cause of Christ is.
3. In First Chronicles 4.10 a little known man named Jabez prayed a prayer. “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.”
4. This prayer as been greatly publicized in recent years, sometimes misinterpreting the prayer in selfish ways. But it’s a good prayer, and I want you to pray it yourself.
5. Especially notice the request that God “enlarge my coast.” Jabez, basically, asked God to increase his impact. You have an impact, an impact on yourself, on your family, on your Church, on the cause of Christ as a whole.
6. Please make it the right kind of impact. And ask God to make it bigger.
Richard Baxter (1615-1691), A Christian Directory, (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1996)