A WITNESS ESTABLISHES FACTS

A WITNESS ESTABLISHES FACTS - 01A WITNESS ESTABLISHES FACTS

• Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Essentially a witness (Greek μάρτυς) is someone who attests the fact or truth of something. The word originates in a legal context. In the New Testament, the focus is on the act of testifying, not of what the witness has seen, but of what the witness is saying. There are two other words in the NT for eyewitness.

• Luke 1:1-2 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses (αὐτόπται) and servants of the word handed them down to us.

Αὐτόπται is the plural of αὐτόπτης. It comes from a combination of the Greek word for self and the word for see. An eyewitness is someone who sees something himself or herself.

These eyewitnesses that Luke consulted in writing his Gospel were the people who had actually seen Jesus and observed what he had done. Jesus chose not to use this word because he was calling on all believers to be witnesses – not just the eyewitnesses.

Peter was one of those eyewitnesses but he used a different word.

• 2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses (ἐπόπται) of his majesty.

Ἐπόπται is the plural of ἐπόπτης. It is the combination of the prefix for over and the verb for see. Peter was emphasizing the crucial role of the first witnesses of Christ – the leadership role of establishing the church.

The eyewitnesses were very important because they laid the foundation for the generations after them. But they were not the only witnesses. We have the same Holy Spirit they did, and we share the calling to witness. But I want to study what is means to be a witness today. What does it entail? What do witnesses of Jesus do?

I want to begin my study in Matthew 18. The word witness appears in verse 16.

• Matthew 18:16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established.

Let’s back up and read the chapter to this point. {All texts are CSB version}.

Who Is the Greatest?

• Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

The section heading comes from this verse. Jesus had made it clear that he was a king of a coming kingdom. The disciples assumed that since Jesus was using a political term like that, then if Jesus was going to be king, each of them would have a position of authority as well.

• Matthew 18:2 He called a child and had him stand among them.

What could Jesus mean by this? Maybe the disciples thought that for some reason, this particular child would be greatest. Maybe he would grow up to become a great teacher, healer, or leader? No, it was not this particular child who would be greatest.

• Matthew 18:3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Those disciples each assumed that he had a solid place in God’s kingdom by virtue of their choosing to follow Christ. But Jesus popped their balloons. He said that they had to turn and become like children or else they would not even enter the kingdom, much less lead it.

• Matthew 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child – this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom will have a different way of measuring greatness. The kingdoms of the world measure greatness by personal power or attainment. Christ measures greatness by personal humility and deferment to others.

• Matthew 18:5 And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me.

Neither of the disciples thought they were showing disrespect to Christ when they were arguing with one another about who had rank. But Jesus suggested that they were showing disrespect. They were refusing to welcome Christ. Jesus will be establishing the fact of his own existence and his purpose for the world – but he would be doing it through witnesses who are like this child.

• Matthew 18:6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away– it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.

Now, notice how Jesus turns the subject matter of the conversation. They had been talking about who was the greatest in the kingdom. Now Jesus introduces the subject of causing people who believe to fall away. What is the connection?

The first specific connection has to do with causing simple believers to fall away from the faith.

• Matthew 18:7 Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses will inevitably come, but woe to that person by whom the offense comes.

These offenses are stumbling blocks that lead people away from commitment to Christ. Leaders are especially liable to this because people are watching them.

Then Jesus talks about how cautious we all should be about letting sin lure us away from our commitment to Christ.

• Matthew 18:8-9 If your hand or your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire.

Notice that the hell Jesus talks about is not some shadowy underworld that people’s spirits supposedly go to when they die. What is this “eternal fire” (8) and “hellfire” (9)?

First, let me tell you what it is not. Hell is not life. Twice in these verses Jesus talks about those who “enter life” but he makes it clear that those in hell have not entered life. Hell is death – the second death. Whatever pains and sorrows and suffering and shame people will experience in hell, it will not be perpetual.

So, what is the “eternal fire”? It is the permanent fire. It is the fire that destroys permanently. Paul calls it “permanent destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9. That is the final state of the lost.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

• Matthew 18:10 “See to it that you don’t despise one of these little ones, because I tell you that in heaven their angels continually view the face of my Father in heaven.

Another reason we should be careful about being factual witnesses of the truth is that the little ones have angelic intercessors. If we mistreat people because we assume we are great, someone greater is there to right that wrong.

• Matthew 18:12-13 What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over that sheep more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

The Shepherd is going to make sure that he ends the day with the same 100 sheep he began with.

• Matthew 18:14 In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

The technical term for the one verse moral of a parable is the nimshal. The nimshal of the parable of the Lost Sheep is this verse.

So, such is the important task of those called to witness to the facts of the gospel. We cannot steamroller over the little people in our pursuit of greatness. If we do, we run the risk of not even entering the kingdom ourselves, and incur the wrath of angels, and God himself.

Restoring a Brother

• Mat 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.

The end result that Jesus is looking for is RESTORATION, not excommunication. He wants us to restore the relationship so that at the end of the day, all 100 sheep are accounted for.

Note: you might notice that the words “against you” are not in some translations. The Greek words (εἰς σὲ) are not in many of the best manuscripts, and may be a copyist addition. I think it is important to note that we have a responsibility to restore those who are falling away, even if we are not personally offended by them.

• Mat 18:16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established.

The witnesses are there to help the brother who is threatening to leave to return to the fellowship. They are there to help establish the facts. Our role as witnesses of Christ is to establish the facts. We are all needed for that. There is going to be opposition to the truth of the gospel. There are going to be challenges to the Bible’s claims. People are going to question whether Jesus was real, whether what he said was true, whether he really died on the cross, and whether he really rose from the grave. Our role as witnesses is to weigh in on the side of all these facts.

• Mat 18:17-20 If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.”

If it doesn’t work, and the sheep deserts, there is still something Jesus wants that small group to do: pray for restoration.

This first passage we have studied shows us that our role as witnesses includes evangelism, but it is more than that.

But we are not the eyewitness. The ones who saw Jesus are long dead. They left us a historical record in the Bible. Christians choose to believe that historical record.

We can also testify to what believing in Jesus has done in our own lives, and how he has changed us. We can also talk about how he has blessed others – perhaps even those in our own family.

Our witnessing should be conversational, not confrontational. Our goal is not just to “get the gospel out” but to reconcile people to God. We have to believe in the God of all one hundred sheep. That shepherd does not want to leave anyone behind.

Our witnessing is best done as a team. There is a reason that Jesus suggests bringing witnesses along. Agreement is a magical thing. It can help people see the other person’s point of view. It is collaboration, and that adds respect.

Also, our witnessing does not end once someone has professed faith in Christ. There will be challenges to people’s faith, and we will need to witness to the facts of the gospel and seek to bring the lost sheep back into the fold.

CHOOSING A PERMANENT PATH

CHOOSING A PERMANENT PATH - 1

CHOOSING A PERMANENT PATH

Psalm 1 (CSB)

How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! 2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Habits – we all have them. Some of our habits are inherited. Some are learned from others. And some just seem to attach themselves to us. Habits can be good things that we like to do and things that make our life better. But they can also be bad things that we don’t like to do, and it frustrates us when we keep doing them.

The Bible encourages us to learn to do the good things, and to keep doing the things we have learned. That is the idea behind this sermon series. I wanted to identify some of the habits that the Bible encourages.

We need to repent of the bad habits and replace them with good habits. I think that if we just concentrate on learning and becoming proficient in the good habits, we will be less bothered by the bad habits. We only have so much time. If we carefully manage our time – giving quality time to quality habits – it will help us avoid getting stuck on worthless habits.

So far, I mentioned the habit of returning to the Lord when we looked at Deuteronomy 4, and the habit of passing on your faith when we looked at 2 Timothy 1 last Sunday. Today I am going to look at Psalm 1, and talk about the habit of choosing a permanent path.

This psalm lists two paths that a person can follow (6).

The psalm boils all our life choices down to two directions – two paths. Either we are walking in the “way of the righteous” or we are walking in the “way of the wicked.”

Jesus talked about those two directions too. He said…

• “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 CSB).

Jesus taught that choosing the way of the righteous is going to be more difficult than choosing the way of the wicked. The gate into the way of righteous is narrow. It is restricted. The way of the righteous is a difficult road, and there will be few who find it.

Jesus also compared the ultimate results of choosing the way of the righteous with the ultimate results of choosing the way of the wicked. When all is said and done, those who choose the path of the righteous will have life – because that road leads to life. But those who choose the path of the wicked will be destroyed – because that road leads to destruction.

Jesus is talking about the ultimate results of a lifetime of choices in a certain direction here. The Bible teaches that both of these paths will lead to something permanent. The way of the righteous will will lead to permanent life. The phrase “eternal life” is found 41 times in the New Testament, and that is what it means – a permanent life that Jesus will give us to replace these temporary lives we are living now. We begin our permanent lives at our resurrection.

But the way of the wicked also leads to something permanent. Paul called it “the penalty of eternal destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). And that word “eternal” is the same word that describes the life that believers will inherit at the resurrection. Eternal means permanent. The two ultimate destinies are two permanent destinies: permanent life or permanent destruction.

I entitled today’s sermon “choosing a permanent path” because something that will be permanently destroyed is not really permanent. The point that the psalmist is making in Psalm 1 is that only one path is a truly permanent one, because only one path leads to permanent life.

The psalm lists three obstacles to the permanent path (1).

If someone decides to take a road to somewhere, that person needs to avoid all the obstacles that will keep him or her from reaching that destination. This psalm lists three obstacles.

• First, to reach the permanent destination, we need to stop walking in the advice of the wicked.

We are living in a sinful world because our ancestors decided to walk in the advice of a certain serpent. He gave Eve some wicked advice, and she decided to walk in that advice. Her husband joined in the same rebellion.

But Satan has not stopped giving advice. He is still deceiving, deluding, and destroying people by convincing them to go in the wrong direction – to take the wrong path. In fact, Jesus told us that most people in most nations would choose the path to destruction most of the time. We can preach the good news but most people will consider it bad news. We can point the way to life but most will choose the way that leads to death.

In Eden, Satan disguised himself by using a serpent. Now, he is passing on his bad advice by disguising himself as well. We can get bad advice from government officials, from school teachers, from our televisions and computers – even from our family members and friends.

Sometimes people have been forced to disobey certain laws, because some laws have been built on the advice of the wicked. Sometimes judges decide their cases on the advice of the wicked.

• Second, to reach the permanent destination, we need to stop standing in the pathway with sinners.

When you are standing in the road, you have your choice which direction you will go. But when people see you standing there with sinners, they are going to assume that you have chosen to sin along with them.

If we are serious about walking in the way of the righteous, we need to make it clear to the world that we have made that choice. The Bible teaches that we make that clear by acknowledging Christ before others.

• “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33 CSB).

You can either acknowledge Christ, or you can try to hide yourself by standing in the pathway with sinners. That road heading to destruction is crowded with people trying to blend in – not wanting to take a stand – not wanting to be different. Most of them are not trying to be bad people. They don’t have to be bad people. All they have to do is stand there – and refuse to acknowledge Jesus before others. By not making the choice for Jesus, they are condemning themselves to hell by default.

• Third, to reach the permanent destination, we need to stop sitting in the company of mockers.

Mockers are people who are determined to keep doing what they are doing, and criticize or make fun of those who try to stop them.

The apostle Peter warned that “Scoffers will come in the last days scoffing and following their own evil desires, saying, “Where is his ‘coming’ that he promised? Ever since our ancestors fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4 CSB).

But Peter goes on to explain that these scoffers deliberately overlook the whole Noah’s Flood thing. God promised to destroy the earth with a flood. Most of the planet – all but eight people – said “flood schmud” – but then the rain came, and “the world of that time perished when it was flooded” (2 Peter 3:6).

Peter taught that “the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7). The mockers don’t want us to teach that. They don’t want to believe it. But refusing to accept the truth does not stop it from being the truth.

The psalm shows us how to access the permanent path (2).

If a person wants to be walking on the way of the righteous, that person should delight in the Lord’s instruction, and meditate on it day and night. This Bible is the Lord’s instruction. Some people say BIBLE stands for Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. No, that’s not right. Our goal is not leaving earth, it’s eternal life in the restored universe. BIBLE stands for Basic Instruction Before Living Eternally.

How can you tell if a person is delighting in the Lord’s instruction? Well, you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the cover is usually a pretty good indication of what the book owner delights in. A Bible that is falling apart is usually owned by someone who isn’t falling apart.

Nowadays, lots of us own Bibles as apps on our computers and phones and tablets. How often do we access these treasures? No matter what the medium it is in, the Bible is the word of God. We should delight in his instruction.

But if the words stay on the page and do not penetrate our minds and inform our lives, then we haven’t gone far enough. We need to be meditating on the words of the Bible day and night. The Bible is the GPS for our trip on the path that leads to life. Whenever I go anywhere alone, I have my GPS on, and I allow it to tell me which road to take, and which to avoid. That’s what the Bible can do for the person who has decided to choose the permanent path.

The psalm compares the destinations of the right path and the wrong path (3-5).

Notice that there are two similes in this psalm. Those who take the permanent path are said to be “like a tree” (3) and those who avoid the permanent path are said to be “like chaff” (4). Think about that for a minute. If you are imagining a tree, you probably see a large oak of a beautiful maple. You see strength. You see stability. You see something that is going to be there tomorrow and next year.

But what comes to your mind when you hear the word chaff? Chaff is the stuff that the wind blows away. It’s the stuff that is discarded when the harvest is gathered. Chaff is the temporary stuff.

John the Baptist predicted that when Jesus comes again, he is going to have a winnowing shovel in his hand “and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire” (Matthew 3:12).

The Book of Revelation gives us a list of those people who are the chaff and tells us when they will be burned up. Is says “But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 CSB).

There are two permanent destinies – permanent life or permanent death. The first death is not permanent because we will all be resurrected from it. But the second death is permanent. Once you are burned up in the lake of fire – that’s all she wrote.

Today’s psalm says that we can avoid that terrible destiny. But to get to the right destination, you have to get off the wrong path. You have to choose the permanent path. You have to delight in the Lord’s instruction, and meditate on it day and night. You have to trust your life to the LORD. He is watching over the way of the righteous.

sermon audio file