"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."Now, we read that but do we really get it? The Holy Spirit will make and has made us witnesses of God. But we've yet to answer the question, what does it mean to be a witness? That term, "witness," gets thrown around a lot, especially in evangelical churches and generally when people use the word, their context reveals that they really just mean talking to people about Jesus, sharing testimonies, and getting people saved. We've even boiled witnessing down to specific "techniques of evangelism" and in doing so I fear we have lost the true depth of that word.
In the book of Acts, to be a witness has something to do with how Jesus witnessed. Luke writes,
"I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions [or commandments] through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."Notice that in this brief summary of the whole book of Luke which is to serve as introduction to the "thesis statement" in verse 8 (above) about being witnesses, the author never bothers to mention anything about substitutionary atonement or saying the "sinners prayer"--things which have become essentials to witnessing in evangelicalism. Instead, he refers to what Jesus did and taught. For Luke it seems that to be a witness must have something more to do with what Jesus did and taught and not as much to do with imparting a saving knowledge of his justifying sacrifice on the cross. Jesus is our example of what it means to be a witness.
Jesus was intimately engaged with God in word and deed. His actions were the very revelation of who God is. His intimacy was such that it is true to say, along with the early Church, "Jesus is Lord." His revelation is so perfect that Jesus himself acts out the story of God and his people. Jesus is the answer to the question, "who is God?" Jesus' life tells a story to the world of who God is. And though Jesus' witness was unique in it's intimacy and perfect in it's revelation, the Holy Spirit invites and empowers us to participate in Jesus' work of witness, in His kingdom work, and in telling a story to the world about God. Essentially, the Holy Spirit invites and empowers us to participate in Jesus life.
Therefore, to be a witness of God is to tell a story with our life--to speak with our words and with our actions of a God who refuses to give up on the world and who loves the world so much as to offer up his life for its' salvation. Our witness is in the pattern in which we live.
This must be what Paul meant when he wrote,
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."If the pattern of our life is one of love, generosity, and compassion then our life will be a witness--will be the the story of a God of love, generosity, and compassion. But if the pattern of our life is one of greed, oppression, neglect, abuse, and that of a workaholic then our life will tell of a god like that. So as Christians, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are people who continuously ask, "what is the pattern of Jesus' life?" and "what sort of God does Jesus' life tell of?" And having asked the questions we live to tell the story of the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Christians are story tellers--and often we can be some very bad story tellers--telling the story of who God is by being his witness through the power of his Holy Spirit to his love and sacrifice for the world. And we're telling the story to the ends of the earth and to all the "wrong" kinds of people. This is much bigger than the "sinner's prayer" and this is much deeper than any "techniques of evangelism."
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."