Walled Cities: Our Witness
I BELIEVE it is normal for a mature believer to want to be a good witness for Christ. However, there must be something said for the carnal believer who is really a child of God but yet has no concept of the purposes for which we are left in this world. This slight digression here is to clear the way for our main thought. For, some believers grow up quickly and may grasp the secret of the victorious life, while others may linger in the state of carnality for many years.
Joshua and Caleb had come to know, in the early stages of Israel's journey, that all their progress must be made in complete faith that only God cou,id open the way. But all that host of Israel, other than these, seemed not to catch the secret of this mature faith. Hence, the wilderness wanderings become a display of carnality among believers.
Now, to say that these wanderers do not. have any desire to witness for Christ is going a little far. There is often a desire to do God's will. This desire often becomes very active, and it is here that Satan takes advantage of them by leading them to a carnal expression of their zeal - a zeal without knowledge. Thus they substitute the works of the flesh, in good conscience, and in the zeal of religious flesh cry out, "These be the gods that brought us up out of Egypt."
However, when one has, through some experience along the way, come to a maturity of understanding that there must be more to our God than these hands can produce, however conscientious and religious we be, we come to see the failure of our witness and become dissatisfied with what we have too highly evaluated. It is then that we want a witness in keeping with our mature understanding.
While we are working in this carnal state, we may be doing more things - giving more time to church work, attending meetings, working on committees, teaching Bible classes, singing in the choir, serving on the board of deacons, and doing many other things we call service in the church - more than we will be doing when we come to a more mature grasp of the matter. Keep in mind that the carnal mind is very religious and seeks to make a satisfactory show of zeal in the eyes of the world.
My reader will not understand this if he has little acquaintance with Satan. It is our opinion that the weakness of believers in this day lies in two realms: (1) A lack of mature understanding of God, and (2) a lack of mature understanding of Satan. And the blame for most of this weakness can be laid at the door of preachers who know very little more about these matters than do the people to whom they minister. Satan deals in spiritual wickedness in high places. His is a spiritual kingdom, and he is the head of it. He works through people, just as God does, and always his method is that of counterfeiting God. The Romanist view of Satan, with horns and tail and pitch fork, is ridiculous. He transforms himself into an angel of light, is a deity himself, and is busiest where a church seeks to stand on the most spiritual ground. He works against God wherever God is working, and seeks to lead God's
children into deception. Hence, he will produce a religious product, if possible, and make the carnal and untrained believer think he (the believer) is doing God's work when really he is standing in the way of God's work. The believer may be deceived into believing that this great array of accomplishments which we can chalk up on blackboards is, indeed, the accomplishments of ourselves for God. It is very flattering to the flesh to know, even though we conscientiously mean well, that we have accomplished much for God.
While the carnal believer may, at least outwardly, be busier than the spiritual believer, he will, if he ever comes to spiritual grounds, look back and see how much of what he was doing is failure. Carnal believers, who are very active in "church work" - that is, occupying positions, leading organizations, and so forth - are usually not strong on prayer, Bible study, and meditation. They are too busy. Furthermore, when and if they talk to a lost person about being saved, their witness is often hollow and superfieial, with little or no spiritual impact. True they can lead a whole Sunday School class to join the church, but the product will be what much of our mill-run evangelism is today - unsaved people in the church. But when one who has grasped the secret of the spiritual speaks to the lost, there will be a solemn attention on the part of the sinner and often a serious impact on the sinner's heart. Why? It is the Spirit speaking.
Of course, the carnal believer will never see this until he has matured out of his carnality. I once heard of a young woman who was painting a picture of some modern art conception. A man who was untrained in this art looked on and said in fun, "Well, if that is an art, I am
a fool." She replied, also in fun, "Well, there is one comfort a fool enjoys - he never knows it." I do not mean to reflect upon the carnal believer here, but to use this as an illustration of the fact that we will never see our childishness until we have grown up.
This is what Paul meant when he said he put away childish things (I Corinthians 13). This is what the admonition to the Hebrews means (Hebrews 6:1-3). Sad to say, much of our church work in this day is designed, directed, and fostered by earnest, conscientious, efficiently trained carnality. The result is very much like the modern result in education and in all other phases of our life: it is the synthetic product administered by the vitamin process.
But, to come to the matter of an effective spiritual witness for Christ, thank God there are those who want their lives to mean all they can for Christ. And when we have seen the dismal failure of the flesh in its work, just as we saw its failure to handle the sin question, or to bear our trials without despondency and despair, we cross Jordan and bow before the Figure in the shadows to ask again, "What sayest thou to thy servant?" The answer again is, "March around Jericho and blow the trumpet and shout, and I will tear the walls down."
Surely God never meant for religion to be as tiresome and wearying as it is to many earnest souls! There is surely a greater pathway to accomplishment in God's work than is manifest in the wearying rounds of things jamming into each other in modern church life! Do I mean less trial? No! I mean more grace and less burden.
Jesus is not boring. It is the everlasting attempt on the part of the flesh to make out a good case for Him that is boring. It is the reluctance of the flesh to give up and
ride upon His grace that makes life a wearying existence. When the Spirit is in control there is love, joy, peace, and all the good fruits of the Spirit, even down in the midst of trial and burden. The Cross is not a burden; it is the only way to the source of power to lift our burdens.
And now, let us proceed. You want to be a good witness for Christ? How can you do it?
As in the realm of sin and trials, Satan will advise just what we have been discussing. But here is the best answer: Don't try to make yourself a good witness. Yield the whole matter to our Lord and trust the whole thing to Him. Tell Him that if you try you will make a failure and will be in His way. Tell Him you are merely a piece of clay, and that you can no more live your life effectively and for His glory than the clay can become a vessel. Withdraw from the task and rest the whole matter in His hands. Believe that He has accepted the responsibility just as you have trusted Him to do, and let it remain there for His action, not yours.
Perhaps now my reader will say: "Well, this is indeed a lazy man's religion. I am to do nothing about my sins, nothing about my trials and problems, and nothing about my witness for Christ. This is just one big glorious boat ride to Heaven, if true." Immediately doubt will set in. It can't be real, you will say. This is too easy, yea, even fantastic.
But are you not forgetting, my friend, that the battle is not in doing, but in believing? "Canst thou believe?" is ever the question. The Pharisees said to Jesus, "What shall we do that we might work the works of God?" His answer was, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29). Indeed, that
is a work of God. The work of God is maturing us into a faith that can take God's Word and stand on it. And this faith must be wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. It is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. It will come to us only after we have tried the flesh and found it to be an utter failure. It will come to us only after we have been through enough of the "tribulation" to make us realize that the "carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be," and that the flesh has no resource which can deal effectively with our burdens. When we become sick of our earthly gods and the efforts which we put forth to worship them, and we collapse in our helplessness upon the everlasting arms, then, and then alone, will we grasp the faith that delivers the whole matter of witnessing into the hands of God.
But how can we witness and do nothing? Here is the common error. It so happens that we will be very busy. The difference is that we will be busy in the things into which God leads us, rather than in the things which we contrive ourselves.
Now, what constitutes a good witness? We will have to be as brief as possible, for many things are pressing here for utterance. When I was a student in Greek culture my teacher asked me to write a paper on "The Hermes of Praxiteles." I knew very little of Praxiteles, and I did not study his life or history. I did study the "Hermes," a statue of a Greek god, as he conceived that god to be, and with utmost detail. I read much on the art of that time and studied pictures of the "Hermes" to see how well the artist had produced his work. It not only raised my appreciation of Greek art, but it made me very familiar with the detail in which this artist had produced his carving.
I could tell you a good deal about the artist Praxiteles, because I had studied his handiwork. And the "Hermes" was one of his witnesses to the world of art. That told others of Praxiteles.
When God has taken a sinner, born in sin, ruined in all his soul and body, doomed to eternal hell; reaches that sinner's heart with the power to believe in the blood of Christ to save; gives him the indwelling Holy Spirit; matures him through that carnal period of his life into the spiritual surrender to the will of God and, by spiritual enlightenment, helps him to reinterpret life in the light of God's grace; when He has brought that sinner to live a life as Jesus did in this world and has given him a view of it as God sees it all; He has set up in this world a carving of His own artistry that is an everlasting witness to what His grace can do for us. Is that not a good witness?
By the new birth He puts the nature of God into a child of the devil and thus begins the transformation that ultimately brings that child of Satan to be like the living God. Is not that a good witness? By the nurture of the Spirit, through trial and heartache, He makes regnant the character of Jesus in His child, and thus enables the believer to act like a citizen of Heaven in the midst of a lost and ruined world. Is not that a good witness?
What, then, is a good witness for Christ? First, a good witness must know Christ. He cannot know Him until he has lived with Him in places and conditions where he can learn of Christ's power and glory. This necessitates tribulation. Then, a good witness must tell about Christ. And how does he do this? Like the Hermes tells about Praxiteles. Though it has no voice, it speaks. And the believer is constantly speaking to this world about Jesus.
Here is a believer in whose heart God has worked, and whom God has brought across Jordan. He has love. He does not get angry when he is imposed upon, but prays for those who persecute him. Why? Because he understands something now he did not once understand. I remember a very striking case of this kind. One of my men worked in a factory with a group of cursing, wicked, lost sinners. He was the only Christian there. They made life hard for him, and he often flared up in anger and resentment. He grew to dislike these men almost to the point of hatred. He came to me about it and confessed his feeling for them. He said he could not bear it any longer. After looking into the subject, I said, "Friend, these men are not your enemies. They are the dupes of Satan. They are bound by him and blinded in their sin. Satan has them in his power, and he does not want you to break into this group with a saving testimony. If you do, some of them might be saved. So, he persecutes you through them, hoping to drive you out of the plant. Thus, he aggravates you by making them resent you and your witness to Christ. Do you not see that they are lost and in his power? As God's child, you are under great stress, but you are in a strategic position for witness. Stand there and let them curse you, but give them the witness God wants you to give."
He was a sincere Christian. He had trouble with the temper, but he saw the point. He soon came to pity these men as though they were victims of a terrible disease. And, instead of getting rid of his problem, in the Name of Christ, he assumed the ambassadorship to these men and stood in Christian spirit under their oppression. His whole viewpoint was changed. He was doing battle now with the powers of wickedness. It required prayer, and faith, and
humility. Not only did it work character in him and thus deal with some of his weaknesses, but it gave the witness God wanted there. Later on several of these men were saved. He works with them today and has their utmost respect.
How do you act while God is carving on you? If you yield and believe and let the experience be used of God, it will perform both the character of God in you and the witness of God through you. Dr. Truett said repeatedly in one of his memorable sermons, "Be careful how you behave under trial." The world is looking on to see if God is doing anything for you. Only when you are in that place where nobody else can help you, and where the flesh utterly fails, can you let the world see that there is an inner force, which is not of this world, sustaining you. Here is the witness. And when people want to know the way of God, they are going to seek the help of somebody who manifestly has been there.
Church work and the busy life of the modern church member in objective things reveal very little of the work of God in the heart. God knows that I love the brethren who have so earnestly toiled to build our modern system of activity, but it must be said in all candor that most of it can be run without prayer or deep spiritual understanding. Efficiency in the manipulation of plans and methods adapted from the world and natural abilities of speech and song and moral advisements are mainly all that is necessary to operate the modern church. In the words of a great old prophet of God which I knew in my early days, there is much "heat without moisture" in the modern operation. Good, moral, lost men are almost as useful in much that is done today in the name of religion as men of the Spirit
and understanding. In fact, spiritual minds find it hard to fight in "Saul's armour," and are frequently considered fanatical and uncooperative. But when you look for the evidences of Christ in the life, they will be found in those who have suffered the scorn of this world and have walked alone in dark places with the Lord, but all the while have found "joy in tribulation." People with heart trouble will seek them for help. As long as everything is going well, the masses will move in the circle of those who are "doing things for God," but when trouble comes they will seek a cooling spring that bubbles from some isolated heart where God has been working in the night to clear the waters and make them sweet to the troubled soul.
For what is a good witness distinguished? His works, says the world. His faith, says God. And does my reader say, "Well, is it not both?" To which we answer, it is both if the faith be a faith that works, and if the works be the works of faith. The distinction here is important.
The best answer is given in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews where God memorializes what He calls a "cloud of witnesses."
In the battles of war among men, certain men are selected for what is known as a "citation." That is, the world is given notice, by certain ceremonies and symbols, that the hero accomplished an important mission under dangerous and adverse circumstances. The nearer death he came the greater the citation. And if he lost his life in the act, he received the highest recognition.
So here, the citation is for 'being "faithful unto death." That is, believing though it bring one to death. This does not mean that men were cited for committing suicide. It
would be easy for a man to get himself killed in battle. But it means that they believed on and on unto death.
Now notice that what they are cited for is believing, instead of doing some heroic act under adverse conditions. The citation is for faith, not works. It was not for believing that God would bless what we do, but that God would do for us.
So often the kind of faith we have is a faith in our works rather than in God. This is a faith in works rather than the works of faith. The difference is immense. In the faith in works, we do in order to believe; and if we do not do enough, and our works do not appear to be sufficient, we do not have faith. Our faith is grounded upon our works. But the works of faith is that which we do because we believe.
For example, prayer is a work - the hardest kind of work. Now it is very easy to have faith in prayer instead of faith in God. If we pray enough and have a warm session of communion with God, we feel that our prayers will be answered. But if our prayers seem to be weak and there is lacking a warmth and fervor in them, we doubt that God will answer them. If we can pray hard enough, and feel deeply burdened, and perhaps shed some tears, we believe God has heard us. But if we cannot have this feeling, we feel that we have failed in prayer, and thus God did not hear us. But that is faith in prayer, not in God. We based our faith on our works. We should have based it entirely on God's promise that He would hear.
In revival meetings I have seen the brethren "put on the campaign" of systematic visiting and planning. When the meeting starts they may be heard to say, "This ought to be a great meeting. Everything possible has been done
to make it a success." Their faith is in their works. Often I have seen such a meeting become what we often call a "flop." And if the Lord does bless and save in meetings like that, often He brings to salvation people who were not even on the prayer and visiting lists. I know I am not covering all situations under these statements; but if I could summarize what I am trying to say, I would say it this way: It is better to make contact with God before we try to make contact with men. It is best to have our faith in what He can do for us than in what we can do for Him. For God is the miracle worker, and when He works He uses His own plans and methods. All He needs is our faith. Then what works we do will be the works of faith. Plans and methods will proceed from Him, and they will be so different from those we have contrived. Much of the lost motion which nearly always characterizes our works will be absent in His.
When our plans fail we cannot blame God. But often our faith grows dim and we are discouraged, because our faith was in our works instead of in our God. We set a pattern of accomplishment and ask God to work to it. If He fails to do that, we become confused and blame ourselves because things did not turn out as we had hoped. "Somebody did not work enough," we say. Or, we pronounce the whole thing a failure because the Lord did not meet our expectation and bless what we were trying to do.
This brings us to another thought about faith. Faith does not sit in judgment on how God handles matters. I used to worry, in revival meetings, if we did not have a goodly number of confessions of faith. If we did have, we all concluded we had had a good meeting. If not, we all felt defeated and worried, saying we had not prayed enough
and worked enough. Doubtless, both were true, but that is not the real reason. Perhaps we had nol made contact with God in faith before we tried to make contact with men in witness. Perhaps our prayers were asking God to bless our works instead of asking Him to give us faith. But whatever the trouble I have long since ceased to worry about "results." It is simply a commentary that God hasn't handled things as He should have. I am glad for God to use me, and I trust Him to accomplish His ends. My faith is in Him, and I leave the results with Him.
Faith is simply a witness, or a testimony, sealed by death if necessary, that the witness believes God to be true no matter how things turn out. It does not prescribe a time and manner for God to act. It leaves all that to Him and trusts on and on. And that faith is most distinguished when the circumstances and signs are most against it. I repeat, these heroes of faith were cited for believing when all was unfavorable. They are distinguished for their faith, and that is the kind of faith that works.
I have heard men say, "God helps those who help themselves." What they mean is that, if we will use our natural abilities, God will augment our resources by His blessings and help us accomplish our ends. Their judgment as to whether or not God helped depends on whether or not they accomplished their objective. Whether the statement is true or not, and we are not saying it is, visible accomplishment is not always God's objective. Visible faith is His end in view. He is not trying so much to produce works in us as He is to produce faith in us. God does not want to show to the world so much how we can work; He wants to show how we can believe. What He desires is that "the trial of your faith . . . might be found unto praise and
honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:7).
Don't you see, it is a glorifying faith that God wants in us? Certainly glorifying works will be the fruit of the glorifying faith, but the tree must come first; then the fruit will be quite another kind of works, the works of faith.
We must admit, again, that this is a spiritual mystery, and just everybody will not be able to see the difference. It is like the faith that saves us, so clear when experienced, but so dark to the natural mind.
In the light of these thoughts, let us look briefly at the record in Hebrews eleven. These witnesses have been brought into such dependence upon God that they do what the world could not possibly do under the given circumstances, namely, believe God. They have become acquainted with the God who "works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform," and they do not raise questions as to what God will do or how He will do it. They simply trust the consequences to Him without knowing what He will do. They are distinguished for walking in a faith that is so unworldly that they seem to be perfectly at home in the realm of the supernatural. They get accustomed to the impossible. Through these God has revealed the works of faith, and the record is given here for our encouragement.
How did Abel witness? There hadn't been much gospel preached in this early day. It was a long, veiled look over to the cross, where the "Lamb of God" would take away the sin of the world. He did not have the abundant testimony of the Old Testament, and the preaching of John the Baptist to assure him and reveal God's salvation for sinners. Any of us might have excused Abel for not understanding enough to have faith in the vague promises of a
Saviour. For look how men ignore that Saviour today, after all the revelation and preaching of the ages! Nevertheless, in humble faith, Abel brought his lamb, thereby confessing his sin and his faith in God. God sent down the fire and consumed the offering. There the matter was sealed. But it would yet be millenniums before the Saviour would come. All that Abel left with God, and his citation was for faith.
Noah's faith accepted God's word in spite of the facts that there was nothing foreseeable to prove that word; that it was contrary to all natural order or possibility; that the scorn of the world would be his for believing and declaring his faith; and that the making of an ark was such a collossal task, as well as, from all natural points of view, a very ridiculous project. He had no more to confirm his faith than what God had said, plus an hundred and twenty years to wait and see if it would come true! His citation is for faith. Is not that a good witness?
We have no reason to deal exhaustively with the faith of any of these heroes. Our purpose is to point out that in each case they believed when everything was against their faith except the Word of God.
Abraham believed in spite of natural laws. It required a miracle to produce Isaac, but Abraham doubted not. He had gone out trusting God, not knowing whither he went; he was accustomed to letting God make good his own promises without the help of the flesh. He rejoiced in the Lord when Isaac was born, for God had made His promise good. Now he can see how all the other promises concerning posterity can be assured. But just on the threshold of this great prospect Abraham is tried again. "Abraham, do you think that if you took Isaac out and gave him as an offering
to God, that God could still make good His promise?" Abraham's reasoning was in the realm of the supernatural: "Well, if He can bring Isaac from two bodies that have died in their productive energies, certainly it would be nothing for God to raise him from the dead. Whether or not He does, He commands me to slay my son. His ways are higher than mine. I have no way of understanding them; it is mine simply to obey."
Abraham did not know that God would stay his hand at the execution. As far as he was concerned, he slew his son on the altar. But when he displayed his faith, so the world could see it (for God knew what he would do), God held his hand and said, "It is enough." Few, if any of us, can know what Abraham felt. We simply know that "these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13).
It is not necessary to go on, for the Bible lists these characters and details their works of faith. But as you follow on, you will see that their citation is for their faith, and a faith that has everything against it but the Word of God. This is what constitutes heroic faith.
Does anybody think it is easy to take God at His word, when everything else is against it? If we can come back to the God of miracle, it may be. But we will have to have a better acquaintance with that God than is current among us if we are to see Him display His works in our behalf. For we are more accustomed to having faith in our works than in God. How many times we have heard men say, "If we can get everybody working together in this or that plan, we can do great things for God!" But such a zeal
brought us to faith in works for God rather than in the God who works for us.
The battle is between two gods - our God and Satan. Our God deals in the resources of His own power, while Satan deals in the resources of our flesh. And if Satan cannot draw us completely away from our God, he will lead us to show our devotion to Him through the efforts and energies of the flesh rather than through our faith in the power of God. This inevitably leads to the substitution of our ways for God's ways, and brings us to a faith in our works rather than in God. And how did we come into this state? We failed to keep separate from the world. In our zeal to "make a success out of God" by encompassing large numbers of followers for Him, we lowered the walls of separation and let the world come in. The God in the cloud was too slow for them. They could not "wait on the Lord," so they began to cry, "Make us gods that we can see." Thus we turned to our own hand-carved substitutes, the machinery and devices of the flesh; and here we are! Larger numbers than ever before, but less power! Progress minus purity! Profession minus power! Efficiency of the flesh minus fruit of the Spirit! And on and on!
O that we might come back to the God who can help us! How we need Him, right now! And who else can help us? It is our hope that the trials of these days will bring that faith to the front. For that faith is best revealed under trial. That is why God lets His children walk in such places.
We might never have heard of Daniel if he had not been thrown into the lion's den. Nor would we have heard of the God which Daniel declared in his faith. All this could be said for the children of the fiery furnace. Also for
Job, who, in his darkest hour, cried out: "I do not see God before me nor behind me; on the right hand nor the left; but He knows the way that I take." That solved the case for Job. Thus God had a chance to say to Satan, and to all the world, "See, he trusts me!"
God has faithful ones today, too. Once a good woman was dying with cancer. In her days of health she had witnessed to the lost. Now she was brought low, waiting to die. A lost man who had a high regard for her, but who did not understand her faith, sent her a message asking her to go and see a "faith doctor" who reputedly could heal cancer. She had me write him a letter in which she said in part: "I appreciate your kind interest. in my welfare, and I pray that God will bless you for it. However, you do not understand. It is not important that I get well; it is only important that I do God's will. He has let me live for some purpose of His own wisdom; it may be that He will heal me. But, it may be that He wants me to die, for some purpose still known only to Him. Whatever He chooses, I must yield myself to His good pleasure. If faith will heal, I have the faith. We will use every means of medical aid that God has provided, but the outcome is entirely with Him. I would not try to deprive Him of doing with His own what He wills. Should I get well of this disease, I must die at last of something else. Being healed is not the greatest thing in life; being His is the greatest realization of any life. If I die I am sure He will in my death perform His will just as much as He would in healing me. As for my pain, He will supply grace for every hour, and in it will reveal Himself to me more tenderly; while I suffer, He will be able to show the world about me that I still love and trust Him, and in that way my witness will
be more convincing. Meanwhile, I hope you and others will see how blessed it is to be in the hands of One who will see to it that all things work together for good to them that love God. I pray that He may soon be able to count you in that number. He will be with me every moment. I trust Him fully, and I know His grace will be sufficient. Thank you again, and may God bless you!" She died believing. How can you make a better witness than this?
So, the summary of it all is this: "Have faith in God." In all the experiences He permits in your life, no matter what they may be, He knew it all the time and will be ready for them when they come. In your trials He will (1) become to you a greater God, and (2) He will through you reveal Himself to others. And all your trials and sorrows will be sanctified to that purpose if you trust Him. He is a greater God who can sustain you there than is He who can remove your trials. Praise His Name!
[Buell H. Kazee, Faith is the Victory, 1951. Used with the permission of Philip R. Kazee. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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