Today was a very exciting day for me. Over time, by the mercies and grace of God alone, I have had the privelage of witnessing over and over again to co-workers, neighbors, and others I come in contact with, in hopes the Holy Spirit will use the discussions to bring people to faith in Christ for salvation (as He sees fit). However, I have seen very little evidence that anything was actually happening in the lives of these friends and have been a little discouraged. It is the equivalent of casting out seed and watering it, but never seeing anything grow. After you do that for a while and see no evidence of your labors, you can become a little discouraged and feel that it’s to no avail (though I know that’s not true in the context of giving God glory through witnessing, regardless of the outcome). And I’ve felt discouraged for a while now; that is until today.
This one particular friend (who will remain anonymous for obvious reasons) started talking with me about various random things and then all of a sudden the discussion turned into talking about God, Christ, sin, justice, the cross, mercy, salvation, etc. He told me his story about how when he was younger, he went to a Southern Baptist church and believed in Christ, but the teaching was very moralistic and left the sinner even more burdened before they came. And so as a result of this teaching (though he was still responsible for his actions), he turned to his sin, all the while feeling wrong about all he did (very similar to my own experience in regard to turning away and feeling terrible about it the whole time).
However, recently, he told me he has been very convicted about his actions and how they haven’t lined up with that of Christ’s, and it started bothering him even more. And when I asked him what led him to this conviction, he told me, “Seeing your life and the way you live has been the Gospel to me, and I thought to myself, ‘I want that again, I have missed it for so many years.'” All I could do at that point was not point to myself and say, “Well done, David. You really are a righteous guy, good for you, you’re a great example and he should follow your pattern,” but rather point him to the One who has changed me of His free grace and mercy and attribute any change in me that works itself out in my life to God alone, mainly because simply following my example won’t produce the change he so desperately needs. And all this in hopes that my friend would look to the beauty and worth of Christ alone even moreso than he is now, in order that he may be forever changed (sanctified) and drawn near to the Father through the blood of Christ.
If my life, my actions, and my words were a witness of the Gospel to him, praise God for using such an unworthy sinner as me to do His divine work. Praise God He works despite the vessel He chooses to use. I am in no way qualified to be a witness of God on my own, but I preach the Gospel only on the basis of the death and resurrection of Christ. Firstly, who am I that He would choose me for salvation to begin with; but then secondly, who am I that He would use me as an instrument to do His mighty, powerful work in the life of another soul? How glorious is this, that the righteous, holy, perfect, just God who spoke the universe into existence, with whom there is no imperfection, would use the crooked, defiled, lisping tongues of sinners to save sinners? How humbling …
But at the same time, I was very encouraged because it was so refreshing to see that God has indeed been using me and that my work (to His glory) has not been in vain. How uplifting this has been for me today! All glory to God! This also illustrates something else I have been talking about recently a lot in my blogs: that in this instance, and every instance, it is God alone who changes people’s hearts, we do not. That is our only hope in witnessing and teaching. All we do is open our mouths and God either sovereignly (on the basis of His own will, design, purpose, and counsel alone) convicts someone to the core of their being, or He sovereign chooses not to and thus leaves them (justly) to their own sin. It’s His doing and His perogative to change the disposition of someone’s heart in order that they believe in Christ, as well as grow in Him. In addition to this point, just as much as preaching a clear concise Gospel is so important, so also living that Gospel out in our lives is equally important. Toward the end of our conversation, my friend told me that he had heard what I had to say in the past, but he said that seeing it work itself out in my life and how much joy it gave me on a day to day basis was what struck him even more than my words. As he said, “Your actions reinforce what you said, and I see what you mean by those words.” Man, praise God that He alone sovereignly saves and changes people. What other hope do we have?