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James Merritt - Star Witness

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    James Merritt - Star Witness

I wanna take you back 2,000 years and I want you to think about Jesus. For three years His family had been 12 disciples. For three years He spent more time loving them and teaching them and discipling them than anyone else in His life. They really were His family. And yet after His death and after His resurrection, what does Jesus do? He leaves them behind. Now my question is: Why did He do that? Because nobody can love any family more than Jesus loved His, and yet even though He didn't have to, He could've taken them with Him, He didn't do it. He left them behind. He could've said, "Hey, let's just all go together". He was the only man in history that could've taken His family with Him, but instead He left them.

So now I wanna ask you a question. Why did He do that? And the answer is one that we've been giving in this series on the Holy Spirit that we've been calling "Unleashed". What I wanna show you today is the greatest single reason and the number one reason why Jesus left them behind, why Jesus left us behind. If you brought a copy of God's word or you have an iPhone or a smart pad or iPad or whatever you might have, I want you to turn to a gospel called John. There are four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They're at the beginning of the New Testament.

I want you to turn to John 15. Now while you're turning let's just do this. Let's just ask several really important "why" questions. Not about Jesus but about us. For example, why did Jesus come? Why did He even bother leaving heaven to come to planet Earth to begin with? Here's another question. Why did Jesus leave? I mean He came back from the dead in a resurrected body, could've stayed here the rest of the time on earth if He wanted to. Why did He leave? Why did Jesus unleash the Holy Spirit? And that raises a bigger question really. Why are we here? Now let me tell you what I believe? When you answer the first three questions, you will have the answer to the fourth and last question. And the answer to that question is found in the text that we're gonna be looking at today in John 15.

If you don't have a copy of God's word or whatever, let me pull it up on the screen for you. Listen to this. Jesus is talking to the disciples and He says, "But when the helper," that is the Holy Spirit, "when the helper comes, who I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father". Now listen to what He says. "He will bear witness about me, and you also will bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning". Now in those verses is the one-word answer to every question we just asked, all four of those questions. Why did Jesus come? Why did Jesus leave? Why did Jesus unleash the Holy Spirit? And why are we here? In one word, here's the answer. You ready? The answer is witness. Witness. Put it this way. Jesus went up and the Holy Spirit came down so that we would go out and be witnesses to a world that needs to be brought into the family of God.

That's so important I wanna read it again. Jesus went up and the Holy Spirit came down so that we would go out and be witnesses to a world that needs to be brought into the family of God. Now Jesus says two simple things to the disciples about this witness that could happen and should happen and would happen when the Holy Spirit is unleashed in us. He said something about the Holy Spirit and He said something about the disciples. Here's what He said about the Holy Spirit. He said, "He will bear witness of me". But then He said this about the disciples. "You must bear witness of me". He will bear witness of me. You must bear witness of me.

Now I wanna show you why those two things are crucial, both for believers and unbelievers. Here's why we as believers cannot help but be witnesses for Jesus and it's also why unbelievers will understand why they need Jesus. I'm gonna just say two simple things to you this morning. Number one: Jesus said the Holy Spirit witnesses to Him. The Holy Spirit witnesses to Jesus. Let's read verse 26 again. "But when the helper comes, who I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me". You notice what Jesus calls the Holy Spirit. He calls Him the Spirit of truth. And after all, that's what you would expect because what does the Holy Spirit come to do? He's come to bear witness.

Well now what's the job of a witness? If you've ever been in a courtroom, and by the way, I have, and if you've ever been sworn in to give testimony, and by the way, I have, you raise your right hand and you say the following, you answer the question: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? That's the question they ask. That's the pledge that you make. Well that is exactly the purpose of a witness. All a witness has to do is very simple. Just tell the truth. Then Jesus says something really fascinating. He said this. He said, "When the Holy Spirit comes, He will only bear witness to the truth and He will only bear witness to one truth, and that is the truth about me". Well if you want the Holy Spirit to talk to you, if you want the Holy Spirit to speak to you, I'm gonna tell you up front, He's only gonna talk about one thing and that is Jesus.

Now it's not just His favorite subject. That is His only subject. And by the way, that really shouldn't surprise us. Because if you think about it, everything about the Christian faith is about Jesus. Everything about Christianity is about Jesus. For example, what is the Bible about? Well what do the scriptures witness to? What do they wanna talk about? They witness to Jesus. You know what Jesus said about the entire Bible that He had 2,000 years ago? Jesus said this in John 5:39. He said, "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life and it is they that bear witness about me".

When you open up the Bible, what does the Bible talk about? Jesus. It doesn't matter whether you're in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Psalms, Proverbs, Matthew, Mark, Ephesians, Colossians, Revelations, it doesn't matter. The Bible talks about Jesus. The Bible witnesses to Jesus. We've already seen the Spirit bears witness to Jesus. Guess what. The saved bear witness to Jesus. Do you remember what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit? He said this to the disciples in the first chapter of the book of Acts. If you're a believer, you probably are familiar with this verse. Listen to what He said. He said, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and," what will happen then? "You will be my," say that word with me out loud. Witnesses.

"You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth". Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses". Why? Because that's what the Holy Spirit has come to do, to bear witness about Jesus. See, the Holy Spirit doesn't talk about religion. The Holy Spirit doesn't even talk about church. Hey, you ready for this? The Holy Spirit doesn't even talk just about God. You know what the Holy Spirit talks about? He talks about Jesus. He talks about who Jesus was. He talks about what Jesus did. Just as a compass always points to the north, the Holy Spirit always point to Jesus.

Now do you know why He does that? Because the purpose of bearing witness and the purpose of what we call evangelism is not asking people to adopt a philosophy. It's not about talking to people to live out a principle. It's not about getting people even to start a new practice. The purpose of bearing witness is to get people to accept a person, and His name is Jesus. The Holy Spirit witnesses to Jesus. He talks about Jesus. He teaches about Jesus. He thinks about Jesus. The entire thrust of His ministry is all about Jesus. But now that raises a big question. How does the Holy Spirit witness about Jesus? How does the Holy Spirit do this? Because I don't know about you, I've never heard the Holy Spirit talk out loud. I've never heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, at least with my ears.

So how does the Holy Spirit bear witness to Jesus? All right listen. I just told you the Holy Spirit witnesses to Jesus. But here's how He does it. The Holy Spirit witnesses through us. He witnesses to Jesus but He witnesses through us. Now listen to verse 27. "And you also must testify". Did you see that word? Must. "You must testify for you have been with me from the beginning". Now I love the way the NIV translates this verse because that verb to testify, or to bear witness is in the imperative mood. In other words, it explains what the Holy Spirit will do and what we must do. The Holy Spirit witnesses to Jesus but He witnesses through us. The Holy Spirit doesn't have a physical voice except ours. He doesn't have a mouth except ours. He doesn't have a tongue to speak through except ours. He has no mouth or lips to claim the gospel except ours. And it is because the Holy Spirit will bear witness to Jesus that we must bear witness to Jesus.

As a matter of fact, listen to this. It is only because of the witness of the Holy Spirit that my witness and your witness can be effective. It's the only way that it can have any impact whatsoever. So let me ask you a question. When have you last spoken up for Jesus? When did you last talk to somebody about Jesus who doesn't know Jesus? Now let's just be very honest. I know probably the room right now is kind of dead silent. All right? So if I were to say to you, "So you haven't talked to anyone about Jesus in a long time"? And let's be honest, I'm not fussing at you. It's just true. Probably the majority of you would say, "Well Pastor, I've never talked to anybody about Jesus. Or if I have, it's been so long I can't remember".

Well suppose I were to ask you, "So you're a believer"? Well yes. "And you believe the Spirit of God lives in your"? Yes. "So why aren't you bearing witness about Jesus? Why aren't you sharing Jesus? Why aren't you talking about Jesus"? Now I've been in this a long time. And I've pretty much been able to categorize, there are basically three reasons people give why they don't bear witness. There are basically three reasons why they don't open their mouth and proclaim or say much about Jesus. And you've heard them before. Here they are. Some people say, "I just don't have the gift. That's just not my gift. That's just not my thing. I don't mind changing diapers in the nursery. I don't mind telling kids Bible stories. I don't mind working with teenagers. I don't mind handing out orders of worship or passing a bucket to take up an offering. I don't mind visiting a hospital. But evangelism, talking about Jesus, that's just not my gift". And then some people say, "I just don't know how. It's not that I don't wanna do it I just don't know how to do it".

And then the third reason, and I think maybe the number one really is, "I'm just too afraid. I'm just, fear is my biggest problem". Well let me ask you a question and see if you can figure this out. There's one answer to every one of those excuses. And it's found in three words. Do you know what those three words are? You ready? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the solution to all three of those problems. The Holy Spirit is the answer to all three of those reasons. Let's just take it one at a time. For example, some Christians say, "I just don't know how to witness. I just don't know how to do it". Now frankly I've always thought that's kind of a strange excuse because what are you supposed to do as a witness? All you're supposed to do as a witness is just testify to what you know, what you've seen, and what you've heard.

Now let me ask you a question. You say you're a believer. So tell me what you know about yourself as a believer. You say, "Well I know I'm a sinner in need of salvation. I know that Jesus died for my sins. I know that God raised Him from the dead. I know I'm only saved by the grace of God. And I know the reason why I'm a believer is because I confessed my sins, I've trusted in Jesus, I surrendered Him as the Lord of my life". Well if you know all of that, guess what. You know how to tell somebody else what you have done yourself. And the Holy Spirit will use your testimony to do that. So if you understand what it means to be a believer and you understand what it means to be saved and you know what you did to get saved, then you certainly already know how to tell somebody else how they can be saved.

So we know that reason number one really doesn't work. But then somebody says, "Well it's just not my gift. It's just not my thing". Well let me just say this. I will agree to an extent. I do believe there is a specialized sense where evangelism is a gift. Every Christian has received the gift of the Holy Spirit, every single believer. And every time any Christian witnesses, it is always the Holy Spirit witnessing through him or through her. So if you have the Holy Spirit and you are surrendered to Jesus, you will be His witness. You may not have the gift of evangelism, but you do have the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will witness through you and for you. So that really isn't a good reason. And then there's this one. I'm just afraid. I'm afraid I'll lose a friendship. I'm afraid I'll get rejected. I'm afraid I'll be asked a question that I can't answer.

Well let me give you some good news. Number one: Jesus understands your fears. Okay? He gets it. He understands. That's why He sent the Holy Spirit. Because when we open our mouth, the Holy Spirit not only will give us the words to say. He will give us the power to say them, but we've got to open our mouths. Now can I let you in on a little secret? Just don't tell anybody I'm gonna tell you this. I get afraid too. I battle fear too. I think about getting rejected too. Do you know how you can tell if people are filled with the Holy Spirit? I can tell you right now whether you're filled with the Holy Spirit or not. It's real easy. When you're filled with the Holy Spirit, you don't have to talk about Jesus. You want to talk about Jesus.

Think about it. When the Holy Spirit came to those first disciples, what did they start doing? They started preaching about Jesus. You know what else they did? They started writing about Jesus. They wrote four gospels, which are all about Jesus. They wrote these epistles, which are called letters to churches. They're all about Jesus. The last book of the Bible is called the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It's all about Jesus. The Holy Spirit loves to talk about Jesus. And when you love Jesus and you're filled with the Holy Spirit, you want to talk about Jesus. Listen. Talk to anybody. I challenge you to do this. You talk to anybody who is a believer. You talk to anybody who's become a Christian. Talk to anybody who's become a disciple of Jesus. You'll always find, without exception, it was because of these three things in their life that are always present.

The word of God, the work of the Spirit, and the witness of a Christian. Always. Those three things are always present. You get anybody to tell you how they come to know Jesus, the word of God was there, the work of Spirit was there, and the witness of a Christian was there. But now notice this. We're the last link in the chain. If that link is broken, these two things won't work. We're the last link. We are the last step and we are the last stage. So don't ever get this idea that you're kind of out on the line by yourself when you're bearing witness to Jesus. Yes we are to bear witness to Jesus, but listen. We bear witness with the Holy Spirit.

Let me tell you what the disciple Peter, let me tell you what Peter said after Jesus had died and left and gone back to heaven. Here's what Peter said about his witness. He said, "If we are witnesses to these things," now watch this, "And so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him". If you don't hear anything else I say, listen to this next statement. Witnessing is a team sport. It's not tennis, where you're on one side and your opponent's on the other side. It's a team sport. You never, ever witness by yourself. As a matter of fact, don't even try to witness by yourself. You always witness with the Holy Spirit. He witnesses to Jesus. He witnesses through us. The Holy Spirit rarely witnesses without us, but we cannot witness without Him.

And let me, in fact, I'll tell you this. Don't even try to witness until you are full of the Holy Spirit. But when you are full of the Holy Spirit, you must witness and you will witness. You don't have to be intelligent, widely read, eloquent in speech, impressive in your appearance. You don't have to have the gift of persuasion to be a witness. But I'll tell you what. If you've experienced the grace of God, if you've fallen in love with the Son of God, and if you're filled with the Spirit of God, you can be and you will be a witness.

So let me just kind of wrap this up. I went back and did a little research on that word witness and, from the legal standpoint, it's kind of fascinating. The word witness is a legal term. It's a courtroom term. Well one of my sons is an attorney. As I've told you many times, I always wanted to be a lawyer and God changed all of that. But I still love the law and am fascinated by the law. So I went back and I learned there are actually three kinds of witnesses in any court case or potential witness. First of all, there's one that's known as the star witness. Now a star witness is kind of the key witness. He has such a strong testimony, he has such evidence, he has such proof that he brings to the case that a star witness can turn the whole course of a case completely around. His testimony is so powerful that by himself he can either cinch a conviction or cinch an acquittal.

Now let me, please hear what I'm about to tell you. When it comes to witnessing to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is the star witness. I'm not the star witness. You're not the star witness. He is the star witness. Because think about this. Have you ever thought about what has to happen to someone to become a believer in Jesus? Think about this. Three things have to happen. First of all, they have to conceive the truth. That is they've got to understand the truth about Jesus. They've got to conceive it. Second, they gotta believe the truth. They don't have to understand it. They've got to be so convinced that what they've heard about Jesus is true they gotta do something about it.

And then thirdly, they've got to receive the truth. That is, once they understand it and once they actually believe it, then they surrender their life to what they know about who Jesus was and who Jesus did. Same thing happens to everybody. When I got saved I conceived the truth, believed the truth. I received the truth. Now listen carefully. Only the Holy Spirit of God can do that for somebody else. You can't do it. You cannot do it. He is the star witness. That's not our role. Our role is just to bear witness. It is His job to get people to conceive it, believe it, and receive it. But then I learned there's a second kind of witness in a trial. There's not only a star witness. There's what's called a friendly witness. This is someone that's called to testify on your behalf, knowing that they're going to give a positive testimony in your favor.

As a matter of fact, if you call someone and you designate them a friendly witness, you don't even have to cross-examine them. Why? Because it's already predetermined that what they're gonna say is not gonna hurt you. It's going to help you. All they're gonna do is gladly, willingly tell the truth and bear witness to what they know, what they seen, what they heard, knowing it's going to help you.

Now that's our role as believers. The Holy Spirit is the star witness. We are the friendly witness. But there's a third kind of witness. There's what's known as a hostile witness. This is a witness that is supposed to be a friendly witness. He was supposed to testify on your behalf, but instead they either testify in such a way that it hurts your case rather than helps your case or even worse. They're simply unwilling to tell the truth at all. They take the Fifth Amendment or they refuse to testify or whatever the case may be. They are a hostile witness.

Now here's what I wanna tell you. Listen carefully. If you're a believer, you're a witness. You're either a friendly witness or you're a hostile witness. You're either helping people come to Jesus or you're hindering people from coming to Jesus. You are either helping people come to Jesus by living a life that shows you are a believer and then sharing with your lips how to become a believer or you are a hostile witness, because you're either not living the Christian life or even if you are, you are a silent witness. You are refusing to bear witness to the truth about Jesus.

Now here's the good news. I'm gonna say it again. You are not the star witness. The Holy Spirit is. Our witness is needed. His witness is necessary. Our witness is important. His witness is imperative. The Holy Spirit will always do the heavy lifting. He'll always do the work of salvation. He is the one that says, "Look. I'll get him to conceive it. I'll get him to believe it. I'll get him to receive it. All I need you to do is just open your mouth and tell what you know, tell what you've seen, tell what you've heard, tell what you believe, and tell what Jesus has done for you. That's it".

These two verses may be the most important verses in all of the Bible about why we're here and what we are to do. Because listen. I'm gonna say it again. By yourself, by myself, by ourselves, we cannot witness effectively. We cannot witness efficiently. On our own, by ourself, trying it just by doing it the lone ranger way, you won't get anybody to conceive the truth. We won't get anybody to believe the truth. We won't get anybody to receive the truth. But that's not our job. Our job is simply to be filled with the Holy Spirit and let God unleash Him through our witness. And then when we step back and we see someone conceive the truth, believe the truth, receive the truth, we see a life transform right before our very eyes. Then we see what only the Holy Spirit, the star witness can do.
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