Key Principle #2: WITNESS (part 2)
21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us ... one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. ” ... 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles." Acts Chapter 1
It is this passage of Scripture that has led to an erroneous division in clergy (those who make a living as a minister) and the laity (those ministers who earn a living other than through the church). The word “lot” is kleros from which we get clergy, so whenever we read “the lot fell on Matthias,” it could also be said, “and the clergy fell on Matthias.” But as we see in Acts 1:8, it’s not just the clergy who are to be witnesses for Christ, but everyone who receives the Holy Spirit, or in other words, all Christians.
As we saw in the previous blog, some use the excuse of "not being a member of the clergy" to not be a witness. Look at what Robert Coleman said about the division of the clergy and laity in his book, The Master Plan of Discipleship:
Biblically speaking, we cannot define clergy and laity as mutually exclusive terms…Radical distinctions between the pulpit and the pew did not develop until well into the second century. The word kleros…has the meaning of “a share, a land received by lot, or inheritance.” …When the reference is to recipients of God’s promise as the church, the terms relate to all believers who have received the inheritance of Christ (Acts 8:21; 20:32; 26:18; Rom. 4:13, 14; 8:16; Gal. 3:18, 29; 4:1, 7; Eph. 1:11; Col. 1:12; 3:24; Titus 3:7; Heb. 6:17; 9:15; 11:7,8; James 2:5; 1 Pet. 1:4; 5:3). In the New Testament usage of these term, then, everyone in the church is a clergyman or an heir of God. (pg. 11)
But there are other reasons people use which keep them from witnessing.
Don’t Let Failures keep you from witnessing
Not only should we not let excuses keep us from witnessing, but we should not let our past failures keep us from witnessing. Look at Peter. He was the disciple who whenever he didn’t know what to say, he said it anyway. Peter was a go-getter and Jesus liked that, but even go-getters get gotten at times by some type of failure.
During the 10 days of waiting and praying after Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter had to have been reading through the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, which still is so inspirational during times of affliction and sorrow. He obviously turned to Psalm 69 because that was what he quoted about having someone take Judas’ spot in Acts 1:20.
Here are some of the verses that gave Peter comfort.
1 Save me O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire where there is no standing. I have come into deep waters where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying, my throat is dry. My eyes fail while I wait for my God.
Now don’t you think that was a great passage for Peter to read? During the past three and a half years, Peter had proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, swore he would never deny him, yet only a few hours later, he swore he never knew the man. The Bible says after the third denial, he, like the Psalmist, wept bitterly. All the disciples were grief-stricken by the events and by Jesus’ absence. Death is devastating. I don’t care who you are and how much you know that they are "better off in heaven" and free from suffering, still, death is absolutely devastating. The Psalmist said he cried so hard that his throat went dry and he couldn’t even see. There is no shame in crying over the things that God cries over.
Let’s read some more from the same passage which Peter read in Psalm 69:
5O God, You know my foolishness and my sins are not hidden from you. 6Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me. Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel...19You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; My adversaries are all before You. 20Reproach has broken my heart and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
At this point of loneliness and sadness, Peter turned his thoughts toward his own failures. He may have been isolated and ostracized from the other disciples. It probably sunk in to him how lonely it must have been for Jesus to have suffered and have all to forsake Him. The fisherman apostle undoubtedly continued to read this Messianic prophecy in the next verse, Ps. 69:21. “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”
Peter’s heart must have leapt out into his throat from his chest when he read this, knowing that Christ had also been given vinegar to drink on the cross. Psalm 69 then speaks about calling out for vengeance on those who betrayed him. Who else was a greater betrayer than Judas himself? Talk about a gruesome, painful death, Judas’ own bowels had bloated and spilled out after he had hung himself in remorse of being used and tossed away by the devil himself. No wonder Peter quoted Psalm 69:25 and applied it to Judas. “Let their dwelling place be desolate. Let no one live in their tents.”
Peter failed Christ, but was restored by Him. Judas, on the other hand, failed Christ but didn’t repent and did not experience the restoration, but rather the wrath of God, culminating in his death. As the Psalmist said, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” (Ps. 69:28)
If you have ever failed (is there anyone that this doesn’t apply to?), learn what Peter learned: “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (Prov. 24:16). The righteous fall just like everyone else, but they get back up again. Jesus restored Peter. Don’t let your past keep you from living your future for God and don’t let your failures keep you from being a witness to God. By the way, who was it that wrote this Psalm? Oh, yeah, David. Not David the adulterer, David the murderer, David the liar. David, the forgiven one. David, the man after God's own heart, even when it was broken.
Judas was overcome by his remorse and died. Peter, on the other hand, overcame his remorse and lived to be the leader in the church. If you have failed and you feel like you are the chief of all sinners, look at Peter. Look at Paul, who coined the phrase, “the chief of all sinners.” And ladies, look at Mary Magdalene, who was likely a prostitute, although we are not for sure. We do know that seven demons were driven out of her, yet she became a close follower of Christ.
So what am I saying? If you have failed in the past, just remember Peter, Paul and Mary.