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The reluctant witness

OPINION by Pastor Chuck DeVane, Special to The Sentinel-Record | August 20, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

-- Acts 10:34-43, ESV

Have you ever wanted to witness to someone about the Gospel, or at least invite them to a church service, but suddenly felt reluctant? You lacked confidence and courage. You felt somehow inadequate or incomplete. So, the moment passes, and your family member or friend or neighbor goes on about their business, but it is not God's business, and without God in their business and life they risk entering into eternity unsaved.

One of the greatest witnesses of all time, Simon Peter, was reluctant to spread the Gospel. When his brother, Andrew, introduced him to Jesus, Simon was reluctant to embrace Him. When Jesus told Simon about His gospel work, Peter even tried to stop Him. When Jesus was on trial for His life, Simon Peter even denied he knew Him. Even after the resurrection, when it was time to go fishing for men, Simon reluctantly went fishing for fish instead.

But the book of Acts shows Simon Peter blazing a trail with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He takes the whole Gospel to the whole world by bringing it to the Gentiles, wholesale, in the turn of events described from Chapters 10 to 11. What turned this reluctant witness into such a reliable soul-winner?

Peter learned how to pray. Peter is not exactly a prayer warrior in the Gospels. But in the book of Acts, Peter becomes a new man in many ways, and one of those ways is prayer. Prayer became a staple of the early church, and Simon Peter led the way, praying about where to take the Gospel next. This is something all Christians should pray about often, but too often we do not.

Peter put away his prejudice and mixed with Gentiles. It is not wrong to love, in some ways even prefer, people of your own race, nationality, class and culture. This is called the homogenous unit principle, and we see it played out in marriage, vocation, neighborhoods, and in church. People like to hang out with people like them. It is wrong, however, when the principle becomes permanent, prejudicial, or prevents a Christian from sharing Christ with someone else, just because that person is of a different race or class. The ground is always level at the foot of the Cross.

Peter put away his pride. Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshipped him. If we believe we are better than other people, we will be reluctant to share the gospel with them. Peter took Cornelius by the hand and lifted him up to Peter's level. They were hand to hand, heart to heart, of equal footing, sinners standing upon the same ground, separated only by grace.

Peter knew how to preach. What he told them about Jesus is something any Christian could tell any non-Christian any time. Jesus lived, Jesus died, and Jesus lives again, forever. Those who accept His life as the sinless, Spirit-filled, Son of God, and those who accept His death as the substitutionary sacrifice for sinners, and those who believe in His resurrection from the dead, will have Jesus as Lord and Savior, be forgiven of all of their sin, and enjoy everlasting life.

It's not rocket science. It's just witnessing, lovingly as a Christian to an unchurched, unbaptized, heretofore unbelieving person, so that they may believe and be saved. We must be less reluctant to do it.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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