The Power of Personal Testimony
November 25th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
THE POWER OF PERSONAL TESTIMONY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-25-90 10:50 a.m.
And welcome, the uncounted multitudes of you who share the hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Power of Personal Testimony. In our preaching through the Book of Mark, we have come to chapter 5. And the message is an exposition of the first half of that fifth chapter of Mark. It is the story of the healing of that Gadarene demoniac, in whom lived a legion of evil spirits. I begin reading at verse 15, after the demoniac had been healed: the people came to Jesus, and they see him that was possessed with the demon, had the legion of them, sitting, clothed, in his right mind; and they were afraid [Mark 5:15].
And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.
And they prayed Him, the Lord Jesus, to depart out of their coasts – leave.
And when Jesus was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the demons prayed Him that he might go with Him.
Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but said unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
Three things in his exposition, The Power of Personal Testimony: the method of Jesus in extending the kingdom of God; the place where our testimony is to be offered before the Lord; and third, the reward of God in our faithfulness to His commandment. First, the method God hath chosen to extend His kingdom in the earth. Jesus said unto him, "Go tell" [Mark 5:19].
May I speak first of the power of that personal witness? In the fifth chapter of  Kings, there is one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible, the healing of Naaman, the leper. He was a great man, a mighty conqueror, but he was a leper [2 Kings 5:1]. And in the excursions of the army, they had brought back into the Naaman home a little maid out of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife, and the little maid said, "Would God my lord were with the prophet in Israel, for he would heal him of his leprosy" [2 Kings 5:2-3]. And out of that humble testimony of that little maid revolved that tremendous story of the conversion of Naaman, captain of the hosts of the king of Syria [2 kings 5:4-14].
You remember again, in the ninth chapter of the Book of John, there was a blind man Jesus had healed [John 9:1-7]. And those leaders in the temple and in the nation cast aspersion upon the Lord, saying He was a sinner [John 9:13-24]. And that blind man replied, "Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see" [John 9:25] – the power of personal testimony.
For years, there was a man who went up and down the trains, commuters out of New York City. And walking up and down the aisles, he would say, "Do you have a member of your family, or know a friend who is blind? Tell him to see Dr. Carl, he healed my blind eyes"; the power of personal testimony. And this was the directive of our Lord Jesus through all of the years and the years. The kingdom is to be advanced, and the message propagated by our personal witness.
In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 8, Jesus said, "Ye shall be unto Me martures, witnesses" [Acts 1:8]. It is a legal, judicial term. One who stood up in court and testified what he had seen, and heard, and experienced was a martus. We have taken that Greek word and spelled it out exactly in English, a martyr. So many times, the witnesses of our Lord laid down their lives for the faith, such as Stephen [Acts 7:54-60], such as Antipas, in Pergamos where Satan had his throne [Revelation 2:13]. So through all of the years, the advancement of the kingdom of God was by personal witness. This I have seen, and felt, and known, and heard.
John wrote his Gospel when he was an old, old man. "How do you know that, pastor?" Because, in the Synoptics, that disciple that drew his sword to slay Malchus, the servant of the high priest – in the synoptic Gospels the servant is not named, and the disciple is not named [Matthew 26:52; Luke 22:-50; Mark 14:47], but John names them; it was Simon Peter, and it was Malchus, the servant. They had been dead for a generation, and John calls their names [John 18:10].
In his old age, John writes that Gospel and describes the beginning of the Christian movement. And as he describes it, it is altogether one of personal testimony.
· John the Baptist, giving witness to the Lamb of God, and two disciples heard him [John 1:35-36].
· One was John himself, and the other was Andrew [John 1:37-40].
· And Andrew first found his own brother, Simon, and brought him to Jesus [John 1:41-42].
· And Jesus spoke to Philip [John 1:43], and Philip found Nathanael [John 1:45-].
· And in the next chapter, the Lord is testifying of His own death and resurrection [John 2:18-21].
· In the next chapter, chapter 3, He is speaking to Nicodemus [John 3:1-21].
· In the next chapter, chapter 4, He is speaking to a fallen Samaritan woman [John 4:7-26].
And throughout the whole message of the ministry of Christ, revolving around a testimony that comes out of the soul and out of the heart.
When we begin the message to the Gentile world, it starts off with a personal confrontation between Jesus and Saul of Tarsus [Acts 9:1-16]. And throughout the great ministries of God’s people in the earth, they are in obedience of the vast commission that we are to be witnesses [Matthew 28:18-20].
And when Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1, "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" [1 Corinthians 1:21], he is speaking of the testimony of the man of God – a pastor, a preacher, an evangelist. The method of God in extending the great kingdom of the faith is by personal word and personal testimony.
May I speak now of the place in which the testimony is to be offered? And the Lord said to him, "Go home to thy friends," and family, and people, "and tell them the great things God hath done for thee. And he departed and began to publish in all Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him" [Mark 5:19-20]. Where do we testify and offer our witness for the Lord? We do it at home, where we are among the people and friends and family dear to us. That is so hard. We live in a culture that is weary so many times of the gospel, it has become trite, shopworn. If we could just go across the seas and speak of the grace of God there, but at home, it seems so difficult and trite.
Yet, it is needed here more than anywhere else in the world. Our frontiers are no longer geographical; they are spiritual. There is heathenism in Africa; there is heathenism here. There is paganism in India; there is paganism here. There is atheism in Russia; there is atheism here. There is indescribable spiritual indifference in all of Europe. We are beginning to experience that same cultural indifference here in America. God has called us to witness to our people here at home.
So well do I remember, in my first pastorate out of the seminary, in a county seat town, the town drunk, the town bum, the town ne’er-do-well, the offscouring of humanity, got himself in front of an automobile and was killed. And they asked me to conduct the funeral service. The whole country came, the town, and the county, and the hillsides. What would this young preacher do? And what would he say?
This is what I did. Standing up there before that throng, I said, "We all know this drunk; he is a character in our city. And we all have seen him. He is a part of the flotsam and jetsam of humanity. He is the scum of the earth." Then I preached my sermon. "How many of you tried to win him to Christ? How many of you went out of your way to seek to raise him out of the gutter? How many of you sought to help him to a better and a finer life? What did you do? What did you do?"
Our testimony and our witness is here. I so well remember a bronze plaque in the city library of Muskogee, Oklahoma – a poem by Alex Posey, a Creek Indian.
Why do trees along the river
Lean so far out o’er the tide?
Very wise men tell me why,
But I am never satisfied;
And so I keep my fancy still,
That trees lean out to save
The drowning from
The cold, remorseless wave.
["My Fancy" by Alexander L. Posey]
That’s we. We are not in the damning business; we are in the saving business. The liquor industry is in the damning business. The drug industry is in the damning business. The pornographic peddler is in the damning business. The purveyor of venereal disease and AIDS is in the damning business. The liberal professor destroying the faith of the young preacher is in the damning business; but we are in the saving business.
Have you heard the joyful sound?
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.
Spread the tidings all around:
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.
Give the winds a mighty voice,
Let the nations now rejoice.
Highest hills and deepest caves:
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.
["Jesus Saves" by Priscilla J. Owens]
That’s our message.
Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,
And love that soul through me.
And may I ever do my part
To win that soul to Thee.
["Lord, Lay Some Soul upon My Heart", Anonymous]
– the place among the people where God hath cast our life and lot.
Last, where this testimony to the love and grace of Christ: the reward is here at home; "And he departed, and began to publish in all Decapolis" – in Gadara, in Gerasa – "what Jesus had done for him" [Mark 5:20].
I want you to notice this, you look at it carefully: what a hostile audience to which the Lord Jesus had sent him. Look at that man. That man made the night hideous. That man made the roads impassable. That man, filled with a legion of evil spirits, could not be bound [Mark 5:1-5]. And yet, here he sits at the feet of Jesus, clothed – he had been naked, in his right mind; he had been demented, and now a sweet humble devotee of the Lord Jesus [Mark 5:15].
Wouldn’t you have thought, honestly, wouldn’t you have thought, tell me, that they would have sung the doxology, they would have praised God; "Look what a marvel miracle, the change in that man"? On account of the loss of some swine, some pigs, some hogs [Mark 5:16], they begged the Lord Jesus to leave [Mark 5:17]. They asked Him to get out of their land, and out of their town, and out of their country, and from among their people. That was to them that the Lord sent this man to testify of the loving grace that had reached down and healed him [Mark 5:19].
Now I want you to see what happened. I turn one page. I turn just one page. And I read here, in that very place, that identical place – I read here, in the next chapter there is a throng around our Lord Jesus. And that led to the feeding of the five thousand men, besides the women and children [Mark 6:33-44]. But I am not through. I turn the page once more, and in that next chapter I read again of the great multitudes that press our Lord on every side. And here is the feeding of the four thousand [Mark 8:1-9]. When the man got through testifying in all Decapolis [Mark 5:20], and our Lord came back, He was thronged by the thousands and the thousands and the thousands [Mark 6:33-34, 8:1-2] – the reward of our testimony to the grace and love of the precious Savior.
My great predecessor, Dr. George W. Truett, was on a preaching mission in India. He was an effective communicator of the gospel of the Son of God, and it aroused the Brahmans, the highest caste in India. And those Brahmans gathered together and had George Truett to come before them and speak – a hostile and antagonistic throng! And the great pastor, who stood here for forty-seven years – the great pastor spoke to that hostile crowd of Brahmans and recounted what Jesus meant to him. And when he was through and seated, after a long pause, one of those Brahman stood up and said, "Dr. Truett, we have nothing against the Christ you have preached, only love and respect and reverence."
Sweet people, I have been a pastor for sixty-four years. I have testified of the goodness of God to me. And I have never in my life, one time, ever – I have never in my life been reproved or accosted, never, just telling the love of God that saves me and gives me hope. Oh, bless the name of the Lord!
May I close with a leaf out of my own life – the reward of a personal testimony? My first revival meeting was when I was a teenager. I look at these kids, and I just marvel that I was preaching the gospel then. I was holding a revival in Central Texas under a brush arbor. Did you know, until this week, I thought everybody knew what a brush arbor was? I was in a little group, and they asked me, "Pastor, what is a brush arbor?" My, my, what they have missed, this generation. A brush arbor is put out there in the country, anywhere. You put up posts, and you cover the area with some kind of wire. And then you throw upon it all kinds of tree branches and brush, and whatever. And then you preach the gospel under that brush arbor.
Well, I was in my teens, and I was holding a revival meeting under that brush arbor. And when the service was done, and the invitation was complete, I asked all of the young people to come and to visit with me and to stay with me. So, everybody left and those young people, all the young people in that part of Texas – all of the young people were there, seated with me on the side of the hill.
And I spoke to them about the Lord, and what He means to me, and gave an invitation, and some of them responded. Then the next night, after the service was over, and the invitation done, and the benediction pronounced, I had all of the teenagers come and spend a moment with me. And I asked those who had been saved, who were in the church, or getting ready to be baptized, I asked them to leave. And those remained behind who were lost, and I spoke to them personally, and some of them accepted Christ.
I did that every night during that brush arbor revival – took those young people, talked to them, had those that were saved leave, and all those that were not saved to remain. Sweet people, you won’t believe this. When that meeting was done, every teenager in that country had been saved, every one of them, every one of them. Every one of them had come to Jesus. Talking to them personally – the most powerful ministry that I know is heart to heart, mother to little child, family to the teenager, friend to friend, businessman to employee; " This is what Jesus means to me."
I have a moment to speak of one other thing. Here in Dallas, out there in the Moody Coliseum, we were holding an evangelistic meeting, a revival service. Some of you were in it. Up there – you know as you circle around – up there was a young man, and he was pleading with a friend to give his heart to Christ, explaining to him the way of salvation and inviting him to Jesus.
And the young fellow wouldn’t respond, hard of heart; but there was a little girl by his side seated up there, you know, in the balcony, there was a little girl that turned to him who was pleading for Christ, and asked him to take her to see the pastor, to bring her to the pastor. So the young man took her by the hand and down and to the front, and brought the young girl to me. And the young man said to me, "Pastor, I have no idea what she wants. She just turned to me up there in the balcony and said, ‘Would you take me to the pastor?’" So I took the hand of the little girl, and I said, "Sweetheart, why did you want him to bring you to me?" And she replied, "I was standing by his side when he was explaining to his friend how to be saved, and pleading with him to give his heart to Jesus. He wouldn’t do it, but I did. I did. And I have asked him to bring me here to you that I could tell you that I have accepted Jesus as my Savior."
Sweet people, there is not ever a failure in witnessing to the grace of God. These may not respond, but they will. And this one may not give his heart to Christ, but that one will. If we are faithful in our witness, it always carries with it a glorious, soul-saving reward – the power of personal testimony.
And to you who have listened to the message today, how I could pray that the Lord Jesus will be dear and precious to you. Open your heart to His love and grace. Invite Him into your house, into your heart, into your home. Teach your children in the way of salvation. And if you don’t know how to be saved, there is a number on the screen. You call that number. There will be a dedicated man or woman to answer that telephone and show you how to accept Christ as your Savior. And sweet friend, if you will open your heart to the blessed Jesus, I will see you in heaven someday.
And to the great throng and press of people in the sanctuary this hour; in the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me and I am coming." Accepting the Lord as your Savior, a family coming into the fellowship of the church, or answering the call of the Spirit of God in your heart, make it now. Answer with your life, and may angels attend you in the way while you come, as we stand and as we sing.
THE POWER OF PERSONAL TESTIMONY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The method of reaching the world for Christ
A. "Go tell." (Mark 5:19)
1. Power of personal witness (2 Kings 5:2-4, John 9:25)
B. Jesus’ unchanging directive through all the years
1. Martures – legal term, "witness"
2. John’s gospel describes beginning of Christian movement as one of personal testimony (John 1:39-40, 43, 45, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1)
3. Personal confrontation between Jesus and Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-6)
4. Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Corinthians 1:21)
II. The place of the testimony (Mark 5:19)
A. Sometimes feel it is so hard to testify at home
C. Our calling
1. We are not in the damning business, but the saving
III. The reward of the testimony
A. This demoniac a witness to a hostile audience
B. His marvelous success (Mark 6:34-44, 8:1-9)
1. George W. Truett on preaching mission in India
C. Never fails of its reward
1. Revival under a brush arbor
2. Moody Coliseum revival