Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Time to Speak and a Time to Keep Quiet

“And he [Jesus] straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (Mark 1:43-44)

“You can’t take the Gospel to the wrong door.” This was one of many clichés often used to rally the troops during the so-called “big church age.” It was one aphorism that could labeled as “good preachin’ but poor doctrine.” The above text is one of many that disproves it. Jesus had just instantaneously healed a leper of his disease, but instead of sending him out to spread the news of this miraculous cleansing, He instructed him to keep it to himself, and instead, go back to the temple and subject himself to the ritual to determine cleansing that Moses had laid down in Leviticus. Was that necessary for his cleansing? No, he was already healed; but it was necessary for his obedience. Jesus knew that, in this case, advertisement was not called for and would actually hamper His ministry (which it did). He also knew that the ritual, though it would not affect the actual cleansing one way or the other, would, however, give witness to the temple priests, and therefore verification to the public at large, of his miraculous healing.

But this man, perhaps in good faith, thinking he was showing proper gratitude, did just the opposite and “began to publish…and blaze abroad the matter,” with the result being that Jesus had to leave town. Good intentions are never an excuse for disobedience. Gratitude and love are shown by obedience, not declaration, unless we have been specifically instructed to do so (Mk.5:19).

At one point in his ministry, Paul the Apostle had hoped to go to Asia to take the message of Jesus Christ to the people there, but the Scripture tells us he was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go (Acts 16:6). Not because the Asians were never to hear the Gospel, but because it was not God’s will for them to hear it from Paul at that time (Acts 19:10). Had he gone, he would have taken the Gospel to the “wrong door.”

We are called to be witnesses (Acts 1:8), but not at our own discretion. Any farmer knows seed is more productive in prepared ground, and without Holy Spirit preparation in the hearts of the hearers, our testimony is more apt to fall on deaf ears. If you have done much witnessing for the Lord you know this to be true. There are times when our testimony can sound pharisaical and full of bluster; but the same testimony, given at other times, under the compulsion of the Holy Spirit, can permeate the very air with power and lasting significance. I hope you are getting the idea that a vital, ongoing and intimate relationship with the Spirit of God is the key to relevance in witnessing for God. It has nothing to do with courage or boldness, but everything to do with ownership and obedience.

The wise man tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is “a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (3:7). If that is true with temporal matters, how much more must it be of eternal ones? Another zealous believer or a well-meaning preacher may shame you into talking to everyone you meet about the Lord, but the Spirit of God will direct you to those He has selected for you personally to share the news of salvation or the things of the Lord with. It is up to you to choose whose orders you will follow.

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