I've been thinking about how absolutely VITAL witnesses are these last couple of weeks. Many of you will know that I've hinted at some serious stuff going on at my place of work. I'd really appreciate your prayers by the way - I've got to go for a test in the next few weeks because I've discovered a lump somewhere where there shouldn't be one. My doctor thinks it may be linked to work stress but it may also be malignant as well so got to rule all things out. Thanks to all for your love and support and particularly the lovely emails - they mean so much!
I've had to take witnesses to the recent work meetings and suddenly have realised why every union advises them and why employers are forced by law to allow them. Meetings tend to go very differently when there are witnesses on both sides. It got me thinking back to previous meetings that I have been involved in - and I reflected that the meetings that went very badly were usually when I was told that I wasn't allowed a witness. The most obvious one I remember was the final interview when I was asked to leave my parent's church. I actually came with a witness - a close friend of mine - but wasn't allowed to take them into the meeting. As a result there were two interpretations of what happened at the meeting and my family had to choose who to believe - they chose the church obviously and as a result I haven't seen them for almost 4 months - (Which is rather ironic seeing how that particular church maintains it is passionate about families). All because there was no witness.
On the more positive side I did take a witness to these meetings with my work and the meetings went very differently. The law allowed my witness to speak up for me and say things that I may have forgotten or was (at times) too upset to speak or think coherently. I am fairly certain that the managers spoke more carefully as well because they knew that there was someone acting as a witness for me. I felt far more confident in the meeting with the witness by my side. In the church meeting where I was on my own, I felt extremely defensive and I am sure spoke more directly and angrily than perhaps I should have - had there been someone there supporting me and speaking for me.
So why I am I recollecting this and drawing paralells between grievance procedures at work and church? Because through these experiences I think I have been given fresh insight into a verse that is familiar to me but haven't really read before.
Romans 8:16; "The Spirit itself BEARETH WITNESS with our spirit, that we are the children of God".
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones commented powerfully on the verse by saying;
"It is the witness and testimony of the Holy Spirit Himself confirming the witness of our own spirits. Our own spirits cry "Abba, Father" and they thereby witness to the fact that we are the children of God. We have a child-like spirit, a filial spirit within us. My own spirit tells me that I am a child of God, and I feel towards God as a child feels towards his father. But here, the Spirit Himself comes alongside the witness of my Spirit and Himself bears His witness and His testimony. In other words, the perculiar characteristic of what is described here is that it is a direct and immediate witness of the Spirit Himself".
So it seems that there is some kind of similarity between the truth of this text and my experiences of various meetings. An issue - an important issue - is under discussion. And we may be protesting our position and arguing our case. My examples were of issues such as church membership or positions at work - but Romans 8:16 deals with one of the most important states of mind that can ever face a Christian - that of assurance of salvation. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes on;
"I suggest that this is part of the "baptism with the Holy Ghost", or if you prefer it, "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" ... Indeed I go further and say that what Paul is describing is the most essential aspect of the baptism of the Holy Ghost ... We cannot be baptised with the Holy Ghost without having the Spirit of adoption but we can have the Spirit of adoption without knowing this further experience. That is why I say that the most vital and essential part, the essence of being baptised with the Holy Ghost is that we have this particular form of assurance of our sonship of God".
In the two examples I cited of my various meetings I was arguing and trying to defend myself in both cases against charges that were being brought against me. I don't know about anyone else but I don't find defending myself particularly easy. I don't like promoting myself or my cause and particularly don't like it if the charges are unjust as they have been in both cases. But don't we see that we face the same struggle and the same charges with the case of assurance of salvation? There is a devil - an accuser - just as there was in my meetings trying to cause us to doubt our salvation! But just as Joshua experienced a glorious moment where the witness of God Himself saved him, so do we;
"What are the characteristics of this action of the Spirit Himself? The first is that the Spirit by a direct operation on our minds and hearts and spirits gives us an absolute certainity and assurance of our sonship. That is the great reality. It is not merely that He gives us a heightening of our understanding of the truth, neither is it merely that we are unusually concious of being led in the direction of sanctification, or that the Spirit promotes our sanctification ... It is the Spirit telling us in this unusual way that we are the children of God. He lets us know in a way that we have never known before that God loves us".
In our hunger and our desperation for signs and wonders and miracles - let's not forget in a sense that this amazing witness of the Spirit IS a sign and a wonder and a miracle! Surely there can be nothing greater or more amazing or more miraculous than a Christian who "gets it" that he is LOVED by God! Surely there can be no greater miracle than the love of God being shed abroad experientially in the heart of a believer - and they KNOW that they know that they know it.
So ... I've learnt from my lessons. I won't be going to any meetings in the future of note without a witness. But are we forgetting the witness of the Holy Spirit and are we forgetting to hear Him testify with our spirits that we are children of God and that we are loved?! Let's make sure we never do again!