As God is my witness
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 1:00 AM
"I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Timothy 6:13-14)
No doubt you will recall that powerfully scene from Gone With the Wind where Scarlett is standing alone out in the field with her fist raised to the heavens and she says: "As God is my witness, they are not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it is over, I'll never be hungry again. . . If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, as God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again." With the glow of the setting sun over Tara behind her, Scarlett called upon the God of heaven to witness her resolve to do whatever it took so as never ever again to be reduced to subsisting on raw uncooked turnips.
"As God is my witness" - it's a phrase that crops up quite often, isn't it. Mr. Carlson (of WKRP in Cincinnati fame) is remembered for his statement: "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly." Kenny Rogers wrote and sang a love song containing the following lyrics: "As God is my witness, I'll give you all my love." Job cried out before his tormenting friends his firm conviction: "my witness is in heaven." And the list goes on and on - people and circumstances whereupon individuals have called upon God to serve as witness to their actions, their promises, their intentions. No doubt you, too, have done the same at one time or another.
The fact is that the Scriptures make it clear to us that God indeed is witness to all that we do and say and promise even without our asking it of Him. From His throne in glory, He sees all. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. The great Searcher of the hearts of men is fully aware of every aspect of our lives. He knows our thoughts from afar and takes note of our broken promises and unfulfilled vows as well as those we keep. And so it is crucial that we bear this in mind as we come to this text where the Apostle Paul issues a charge to Timothy, reminding him that his response will have witnesses - two, to be precise - God, the Father and Christ Jesus, the Son.
First of all, let us look at the charge itself. Paul admonishes young Timothy to take seriously his responsibility, before God, "to keep the commandment." Now you may ask, which specific commandment did Paul have in mind here? The answer quite simply is all of them! His choice of the singular, as against the plural, was intentional. He wanted Timothy to be aware of the wholeness of God's commands as well as the singularly important summation of those commands - to love God and neighbor. But you ask: 'Didn't Christ save us from the Law? Didn't He set us free? Are we not now under grace and not the Law?' And, of course, the answer to all these questions is 'Yes!' But still, even under grace, we are bound unto faithfulness to Christ and His teachings. Even as (and especially as) Christians, saved by grace, we stand duty bound to our thankful obligation of conducting ourselves and managing our affairs so as to bring glory to our God and King.
Additionally, Paul sheds more light upon his meaning as he tells Timothy to keep the commandment "unstained and free from reproach." It is clear that he is speaking of the Moral Law of God which remains valid for the believer as God, in Christ, has called each of us unto godliness and holy living. In the cover of one of my Bibles I have written down something I heard a long time ago: "Character is what you are when no one is looking." The fact is, there is always One who is looking, right? And not only does God look upon us, but He works within us, by His Spirit, to will and to do His good pleasure, recreating us and sanctifying us and calling us to holy living in thankful response to His grace.
This is your charge too! God Himself is a witness, along with Christ Jesus, your Savior, -- witnesses not only to the charge being issued but also to the working out of our response as God enables us to live for Him, looking in faith for the Day when our Savior will return. Our Christian freedom must never be interpreted by us as a pass to live in whatever manner we might choose. We are not at liberty to pick and choose the areas where we will offer God token obedience while reserving other parts of our existence for self. A façade of religiosity is never acceptable to God and should never be tolerated by us. Rather, to the God who sees all and knows all and demands all - it is our clear duty (and special privilege) to offer all to Him.
I love the entirety of the Hymn, All For Jesus, but the second stanza is of particular interest here in light of today's discussion, for in that second verse, as believers, we pledge ourselves to God as follows: "Let my hands perform His bidding, let my feet run in His ways; let my eyes see Jesus only, let my lips speak forth His praise." What a noble endeavor! To live for Jesus - totally - 24/7 -- giving Him our ALL! May this be the commitment that God witnesses in you and in me. By His grace, may the great Reformation Sola be fulfilled in us today and every day: Soli Deo Gloria! 'May God only be glorified' - in all that we are, by all that we have, in all that we do!
The Rev. Donald Caviness is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, MS.