HE LIVES WITHIN MY HEART
T. PIERCE BROWN
How many times I have sung the beautiful song in which the question is raised, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart,” I do not know. Is that the way YOU know he lives? Is the testimony you have the same as the testimony of the Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal? If you have read this far, you may be thinking, “Here goes again the destructive, fault-finding critical crackpot who is always trying to find something wrong with something!” I freely confess that I am so weak and sensitive that the awareness of that kind of criticism has tempted me not to write or speak at times. But I have a Lord to whom I must answer, and I could not properly answer to him if I did not try to point out as kindly and lovingly as possible things that turn people away from Him and pervert the truth.
Of those who show some interest in personal evangelism, there are an increasing number today who talk about “witnessing for Christ.” I first began to notice its prevalence in my contact several years ago with those who were trained in the “Crossroads philosophy.” My judgment is that it possibly began with the rather innocuous statement on page 82 in the “THE MASTER PLAN OF EVANGELISM” where the author says, “Jesus did not discourage their spontaneous reaction to bear witness to their faith.” I do not know how many dozen times I read that without seeing anything wrong with it, and even now I feel almost apologetic in pointing out anything wrong with it. If it were not for the hundreds of similar perversions in the book in which the author begins and concludes with the assumption that the Apostles reproduced THEMSELVES in the process of converting people, and their followers are to do likewise, I would probably pay no attention to it. But notice carefully: Do you see any difference in the meaning and emphasis of “bear witness to their faith” and “bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus”?
Do you not realize the Apostles did not simply or primarily bear witness to what they believed, how they felt, or what changes were wrought in their lives? I do not mean to imply that it was wrong for them to do that, or that it is wrong for us to. In fact, it may have a value in many circumstances. But it WAS NOT AND IS NOT the gospel, and has no power to convert or save!
They bore witness to OBJECTIVE FACTS! The fact that Jesus was crucified for your sins, the fact that he was buried and resurrected from the dead is the basis of your salvation, not the fact that once somebody (even Paul) was lost and now is saved!
One of the solid foundational proofs of the reality and truthfulness of Christianity is in the fact that the Apostles who bore witness of these facts died attesting to the reality of those facts. Note carefully: If they had died bearing witness to the reality of their feelings, beliefs, etc., it would have attested to the reality of those. But there is no salvation in that. Followers of Joseph Smith might die bearing witness to their belief in the false prophet. What does that prove? It proves they believe in the false prophet, but it proves nothing about the reality of the claims of the prophet himself. But the Apostles did not bear witness merely of what they believed and felt in their hearts; they bore witness to what they KNEW, and saw with their eyes, heard with their ears, and touched with their hands. On those FACTS does the hope of our salvation rest (1 Cor. 15:1-8, 13-15).
If the only way you know the Savior lives is that he lives within your heart, you have no greater testimony of your salvation than the members of any denomination, sect, or cult do. But if you know the Savior lives because of the irrefutable testimony of the Apostolic witnesses (among other things), and you know you are saved because your spirit bears witness with the Holy Spirit that you have done what the Holy Spirit revealed is essential to salvation, then you have the right to rejoice.
Let me re-emphasize: I have nothing personally against a person “witnessing” to what has happened to him–or even what he thinks happened to him. I can even rejoice if a drunk (sometimes called “an alcoholic”) says, “I was a drunken bum. Now I am living for Christ.” But he, you, and I all need to know that his “witnessing” is no part of the gospel, nor is it obedience to the commands of Jesus in the Great Commission or in Acts, nor does it have anything to do with the salvation of anybody.
My suggestion is this: Since denominational, sectarian and cultish groups have perverted the term “witnessing” to refer to their own subjective feelings and suppositions as to what happened to them rather than the Apostolic use of telling what they witnessed happening to Jesus, that we never use the term without a detailed explanation of what we mean by it. I find large numbers of Christians and some preachers of the gospel who do not make this distinction.
And concerning the song about Jesus living within your heart, I am not even denying that Jesus may live within your heart, but you wouldn’t even know that if you did not have the testimony of the Word! The fact that you may have some kind of “feeling” or response does not prove it. And the propriety of singing a song which leaves very clearly a false impression on many who hear is questionable, to say the least.