Yes you do. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a testimony…and it’s one worth sharing.
Sometimes people tell me otherwise. They point to the fact that that they’ve been in church since nine months before they were born, and, to the credit of the Lord, they’ve never really gone through a visibly rebellious streak. Therefore, in their mind, they have no testimony. The problem with that line of logic is what I think is a misunderstanding of sin. The worst kind of rebellion isn’t visible to begin with. Sin doesn’t have to be observable to be heinous.
Recall that Jesus said that from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander (Matt 15:18). Jesus condemned adultery that happens in the heart (Matt 5:28). Jesus lamented against the people who honored him with their lips but whose hearts were far from him (Matt 15:8). And, lifetime church-goers, your heart – that very same one that has been mistakenly called “goody two-shoes” your whole life – is exactly that bad. You are an equal offender, and I with you.
Oftentimes, we who were raised in a Christian home may not have acted on those sinful tendencies when others did, because we were blessed enough to be raised in a cultural context that wouldn’t allow us to do so – meaning that your parents and church community reprimanded you and taught you how to behave in a socially acceptable way as a minimum. But don’t kid yourself; that is not displaying the fruit of the Spirit. That is just acting right because that’s what mom and dad said to do, and because all other roads led to punishment (which, don’t misunderstand, is something to be thankful for). But only after comprehending the weight of the gospel and placing your trust in Christ (at whatever age that may have legitimately happened) were you saved by grace. Only then did you begin to have good works flow out of a gospel-transformed heart. Before that you were only parading, pretending, fooling everybody, perhaps even yourself. Jesus hates that (Matt 6).
Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). That would mean that breaking the greatest commandment involves not loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And you can accomplish that monumental sin without ever leaving the church pew. All you have to do is quietly divide your affections and devote the most minuscule fraction of your heart to something that is not ultimately rooted in the joy and glory of the Lord, and you have broken the greatest commandment. No one even looks up, but this renders you an eternal offender and a deserving recipient of an eternity’s worth of the wrath of God. With nauseating consistency, we all do this. The one that the other kids called “Bible thumper” and the one that spent years in addiction and crime have both failed in this way. They are equal heirs of their parents’ nature, meaning Adam and Eve. Just because human observers don’t perceive your sin as “loud” doesn’t mean that your sin isn’t real and your condemnation just.
The story gets better though. For you, Christian, the condemnation never comes. God loved you anyway. He acquitted you anyway. He saved you anyway. At great cost to himself, he desired you and your God-hating heart so much that he sent his Son to die for you by way of bloody execution. He kindly chose you, not because of anything good you had in mind, but in spite of the hate he knew you would harbor. He sought you and bought you, though you loved yourself more than him. While your heart was far away, his love and grace came for you and welcomed you into his loving embrace (Rom 5:8). You broke the greatest commandment, and still he called your name. Now, through faith, you are called a child of God and a fellow heir with Christ (Rom 8:17), rendering you the benefactor of an infinite estate. Now that’s what testimonies are made of. And if you are a Christian, that’s your testimony at the minimum. And it never gets old.
We have to remember that, apart from God, both the church punks and the guys on death row equally share in the same destitute spiritual condition. And when Christ came to die for both kinds of people, the cross was not less painful for the well-behaved. It hurt him. To say you have no testimony, then, is to grossly underestimate your own depravity and also to downplay the miraculous grace of God, who went to great lengths to redeem you. He didn’t do all of that so you could shrink back as if you had no story to tell.
For starters, you were dead and are now alive (Eph 2:1). You were a God-hater who is loved by God (1 Jn 4:10). You have been born more than once (John 3:3). These are all miracles that you’ve experienced firsthand, and there are many other ways to describe them. God didn’t give you these experiences so you can pretend that they’re second-rate compared to someone else’s. If you have a background with a bunch of hell-raising sins, you should absolutely name them in your testimony so that we can all praise God with you for your deliverance. But God doesn’t need you to have that background to make a beautiful story out of you.
The world can’t believe in the Lord’s goodness until it hears about the Lord’s goodness, and they’ll never hear until you open your mouth (Rom 10:14). So just let it fly and let Jesus be the hero, and he’ll take it from there. He always does.
With great boldness and without shame (Rom 1:16),
Note: A few email followers told me that the emailed links from previous posts were not working. That problem has been fixed. 🙂
What has already been agreed upon, let us now repeat: God blesses us as adopted children in Christ because he loves us and wants us to feel loved. However, in the previous post, I made my very best effort to convince you that there is a more ultimate reason that God blesses us: so that he would receive glory and praise. Many people, however, will still feel like this cannot be possible, because giving and getting have to be mutually exclusive or there would be a conflict of interest. Right?
If people are experiencing this negative reaction it is normally in one of two forms (both of which I have experienced myself): 1) People are disappointed; or 2) they feel as if God’s love is somehow invalidated by his ‘agenda’ of glory-getting. In the first camp, Read the rest of this entry »
Some of the most unfathomable blessings of God are found in Ephesians 1:3-14. And I’m not just talking about common grace blessings that are given to all people (like sunsets and pretty flowers), I’m talking about special grace blessings that are given as gifts only to those who belong to Jesus (like salvation and all the elements that compose it). Now Ephesians 1:3-14 does not simply list these special gifts and say, “Here they are!” It is not a systematic theology book and I don’t intend to try to make it into one. Rather, this passage was written as a part of its surrounding context and drives to a point later on in the letter. But, just for the sake of being blown away by the incredible blessings God has bestowed upon his Church, let me list what I see God giving his people in this passage:
• every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (v. 3)
• an unconditional choosing (v. 4)
• a loving and blameless stance before him (v. 4)
• loving predestination (v. 5)
• adoption as sons (are you kidding me? No.) (v. 5)
• grace in the Beloved (Christ) (v. 6)
• redemption through Christ’s blood (v. 7)
• the forgiveness of our trespasses (v. 7)
• the knowledge of God’s mysterious will (v. 9)
• unity in Christ (v. 10)
• a guaranteed inheritance (v. 11, 14)
• a permanent sealing by the Holy Spirit (v. 13)
• the word of truth (i.e., the gospel of salvation) (v. 13)
These bullet points are each divine miracles, scandalous grace-glimpses. Look closely and you can spot election, the effective gospel call, justification, adoption, perseverance, and the promise of future glorification (nearly all the elements of salvation). There are few Bible passages that make me feel more loved than this one. Rightly so.
But now we have arrived at the question that will require our attention for the next few posts – the question of motive…. Read the rest of this entry »