But I don’t really have a testimony…

Yes you do. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a testimonyand 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),

-Garrett


God Is Not The Only Planner

“Satan is the father of lies,” says Jesus. He invented the practice. He employed it to perfection on our first parents, Adam and Eve. He tempted them through lies. He trapped them by presenting believable falsehoods. How could a falsehood ever be made believable? Turn to Genesis 3 and observe the Master Deceiver.

Before being tempted, Eve accurately recited to Satan the warning of God: “God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, or you will die'” (Genesis 3:3). Obviously, God was correct – to eat the forbidden fruit would be a sin, and sin always…alwaysalways…leads to death (Romans 6, James 1). But the Liar, Satan, flat out contradicts this in the very next sentence, saying five words that don’t have a speck of truth in them: “You will not surely die.” LIAR. 

Now pause right here. I am certain that if this had been the end of the conversation between Satan and Eve, there would have been no Fall. There would have been no deception. Sin would not have entered the world. Satan’s lie would have been spotted for what it really was. It would have been painfully easy to know that Satan was blatantly lying at this point. Their conversation so far is basically Eve saying, “God said I’ll die if I do that,” and Satan saying, “No you won’t.” I doubt this simple contradiction would have been enough to trick Eve into eating the fruit. It took no genius whatsoever on Satan’s part to simply contradict God. But it took incredible, terrible genius to say what he said next.

His complete thought:  “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Is this second sentence a lie? NoYou see, part of being innocent is being unaware. Adam and Eve were blessed to be beautifully unaware of evil in the Garden before they sinned; they knew only good. They had no knowledge of evil, which is exactly what Satan promised them – that their eyes would be opened, and they would know good and evil and thus be like God (who is aware of all things). And guess what? Satan did not lie when he said that. That is exactly what happened. Adam and Eve ate the fruit, learned of the existence of evil, and became like God. God himself says so later: “The man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:22).  Satan lied when he promised Eve she wouldn’t die. But he didn’t lie when he promised her that her eyes would be opened. Her eyes were opened, indeed – in a more terrible, shameful way than any of us can imagine. That’s the part Satan conveniently left out. He told a lie followed by a half-truth. He made his falsehood believable.

If you want to be a good liar, this is a great pattern to learn. Don’t just lie head-on or you’ll get laughed at. But dress your lie up in some great-looking half-truths and you’re in business. Plant some doubt and then go for the kill. It worked like a charm on Eve, and it still works on us today. Satan has yet to update his methods. He still plants lies painted with truth. For instance, how about this faulty logic:  “God created sex for people to enjoy” (TRUTH). “That means I’m free enjoy it whenever and however I want.” (LIE).  Just because God created a gift does not mean they’re aren’t guidelines for enjoying it. How about this one? “My decisions don’t define me; I am more than just my decisions” (TRUTH). “Therefore my decisions don’t matter” (LIE). Your decisions are not isolated events that are made in unrelated vacuums. They are steps that are going to lead you somewhere and they matter. A lot.

Here’s the punch line. The Deception will not come to you uncamouflaged. Temptations do not announce themselves. Effective lies are not apparent. They are cleverly clothed in half-truths and on the surface they seem hopelessly attractive. This has been Satan’s procedure from the beginning – he won’t try to take you all at once; it’s a slow fade. It is time to understand that Satan has a plan for your life, too. A specific one. And he’s trillions of times smarter and stronger than you. But thankfully, because of Jesus, “in all these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). And since “we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5).

Pray for wisdom. Expose the lie. “And then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

FTH.