|Photo Courtesy of Free Digital Photos|
Let’s assume that everyone reading this blog post is a follower of Christ, a Christian, if you will. Though many people bandy the term Christian about as though it were a hair color or a political party affiliation, easily changed and or open for line-item revisions of opinion. However, for the purpose of this discussion I will use the term Christian in the strictest of forms; a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and has had a change of heart which reflects this decision.
That being squared away, let’s assume that you have, in fact, witnessed the goodness, grace, mercy and love of Jesus Christ in your life. Let’s assume that by receiving Christ as your Savior you acknowledged that there was something missing and something broken inside of you that prevented you from living the best life you could. This brokenness may have shown up in dysfunctional relationships (friends, family, romantic relationships), addictions (alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, T.V., porn, technology, sex, etc.), anger issues, people pleasing, unfriendliness, abandoning people and situations, or any other unhealthy approach to your life and the people in it. In my case, I was angry, bitter, unfriendly, addicted to food and was pretty much closed off to everyone around me.
I chose my poison and you chose yours. Regardless of the type of mess we all chose, we were all lost. That is inarguable. At some point prior to now, we were all faced with a decision; continue down this broken, dark path that inevitably leads to destruction or accept the love and forgiveness of an ever patient and merciful God. Some of us might have been in the privacy of our bedrooms, at church on Sunday, at a retreat or meeting a friend for coffee when we made that decision, but we all made that life changing choice to turn it all around, by the grace of God.
The Cockroach Within
Christendom, though well intentioned, turned one of the most beautiful scriptures into a cliché by writing it on poster boards and painting it across their unkempt bellies at sporting events. Though considered cliché and possibly a verse so often heard that it is ever imprinted on the landscape of our Christian minds and unnecessary to review, I invite you to read it again.
"God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him. People who believe in God's Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God's one and only Son. They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things. All who do evil hate the light and will not come to the light, because it will show all the evil things they do. But those who follow the true way come to the light, and it shows that the things they do were done through God." John 3:16-21 (NCV)
In the message translation verses 19-21 can be read this way.
“This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is." John 3:19-21 (Message)
It is easy to dismiss an entire section of scripture because we believe it to be elementary, but learning the things of God cannot be compared to the American education system. In kindergarten when we all learned the alphabet, that was it, there was no deeper meaning. At the age of 34 I don’t need to reconsider the ABC song and what it might mean to me today after three decades of life experience. Such is not the case for the Bible. There is always more; more understanding, more wisdom, more revelation, more illumination, more of God. God’s Word is four dimensional (probably more, despite my feeble minds ability to conceive of such things); though never changing, it is ever ascending higher, ever descending deeper, ever expanding wider, and ever living and breathing and moving.
Back to John 3. It says that even when God’s light entered the world, “men and women everywhere ran for the darkness.” I am one of those women, my husband is one of those men, every Christian I know is one of those people. When the Light of Christ hit my life, I ran like a cockroach to the fringes, to the shadows. I stayed in my anger, my bitterness, my sin. Had I been allowed to stay in that darkness unchecked, I would have remained there until, of course, a deeper darkness enveloped me. What changed?
Internally Illuminated Advertisement
Though, ultimately, choosing God was always my choice, God sent people to help. For some, it takes very little illumination to convince them to escape the darkness of a life without God. For others, like me, it required a parade (visualize Disney’s Light Parade, pictured below). A life filled with people illuminating my world with the love of Christ. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Though they did not constantly enter my personal space confronting me with the literal “Jesus Loves You” love of Christ, they did share their experiences with me.
|Disney Light Parade|
They were honest enough to be broken, yet miraculously whole. To hear of literal miracles, inexplicable healing and provision has a way of chipping away at the darkest of hearts. It is enough to draw our eye to Him. When someone or something exceptional enters a room, heads turn, it’s in our nature to be attracted to goodness just as it’s in our nature to sin.
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NKJV)
If we are designed to be drawn to God’s goodness, how can that happen while we are camped out in the dark, away from His Light, His goodness? The answer: Save those that are literally knocked on their hind quarters by God Himself (see Acts 9), most of us have to be made aware of God’s goodness and good intentions for our lives by other people.
Your Testimony is Key
Your testimony is important, not just for you, but for others. It may seem small and pointless, but what you have experienced is, potentially, the key to unlocking someone else’s chains.
Though it would be much more convenient and less embarrassing if we could just hand out “Jesus Loves You, No… He really does!” cards to passers-by, it simply does not work like that. We’ve tried it, it doesn’t work. People want something real and since Jesus is not here on this earth in the flesh, all He has to work with is you and me. Unless we are real and transparent (with wisdom, of course) we are really quite useless.
Think about it, Jesus didn’t walk around telling everybody He loved them all the while doing nothing for them. He was not this guy, regardless of how friendly this guy seems. Jesus is not some cosmic bromantic comedy, leaving you smiling, unsure of the specifics and quickly empty.
God’s testimony of Jesus was found in the signs, wonders and miracles performed in His life on earth (John 10:25). Jesus was sent with an arsenal to defeat doubt and unbelief; He spoke words of wisdom and knowledge, He healed, He multiplied provision, He calmed storms, He resurrected the dead, He showed unwarranted compassion and so He does today. He understood that people needed a perfect Savior and a real God then and still do today. If people are not made aware that God is real, then Christianity is simply a social group.
So, the question becomes, if Jesus is not walking the earth today in the flesh, then how can people experience a real God. The answer is YOU! You are the miracle! We’ve all been brought back from death and destruction. His testimony has not changed. He is our redeemer, healer, provider, storm calmer, in Him is found all Truth.
People did not follow Jesus because He was nice. Though they may not have fully understood it at the time, they followed Him because He was God and could prove it. People will not commit their lives and eternities to Christ because you are nice and follow a nice God. They will commit because He is real and YOU can prove it.
If you are not a person who shares their testimony, I challenge you today, share it! There is power and freedom in it. That freedom is two-fold, it is for you and for the hearer. If there are elements of your testimony that are shameful, guess what, that’s true for everyone! We’ve all done things for which we are ashamed and yet we are forgiven. Shame is a weapon from the arsenal of the enemy, it is not of God. Conviction? Now, that’s a different story. Let me illustrate this to you.
There are two men in the Gospel accounts. One took the way of condemnation, shame and eternal damnation, the other took the path of conviction, repentance and eternal life. Some may look at Judas Iscariot and see a man to despise and look down upon, but I do not. We have all been thieves, we’ve all been liars, we’ve all betrayed our Savior. If any of these fall on the list of unforgiveable sins, we’re all screwed.
Some may look at Peter’s denial of Jesus as being a small bump in the road to sainthood, but I do not. Peter was at a crossroads where he could have taken the potential shame of his denial and allowed it to upend the plans God had for him. He chose to get back on plan A.
How powerful would Judas’ testimony have been had he not fallen prey to the weight of his shame?
Do not become confused, I am in no way saying that if you don’t share your testimony you’re going to hell. What I am saying is that pretending that God took you from good to better isn’t honest and it certainly doesn’t do Jesus’ work on the cross any justice. While exercising wisdom, we should all be able to tell people how big our God is and give examples.
If you fear sharing your first hand account of the expanse of God's love and forgiveness, look to Paul. He was responsible for persecuting and killing Christians. He could have allowed that shame to limit his testimony, but he did not. He connected to people on any level he could while remaining always in Christ. People are broken without Christ. Often times, they can only relate to brokenness. If you were once broken like them and are now made whole, there is hope in that. If you portray a life where you were never that broken, there is no hope for the hopeless, there is no freedom, there is no goodness to draw them.
We all know that actions speak louder than words in the world, it's practically an American proverb. Since God has not ceased acting on our behalf, then, perhaps, it stands to reason we’ve just ceased talking about it. People need to hear about what God has done in your life.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:11-17 (NIV)
Sow some seeds of faith in someone else today. Tell them the truth. Tell them who you were and where you came from, then live a life that illustrates that Jesus changes everything.
What is one word that would describe your testimony? Leave it in the comments below!