Grace and peace, believers.
Today we begin the first in a three-part discussion on the Christian testimony.
For many twenty-first century Christians, their testimony is arguably the least considered, the least understood, the least used, and the least appreciated aspect of their Christian experience. This is most evidenced by the lack of testimonies given on Sunday. Back when the Christian church was strong in America, especially the black churches, a portion of the Sunday service was always dedicated to sharing testimonies. Christians were so eager to give their testimony that, oftentimes, at least a half hour would be spent on that portion of the service alone.
Sadly, this is no longer the case. Nowadays, folks can’t wait for the service to end so that they can go home and fire up the grill, watch the football game, or go fishing. Most churches I have visited over the past five years won’t even hear testimonies. And in the precious few churches where testimonies were encouraged, less than a handful of the brethren would even bother to give theirs. Of the few that would, there was bound to be at least one who would take fifteen minutes or more to deliver a totally unedifying account of their workweek, featuring an encounter with an adversarial co-worker or neighbor whom they rebuked with “Get thee behind me Satan! You not gon’ steal my VICK-TRAY!!!” [sigh].
I have heard only a handful of testimonies in the eight years since I accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior, and only a couple were truly edifying or encouraging. Of the less than edifying testimonies, the most notable was an obvious case of plagiarism, as a woman appropriated the Apostle Paul’s account of having been taken up to the third heaven. Only, whereas Paul saw things he wasn’t allowed to talk about, this lady was all too happy to tell what she saw: and none of if was biblical. Another questionable testimony was given by one of my in-laws, a pastor, who says he has never gotten sick since he realized that it was his right as a Christian never to get sick again. Never mind that the Bible gives ample evidence to refute this belief.
Genuine, edifying testimonies that edify and encourage the body of Christ, confirm the Word of God, and glorify the Lord Jesus are almost a thing of the past. Many Christians don’t even have a testimony, while still others don’t even know what a testimony is. This is a tragedy, because our testimony is second only to the Word of God in terms of importance. In fact, if everything else were taken away from us: our house, our job, our clothes, our car, and our Bible, the only thing we would have left would be our testimony.
Without question, the Christian’s testimony is vitally Important.
The purpose of this teaching is to explain:
- What a testimony is
- What a testimony does
- Types of testimony and their significance
- Why so many Christians lack a testimony
- Why you need a testimony
- How you can get a testimony (or get it back)
- How to protect your testimony
WHAT A TESTIMONY IS
The Oxford English Dictionary defines testimony as 1. “Evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something” and 2. “A public recounting of a religious conversion or experience.”
The word testimony is derived from the Latin testis, which means “a witness.” In a court of law, a witness is someone who has seen and/or heard something pertaining to a particular event and is willing to testify, or give his account, of what he has seen or heard. The Christian’s testimony, also called his witness, is his personal account of what the Lord Jesus has done and is doing in His life.
WHAT A TESTIMONY DOES
A good testimony establishes the truth.
In a court of law, the witness’s testimony helps to establish the truth, by validating the testimony of others who claim to have seen the same thing. Likewise, the Christian’s testimony also helps to establish the truth, by confirming the testimony of the Bible and of its Author, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that by two or three witnesses the truth of a matter shall be established (Deuteronomy 19:15). Though the Bible stands alone as the ultimate source of truth and, therefore, does not need our testimony, our testimony is still called upon to witness the truth of the Bible. Christians are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ, who is “The Truth” (John 14:6). The Christian, therefore, who does not have a testimony, in effect, calls Jesus Christ a liar.
A good testimony establishes our credibility.
In a court of law, the witness’s testimony establishes his credibility as well as the credibility of the person(s) on whose behalf he testifies. If the witness’s testimony is credible, then one may believe the witness and, therefore, anyone for whom he testifies. Conversely, if the witness’s testimony is not credible, then he will not be believed, and the credibility of anyone for whom he testifies will ultimately be called into question.
Likewise, our testimony establishes our credibility and that of the Person for whom we testify: the Lord Jesus Christ. If our testimony can be believed, then the testimony of Jesus Christ can also be believed. If, however, our testimony cannot be believed, then the credibility of the Lord Jesus will also be called into question.
The measure of our credibility is the Holy Bible. If Scripture does not validate our testimony, then our testimony should not be believed, and we should be rejected as a false witness for Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). God never lies. So, while our testimony may be rejected, Jesus should not be.
An example of a testimony that should be rejected is that of Angelica Zambrano, an Ecuadorian woman, who claims to have died and to have gone to Hell, where she met the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:31 makes it clear that He would not send anyone from Hell to testify of its existence, Angelica Zambrano should be rejected as a false prophet, and her testimony should be likewise rejected, because it contradicts the words of Jesus.
A good testimony confirms Scripture.
Our testimony should confirm the testimony of the Bible and validate its truth. The Christian’s testimony of change, for example, confirms 2 Corinthians 5:17 which speaks of the New Birth.
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold all things are become new.”
Our testimony of enduring various trials and persecution for our faith confirms numerous passages of Scripture that testify that persecution is part of the Christian experience. Jesus said:
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
Additionally, our testimony of perseverance in the face of persecution confirms 1 Corinthians 10:13,which says:
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
A good testimony confirms the attributes of God.
God has many personal qualities, or attributes, which tell us something about His nature. A good testimony confirms what the Bible says about God’s personality.
The very fact that we even have a testimony proves one very important thing about God: that although He is Sovereign, God is not so aloof that He is out of touch with His creation. God condescends to our level so that He can relate to us:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”
“And, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
One passage of Scripture that speaks to this is Hebrews 6:13,17:
“When God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by himself…willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel.”
God did not have to swear anything to sinful man, for we lie, but God always tells the truth. God did this for us because He loves us, and He wants to prove it. This is extremely important, for much of the world believes that God is so far removed from his creation that he could not possibly be interested in the daily affairs of men.
The Christian who testifies that Jesus comforted him during a difficult time, confirms that Jesus is the “God of all Comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) and “an ever present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
The Christian who testifies to having been forsaken by friends and family during a dark and lonely time can testify that Jesus “sticks closer than any brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
And the Christian who has been forgiven much can testify that God is merciful (Exodus 37:6) and that “His mercy endureth forever” (Psalm 107:1).
A good testimony provides comfort.
Our testimony can also be a source of comfort to someone going through a difficult time. Jesus allows us to go through trials for many reasons. Arguably, the most important reason is to enable us to testify of how Jesus brought us through a difficult time. In this way we may be able to console and comfort someone else who is going through similar trials, and thereby give him hope.
The Bible says,
“[Jesus] comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”
Scripture also says,
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye should be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:3).
It is comforting to know that God has placed a limit on what He will allow us to go through. The knowledge that God “will not put more on us that we can bear” will comfort us during times of trial.
A good testimony gives hope.
2 Timothy Chapter 3 presents a picture of the lawlessness that would characterize the last days. We are seeing the fruition of this prophecy today, as people are growing colder and more hateful towards one another. All love has seemingly gone out the world. Parents are murdering their children with unprecedented frequency, while children, hardened by years of humanistic public education, have turned against their parents. Consequently, many parents have given up any hope of ever regaining authority over their children and many children have given up hope that they will ever have a caring and loving relationship with their parents. This hopelessness has caused many to become sullen, despondent, and cynical.
Moreover, the present financial crisis has left many unemployed and even homeless, while the “lucky” ones are living paycheck to paycheck: their life savings depleted and their retirements put off indefinitely. With a global financial crisis inevitable, many look to the future with dread and apprehension. Substance abuse has increased dramatically as many seek to drown their sorrows in alcohol or self-medicate with drugs in a vain attempt to escape reality.
The Bible says that the day would come when men’s hearts would fail them for fear of the things that are going to come upon the world. Men will become disillusioned with the things in which they have placed their hope. With the loss of hope, they will lose the will to live.
A person, who has lost hope, needs to know that there’s hope in Jesus Christ. He needs to know that God has promised to always provide for His children and those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior need not fear the future. Many who name the name of Christ know what it is to be without hope and can testify to the power of a risen Savior to take away fear of the unknown and replace that fear with confidence, security, and joyful anticipation.
Hope is what keeps the Christian grounded:
“We have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:18-19).
A good testimony provides encouragement.
In Philippians 1:14, the Apostle Paul writes that the church at Philippi waxed bold after he had been thrown into prison. Prison didn’t quench the fire that was within Paul, and this encouraged and emboldened the brethren. Our testimony of perseverance in the face of manifold temptations may have the same affect on those who see us patiently endure.
Our testimony also encourages us when we are going through various trials. If you don’t have a testimony, you will lack hope and encouragement when hard pressed by the devil. Jesus said that despite all the tribulation that would come our way, we should be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). A Christian who doesn’t know this promise will lack encouragement, and will therefore lose hope when Satan comes against him. A Christian with no hope is a Christian who is leaving in defeat. And a Christian who is living in defeat cannot be used of God.
A good testimony is a weapon in spiritual warfare.
In my experience, Satan will orchestrate events in the life of the faithful Christian for the express purpose of beguiling him to act in a way that will adversely affect his testimony. Satan does this because he knows he has lost the battle for our souls. So, he settles for destroying our testimony and with it, our victory. Moreover, the Bible calls Satan the “accuser of the brethren,” who accuses us before the throne of God day and night (Revelation 12:10). If we are not careful, Satan can tempt us to react in a way that is not Christian, and he can then use this as an opportunity to accuse us before God.
In my own experience, Satan has employed a variety of tactics designed to make me react in an adverse manner. Oftentimes, as I am walking down the street, for example, someone will be walking in my direction on the same side of the street as I am walking, directly in my path. As I attempt to sidestep the person to avoid contact, he will likewise sidestep to the same side as I do. This prompts a momentary “dance” where we will simultaneously step to either side for several seconds.
Now you may be thinking that this is perfectly normal and happens to everybody once in a while—and you would be right. But this will happen to me several times in the same day, every day for weeks on end. It is not a coincidence.
Another tactic Satan uses is to pack a subway car almost to capacity, leaving just enough space for one or two people more to board, and I will occupy that space. At the next stop, no one gets off, but a wave of people gets on. As I was the last to board, and am therefore standing right in front of the doors, the wave of people then cram into me: and someone will invariably be wearing a backpack or very large handbag, which he then proceeds to press into my back, sandwiching me between himself and the other passengers. He, or someone else trying to board, will then begin to shout at me to press forward so that he can get on, while someone already on the subway will begin to shout at me to move out of the way, so that he can get off. The press and confusion are designed to get me angry and respond in a way that will precipitate an altercation.
Another tactic that Satan often uses is to load a subway with people many of whom will not try to hold onto anything to prevent themselves from falling should the subway come to an abrupt stop. The subway will invariably make several abrupt stops along the route and people will stumble around, pretending to have lost their footing. One or more of these people will take this opportunity to step on my feet, hit me with a backpack or handbag, or ram a stiff arm into my body pretending to have lost their balance.
Finally, at times, neighbors occasionally ring my doorbell “by mistake,” or the postman will ring my doorbell with a package he wants me to give to a neighbor who he says is away, but is actually at home. This often happens at inopportune times, such as early on a Saturday morning when my family is still asleep, when I am in my study writing, or when my wife and I are sharing an intimate moment.
In each of these cases, Satan’s goal is to prompt me to react in a way that is improper for a follower of Jesus Christ. We must be particularly vigilant when things like these happen to us, as, not only can Satan use our improper reaction as an opportunity to accuse us before God, but he can also use our reaction as a way to turn others off to the Gospel message. Most people have no idea what Buddhists actually believe and practice; nor do they know what Christian Scientists believe and practice. Yet, most everyone knows how Christians are supposed to act. They know all about Jesus commanding us to “turn the other cheek” to our enemies, and they are all too aware that we are admonished not to “return evil for evil.” Whether we are wrong or right, we will be accused of being false Christians if our reaction to our enemies’ actions is not Christlike. Moreover our actions may also give God’s enemies an opportunity to blaspheme His name (2 Samuel 12:14).
Every time we resist the temptation to act improperly, we add another testimony of victory to our arsenal. And with each testimony we not only become stronger and more able to resist Satan’s machinations, but we glorify the Lord Jesus and bring honor to His worthy name. We also prove to ourselves and to the unsaved world that we indeed have the victory over Satan through Jesus Christ. We need only live that victory.
A good testimony helps someone to make a decision
In a court case, the witness’s testimony, combined with the persuasiveness of counsel, helps the jury to reach a decision. Our testimony does the same thing. The Christian’s desire should ultimately be to see the unrepentant sinner brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Our hope is that our testimony, combined with the persuasiveness of the Holy Spirit, will bring the person to whom we witness under conviction. And, God willing, while under conviction, he will be moved to repent and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive his sins and become his Lord and Savior. We want him to make a decision for Jesus Christ, but, even if he doesn’t, we want him to at least have the information to make an informed decision.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this teaching. God bless you.
Be encouraged and look up, for your redemption draweth nigh.
The Still Man