At the church I pastor, each new member must meet with a pastor personally and share his or her story of becoming a Christian. We often call this narrative a “personal testimony.” Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of having these discussions countless times, and I’ve seen an unfortunate trend.
The trend I see in the conversation goes something like this: “I don’t have much to say in my testimony. In fact, my testimony is kind of boring. I didn’t rob any banks, I wasn’t saved out of a life of gang membership or selling drugs, and I haven’t done any hard time. There’s not much to share. I grew up in church, came to Jesus at a young age, and have been following Him ever since.”
It’s unfortunate because it demonstrates an element of faulty thinking about the gospel, as well as God’s glory in miraculously saving us. I’ve seen this type of testimony shared by many members who were truly walking with Jesus, actively serving in ministry and growing in their faith. And what I want them to grasp is that Scripture calls us to a different understanding of all that Jesus has accomplished in saving us, even if our testimony is boring. Here is a sampling of what the Bible teaches:
- Christians have passed from death to life (John 5:24)! You were justly bound for an eternity in hell, and now you will enjoy face-to-face knowledge of your Creator and Savior forever. The difference between those two realities is immeasurably greater than the difference between the sinful behavior of a drug dealer and the sinful behavior of a “well-behaved” but still unregenerate kid who was forced to attend church. As we share testimonies, the goal is not to compare our previous former lives, but to compare who we were with who we are now.
- You used to be God’s enemy, and now you are His child (Rom. 5:10, 8:15)! You’ve been adopted into his forever family. Instead of hopelessly being at war with the Creator and Judge who has all power, you have been adopted by the King of Kings and will reign with him for all eternity.
- You have been sealed and indwelled by the Holy Spirit; God himself lives in you (Eph. 1:13)! Rather than being separated from God by sin or relating to God through the vicarious ministry of another (as Old Covenant believers did), God himself lives within you. He guides you into all truth, convicts you of sin, prays for you when you don’t know what to pray, comforts you and empowers you for ministry.
- You have everything you need from God for living the Christian life, and for growing in godliness (2 Peter 1:3)! This article could be extremely long with specific blessings that make every testimony anything but boring, but Peter helps us with brevity here by stating broadly: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Through the perfect life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Christ, you have not only been rescued from the penalty of sin, but you’ve been given everything you need to be conformed to the image of Christ.
This list could easily be book-length. But the main point is this: the things that Jesus accomplishes in every person’s salvation are far greater than the overcoming of any particular habits of a previous life. Remember, there are completely secular methods that have sometimes succeeded in breaking people of addictions, drug dealing or other sins that we treat as more serious than those with which many of us struggle. But no secular method has ever turned a child of wrath into a child of God, or moved someone’s eternal destiny from hell to heaven, or reconciled God and man. Beside that, my sinful nature contains the capability of all of those sins that we deem most horrible; the glorious miracle of salvation replaces that sinful nature for all believers.
Last, remember that Jesus performed amazing healing miracles and even raised people from the dead, simply with a word. But your salvation required him to do something that he despised (Heb. 12:2) and even asked the Father to allow him to avoid if possible (Matt. 26:39). Your salvation required God himself to leave heaven, put on the very flesh that he had created, live a difficult life of constant temptation, suffer beyond our ability to imagine, die the most horrific death in history, endure the breaking of his eternal fellowship with his Father, and then conquer death itself through rising again.
The gospel is not exciting only if its acceptance is preceded by R-rated activities. Pastors, preach the gospel in such a way that your flock sees it as the glorious miracle that it is. All of heaven will reverberate forever with praise of Jesus because of what he did in accomplishing our salvation (Rev. 5). May our lives and words in this life fit with that eternal reality.