A while back while engaged in a discussion of biblical theology with a mentor of mine I made mention that my witnessing needed work. And truly for any Christian, who among us doesn't desire being blessed with a more effective witness for the glory of our Lord in heaven? But mine, was a comment in passing to a mentor. However in retrospect, I am glad that my mentor latched onto it. He didn't make much comment, he simply said, "When you witness, be sure to witness the Gospel." In the larger context of our discussion, no more conversation was necessary because we were discussing 1 Corinthians chapter 15, of which, the first four verses best spell out the Gospel message in the entire Bible.
This was said to me in a moment of my growth as a Christian when I was just beginning to recognize that I was no longer hungry for the word of God just for my own edification, rather, I was hungry for the word of God for both my edification and the edification of those I wished to share it with. Therefore, my mentor revealed his wisdom by speaking a truth and his tact by not confronting me on a point which he had understood correctly: that in all my God talk, I was failing to actually state just what Jesus has done for all of us with a very specific and poignant message of just what the Good News is.
A way to look at what I had been doing in my witnessing would be to liken it to a doctor who talks about the effects of a cure to a dying man rather than of the cure itself. In other words, what good is a witness for our Lord in heaven and His coming kingdom, unless the cure itself is testified to? In a nutshell this is what my mentor showed me in the briefest of words.
Recently a friend of mine and a sister of the faith, Dr. Patti, presented to another young Christian (during a discussion regarding the value of personal testimonies) six points why a personal testimony is not as effective of a witness as simply presenting the Gospel of Christ dying a one time sacrificial death to atone for our sins and bodily raising three days later in triumphant defeat of death. Dr. Patti wrote to this young man:
1. There are many unbelievers of very high character who lead exemplary moral lives and do wonderfully selfless deeds but who feel no need of a Savior. Would not their "testimony" be just as valid? If not more so, because they actually produce these "good works" on their own initiative.
2. The purpose of "witnessing" is to bring others to Christ, correct? How can we draw others to Christ when we are focusing on ourselves?
3. As I pointed out before, the "testimony" of the Pharisee was one that gave God the "glory" for his righteousness. We cannot point people to our own "goodness" and maintain our humility. Even if we claim that it is God working in us, we are still taking part of the glory for ourselves.
4. We are called to live by faith. If we search for tangible evidence, then we are not living by faith. Jesus Himself said that it is an evil and adulterous generation that demands a perceptible sign. "The just will live by faith." Jesus told Thomas, Because you have seen, you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe. Faith is belief without tangible evidence.
5. We are sinful, emotionally vacillating people. What inspires us one moment, angers us the next. What we consider in ourselves a changed character may appear to others as a change for the worse or no change at all. Just like making New Year's resolutions, any immediate change of direction will probably last only for a few weeks or months at best, then we will slip back into our old habits. So what is our "testimony" then based upon? Trying and slipping, trying again, slipping again? While we may not be outwardly sexually immoral or thieves or murderers, we all still have major character flaws. Jesus saw pride as being one of the worst sins. And there is more than just a little pride involved with pronouncing yourself regenerated.
6. As a child, when I heard "testimonies,' I always wondered why, if Christ were working in others, changing their lives, allowing them to conquer all manner of sin, why He was not doing those things in my life. The "testimonies" of others always made me feel like a second-class Christian. Until I began to see that those same people with the wonderful "testimonies" often later fell prey to some besetting sin and often became discouraged with God and religion as a whole. If our testimony is based upon us in any way, then when we fall, as we surely will, our testimony crashes also, and we may very well take others with us if they are trusting in our "testimony."
That is why I maintain that there is only one true and safe and perfect testimony: The objective reality of the historical, finished work of Jesus Christ for whomever trusts in Him.
The disciples and apostles never testified to their regenerated characters, and neither should we. The moment we think we are "doing pretty well," or, like John says, "without sin," we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we believe that our purpose as Christians is to introduce others to Christ. We don't introduce Christ by talking about ourselves; we tell of His perfect life, of His fulfilling all of the law on our behalf, of His atoning death that paid the price for our sin.
What Dr. Patti was demonstrating to this zealous young Christian is that a testimony that results in a believer from having a personal relationship with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a by product of God working as He will in their lives. Liken this onto what James discussed when he spoke of works. We are not saved by works, but rather works are the result of having a living faith. Like onto that, a testimony is the result of a person accepting the Gospel. Therefore, while a discussion about the effects of a cure is good, administrating the cure is better.
Dr. Patti certainly was not denying discussing personal testimony. Rather, her argument is that the giving of personal testimony is not as effective of a witness to drive one to recognize their need for salvation and into developing a personal saving relationship with the Most High. This is because a testimony is at best subjective to the non believer or skeptic and may not be a valid reason for acceptance of the deity of Jesus Christ as the good doctor pointed out.
Fact of it is, testimonies are better for the edification of our fellow believers whom already see beyond the temporal realm -even as Elisha prayed for his servant to see in 2 Kings 6:17, for they have indeed opened their eyes and bear witness to the heavenly host. Thus, when we witness and speak by the authority of Scripture in all knowledge and truth, we ourselves speak with the God given authority of the Holy Spirit by quoting His words.
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