That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Monday, January 21, 2013

Of What Worth is Our Testimony?

I was recently challenged with the thought that it is not very humble (aka: it's proud) to presume my testimony as a Christian could be instrumental in the salvation of an unbeliever.  The rational behind this thought was that no one is perfect, so we can't assume that our good conduct would lead someone closer to Christ.  The thought continues with the idea that it's the Holy Spirit that ultimately brings someone to Christ, and it has nothing to do with my good or bad conduct as a believer.

Something about this idea doesn't sit right with me.  I agree with the part that no one is perfect.  Obviously, that's true, but the idea that it's proud to assume a good testimony will help leading someone to Christ makes no sense to me. How is that pride?  How is it proud to desire to live in a way that displays that Christ has control of my life?  How is it not humble to try and use my personal conduct as a witnessing tool?  How is it proud to want people not to see me in how I live, but to see Christ?  To me this kind of thinking is nothing more than trying to justify living in an unholy way.  If my testimony doesn't matter then I can just live how ever I like.  Who cares?  I'll do what I please, when I please, and there's no consequences for sin, because it doesn't matter.

I asked more questions.  What does the Bible say about my testimony?  Are there any commands given in the Bible that apply to my testimony?  What IS my testimony?  Does it matter to God if I have a testimony.  Does it matter to God what other people think of me?  Is there a specific verse in the Bible that says my personal testimony is responsible for winning someone to Christ?  Is there a specific example of someone in the Bible who had a good testimony that was influential in bringing someone to Christ?  Is there a specific example in the Bible of someone who had a bad testimony, and thus, turned people away from Christ?  Does it matter how I live, or can I just do what I want without it either hindering or helping the cause of Christ?  I think these are all good questions for any Christian to ask.  In fact, I think too many Christians today DON'T take their testimony seriously enough.

I understand that salvation is by grace through faith, and that it is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, His death and resurrection, that saves people.  I don't save people. However, as believers, we are the ones God has chosen as the witnesses of salvation (Acts 1:8).  God could have chosen another way to have the message of salvation proclaimed to all men, but He didn't.  In light of the fact that God choose us to proclaim the gospel, it seems that a personal testimony is important, and that it could be influential in winning someone to Christ.  I also understand that God will use His children in spite of their sinfulness.  Peter denied the Lord, David committed adultery and murder, and Paul had a huge disagreement with Barnabas.  God still used each of these men despite the fact they did terrible things. I'm not advocating some kind of sinless perfection here.  What I am advocating is that the way we live does have an effect on others.  God used David, Peter, and Paul because He's God and He can do anything. But how many times have you heard the statement like this.  "I know someone who says he's a Christian and if THAT is how Christians act I would NEVER want to be one."  Hmmm... our lives do effect others.

I find this verse in II Corinthians 3:2 interesting.  "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men." (emphasis mine).   Paul says in this verse that the lives of the Corinthians were like letters (epistles) and that they were known and read of all men.  Not just a few men, but all men.  We will be known to those around us.  There's a lot of emphasis in the New Testament put on personal, practical, everyday living.  I've encountered a lot of Christians who try to ignore this, but if you read the Bible you simply can't get away from it.  At least, I certainly notice it when I read the Bible.  Consider these verses.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  Ephesians 4:29

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.  I Timothy 4:12

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Titus 2:11-12

What about a Biblical example of someone whose testimony was influential in leading someone else to Christ?  The example that jumps immediately to my mind is Paul and Silas with the Philippian jailer.  That jailer heard Paul and Silas singing praises to God at midnight.  That was a good testimony.  I'm sure what they sang had a part in bringing that man to Christ.  What if Paul and Silas had complained?  What if they were angry and bitter because of the unjust persecution?  I wonder if that jailer would have had the same eagerness to know about Christ if Paul and Silas had spent the night bemoaning their situation?  Probably not.

The Bible is clear.  How we live is important, and God is concerned with our personal testimony.
What do you think?
Do you value your personal testimony as important?
Do you think that a Christian's testimony could be a help or hinderance in leading an unbeliever to Christ?
Do you have an example from your life of when your testimony made a difference to someone coming to know the Lord?
Please share your thoughts and comments :).

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