And this is the testimony…
"And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." [1 John 5:11-13]
WHAT IS A TESTIMONY?
Someone who has a testimony is someone who has certain facts related to a particular subject matter. In most cases this individual is a witness to the very things they desire to make known. Their testimony is in part what they have experienced as it relates to the subject matter at hand.
A CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY (of words and life)
Although many of us have been taught that our testimony predominately includes how we came to know Jesus Christ, it actually is far more involved than that. It is true that our experiences before and after Christ can be used by God to influence others, but far more important is the daily "life" we are called to live in as believers. Far from emphasizing a salvation experience and all that may accompany that, God is ultimately after changed lives as a result of His grace working through us. Our testimony ought to be a "testimony of daily life' as the power of God works mightily through us. "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" [John 17:3]
Jesus' primary testimony was in proving to the Jews that He was the promised Messiah. In fulfillment of the Law, [John 8:17] more than one witness was necessary to prove a particular matter. In His own defense Jesus appealed to John the Baptist [John 5:33], Jesus' own works [5:36] and His Father [5:37]. Despite the Jews studying the Scriptures (another witness) that testified of Jesus, the Jews still fell short of eternal life for they refused to believe in Him. In addition to the above are the testimony of the water [signifying Jesus' supernatural virgin birth through Mary], the blood [signifying His resurrection from the dead] and the Spirit [whom grants revelation to understand that Jesus is the truth]. [1 John 5:6-8]. Subsequent to His resurrection there were also some five hundred others to whom He appeared [1 Corinthians 15:3-6].
A TESTIMONY OF LIFE/ Part 1
As we have seen above and throughout the Scriptures, a testimony is something we have borne witness to. It is something we have experienced first hand and have intimate details concerning. The apostle John shared his and his fellow apostles' testimonies in 1 John 1:1-3 wherein he uses phrases as "seen with our eyes" and "touched with our hands" which obviously refer to the person of Jesus whom they knew personally. They not only saw and touched Jesus, but also heard audibly His very words and were taught His instructions and teachings first hand. They knew Him in ways in which we have yet to know. Despite this, John still says to those who believe upon Him; what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Although all are welcomed into this fellowship, John relates to us throughout this book the evidences of what a true believers' life, attitudes and actions will look like. He is showing us the testimony of what one's life as a believer should appear like- the characteristics of one who has true faith.
True faith and fellowship False or questionable faith
|Men walk in the light [1 John 1:7]||Men walk in the darkness [1 John 1:6]|
|Own our sins and confess them [1:8,9]||Say we have no sin [1:8]|
|Keep His commandments [2:3, 5]||Does not keep His commandments [2:4]|
|Loves his brother [2:10]||Hates his brother [2:9, 11]|
|They do not love this world [2:15-17]||They love this world [2:15-17]|
|Does not practice sin [3:7, 9]||Practices sin [3:4, 8]|
|Lay down one's life for others [3:16, 18]||Will not lay down their life [3:17]|
|God's people listen to us [4:6]||World's people listen to them [4:5]|
|LIVES FOR GOD||LIVES FOR SELF|
All of the above (left) are a living "testimony" to what God Himself states is evidence of a true son or daughter of His. This is the manner in which every child of God is commanded to live, there are no other options outside of these commands.
Now as a younger believer one is prone to immaturity and without question is going to fail to some degree as they learn to trust God more. That said, no real child of God would question that He calls each of us to an ongoing sanctification wherein we are continually growing; our lives should echo as closely as possible our personal testimony before others. In other words, if I'm telling others that God requires believers to be walking in the light, my life had better line up with that declaration. Only when my testimony lines up with my actions is that testimony going to have a positive impact upon others. There is more than a little truth to the fact that unbelievers have little interest in Christ due to the hypocrites so often found in today's churches.
In the same way that God has declared what His children should resemble and represent, (HIM), He also has that very same concern for His Ekklesia. In complete contrast to what man has assumed, God is very interested in what He is building and has also set guidelines for the proper expression of His Ekklesia just as He has for each individual's Christian life. Without going into detail, something I have done in another article, let's just touch the basic contrasts between man's Church and God's Ekklesia.
Man's Church God's Ekklesia
|Is constructed with physical materials||Is constructed with spiritual materials|
|It's leaders are men||It's leader and head is Jesus Christ|
|Man-made authority over others/hierarchy||Jesus is Head, all others equal|
|Is formally named and therefore sectarian||Never named, only referenced by locale|
|IS ENTIRELY EARTHLY||IS ENTIRELY HEAVENLY|
We have stated earlier that God has commanded His children to live in a certain fashion and that their obedience proves that they are truly His children. No real believer in Christ would dispute this. God doesn't give us the right to live however we choose as one of His children.
In a similar manner as above, God has also made clear certain truths about His Ekklesia, many if not most of which are entirely neglected today. Man ignores Jesus when He says; "My kingdom is not of this world" and yet continues to build what is earthly as a means to accomplish God's work. Now if God is obviously concerned about how we live as Christians as stated above, why would that exclude how we express His Ekklesia? Do we have the right to hijack God's work by building "churches" in contrast to Jesus' own words of "I will build My Ekklesia?"
THE IMPERATIVE OF CONSISTENCY
It should be obvious to all what results when we as Christians fail to practice what we preach. The world and its patrons not only vent their hatred at us, they vent their frustrations and hatred at the One we claim to be representing. Our lives are a direct "testimony" of what or whom we say we believe is it not?
Without question some of the ridicule and hatred we receive cannot be avoided and in some instances is inevitable. It can be a result of telling people difficult truths from the Scriptures in direct contrast to what others want to believe. Jesus has told us that all believers will be persecuted to some extent. If that's you, well, praise God for your willingness to stand where most people won't. We need many more on the battlefield who aren't afraid to speak the truth regardless of the circumstances or consequences, manly men who shake the gates of hell as they take heaven by storm. This message isn't necessarily directed at you. It's primarily directed toward those who despite their apparent good intentions, continue to promote and invent new ways of "doing ministry," ways our Lord has neither instructed nor sanctioned. One of those inventions is "church."
A TESTIMONY OF LIFE/ Part II
Just as most Christians have a testimony about how "they got saved," or came to trust in Jesus, so also do all professing Christians have a testimony as it relates to how they interact with other believers. This almost always includes some discussion or involvement with church. If this is true, those people have as their testimony before others some or all of the following:
I go to church (often the specific name or location is given)
I fellowship in church (tying fellowship to a particular place)
Reference the primary leader (emphasizing "their" Pastor or Priest)
I helped build this church (as if this is noble or necessary)
I teach ___ in this church (the Bible, some class etc)
I am the ___ of this church (a title which supposedly denotes authority)
My name is ___ Pastor ___ (denoting a spiritual title this person possesses)
I belong to this ___ (denoting a worldly membership)
What do all of the above have in common? Let me put it another way. A person comes up to you and starts asking you some questions about what you believe. They want to hear your testimony about some spiritual or religious things. They are curious about your beliefs and so they ask…
Where do you go to church? How do you know your church is the right one? Who is the Pastor or Priest of your church? Why do you go to church and how often? What does it mean to be a Christian?
The truth is, Biblical Christianity has never, ever placed any emphasis upon "church" whatsoever for "it" or "they" never existed in Jesus' day. Nonetheless, your answers, all of which are part of your testimony have nothing to do with Biblical Christianity! Are you starting to see the problem here?
Please understand, this is not a personal indictment against any particular individual who has or is presently going to church. I've been there, I've done that and now I'm done doing that. Is our God honored or glorified when men continue to promote something that actually hinders His original intentions through His Ekklesia, a counterfeit that actually blocks men from fulfilling God's commands? How could He be?
Let's return to a question above. Let's say your asked, "Where do you go to church?" Do you see the problem you are faced with? You cannot answer the question rightly without being hypocritical. For even if you know that God's people are the Ekklesia of God in spirit and body life, you are not living that out. You are plainly living as one who prefers one type of church over another despite their being only one Ekklesia, one Body of Christ. The questioner could have just as easily asked you why you prefer "your" church or think yours is the right one. Again, you cannot answer either question without becoming contrary to what the Scriptures actually teach. That is the very spirit of hypocrisy this world hates so much and that Jesus rightly comdemned- and your adding to it!
How about this question: "How do you know your church is the right one?" Once again you cannot answer the question rightly. For starters it is not your church, your pastors or even God's. If it's anybody's at all that would be the person who's name is on the title of the building! Can you see the problem yet?
One more question here: "Who is the Pastor of your church?" Once again you cannot answer the question without being in conflict with the Biblical record- the exact thing you should be steering unbelievers toward. Unless you are planning upon throwing away the authority of the Scriptures, you have no other basis upon which to make your argument. In other words;
Your testimony as it relates to church is neither a statement of fact, a witness or a first-hand experience of what God Himself is doing or has done. It is only a first-hand experience of what man has done in his attempts to usurp both God's authority and headship in opposition to God's one Ekklesia!
THE PERSON behind the TESTIMONY
As Christians, we all have a testimony to be sure. That testimony may relect a day in the past or some experience we've had along the way. Certainly God has been faithful and that brings about many testimonies of His grace working in and through His children. But can I ask, "What is the testimony of the Ekklesia of God?" Have you ever even considered this?
Let's face reality for a moment. We all want to share our testimonies about what God is doing and has done, and that's all fine and good as far as that goes. We can glorify God in such a way. But what is God really after, and how can I position myself to enter into His train of thought- the testimony He desires to share, not just through me, but through His entire family of faith together?
part II coming soon: And this is our Testimony