How to have a good testimony

thWell I’m not quite ready to let this “Always Christian” subject go yet when it still appears I am being misunderstood or probably more like it, I am not being clear enough about what I am saying.

I’m thankful to those of you who have taken part privately and publicly in this discussion, and especially to those who are having issues with what I’ve been saying this week, because that forces me to find other ways of saying it which in turn makes it clearer and gets me closer to communicating the message I’m really after.

If you just tuned in, it all started when someone questioned why those who have almost always been Christians appear to have less of a testimony than those who have had a dramatic turnaround from sin to salvation. I was quick to point out that they, in fact, did have less of a testimony, not because their sin was any less awful, but because they were being less than honest about themselves. We’ve hidden it behind the safer word “testimony,” but what we are doing here is what simply can’t be done, and that’s to compare sin. We are weighing sin and making conclusions about whose sin is worse, or who has more or less of it. This is not only impossible to do; it’s absurd, not to mention it’s also forbidden since it includes passing judgment which Jesus clearly told us not to do.

Whenever you find yourself comparing sin, I have one quick easy way out of that cul-de-sac: affirm the fact that the only comparison you can truthfully make about this is that your sin is worse than anybody else’s. It’s worse because it’s yours. You know all about it. You don’t know about anyone else’s sin, but you are an expert on your own, so call yourself the worse sinner out there and don’t go beyond that.

And here’s one more thing. You don’t have to have had a bad “before” to have a good testimony, just look at your life right now, and you’ve got enough sin to make up for any amount of pious upbringing you think you might have had. Anyone who thinks that there exists somewhere in the universe, or in time, or in their church or on their block a worse sinner than they are has not yet seen as they ought to see.

That can only mean everyone’s got a good testimony. Everyone has a great testimony on the sheer merit of the current sin in their life that they are being freed from continually, and for which they are receiving moment by moment forgiveness.

[Here are some selected thoughts from comments received this week.]

The false self we create (Thomas Merton and other contemplatives write about this) is such a huge detriment to living in truth, transparency and total dependence on the power of the Spirit. This is a timely word to a “lost” generation of “Always Christians.”

I never gave much grace away before I saw my total brokenness.

I only wish more “Always Christians” would have shared this with me over the years as I was beating my head against the wall trying to live up to unrealistic standards.

I think he [a one-time close friend] embraced an evangelical denomination as a means of dealing with his feelings of betrayal, and so has become very judgmental on the actions and attitudes of others. We used to be good friends, and I was there for him during his divorce, but now I avoid him whenever I can. I just don’t need a religious brow-beating.

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10 Responses to How to have a good testimony

  1. Sherri Johnson says:

    I think one crucial point is missing. Sin is sin whether “big” or “small” and it is ALL forgivable through the Cross of Jesus Christ. The only unforgivable sin is that we don’t accept the atonement that Jesus made for us on the Cross & that we reject Him. Everything else is forgiveable if we ask & then it all becomes as though it never existed. So those who accept Christ on their deathbeds, their sinful life NEVER HAPPENED in the eyes of Christ.

  2. Mary Strawsma says:

    Just wrote in my personal journal this morning
    Sharing with you some thoughts I had this morning and knowing you get it….
    Journal Nov 23:
    I sometimes look at those people who have been in the arms of God since birth and never left that hug of God and Jesus. Oh, I don’t mean perfect but those really good people who don’t seem to leave the path, don’t seem to think irreligiously but are just good. They sometimes irritate the crap out of me. I mean they just seem all church and holy and altogether and so spiritually on track . I wonder how if is it they never seem to doubt, never seem to fail in their Godly duty. They pray at ease, they serve at ease. They never seem to doubt and just accept all that is. Irritates me…praying I can forgive that and know even they stand before God requiring grace. Then, I reread yesterday and today’s posting from you and I thought…who are you M to be so sanctimonious about their journey? So they may suffer the same insecurities that takes me to my knees.

  3. Kevin says:

    Often times people who have the “good testimony” are treated like celebrities by those Christians who still propogate the comparison perspective. So the “I don’t have a testimony like that” people feel unappreciated and ignored. Learning to rejoice for salvation and to pray for continued deliverance from evil without feeling envy or jealousy for attention calls for maturity. Thanks be to God that the “I don’t have a testimony like that people” have been spared the consequences of some of the so-called “bigger sins” but be assured their personal sins are definitely there! Without Christ’s intervention in forgiveness given for sincere confession, and Spirit led repentance and transformation all of us would still wallow in sin and death. Praise the Lord for His ongoing salvation of His people.

    • jwfisch says:

      There are no big sins and no little sins, there is just sin and we are all guilty and we can all be forgiven by coming to Jesus. That’s it. There is no comparison.

  4. I just shared my testimony with the youth group the other day and used the parable of the prodigal. I explained I had been like both sons. At first like the “good son” trying to be a good christian and comparing my sin of attempting to earn God’s favor to others sin of running off and doing whatever they pleased. Then like the second after being so frustrated with trying to be perfect, failing all the time, and then running off and joining the prodigal. Both sons lost in sin not seeing clearly the love and grace of the Father and their equal need for that. It’s when God showed me my need for Him I was able to surrender.

  5. We are our own worst judges. We could be walking around judging other people to be complete idiots even as it’s obvious to everyone else that we’re the idiots. Even though we know ourselves intimately. Even though we know all the circumstances of our lives inside out. Still, we are very inaccurate judges of ourselves.

    · So if we can’t even judge ourselves well, with all the intimate info we have about ourselves, what are the odds we’re going to be able to judge others accurately? ~Miner~

    • Testimonials are a dime a dozen. There is a fine line between bragging about our sin and telling a story of what Christ has done in our lives. I think people are more interested in how much we love them. The details of my sin are forgotten by God I say why bring them up?
      I think this ties into John’s point, it’s not a contest to see who has been the most forgiven. We’re just all sinners.

    • jwfisch says:

      No chance. Can’t do it. And once you’ve been touched by the grace of God, you don’t want to do it. Judging someone else is the furthest thing from your mind.

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