Confusing Testimonies

 “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:”  Acts 26:16-19

“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5

I have been around Baptist churches since 1975. I have heard myriads of testimonies. If you are a Christian you have a testimony. Some people tell of being saved from a terrible life of sin. Some tell of being saved from self-righteousness and dead religion. Regardless of our background, we were all dead in trespasses and sins. We were all the servants of sin. We were all the children of wrath. Every born again believer has a testimony.

The Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” {I Corinthians 6:9-11}

The Bible teaches that when a person is truly saved, Jesus Christ changes their life. He makes them a new creature with new desires and new dislikes. Paul said that before his conversion he did “many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth”. Because most Baptists believe in “eternal security”, often times it is said, “You Baptists think you can get saved and live any way you want to.” I believe that to be true in my own experience…but God has changed my “want to”. Paul told the Corinthians “and such were some of you.” Paul is basically saying, “You used to live that way, but now Jesus Christ has changed your life”.

I sincerely believe that what some call “eternal security” is a stench in the nostrils of the lost world…lost people know better.

Many people who claim to know Christ would agree with what I’ve said so far. Most folks believe that true Christianity is life changing {at least in theory}.  The Bible teaches us that God the Holy Ghost moves in and begins working in us. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” {I Corinthians 6:19}

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” {Philippians 2:13}

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” {Philippians 1:6}

The Bible says: Enoch had this testimony, that he pleased God. I have done my best to preach a life changing gospel. I have tried to teach my children that when a person is truly born again God transforms their lives. But I have had to constantly battle confusing testimonies.

One modern evangelist sarcastically said: “I wonder if you have ever heard a testimony like this, ‘I gave my heart to Jesus when I was a child, then I became involved in drugs, robbery, muggings, rape, murder, pornography, torture, gambling, money laundering, adultery, perjury, treason, extortion, and other things I’d rather not mention. I was filled with anger, hatred and greed, but all the time I knew the Lord and gave my heart back to Him when I was forty years old.” {Ray Comfort}

That is a confusing testimony… and I guess it would be humorous, if it wasn’t so close to reality.

I’ve heard these kinds of testimonies often, such as: “I was saved when I was eight… I got away from God and lived like the devil until I was twenty something, and then I got ‘back in church’ or ‘I rededicated.”

When I hear such a testimony I cannot help but wonder where the Holy Spirit was for all those years. Did he quit working? Did He stop performing a “good work” in these people, for five, ten, sometimes twenty years? As one preacher said “It’s hard to get away from Someone when He is living inside you.”

I know a person can get ‘sideways’ on God, and I realize that we all grow at different rates. I also understand that young people are capable of behaving …well, like young people. They can make mistakes, life altering, deep scarring mistakes. {And so can older folks}

The “I was backslidden for six, ten or twelve years, etc” kind of testimony is confusing, and I believe, unscriptural.  These types of testimonies suggest that the Holy Spirit can lie dormant {for the want of better words} in a person for years without any intervention. These testimonies deny the explosive, life changing power of the gospel. A testimony is a very powerful thing. Paul could have preached a text and a three point outline to King Agrippa but instead as on other occasions he gave his testimony. {Acts 26}

I am not trying to make anyone doubt their salvation or make anybody upset, but I believe these confusing testimonies are not helpful. I truly believe that they hurt the cause of Christ. I’m just about to the point that I think I would jump for joy if one these individuals said something like this, “I made a profession when I was twelve but then I got out of church and lived for myself until I was twenty five…when I came back everyone told me that I had rededicated, but I believe that is when I was saved.” I know that my making such a statement will make some people cringe, but surely it must be admitted that a testimony like that makes more sense in light of the Scriptures. I’m not trying to make a loophole for lost “church people”, but I would feel more comfortable with a testimony like that than the other kind.

Some people are saved out of a religious or church environment but they still should have a testimony. Consider the Wesley brothers, their father was a minister and they both were active in religious duties. They even went to Georgia as missionaries to the Indians, but they were both unconverted.

John Wesley said; “I had many remarkable returns to prayer, especially when I was in trouble. I had many sensible comforts, which are indeed no other than short anticipations of the life of faith. But I was still under the law, not under grace: the state most who are called Christians are content to live and die in. For I was only striving with, not freed from sin; neither had I the witness of the Spirit with my spirit, and indeed could not, for I sought it not by faith, but (as it were) by the works of the law.”

He also said, “I went to America, to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me?”

His brother Charles wrote these words in a hymn after his conversion; “Long my imprisoned sprit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”

Many years ago an old puritan writer stated something like this: “More significant than when the Son came up in your heart, is your answer to the question, Is the Son risen in your heart now?”

Or, as I heard one preacher say; “Don’t tell me when you were saved; tell me this, is He saving you now?”

A walk that is worthy beats out a “date and a time” any day {Ephesians 4:1}.  Many people can rattle off a date when they made a profession or proceeded to an altar, but their “walk” talks louder than their profession.

I recently read an article entitled, I’m a Jesus People. I suppose it was written during the hippie days. I submit the following excerpt:

“Certainly I am always pleased to hear that one has come to Christ for salvation, but being of a suspicious nature, brought about by so much superficial Christianity and high pressure commitments to Christ, I always look for results. I look for the change. Words mean little unless backed by deeds. If there is no change, or, if the change is of a temporary nature, there is really no reason to believe that one has received Christ and has become a “Jesus People”. Meeting together and quoting the Scriptures isn’t enough. It takes an absolute about face; a turning from one direction to another …”Those who drink booze, smoke the weed, pop pills, shoot heroin, live in adultery, commit fornication, curse and still claim to be a “Jesus People” are guilty of blasphemy and are in danger of committing the eternal sin”

{I’m A “Jesus People” by Elwood Hensley, Sword of the Lord Scrapbook II page 144}

I’m not trying to “put God in a box” nor do I claim to know His timetable when dealing with men. But I do know what happened to me. I also know what happened to the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, the Philippian jailer and the Apostle Paul and others in the Bible. We read in the book of Acts that a young woman followed Paul, crying; “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.”  She probably couldn’t have said anything more truthful. Her testimony was correct, dead on, but her life didn’t match her words, and that grieved the Apostle Paul.

Paul said, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:” {Philippians 3:18}

I know some people almost sigh when the following text is given, but it’s still in the Bible,

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” {II Corinthians 5:17}

Is that your testimony? When you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ did He make you a new creature? Have your eyes been opened? Were you turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God?

 

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One Response to Confusing Testimonies

  1. Outlaw Monk says:

    I think I’m one of the people you are talking about. I had great faith in Christ but I fell away from my faith for several years. When I was in college everyone around me (students and teachers) valued only science and reason and pretty much told you that you were a fool for believing in God. This is a well-documented thing in American academia. The Holy Spirit was always in me but I think I quashed it with my “reason” for several years. When I finally learned not to be afraid of what I knew deep down inside was when I was finally able to restore my faith. The Spirit never left, I just chose not to look at it. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me when I was saved, just that I am.

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