Sunday, May 1, 2011

More Than Words

What if every person in the church wrote out his testimony and compiled them together into a book for future generations, a time capsule of faith bound in paper?

I presented the idea to our church’s scrapbooking queen, hoping she would find the idea as exciting as I did. As we spoke, she stated that encouraging people to actually write out that testimony would be the hard part. Then, she did the unexpected and told another woman and me to go ahead and write ours first.

That was about a month ago, and I haven’t written one word. Instead, I’ve become mired in New Testament Scripture, Greek definitions, and a stack of tomes thick enough to break a toe were they to fall.

This standoff started with one of those nagging feelings that maybe what modern Christians refer to as their testimony may not really meet the Biblical definition of the word, that maybe, just maybe, we were missing something important in our casual request for a person to “give her testimony.”

Then, I encountered the word “testimony” in my totally unrelated (or so I thought) study of Revelation. John describes the two witnesses (Moses and Elijah), saying, “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them” (Rev. 11:7).

What a thought--that if these witnesses could not be killed until their testimony was finished, the same could be said of me, another witness for Jesus Christ. My days on earth will cease only when my testimony is “finished.” Amazing. Now, just what was this testimony that needed finishing?

In Revelation 11:7, the word for “testimony” comes from the root word “martus,” meaning “a witness.”** That wasn’t too earth shattering. But the apostle John’s repetitive use of this word throughout all his writings was.

In one passage, he uses the term six times: “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 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 the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life (1 John 5:9-12).

Simply or not so simply put, Jesus is God’s testimony, the testimony to mankind about the way of reconciliation to God the Father. While on earth, Jesus gave testimony about the Father who sent the Son as a testimony of sacrifice, redemption, and eternal life. Sounds like circular logic, but that's the truth of a unified trinity.

Grounded with this knowledge...

1. A Christian’s testimony should include what is past: “in an historical sense, of the testimony of an historian.”*

John says of Jesus’ death and burial, “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe (Jn. 19:35). Here, John explains his role as historian, recording the truths about Jesus for the purpose of leading others to saving faith in Him. Following this, then, our testimonies should record the historical truths about Jesus as well as His past work in our lives…for the same purpose of fostering belief. However, a Christian’s testimony doesn’t end with a big period here.

2. One’s testimony should also include her present reputation, which is derived from her every word and action: “in an ethical sense, of testimony concerning one’s character.”*

When describing the qualifications of “overseers,” Paul uses testimony in this ethical sense: “And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7). Here, “testimony” is translated as “reputation,” implying that not merely our past but also our present life serves as a testimony to non-Christians…a testimony either for or against Jesus Christ.

John also uses testimony in this manner, saying, “Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true” ( 3 Jn. 1:12). How others’ perceive us in the here and now says as much about our testimony as our history does.

3. A testimony should include one's perseverance into the future: “to hold the testimony, to persevere steadfastly in bearing it.”*

John describes those whose testimony for Christ persevered through their death and beyond: “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Rev. 6:9). The martyrs maintained...persevered, unto death.

This past, present, future kind of testimony of truth—one that is solely focused on showing others Jesus Christ and leading them to saving faith—it’s the only way to gain personal victory over sin and death. John writes, ““And they overcame him [Satan] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Rev. 12:11).

Who knew my testimony, your testimony was so powerful? It is. But the power comes not from we who testify, but from the One who is the author and content of our testimony--Jesus.

I'm shaking my head, knowing that whatever testimony I write will need to be revised a week later because no person’s testimony can truly be encapsulated in words since it is composed of muscle, sinew, itself.

*Thayer's Lexison.

**Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament.

Photo: Artist unknown.

1 comment:

  1. This is so powerful! I just keep saying, "YES, YES, YES!!!" I'm so glad you included Revelation 12:11! This is how we overcome!!! So true, that it is ongoing, revising daily! I remember an amazing Bible Study for the ladies at our church once held at my former home. In particular, one night, the Minister of the Ladies' Ministry asked for testimonies. It was unbelievably powerful!!! There is just something about testifying of His great love, redemption and power over sin, sickness and more.
    What an amazing idea to record in writing the wonderful works of our God! I LOVE IT!!!