Like many of you, I grew up in a Christian home and from the time my parents could put me in nursery, I was at church. Born and raised, you might say.
I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world and I think that is largely in part because I didn’t know any better. Every time the church doors were open, I was there. Quite simply, I really love the church. That’s a miracle.
However, I grew up believing a really big lie.
I grew up believing I didn’t have a worthwhile testimony to share. That even if I did share my testimony, it would fall on deaf ears. That it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to those I was sharing it with.
The fact is:
I did grow up in church.
I pretended (and looked) to have it all together.
I do come from a stable, loving home and family, though we’re as messed up and crazy as they come.
I was the teacher’s pet.
I attempted to follow all the rules. (That only works for so long.)
I liked looking like I had it all together. That is safe. That is not vulnerable. Hurt doesn’t happen when you fake it.
I have deep desires of my heart that have yet to be met.
I do have trials, hardships and life experiences to share.
I have not been given everything I’ve ever wanted and my life is not peaches and cream. Blessed, yes.
I’ve lied. I’ve gravely sinned. I’ve lusted. I’ve been angry. I’ve gossiped. I’m insecure. I’m helpless. I’m needy. And the list goes on and on.
I do have a testimony. I know my sins. I know my shortcomings. I need Jesus.
My attempt at holiness was lame to say the least. My attempt at producing any good in me to cover up the dark was helpless. My good was simply not good enough, though I desperately wanted it to be.
I don’t want to point fingers or blame any one person or thing, but I think we as a church have done a less than stellar job at portraying what a worthwhile testimony is. A testimony, as we have so endearingly coined it, is simply a public confession regarding the ways Jesus has changed your life.
My sins, no matter how big or small they may seem, still sent Jesus to the cross. My attempt at living a charmed life was feeble and frail.
Our testimony is what makes us authentic. Real. Relatable.
The truth is, everyone has gone through something that has changed him or her. If you have confessed Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savor, you well know that the old has gone and the new has come. You are a new creation. You’ve changed. Whatever it was that brought you to repentance in the first place, is the very thing worth sharing. Whatever it was that was once holding you captive that no longer has a hold on you, that’s worth sharing.
Need I list the things that hold us captive?
Legalism. Sexual Sin. Drugs. Addictions. Alcohol. Perfectionism. Insecurity. Lust. Greed. Jealousy. Hate. Pride. We could go on and on as this is clearly not an exhaustive list.
Where we as a church have strayed is that we glorify the big testimonies. We glorify the folks on the platform that have sinned “big”. We glorify the stories that seemed absolutely hopeless, but ended in victory.
Can I say something? Salvation through Jesus Christ is a miracle, regardless of where you have or have not been. It’s still a faith walk for every individual.
We were all hopeless. We all have victory in the end when we choose Jesus over _____________. (You fill in the blank.)
You, if you are in Christ, have something to offer. You have hope to offer.
If you’ve grown up in the church, don’t believe the lie you have nothing to share. First, yes you do. If you are a living, breathing human, you’re flawed and need Jesus. Own up to that! But for you, maybe what someone needs to hear is that your good, despite all your failed efforts, wasn’t good enough to make it into the kingdom of heaven. There is one way, and His name is Jesus. You may be a really good, nice, sweet, charming, never-hurt-a-fly kind of person, but good doesn’t get you into Heaven. Jesus does.
To my young friends, don’t go looking for way to mess up so you have a story to share.
Share your story of less-than-perfect faithfulness to a God that has been nothing but perfectly faithful and loving towards you, despite your efforts of trying so hard. Share that even your goodness wasn’t good enough. Therefore, the good kid who has the works thing down, if they can’t do it, who can? That, my friends, is the gospel.
We’re justified by faith alone in Christ.
All sin keeps us from God. It keeps us bound up.
It just goes to show that there is no one good, no, not one. Can we emphasize that? Though from the outside it may appear I have little to confess day in and day out, that’s far from the truth. I lay my head on my pillow each night knowing how dearly loved I am in Christ, yet painfully aware of my shortcomings. Painfully aware of the areas that only Christ can change in me. Painfully aware of my ugliness.
Do we need the stories of God’s dramatic salvation and redemption? Absolutely! Do we keep sharing those and telling of how God has transformed our lives? Yes and amen! Do we continue to put them on the platform? By all means! May we all come humbly. Those stories also tell us that no one has out-sinned God, not matter how much they think they have! We need not be shocked or judgmental of anything or anyone. We should extend grace and love.
It reminds me of the Prodigal Son. One son did everything right (false) while the other was out doing everything wrong and yet they still needed the same grace. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all more like the elder brother than we care to admit.
But let us be aware of the girl or boy that feels worthless because they didn’t have a Saul-to-Paul conversion.
My goal isn’t to deny what Christ has done for you and where He alone has brought you and rescued you from. Nor is my goal to magnify how good you’ve been. My goal is to glorify Christ.
Conversion is conversion regardless of the pits we’ve been in.
Salvation is salvation regardless of how we’ve acted.
God’s redemption is for everyone.
And His story is good enough to be told throughout the ages.
We were all lost. For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) But Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) Translation = That’s US. That’s enough. That’s radical.
For the one who has served time in prison, been released and feels called to minister to those in prison. Yes! Go! Share that the same grace and mercy that was offered to you, is offered to everyone. In the name of Jesus.
For the girl who’s had an abortion and feels called to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. To you I say go! In the name of Jesus.
For the person (girl or guy) who’s struggled with any type of sexual sin, has broken free, and feels called to minister out of that. Yes! Do it! In the name of Jesus. So that He would get the credit. So that the weight of life change would fall on His shoulders, not yours.
You are redeemed! God delights when anyone comes to faith in Him through Jesus.
Each of our redemption stories minister to different people all over. Not one of our stories will minister to everyone, that’s why we’re the body of Christ. We all have different experiences and stories to share, but the same Jesus.
Putting pressure on the story makes it about you. Putting pressure on the gospel makes it about Jesus
That’s your story. You were once dead and now you’re alive. And that is worth sharing, Sister.