Of course there are three parts to your testimony: 1) What was your life before you met Christ, 2) how did you meet Christ, and 3) what’s your life been like since you met him. So let’s discuss that last aspect, along with final pointers.
First, let’s talk about what not to say. “Since I got saved, my life has been nothing but candy canes and sweet-smelling flowers.” Naturally you’d never put it that crudely, but you might give that impression, and you have to be careful not to do that. Paul certainly didn’t in today’s passage. He talked about how the Jews rejected his message and tried to kill him. If someone can walk away from your testimony thinking that if they give their life to Christ then all their problems will disappear, you’re guilty of misrepresenting the facts.
Another thing not to say: “Since then I’ve never had problems with sin or doubt.” Brother, please. Again, you might not put it those exact words, but lots of dramatic testimonies I’ve heard are guilty of this: “I was drug-addicted and the bottle was my only friend. But then I got saved and I’ve never struggled with those things again.” Well, maybe he did rescue you from those addictions once and for all. But do you mean to let people think you don’t have problems with other sins in your life? Really?
Have you ever seen a “Whack-A-Mole” game in a carnival? You take a big hammer and as soon as a “mole” pops its head out of a hole, you whack it with a hammer. The wrinkle is that as soon as you whack one, another one comes out of another hole. Sin has been like that with me. Just when I think I’m making serious progress in one area, the Spirit starts pointing out how far short I fall in another one.
What’s fine is to tell them the general direction of your life, which should be towards becoming more like Christ. If not, there might be a bigger problem. That was what Paul said in today’s passage. Jesus gave him a mission, and he wasn’t disobedient to it. Yes, like all of us, he certainly was a work in progress, but the general direction of his life had been obedience instead of the opposite.
And it’s certainly fine to talk about the subjective benefits of your relationship with Christ as long as you’re completely honest about it. Don’t give the impression that you’ve never doubted God’s goodness if (like most of us) you have at some point or another. But you can talk about the subjective benefits of his presence, like peace, a sense of security and a purpose in life.
But there’s two dangers in this. First and foremost, you need to stick to the main issue: Your eternal status and relationship with God was changed forever at the moment of your salvation. My personal sense of peace is really nice, but no subjective benefit is near as important as the objective benefits: My sins are forgiven forever, I’ve been adopted into his family, my eternal destiny is secure, I have complete access to my Father anytime day or night, etc. I think it’d be good to emphasize that more than the other.
Second, please notice that in his last sentence Paul brought the conversation back to A) Christ, and B) His audience’s need to place their faith in him. Your testimony is not about you. If you overemphasize the subjective benefits, then you can easily fall into that trap.
Now for a couple of last pointers on this. If you notice, Paul gives his personal testimony another time in Acts, namely chapter 22. In that chapter, he chose to leave in some details and not mention others. Yes, all the facts in both chapters are all true, but the different accounts aren’t identical. Paul tailored his testimony to different audiences. And certainly you can too. As I’ve been advised, I’d recommend you have three “versions”: A five minute one, a ten minute one, and a twenty minute one. Also take into consideration to whom you’re talking. Of course, you’re always going to be perfectly honest in your testimony, both in what you actually say and in the impressions you leave. But feel free to include or exclude details based on your audience.
And finally, keep in mind the main purpose here: It's to glorify your Lord by leading people into a saving relationship with him. But as in all witnessing, we submit ourselves to the leadership of his Spirit and leave the results up to him. A good idea, ya think?
Lord Jesus, I know I’m not what I should be. But thanks be to you, I’m not what I once was, nor am I all that I will be. Seriously, thank you.
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