Thursday, November 1, 2012

P1 - Traits of a Strong Christian: Personal Testimony

James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

Lately I have been enjoying studying the book of James and the details behind the conversion and identity of James himself.  As you look into James' life, you discover a man who exhibited traits that mark a strong Christianity.  I don't know about you, but for me as a Christian, I'm desiring to be stronger in my walk with the Lord.  What does it take? What characteristics mark those who are strong Christians?  Can all Christians have such traits?  Today's blog is going to look at James' life as an example of a strong Christian.  Note the first trait of a strong Christian - A Personal Testimony.

Defining a personal testimony
When we speak of a Christian's testimony, every single Christian has one.  What is a testimony? It is the personal story of what your life was like before your salvation, what events led to your conversion and what life has been like following your faith in Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:17 gives us the pattern: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.Notice the three ingredients of a Personal Testimony:

1. My life before Christ - "the old things passed away"

2. My conversion - "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creature"

3. My life after Christ - "behold new things have come"

Meet the man who grew up in the same home as Jesus
If you want to see what James was like, you have to begin with Jesus.  In Matthew 12:46 we read - "While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him."  When Jesus had been conceived and virgin born, Mary and Joseph had other children.  In Matthew 13:55-56 we find the first mention of James, the half brother of Jesus according to the flesh - 55“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56“And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

James' life before his conversion - He knew about Jesus' identity but did not believe
As you begin to follow James' life throughout the Gospels, we come to a point wherein we are over half-way through Jesus' ministry. James would had been perhaps in his mid twenties.  John records in John 7:3-5 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4“For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5For not even His brothers were believing in Him."  James would had been included in that number.  

James saw the miracles and heard the teaching.  We could say that out of all the people that should had believed from the beginning, it would had been the Lord's brother.  He grew up not merely in a "Christian home" or "in a preacher's home", he grew up with Jesus! Yet his unbelief prevailed.  
He knew about Jesus' identity, but he had not embraced such an identity by grace through faith.   

James' conversion - by grace through faith in the resurrected Christ James believes in Jesus for His salvation
So when did James' experience conversion?  When did He believe on Jesus Christ as His Savior, Lord and Treasure?  We understand in 1 Corinthians 15:7 that following Jesus' resurrection from the dead, He appeared to James: "then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles."  This post-resurrection appearance occurred on one of the 40 days following Christ resurrection up until the time Jesus would had ascended in Acts 1.  We know James had been converted because following Jesus' ascension, we read of him being with other believers in the upper room awaiting the promise of the Holy Spirit as spoken by Jesus Himself. 

Acts 1:13-14 records - 13When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Clearly not only James, but the rest of Jesus' brothers also believed.  James' testimony, like every other believer in Jesus Christ, required the resurrecting power of Jesus Christ in grace to draw him to a saving knowledge of the truth (1 Peter 1:23).  I don't doubt that when James would later on write in James 1:18 about the new birth in salvation, he was thinking of his own conversion.

James' post-conversion life - the continuation of his personal testimony
According to the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:9, James became known as a "Pillar of the Church" along with Peter and John.  We see evidence in Acts 12:17 and Acts 15 of James' leadership over the Church in Jerusalem.  Then of course we see how God used James to write the first book of the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - the Book of James.

Now you and I as Christians have a personal testimony.  We can or should be able to recount what our lives were like before salvation.  We should be able to in at least as much detail as possible recount what took place when we were converted.  Then we should be able to recount what life has been like following conversion.  A strong Christian personally connects to Christ by faith and in their on-going faith-walk.  Every Christian has a testimony, and every Christian has the opportunity to be a strong Christian. 

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