Monday, June 27, 2016

What makes for a good testimony - 1 John 5:1-9

1 John 5:9 "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."

In our car we have a little strip of numbers located under the speedometer. Those little strip of numbers display how many miles the car has traveled over the course of its use. Such a strip of numbers are called an "odometer". When I look at how many miles are currently on our vehicle, I imagine all the places the car has traveled. One could conceive of the stories that car could tell if it had the capability of speech. The "odometer" functions as a testimony of that vehicle's travels. When we consider the Christian life, there is the faith of the Christian and the testimony that follows from his faith. One cannot see faith. It is an intangible, supernatural ability given by God and grasped by the Christian for trusting in what Jesus has done. A testimony functions as the "odometer" of faith. Every digit on your testimony and mine speaks of obedience, triumph, failure, pain, sorrow, joy, insights, setbacks and perseverance. The Apostle John speaks of "testimonies" here in the opening fifth chapter of his short letter. What makes for a good testimony?

1. Faith. 1 John 5:1-4
Notice 1 John 5:1-4 "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith." At the end of that string of numbers on an odometer is a special number that can be seen moving and marking off "tenths-of-a-mile". Every mile we go in our car, that little number at the end is seen "ticking by". 

Do you know every decision, every trial and every opportunity that is presented to us is a choice between faith and unbelief? Every time we trust God, our little number of faith records a small step forward. Now it may not seem like much, however, over the course of one's faith-life, it adds up to a glorious testimony of God's grace. Faith is a must in every good testimony. This is why John brackets his remarks with reference to faith. What else can we say about what makes for a good testimony....

2. Foundations. 1 John 5:5-9
As one reads on through 1 John 5:5-9, three foundations necessary for a testimony are noted:

God's love. 1 John 5:9 speaks of the "testimony of God concerning His Son". Elsewhere we see how God "so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son" (John 3:16) and "demonstrated such love" (Romans 5:8).  

Christ's blood.  Three times we find reference to Christ's blood. Without the blood of Jesus, no Christian would have the power nor grounds for any testimony.

The Spirit's working. Here we find the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the Christian and to the world concerning the reality of the Christian faith. The terms "water" and "blood" represent the bookends of Christ's earthly ministry - from his baptism to his cross. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that is credited to me at salvation, all due to the Spirit's working. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit bears witness continually that I as a Christian am adopted by God because of Christ (Romans 8:14-16). Finally, the Spirit is continually sanctifying or cleansing me to make me progressively more like Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:19-20).

Any good testimony will include the work God has done and is doing in that person's life. The odometer records how far I've gone in the car, not how fast I've traveled. With that said, the odometer could not move without a motor, a transmission, wheels and a driver. In like manner, my testimony tells others how far I've traveled. However, unless I had God's love, Christ's blood and the Spirit's working in my life, I would have no testimony. Henceforth we see that Faith and Foundations make for a good testimony. Lets see one final ingredient....

Form. 1 John 5:10-11
1 John 5:10-11 give us the two-fold form for a testimony: before and after. All good testimonies describe what life was like before Christ, the moment of saving faith in Christ, and life following after salvation. In testimonies pertaining to God's provision or extraordinary moments wherein God has been seen moving, we find out what life was like before that moment and life thereafter.

The odometer is an amazing instrument when you think about it. It only records how far the vehicle has traveled. Its readings are limited. A Christian's life is of course far more robust. The testimony's form is shaped by Jesus. There was life before Christ (b.c) and there is life after Christ (a.c). Before and after. Who I was and whom I am. 

Closing thoughts
We have considered briefly what makes for a good testimony: faith, foundations and form. God is working forth His testimony, by His Word and Spirit, in our own. He desires to change the Christian from the inside/out. May we be yielded to Him and walk forth the walk of faith - adding miles to the journey!

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