Today I want to talk to you about how you can be an active team member and share your testimony, your story with those you know and meet. THAT is how the ball will get down the field, so to speak. THAT is how the Kingdom of God will advance. The majority of people aren’t going to just walk into a church out of curiosity and be converted, but they will be won by individuals like yourself who are brave enough to step out and share what God has done for you. It will be through a relationship with you that people will see and experience God and begin to want to know Him for themselves.
We know that in His closing words to the disciples, Jesus told them in Acts 1:8 that they would have Holy Spirit power to become His witnesses. Did you catch that? We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit not to be a judge or jury but to be witnesses for Christ. Jesus did not say, “You will receive power to be the judge” or “You will receive power to be the jury.” I’m not saying we shouldn’t examine the fruit in people’s lives or be used of God to bring correction to people when needed, but the world will not be won to Christ through us acting like a judge or a jury. They can, however, be converted if we accept the responsibility and command to be Christ’s witnesses. Friends, the world won’t be corrected until they are converted. I’m afraid if our main focus is on correcting the world instead of helping the world be converted to Christ, we are spinning our wheels and will live frustrated and exhausted because nothing will change. People won’t see a need for correction or life change or an ideology or attitude adjustment until their hearts are changed.
The opportunity for the world to know God was created by Jesus when He died on the cross for the sins of the world, but the plan to win the world to that opportunity is for you and I to open our mouths and declare what God has done for us. I Peter 2:9 says, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
God hasn’t saved and sanctified us so that we can gather in our holy huddle and cheer for each other to win at life. He has called us to get in the game by letting others know what God has done and can do for them.
II Corinthians 5:20 says, We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. When I last preached a sermon on this text, I asked the question, “Are you ambassading?” Are you testifying? Are you talking about Jesus to others? I know it can feel awkward at first, but once you start doing it, it will be exciting. It will be something you look forward to doing whenever you get the opportunity. With the remainder of my time, I want to help you come up with a strategy for sharing your testimony by looking at a snippet from the Apostle Paul’s life, a time where he shared his testimony, repeatedly.
It wasn’t the most convenient of circumstances for Paul in Acts 21. He was in Jerusalem and some fellow Jews who didn’t care for Paul’s teaching of the Gospel of Jesus which freed people from the excessive nature of the Jewish Law and who also didn’t care for the fact that Paul was teaching and preaching to people who weren’t Jewish, they decided to stir things up. They got the crowd of people who were in and around the Temple to turn on Paul and before long, verse 30, the whole city was incited against Paul. They started beating him, trying to kill him. Not exactly the moment you say, “Hang on a second, can I tell you what Jesus means to me?”
Well, when news reached the officials, they went to check out the situation and wound up arresting Paul, somewhat, I think, for his own safety. After re-reading the end of this chapter, I have new respect for Paul. Look at this: 37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”“Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago? 39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic[a]:
Are you tracking with me? In the worst possible circumstance, after having been beaten by a mob and then put into shackles by Roman officials, Paul asked to give his testimony to the people who just beat the snot out of him. Who does that? Church, I’m saying if he can witness under those circumstances, surely, we can talk to someone over lunch at Panera and a bunch of carbs. I mean, come on! And the way Paul shares his story gives us a template for how to share ours.
Look at Acts 22:3-4 Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,
Here we see Paul simply talk about what life was like before Christ. He talked about his upbringing. He mentioned his education, and he shared a detail about his training in Judaism being thorough. He even name-dropped. He said he studied under Gamaliel. Acts 5:34 informs us that Gamaliel was a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people. Paul hadn’t just finished his training, but he had trained with the Rabbi who was considered to be the best of the best. Paul was so committed to Judaism and its laws that he wanted to demolish anything that threatened that way of life, including the people who were touting the Good News about Jesus. Paul had Christians murdered.
That’s right. Before Paul met Christ, he murdered Christians. You don’t get any more opposed to Christianity than that. It’s one thing to be agnostic or atheist, but to try to kill those who follow Christ is as far as anyone could go to be in the opposite direction from Jesus.
As I see it, Paul placed more confidence in his education and in being in with the perceived “right religious crowd” than he did in the facts of Jesus’ resurrection. He preferred learning and leading by domination over listening and following something new, even though it was true. Paul was rigid and arrogant. Who he was before Christ was a religious zealot, living a life of works, trying to be good enough to impress God.
What was your life like before Christ? Were you drifting aimlessly? Were you all about money and status? Were you confused and searching for significance? Were you on a quest for truth through science or some kind of intellectual enlightenment? Were you living with fear or pain? Did you have questions about your identity or what mattered in life? Were you consumed by other people’s opinions, the need to be popular or to have a certain kind of image? Were you addicted to competition and the recognition that comes from winning? Did you have doubts? Did you look to addictive substances to give you peace? The answer to those questions gives you the first steps for the sharing of your story.
In Acts 22:6-7, Paul went on to testify as to how he met Christ. 6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! (Paul’s earlier name) Why do you persecute me?’ 8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. 10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
That was some heavy drama right there. I’m thinking God had to do something big, something dramatic, something unusual and powerful to get Paul’s attention. He was so fixed on his way and his intellect and his prowess and influence to get people to do what he wanted them to do whether through persuasion or intimidation, it was going to have to be pretty dramatic experience with God to move Paul to the point where he would step back and look at things from a different perspective.
This is the point of Paul’s conversion. We see in verse 10 that Paul submitted to God and did what God asked of him. I suppose you could argue that since God struck him blind, he didn’t have much choice, but he could have resisted. He had friends with him who would have taken him wherever he wanted to go, but what happened to him convinced him that God was speaking to him. He had to become blind and go through the humbling process of being led in order to understand how to begin to follow Christ.
How did you meet Jesus? Maybe there wasn’t a dramatic blinding light experience for you. Perhaps you gave your heart to the Lord at church camp when you were a child. Maybe there was a difficult life experience that caused you to seek the Lord out or maybe a friend just invited you to church and your interest grew from there. Your testimony about what caused you to interact with Jesus is an important piece of information because it helps people understand there has to be a defining moment. There has to be a moment of recognition that Jesus is Lord during which you surrender to His plan for your life in order to have a right relationship with God.
Paul went on to share that he not only had an encounter with God, but he also had an encounter with Ananias, one of Jesus’ followers. Look at verse 12: 12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
Like Paul, Ananias had been a devout and respected Jew, but at some point, he embraced what had been said about Jesus. At God’s direction, Ananias went to Paul to help him receive his sight and to give him a message about what God had planned for Paul.
You know, sometimes we have encounters with God, and in the moment, we know it is God, and then after it’s over we’re like, “Did that really happen? Did I get that right? Did something life-changing really happen or was it just an emotional or dramatic event?” When Paul received his sight, he could have questioned everything and maybe try to rationalize or explain it away. After all, his companions with him on the Damascus Road saw the light, but they couldn’t understand what the Voice had said to Paul. Was Paul’s mind playing tricks on him? Did he really hear from God?
I love that Ananias is inserted in this story because he was used by God to confirm that Paul wasn’t crazy. He wasn’t just hearing voices. His temporary blindness wasn’t some fluke thing. God spoke through Ananias to confirm to Paul that a new life awaited. He would go from persecuting Christians to promoting the Resurrected Christ as the Way to Jews and Gentiles alike. Ananias’s words confirmed to Paul that he had met the Risen Lord. He instructed Paul about his next steps, telling him he needed to be baptized.
Who is the Ananias in your life? Who has spoken the Word of God over you? Who told you that God had a plan for your life? Who invested in your spiritual progress and showed you the way to the next obedient step? Was it a Children’s Pastor? A Youth Pastor? A camp counselor? A God-parent? A grandparent or friend? Include that in your testimony.
Well, the rest of chapter and the first several verses of Acts 23 detail quite a bruhaha which caused Paul to get deeper in trouble with the authorities, but in Acts 23:11 Paul got an “Atta Boy” from the Lord. It reads, The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” So, Paul is in prison. No big deal for God. It was part of God’s plan. He had allowed him, in shackles, to share his testimony in Jerusalem, and Rome needed to hear it next. Well, some people desperately wanted Paul dead and when that became known, he got a transfer. Paul kept witnessing every chance he got.
He got handed off from person to person and finally wound up testifying to King Agrippa. He started at the beginning and told him the whole story in Acts 26 and then shared what he had been up to since his conversion in verses 19-20 and from there he was shipped off to Rome to stand trial which really meant God was sending him to Rome to testify.
So, Paul repeatedly got to share who he was before Christ, how he met Christ, how God had used Anaias to help him get off to a good start, and how his life had changed since Jesus came into his heart. That is what a testimony is about. What have you learned about God or the Bible or yourself since you became a Christian? How is your daily life different? What difference does knowing Jesus make when you think about passing from this life? How does a relationship with Jesus impact your peace, your joy, your sense of purpose, your hope, your ability to make good decisions? How has the way you live changed? Do you have a new sense of destiny or purpose? Do you handle life’s challenges differently with the Holy Spirit leading your mind and heart? These are the kinds of things people need to hear.
You don’t have to know everything there is to know about Jesus before you can be His witness. You just need to know what He’s done for you. You’re the only one with that story, friends. Your story is unique. Your story will connect with people that mine won’t. It has to be told. People love stories. They connect with stories. I’m not talking about a theological discourage or a debate over Bible passages, I’m talking about you sharing your Jesus’ story with someone.
When you share your story you become a signpost, pointing people to the Way, the Truth and the Life. When you share your story, you become a resource for the person who has the same struggles. When you share your story, you create space for God to work in people’s minds and hearts. When you share your story you give glory to God for all that He has done.
In the last two weeks I have had two people write their testimony and share it with me. Powerful stories. Stories I am looking for a way to have shared with you. Confirmation we all need to be serious about preparing our own testimony. I Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
You know how you felt when you saw a few words on the Cardboard Testimonies that were shared, how encouraged you were to see life-change and the difference God has made. Whether you like it or not, if you follow Christ, you’re on the team, and no one is supposed to be sitting on the bench. Get in the game and tell your story!