In today’s Sunday School class we studied the apostle Paul’s personal testimony and we closed the class with the challenge that if you haven’t written out your personal testimony, then you should. It is one of the most powerful tools you have as a Christian to share the Gospel with others. They may disagree with it but they cannot deny it. Like the song goes, “I was there when it happened, so I guess I ought to know.”
There are three essential elements that go into an effective testimony. The first element is what were you before you were saved. You are not trying to tell all of the stories of your life, just enough to validate that you were on the wrong track. Essentially, it will boil down to I was trying to go through life without Jesus to forgive, love and guide me.
The second essential element is What Happened? What occurred that caused you to see that you were on the wrong road and how did you discover the right road? The circumstances will probably be unique and different but the outcome will wind up as a personal experience with the one who died in your place and is now alive and you now know who He is, Jesus. If this had never happened to you then you still don’t know for sure. If it has, then it caused a life changing direction in your life and you are now dependent upon and a follower of, Jesus, who is the Christ. (Jn 7:17)
The third essential element is What changes has this experience made in your life? If there has been no changes and you are living just as you were before this experience then there is a problem with your testimony. It could be that you did not meet the Lord but were dependent upon an experience or something other than the Lord. If you meet him then there will be a change. It may take a while for you to learn to listen to His voice or to know when He is guiding you but change will certainly happen. If there is no change then it is worth finding out why. It could also be because you have some doctrine (teachings) that you hold that contradict with the Bible. If you truly want to know then read you bible and He will show you the error. It may be painful to discover that what you always thought was so was really tradition or even superstition. Another possibility is that you have been deceived in some manner and you need a trustworthy source that will aid you in your search.
You should write it out then review it. Then see if you can improve it. Then use it and then go over it some more so that you have the document that accurately relays your story. It is one of your most effective means of sharing the gospel.
Nice weather as we have had the past couple days gives me a bad case of spring fever. Spring is my favorite time of year. Everything seems to point to New Life as plants and animals awaken from winters hibernation. The days get longer and milder and thoughts turn to better days.
One of the big events is the garden. You may say it is way to early to be thinking about that but even before you plant it there is the cleanup from last years garden. Then there is the preparation of the ground and the starting of the seedlings so that you can get a head start on the growth time. Today I finished cleaning up from last years garden and even added a new planting area in my back yard.
So why would I go through all the work of working the soil and edging it with the stones? Because the plants need more sun than they were getting in my existing garden spot.
Just as the plants need a lot of sun shine to be able to grow the vegetables we eat so also we need a lot of SON shine on our lives to provide us the proper nourishment we need to grow spiritually. Just as I had to make an adjustment to my gardening we also need to make adjustment to our lives if we are not getting adequate time with the Lord.
The farmer plants good grain and allows it to face the elements and die that it might live again and produce its fruit. He suffers the loss of the seed because he believes in a harvest. It is an exercise of faith in God’s goodness to bless us with the things we need.
The prison that I want to discuss today is that of having a COMPLEX. There are different types of complexes such as inferiority, superiority, persecution, invincibility, etc. A complex is a perception about oneself that is believed because of a collection of pieces of information that may or may not be interrelated or complete. Several things go together to compile this belief such as emotion, success or failure, reports, bullying, prejudices. desires, etc. However true or false the belief actually is, the person with the complex believes it to be true. Often the case is not open for discussion so responding to the situation is extremely difficult. It is not until the one with the complex comes to see the belief in relation to the full picture and not just a perception that real progress is made.
I often use the illustration of 4 people looking at a cup in the center of a table. They are all looking at the same cup at the same time. One sees a cup with a handle on the left, the person on their left sees a cup with the handle in the middle of the cup, the person on their left sees a cup with the handle on the right and the remaining person sees a cup with no handle at all. This illustrates that perception is not the full picture and that a person that has a complex does not have a grasp on the full picture either. It is probably impossible to talk someone with a complex out of their position. If you are to help them you must first come along side of them and support their individual worth. Relationship building takes time and love and a quick fix is highly improbable. Then little by little you can examine each bit of information as it is presented to you. They need to see their perception in light of the greater truth so that they can unlock the chains that bind them because they are the ones that locked themselves in their own prison by their own acceptance of perception as truth.
The Bible declares that a person’s soul is more valuable than the whole world. It is important for a person with a complex to see their value to Jesus and that He is come to give us life, real victory, not just a way to cope with life. He will set us free from the imprisonment of our complex to live that life that is overflowing with abundance. That is the message that they need to embrace.
Its that time of year when we file our taxes. I know that many of us would like for the whole process to just go away or at least become simpler. We remind each other so that we can get it done. It was in one of these discussions we had with one of our daughters that she said she just found out that you can deduct your church giving from your taxable income. I couldn’t believe what she just said. She is 50 years old and just found out that was okay? She said that it just didn’t seem right that we could get money for giving to the church. I explained that the government isn’t giving us money for giving to the church but is just not taxing on the money we give. It a principle that was established from the beginning of our nation. The government recognized that it benefits from the church’s benevolence so it allows contributions as an exemption to taxation.
It reminded me how so many people do not understand the grace of God. There are so many, even in the church, that feel that everything must be earned. A common saying is “there is no free ride”. If it required that we earn everything by our merit then none of us would be able to meet the conditions for salvation as Ro 3:23 says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And again in Ga 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. Salvation is a free gift as seen in Ro 5:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. Adam sinned and all of us became sinners so the second Adam died so that all of us could be free. The way is open to everyone but we must appropriate it in order to receive the benefit. We appropriate it by our placing ourselves under his authority and Lordship over us. Otherwise we do not receive the benefit of eternal life just as one who never claimed the deduction on his taxes for the giving would not receive the deduction. Grace is unmerited favor and it is offered because there would be no hope without it.