“I, John, … was on the island called Patmos because of God’s word and the testimony about Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).
Many years ago, after I began following Jesus and began participating in my church’s youth discipleship program, those of us in my discipleship group learned how to share our personal testimony, among other things. We learned that no one could argue with our testimony because it was a genuine personal experience. I learned the process thoroughly, and have taught others what I learned.
A testimony consists of three basic parts. Part one answers the question, “What was my life like before knowing Jesus? Part two answers, “What circumstances led up to me choosing to follow Jesus? Finally, the third testimony part answers, “What difference is my relationship with Jesus making in my life today? Testimonies matter.
But, while a personal testimony is valuable, believers should learn and use other evangelistic tools, too. For instance, learn to tell Jesus’ story. Here is why. During my seminary years, The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) released Shirley MacLaine’s TV mini-series “Out on a Limb.” IMDb.com described the series as, “The supposed true story of Shirley MacClaine’s [sic] experience with a spiritual awakening.” The mini-series told her “testimony” of experiences with New Age teachings. While no one can argue with the testimony of what happened to MacLaine, her story is not necessarily beneficial. No one could argue that events did not happen as she claimed, but the message of her “testimony” was far from biblical. Most Christians dismissed her story.
When a person tells his or her personal testimony, others can respond by saying or thinking, “Well, that’s nice for you, but it means nothing to me.” Personal testimonies, though they are indisputable, can be dismissed. That is why Christians should learn how to tell the testimony of Jesus, in addition to telling what Jesus means to them. Christians must learn to affirm and testify accurately to the facts the Bible teaches about Christ.
Notice what John caused John’s exile to Patmos, “the word of God and the testimony about Jesus.” Later in the same book, John revisited that idea, “the testimony about Jesus” (12:17, 19:10). John concerned himself more with talking about Jesus than with talking about his own life. The testimony about Jesus put him at odds with the government of his day and placed him in exile, not the testimony about his own life. Plainly, the testimony about Jesus is more powerful than a personal testimony.
Just as in a witness in a court of law must tell the truth, Christians must tell the truth about Jesus. The world is full of misconceptions about Christ. As His followers and family members, only Christians can the record straight. So, how do believers tell the testimony of Jesus? Like a testimony has three parts, the testimony about Jesus consists of three truths.
Truth One: Jesus is the creator of all things. John 1:3 says about Jesus, “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.” Two common religious teachings contradict the Bible relating to this truth. First, Jesus was not the first being created by God, as some teach. He was not an archangel who, once created, then created everything else. Since nothing was made, except the things Jesus made, how could he be a created being? Second, Jesus did not come from another star system with his father and others to gather up pre-existing materials and form our planet from them, as another “holy” book teaches. The Bible says, “…by Him everything was created in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
Truth Two: Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. He is not one path among many. Some popular philosophies hold that all religions teach the same thing, and that they all lead to God, eventually. Christ’s own words contradict those philosophies. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Peter also affirmed, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Later, Paul the apostle wrote that there are no co-mediators between God and humanity in addition to Jesus. He is the only one. Paul said, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, a man, Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Truth Three: Jesus is God in the flesh. The Bible says in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus said about himself, “The one who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is not merely a skilled teacher, an accurate prophet, a thought-provoking philosopher or a courageous martyr. He is the uniquely divine, one-of-a-kind (this is the meaning of the Greek word “monogenes,” which is used to describe Jesus). He is the incarnate Son of God. Responding to Jesus’ claims, C. S. Lewis proposed the argument of lord, liar, or lunatic. He said, Jesus’ claim to divinity is either true – and he is Lord of all – or else Jesus was crazy (a lunatic) or lied about himself. There are no other options.
A person’s beliefs about Jesus make a difference. Jesus himself said that false messiahs would arise (Mat. 24:5,24; Mark 13:21-22). Their purpose would be deception. He said that many of them would come in his name, so Christians must be watchful and discerning. They must also tell Jesus’ story.
Those who tell the testimony about the true Jesus, may find that their truthfulness causes them personal pain and trouble, as it did for John. Critics, indeed, may apply the label “judgmental” to individuals advocating and following Jesus’ claims. Critic’s attacks may be unpleasant, but a saint’s sufferings are far less devastating than the suffering that awaits those who trust their eternal destiny to a false messiah.
Think about your friends and loved ones. Are you leading them to the true Christ? Are you proclaiming the testimony about Jesus? Or, are your friends and loved ones trusting false messiahs or other false hopes? What you tell them makes an eternity of difference.