I was thinking about “the testimony of Jesus” and what that means. I suppose to a lot of people it means telling the good news of the gospel–Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead. This is not something trivial to be set aside; however, more importantly than a gospel that presents salvation from some ethereal death and separation, is a gospel which people find relevant to every day life.
It is easy and simply to sit down with a person and tell them how their souls may be saved… as easy as 1,2,3 for that matter. It is much more difficult to sit and listen to a person’s problems and say, “Well, in your situation, here is practical, relevant ‘salvation’ for you. If Jesus were in your shoes, he would _____.” It usually doesn’t work that way either. People don’t want advice or idealistic theology, they want comfort for their pain, or money to pay their bills, or companionship in their loneliness, or healing for their ills.
When a Christian has nothing to offer but words, then there is nothing more to be said. A believer in Jesus should be able to say, “Here is where I hurt; here is where I lack; here is where I am lonely; but in all this pain and lack and loneliness, I find real comfort, companionship, and provision in my relationship with a living savior… You can, too.” Then people begin to listen, not only with their ears, but also with their hearts. They don’t want to hear that once they become a partner with Christ, then all their troubles will be over. That is a fairy-tale gospel that they cannot believe in–because they have observed for years the hypocrisy in the church. Too many have preached a “happily-ever-after” gospel and lived lives of misery before their unsaved family members, neighbors, and co-workers. Anyone who is honest will know that Christians suffer pain, divorce, unhappy circumstances, and financial hardships right along with the rest of the world around them.
What draws a person to Christ is not to hear and see a person hiding behind a facade of “Jesus makes me happy, happy, happy!” What draws a person to Christ is to see the reality of how a person lives in this present world of hardships and deals with those circumstances in real emotional response, and then in utter dependence on God however the circumstances work themselves out. This is the testimony of Jesus… that we are real people with real problems depending on a God who saves us from ourselves and our misery. This is the testimony of Jesus… that we can suffer hardship and still trust in a God we do not understand. This is the testimony of Jesus… that we can love our enemies, bless our persecutors, and trust when there is no logical reason to trust beyond the promise that He will never forsake us.
It is beyond human understanding or ability to explain, and it is abstract beyond abstract thinking. What? Spirit is greater than flesh? The unseen is more real than the seen? This is outside the box of boundaries in which so many attempt to hide themselves, in an effort to feel more secure. What it gives to the observer, however, is a hunger to find the kind of satisfaction and freedom that cannot be explained. It is a willingness to reach down into the core of the soul and draw out the deepest wounds in order to find that the Holy Spirit can heal where healing was not thought possible. It is the discovery that God is real beyond the reality of physical existence or mere survival. It is a desire that can only be satisfied by reaching out to Jesus.
This is the essence of the testimony of Jesus. He did not come into the world simply to bring life eternal, although that is a side benefit. He came into the world to bring life more abundant. To simply exist is to be dead. To truly live with passion, now there is something that everyone should want to have a part in! It is not our mission to simply offer a reward that comes sometime, somewhere, undetermined and unreachable for this day, hour, or minute of living. It is our mission to live before the unsaved a life that says, “Our God is genuine. Jesus is a living Savior. The Holy Spirit gives you a life more real than you ever dreamed possible… And you can have that life NOW, if you only ask Him.”
As Francis of Assisi says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel… and if necessary use words.” Words mean nothing without a life to back them up, but a life lived under the power of His Spirit requires only a few choice words here and there to impact the hungry observer. THIS IS THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS.