The power of God doesn’t work in a life of sin. When we are living in sin, we have His chastening upon us, not His anointing. Certainly God, in His goodness, might sometimes choose to use a testimony from someone who is living with sin. But my experience is that He will not consistently bless the testifying of a believer who is not striving to walk with Him.
To take up His cross and follow Him means
to obey Him by sharing God’s love
in a needy world.
The solution to all this is not to give up on sharing Jesus but instead to get things right with God. God has provided the process of repentance, forgiveness, and reformation to enable us to clear our relationship with Him and move out once again in speaking of Him. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). To deny ourselves means to turn from the sins that we delight in. To take up His cross and follow Him means to obey Him by sharing God’s love in a needy world.
To Tell the Truth
When I share Jesus with individuals or groups (such as the Hell’s Angels and terrorists I mentioned earlier), I could embellish my testimony to make it seem more dramatic. I could describe myself as being older than seven years when I was saved, with a hardened nature and a long history of committing terrible sins. I could say that my salvation shook me mightily, instantly changing my character as from night to day, instead of being the peaceful experience it actually was. I could embellish, but that would be wrong, not to mention counterproductive. We should always tell the simple truth when sharing our testimony with others. The truth is powerful; lying is weak.
I have known people who smoked a little pot before coming to Christ, and as they have told their testimony, their drug use gets worse and worse until you would believe they had been addicted to heroin. Likewise, someone who had a brush with the law, after telling the story again and again, might leave the impression that he was a brutal criminal who did hard time in jail.
Don’t be ashamed of your testimony, however
tame it might seem to you.
People who embellish this way might get the reaction of “Wow!” from others that they are looking for. But that doesn’t mean they are having anymore impact on them for Christ’s cause. And I have observed that, over time, they tend to fall away from Christ themselves because they are living a lie.
Don’t be ashamed of your testimony, however tame it might seem to you. Just tell it truthfully and naturally. When you embellish your testimony, you lose its power because it is not real in your heart. So just let your testimony be your testimony—that’s all you need. Even if you do have a dramatic testimony, don’t dwell on its worldly aspects. There’s no need to go into graphic detail about your former sin; a general statement about it is sufficient. For instance, no one needs to know any details about your former sexual promiscuity. We don’t need to know how much money you made selling drugs. We just need to know that you admit to being a sinner who was saved by the mercy of God.
Now, there may be some exceptions. For example, when a former prostitute is sharing Jesus with prostitutes, she most likely will choose to let them know that she used to be where they are. But even in a situation like this, the purpose remains glorifying Christ, not glorifying sin.
A lot of the problems with embellishing testimonies come in when people don’t plan ahead of time what they are going to say. They wing it and then they get carried away. That’s why I encourage you to write down your testimony in advance. Prayerfully decide what to include in your testimony, every detail true to the facts.
Actually, I recommend that you prepare three versions of your testimony: short, medium, and long.
Let’s say you are talking with a stranger on the street, and you think you may have very little time to discuss Jesus with this person. In that case, you may want to share your testimony in just a minute or two. That’s your short version.
Your medium-length version may come in handy in a situation such as when you are having lunch with a friend who is an unbeliever. Here you might want to give your testimony in five minutes or so, offering some more background and details.
Finally, you may have a chance to have an extended conversation with an unbeliever. For example, you may be on a plane trip overseas, and you and your seatmate have nothing better to do than to talk for hours. Here you will be free to give the full-length version of your testimony, explaining exactly what happened when you were saved and what your life with Jesus has been like.
After writing down the three versions of your testimony, practice sharing them with a friend. Get his or her feedback, then practice some more until you feel comfortable sharing each version. The next step is simply to get out there and share your testimony with someone who needs Jesus. This is the best “practice” of all!
Attracted or Repelled
My wife, Denise, came to Christ when she was crying in a London park, on the brink of despair, and an African lady came up to see if she was okay and then told her how she could know Jesus. In a nutshell, that’s her testimony. But she also has an anti-testimony—a story of how believers failed to bring her to Christ.
Years earlier, when Denise was studying in Cambridge, she stepped into the room of a fellow student and saw a Bible by her bed. The other young woman became embarrassed and tried to hide the Bible. But Denise was truly interested in this book, so she kept asking about it. The timid follower of Christ admitted that she studied the Bible but said she didn’t want to talk about it.
On another occasion, a work colleague shared about a Bible study that she was hosting at her home and said that the group would be meeting soon. But when Denise asked if she could attend, the woman said, “Oh, it is only for Christians.” Denise was crushed and never did join that group of Christians. She went on to conduct her own spiritual search, resorting to the New Age, the occult, and other falsehoods that began a destructive pattern in her life.
The young college student and the work colleague did many things wrong when they had prime opportunities to share Jesus with Denise. For one thing, their attitude was all wrong. When we are sharing Jesus, we should project an image of love for others as well as excitement about their coming to know Jesus.
When you are sharing Jesus, smile. Be positive. Laugh with others. Be friendly and show an interest. Let your face shine with joy. And as you act this way around non-believers, they will be drawn to you and—more importantly—to Christ. There is power in passion, and we want the glory of God to come through in our lives.
The fact is, people can sense from your disposition what your relationship with God is like. Your attitude will either be attractive, drawing others toward Jesus, or it will be repulsive, pushing them away. And more than that, people will remember what impression you leave.
I’ve known unbelievers who have said such things as “You know, my roommate in college talked to me about Jesus. He was a great guy, too; treated me well.” This unbeliever did not get saved back in college, but his experience was a positive one and so he remained open to hearing more about Jesus. That’s what can happen when we are loving and gracious toward people.
On the other hand, I have known people who somewhere along the line met followers of Jesus who were grim or prideful or condemning. As a result, they became closed to any mention of Jesus. Getting them to consider His claims further is uphill work.
May we always be people who help others open up more to Jesus.
Now, I realize that no matter how friendly and winsome our attitude is some people will reject Christ. After all, the cross of Christ is a “stumbling block” or “foolishness” to many (1 Corinthians 1:23). But we should always strive to see that, if offense is taken, it is because of the cross and not because of us.
As I have carried a cross around the world, many have come up to me with belligerent attitudes. But that’s okay—that’s the “offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11). I try to joke and laugh with them and get them to talk with me about Jesus, for then I might be able to help them see what the cross can really mean to them.
Even when unbelievers choose not to receive Jesus, so long as our presentation is a positive one, it gives them hope. As they see our sincerity, they become convinced that at least we believe in Jesus. Maybe, they think, they ought to give Him another chance. They are on the road to trusting in God’s Son.
This is the power of a personal testimony when it is truthful and loving. It helps people to see that our lives have been changed by Jesus and that theirs can be too. It opens them up to our sharing with them how they can come to know Jesus for themselves—and then have their own testimony of Jesus.
Begin sharing your personal testimony today!
Questions to Consider
• What points should you cover in the long, medium,
and short versions of your testimony?
• When you are giving your testimony, how can
you make your manner more appealing?
• What unbeliever will be the first person you give
your testimony to?
I will teach transgressors Your ways, and
sinners shall be converted to You.
One day in 1995, while in New Zealand, I was carrying the cross beside a highway that followed the seacoast. Suddenly, up ahead, I heard a scream. It came from a woman who looked to be about thirty-five years old and who was wearing jogging clothes. She had come from the beach and was racing toward me, crying out, “The cross! The cross!” As she neared me, she asked in a breathless voice, “What are you carrying the cross for?”
I could tell she was upset, and I feared it might be because she did not like the cross of Jesus. But regardless, I began telling her about my journey of carrying the cross around the world. Before I got far, though, she stopped me and told me her story.
For years, this woman had lived in Wellington, one of the major cities of New Zealand. But in time, people in her life had disappointed her, her dreams had been shattered, and her spirit had become sunk in depression. So two years earlier she had moved to a cottage by the sea in this remote part of the nation, hoping she would find peace. But in those two years, her life had gotten no better. She was in despair. On this day, she told me, she had planned to run into the sea and drown herself. But before doing so, she had cried out to heaven, “God—if there is a God—I need life! Show me a sign.” Just then she looked up and saw my cross!
The woman said to me, “I have come to the cross. I need life.” And she burst into tears.
I began to share with her. “We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. But God loved us so much that Jesus came to this earth, born of the Virgin Mary, andlived without sin and overcame sin. Jesus did mighty works and showed His power over all the universe.
“Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our sins. He was buried and was raised on the third day. Many saw Jesus alive during the next weeks, and then He ascended into heaven. “Jesus lives today, and He will hear your prayer if you call out to Him. Jesus will come into your life and will give you a new birth. The Holy Spirit will live within you, and you will have peace with God and be a part of the family of God forever.”
I then held the woman’s hand and prayed for her. Next, I asked her to repeat after me a prayer: “Dear God, I need You. I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins and for me. As best I know how, I welcome Jesus into my life and repent of my sins. Jesus, save me and make my home in heaven. I forgive everyone and want to live with You, Jesus, now and forever. Please give me eternal life now. Thank You, Jesus!”
I will never forget her shining, tear-filled eyes and smiling face as she looked at me and said, “Now I have life.” Then I shared with her some scriptures to help her know what Jesus had done in her life, to give her assurance of His continuing presence, and to encourage her to grow in her walk with Jesus and get into a good church. I look forward to the day when we will meet again in heaven and will celebrate life for eternity.