Every new year feels like a blank sheet of paper without a scratch made on it yet. It’s beautiful, white, and clean but made to be written on. And we’re made to write it. The pages of the last three years are laid out next to me on my desk. I can’t help a long look of awe. Every inch of each one is covered in words, big and small (depending on how confident I was when I wrote them). Some parts are smudgy and certainly not as pretty as I’d like them to be. Others are written with the flourish and flamboyant style of a girl that’s used to making a big impression in bright red. The names of a dozen countries and thousands of people are written there. Some people’s names are written in gold, like the treasure they became to me then. Every page before these three are less remarkable somehow; it’s as if life suddenly became more alive and full of the sweet presence of God’s glory these last three years. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I am teaching a discipleship class for teenagers and twenty-somethings called Transformation; we’re talking about a concept a lot of people struggle to understand. When we use the term, testimony, in a court case, it’s clear to us that the idea is for a witness to simply give an account of what he or she experienced, defending it sometimes when cross-examined by the prosecuting attorney. However, when we use testimony in the context of a believer in Jesus Christ, the concept suddenly becomes confusing and ambiguous to us. Why? Do we remember how Jesus saved us? Are we afraid? Our eyes were opened to a life-changing reality and we can’t go back to life as usual, crawling back under the covers as if we’d never gotten up that morning. If we do, it’s even more dangerous for us than if we were to stand up and give testimony to the truth. It’s common knowledge that the prosecutor is going to cross-examine us. He always does. Are we scared of being questioned or hunted down by the bad guys for squealing?
As a class, we’re writing it all out. Through tears and cries of “Oh God wow!” we’re putting on paper the stories of what Jesus did to bring us to life, picking Bible verses that meant the most to us. It’s scary for some. One class member has already been beaten for talking about Jesus, one has been ridiculed by his family, another one is now the brunt of nasty comments from former friends who don’t understand the changes he’s making. Yet another still endures sex jokes and pressure to go back to her old life and fulfill physical cravings. It’s obvious, these guys have already been experiencing some cross-examination; the prosecuting attorney wears the face of people they know intimately and he knows a great deal too much about their past record. It’s a battle every morning to wake up anew like we did the first day we experienced new life. But Jesus said in Luke 21:12-19
“before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.”
Every person’s testimony has four parts: 1. Past life – what we looked like a few years ago, the story of our long-gone history B.C. (Before Christ).
2. Conviction – when the stirring of wakefulness started and we began to feel like something was missing or needed to change
3. Salvation – that pin-prick of light that suddenly burst into open sunlight on our face when we realized that Jesus was our savior
4. Transformation – the changes that have been taking place in our life now that we’ve received Jesus (our new outlook with Him at the center)
Isaiah 8 says “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” Our testimony of Jesus Christ isn’t mystic mumbo-jumbo. Listen intently to what we say and watch our lives when we say Jesus changed us. If we aren’t lining every page of our lives with God’s word, we’re still just sleep talking.
In many ways, glancing back over our shoulder at what was gives us the opportunity to remember who we are. When you receive Jesus, it’s the most powerful, life-altering experience anyone can have. It’s your experience! Why wouldn’t you want to tell everyone about it and write it on every inch of your clean page this year?