Monday, March 13, 2006

What A Testimony Is Not (2)

All right, now that we've seen the three major examples of what a testimony is not, I'd like to take a look at someone who had every "right" to have that kind of testimony. His name is none other than the Apostle Paul. In Philippians 3 he remarks that he has the exact testimony that I am writing against:
For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh--though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.
That's a pretty powerful resume. Paul has a testimony about growing up "in church," about who his family is, and about his adherence to the teachings of the law. All in all, on the surface he looks like a righteous person. Surely this guy is going to heaven! But Paul flatly rejected his former testimony. Philippians 3 goes on to say:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith--that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
With this statement, Paul squarely places his testimony in the hands of Christ. His "story" is found in a righteousness that depends on faith in Christ--faith in his death and resurrection. One thing I have always found interesting about Paul is found in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
If he knew nothing among the Corinthians but Christ and him crucified, that heavily implies that his testimony could have been nothing else. Over the past year, I find myself more and more wanting to know exactly what it looks like to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. I want to know how to shape my own testimony, preaching and teaching to this concept. I don't want a 4.5 Calvinist testimony or a Gen-Xer testimony or a Southern alum testimony or even a Deaf testimony. I want a testimony that is nothing less than Christ and him crucified, period. Everything else is window dressing. Furthermore, in Colossians 2:8-15 Paul equates anything less than this with "philosophy and empty deceit." Any testimony that is "not according to Christ" is nothing more than empty deceit. Lip service. Fake. And the scary thing is that unless there is a validation of Christ and his atoning work, the testimonies of thousands of Christians in our churches have just been immediately disqualified. Okay, this is enough for the moment. Later this week we'll begin thinking about what a testimony actually is. Paul also has some very good examples of a testimony of Christ and him crucified, so I encourage you to take a look!

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