In the years I served in youth ministry and in teaching in Christian schools, I often encountered young people in a state of crisis over the meaning and value of their Christian testimonies. Usually, these young people were disturbed over the idea that their testimony was not nearly as dramatic as some other peoples’ testimonies, particularly the people who often give their testimonies in front of large crowds. You might have heard these testimonies yourself–the person who was addicted to drugs or alcohol, the person who served time in prison, the ex-sniper with 25 kills in Afghanistan, or the one who was a bagman for the mob and had a contract out on his life–all of whom had a miraculous change of heart and were born again in a blaze of glorious light. When the average sixteen year old in my youth group compared his own seemingly ordinary life growing up in a Christian home with these accounts of massive conversions, he would be tempted to think that maybe his conversion wasn’t genuine, and perhaps his standing before the Lord was not as secure.
Is the Christian testimony really understood as being one’s story of how he came to faith in Christ? Is it really possible that one person’s salvation from deep sin is more miraculous than the salvation of the seven year old growing up in a home of quiet faithful Christ followers? When John says in Revelation 12.11 that the saints overcame the devil “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” is he referring to the personal narratives of how particular individuals were converted?
Scripture defines the Christian testimony in very different terms that our contemporary culture does. Look especially to John’s gospel to see how Jesus gave a testimony to Who He was, Who sent Him, why He was sent, and what He was to do. The Apostle John gave a testimony to the gospel as he was an eyewitness to the details of Jesus’ Person and Work (John 21.24). Paul and Barnabas gave a testimony to “the word of His grace” (Acts 14.3) in Iconium. In short, the Christian testimony is defined in the New Testament as the gospel itself (I Cor 2.1-2).
In I Cor 15.3-4, Paul wrote, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” The Christian testimony has Christ at the center, not the individual’s experience of conversion. It points to the power of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, not to the dramatic stories of sins and repentance, no matter how genuine or powerful. Finally, the Christian testimony is informed first of all by the Bible, and not by one’s own narrative.
Our testimony as Christians is that Jesus came in the flesh, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and on the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven and He sat down at the right hand of the Father. One day will come again in the same manner by which He departed. This testimony is verified by eyewitness accounts in Scripture, confirmed by the acts of the saints over the past 2000 years, and shared by every believer in the world. It is absolute truth, and is not determined by any one person’s subjective experiences. Thus, the Christian testimony is equally meaningful, special, valuable–even miraculous–for everyone: the seven year old who was led to Christ by his faithful mother as well as the hardened prisoner of death row who was born again in his cell.
That is the beauty of the Christian testimony as defined for us by Scripture: it is transcendent, objective, miraculous, and will never pass away.