I have the joy and privilege to lead the college agers small group, alongside my fiancée, every Monday evening. We have a rather large small group that’s comprised of a wonderful mix of Campbell students, CBC “homegrown” 18-25 year olds, young couples, and their friends. Every week, I’m encouraged by their desire to grow in Christ, live in Christian community, and simply enjoy one another’s company. Most of the spring semester was spent walking through the book of Ecclesiastes. I thought about writing about our study, but decided it would be meaningless… then again, all is meaningless! (If you didn’t realize that was a joke, read practically every other verse in Ecclesiastes and you’ll understand.)
Since that study wrapped up, we’ve been spending time to intentionally talk about what God has done in our lives through sharing our testimonies. It’s been an immense blessing to hear one another being vulnerable and transparent while pointing each other to God’s great work in their lives. Since most of us have been together for the school year, or at least this semester, there is a level of trust and openness that allows for deep, meaningful conversations to occur naturally.
If you’re anything like me, I’m more often than not hesitant to openly share my testimony in a group setting. When you grew up in church and your testimony doesn’t include a dramatic before and after life change, it’s easy to view your own testimony as less powerful in comparison to those saved from x, y, z.
That’s a lie from the devil to keep you quiet.
Every testimony of salvation is powerful because God took you from death to life. He freed you from the bondage of sin. He gave you His Spirit to dwell in you.
And that’s worth sharing! Why?
1. Your testimony is more about God than it’s about you.
When you share what your life was like before Christ and compare to your life after Christ, the difference is obvious: CHRIST! Whenever you share your story, make sure it points others back to God. Nothing we have done or can do to “be better” is from our own strength or goodwill. Transformation is found in humble obedience to God and faith in His power to change your heart. The Spirit at work in us is our story. The good news of the Gospel is our story. The heart of God is our story.
2. The more you share, the more natural it becomes.
Practice makes perfect, right? God doesn’t desire for us to remain silent when it comes to His goodness. Make it a habit to share what God is doing in your life to other people. You don’t have to formally share your testimony to a group of people that often, or ever. But I believe that there are times every day that we can speak truth and encouragement into the lives of others. God puts people in our path that need hope. Be ready and eager to share!
3. You need reminding.
We are forgetful people. We too easily fail to remember that God has done a mighty work. He has made promises that He has kept. He has answered prayers. He has done exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine. And He’ll do it again. The more we recount God’s faithfulness and goodness, the more our eyes become fixed on Him. Forget yourself. Forget your circumstances. Remember Christ.
4. It’s never over.
The testimony I shared in high school is different (and a lot shorter) than the testimony I share now. Granted, you don’t have to share every single detail each time you share your testimony. Follow God’s lead and know your audience so they hear what God wants them to hear. My point is, as you grow in your walk with Christ and life happens, your testimony will expand. There will be more answered prayers, comforts in loss, peace in storms, and unmerited blessings to share.
If it’s been a while since you’ve shared your testimony – I encourage you to do so. Start in a safe space with a friend, family member, or your small group. Be ready to share with a non-believer. They need to hear the Gospel and they need to see God at work in the lives of ordinary people. For His glory, share your story!
Recently, our family stumbled across the globally popular tv show called The Chosen. If you haven’t heard, it is the first multi-seasonal show on the life of Jesus. I tend to be overly critical when it comes to visual representations of the Bible because they require writers to make assumptions about missing details in Scripture. However, the creators of this show were very intentional to fill those gaps without taking away or adding to the Gospel message.
Don’t worry, this isn’t an advertisement. I simply wanted to share what the show led me to consider. The show does an excellent job highlighting the humanity of Jesus and the disciples. It is fascinating to compare the humanity of Jesus and the disciples throughout the show.
I found myself wondering what Jesus was like. What human aspects did He have? I have been reading in the Old Testament for a while, so I turned to the New Testament to observe Jesus’ humanity this week. We know that Jesus had a human body that grew like ours (Luke 2:40). We know that He got hungry (Matthew 4:2), thirsty (John 19:28), and tired (John 4:6). We also know that He experienced temptation (Luke 4:1-2). These are all characteristics He shared with the disciples and us, yet Jesus never sinned. It is such a simple truth, but it is foundational to our faith.
But then I look at the disciples. They were hungry, thirsty, tired, and tempted, just like Jesus. Yet, they complained (John 6:60-61), bickered (Luke 9:46), and sinned (John 18:15-18). I can certainly relate to the disciples. I strive to follow Jesus’ example, but sin just always gets in the way. I always miss the mark.
Jesus is a glimpse into what humanity was supposed to look like! He is a glimpse into what humanity will look like again!
Jesus is the true example we are to follow in both character and conduct. He regularly prayed (Luke 10:21), worshiped at the synagogue (Luke 4:16), read and memorized Scripture (Matthew 4:4-10), and observed the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). He knew when to be silent (Matthew 27:12), and He knew when to speak.
The disciples might have complained, bickered, and sinned, but Jesus still used them to spread the Gospel! And He still uses sinful humans to accomplish kingdom work. Though Jesus is no longer physically here on Earth, we can still learn from His life. This week find ways to be more like Jesus.
Here we are. Easter 2021. In some ways this weekend is a type of chronological marker. It was only a few weeks prior to Easter Sunday 2020 that society embarked into the murky waters of a global pandemic. So, here we are. One year later.
For the last year, most of us have been socially cocooned to one degree or another. One month, two months, three months, alright. But now we stand at thirteen months and feel the brunt of the pandemic. Our social equilibrium has been upset. Relationships have been strained, if not nearly dissolved. For many, personal anxiety remains at or near flood-stage. Mix in the home office and the virtual classroom, and we have lived in a social swirl.
Take into account the various aberrations of Christian community as expressed in the locally gathered church — which is God’s good means of grace for our lives — and the past year has been tough on the soul.
Let me state my point plainly: the people of God are in desperate need of revival.
What is revival? When God gives his people a hug. It’s a seasonal intensification of the normal functions and operations of the Holy Spirit. Revival is a special, sovereign supernatural act when God draws near, when he moves among his people, and when he becomes their heart’s deepest affection.
As James wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (Jm. 4:8)
Some have outlined marks of revival as —
- Self-denial: A deep hunger for and dependence on God
- Spiritual service: An intense desire to serve the church and glorify Christ
- Anointed worship: A great awareness of the presence and holiness of God
- Recovered gospel: A strong desire to know and study God’s Word
- Repentance of sin: A sobering sensitivity to personal and corporate sin
- Extraordinary prayer: A fervent desire to pray and pursue personal purity
- Church growth: A numerical growth in salvations, baptisms and members
- Spirit filling: An abundance of joy and assurance of salvation
- Cultural impact: An increased boldness in missions and evangelism
And today is Easter. Let’s not miss this moment. God is presenting each of us with a unique opportunity to worship him, to draw near to him, to focus on the glorious resurrection of his Son, the Lord Jesus. If the resurrection of Christ does not bring spiritual life, revival and vitality to our souls, I’m not sure anything will.
In chapter 20 of John’s Gospel we see the disciples forever changed. What began as just another Sunday morning, perhaps sleepy and grey, was soon turned upside down. The news came—that Jesus was alive.
How then can belief in the resurrection and its application to our lives lead to a personal, spiritual revival?
The resurrection leads us to…
1. Investigate the evidence of the empty tomb.
“So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple who Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (Verse 2)
Easter challenges us to think about Christ and Christianity. We cannot ignore the truth claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Especially not when it’s a 2,000-year-old claim that still changes lives.
The burden of proof is not on believers, but unbelievers. To argue that Jesus never rose from the dead, one must explain a historically feasible alternate explanation. One must provide some other account for the birth of the church. After all, liars make really bad martyrs. All but one of the twelve apostles (John) gave their life for Christ. Think about that.
If the body of Christ is produced, Christianity crumbles. Thus, everything hinges on the resurrection. It’s been said, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said?”
If then Jesus did rise from the dead, he is worthy of your life surrendered to him. Step into the truth that Jesus is alive today. He bids you repent of your sins, turn to him in faith, trust him with your life, and enjoy him forever.
2. Understand why Jesus had to rise from the dead.
“Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” (Verse 8-9)
The death of Jesus propitiated the wrath of God (Rom. 3:25). That is, on the cross Jesus bore the wrath of God that was due sinners. In the hymn “In Christ alone” we sing, “On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied; for every sin on Him was laid; here in the death of Christ I live.” The sacrifice was made for sinners as Jesus hung on the cross, died in our place, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. Having lived our life, he died our death.
However, we do not worship a dead Jesus. Rather, we worship a living Christ. He is no longer dead but alive. Death had no victory over him. And for those who follow Christ, death will have no victory over them either (cf. John 11:35). The good news of the cross is complete in the resurrection. If I might say, a dead Jesus is of no spiritual advantage without him stepping out of the grave—and that he did.
Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). But they failed to connect the dots. In our humble 2,000-year-removed perspective, let us not follow suit. Rather, we see the resurrection as a gospel necessity. In the resurrection, God the Father approves of Jesus’ death for sinners; Christ defeats the grave and holds the keys to life; and in so doing validates all the promises of God in Christ.
3. Approach life from a supernatural perspective.
“And she saw [two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.”(Verse 12)
One of the more well-known statements of the apostle Paul was made to the Corinthians: “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Such is the experience of every Christian. We are called to journey this life by faith, not by sight. One of the reasons for Paul’s statement is that there is simply more to life than meets the eye.
Christians are not naturalists, but supernaturalists. There is room in the Christian worldview outside that which can be tested and affirmed by science. It is not that we deny scientific evidence, or refuse to be grateful for technological advances. To the contrary, we are most grateful!
But what is significant to Christian thought is that the biblical worldview affirms more, not less, than what science can affirm. Enter the presence of angels in the empty tomb of Jesus, for example. That is not a mythological invention by a first-century Jewish author. No, what is recorded in the pages of holy Scripture is historical fact as a reflection of spiritual reality.
4. Long for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (Verse 15)
If you were to ask me what aspect of the resurrection account grabs my attention most, it would be this part of the story: the almost mysterious scene where Mary dialogues with a person assumed to be a gardener, but in actuality is the risen Christ. Why she does not recognize him, we do not know. Is she kept from seeing him, does Christ intentionally disguise himself, or does she simply not look his way? I think it may be a touch of all three.
But notice the word that gets Mary’s attention. It’s her name. Jesus says, “Mary.” He knew her and called her by name. Here we find the essence of the Christian experience: a personal relationship with the risen Christ. She knew him, and he knew her, and they called each other by name.
Reader, let me remind you that Christ desires a relationship with you too. He died in your place and rose for your life. His work on the cross and in the tomb was for your redemption. Not to simply push paperwork in heaven and punch your ticket. Rather, to redeem you, restoring you to himself so that he might know you personally. In Christ your name matters. He knows your name and longs to say it. That makes all the difference.
5. Mobilize on mission and evangelize the world.
“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ — and that he had said these things to her.” (Verse 18)
We do not live life in the garden of John 20. Mary didn’t, and neither can we. Life is not one continual Easter Sunday. The resurrection moves us out of the garden and into the world. There is a mission to complete and things to do. There is truth to share, a story to tell and a gospel to preach.
In verse 18 we find the convergence of every believer’s testimony with the urgent need of a lost and dying world. Mary left the garden and “announced” she’d seen the Lord. Christian, is that not your testimony? And though she went to the disciples, the disciples would go to the world. We find, therefore, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that reality that compels us to go “out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in,” (Luke 14:23). Jesus is alive, the gospel is true and the world is lost. Right now counts forever, and Jesus is coming again soon. His mission is par excellence.
This Easter, let us not simply go through the motions. If we have learned anything over the past year, the religious treadmill is a miserable game to play. Instead, embrace Christ, commit your life to him, set spiritual priorities and let the reality of his resurrection permeate your soul. Pandemic or not, he is alive, and he is Lord. Go tell it on the mountain.
The history of our Bible is fascinating. We readily say that God’s Word is inspired, infallible, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient. Given that it is God’s Word, of what value is it to us today?
The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., chronicles the rather extreme measures that have taken place for us to have a personal copy of the Holy Scripture in our own language. Of course, God inspired human instruments such as Moses, David, John, Paul, and others to pen His Words, but the story didn’t end there.
God continued to use human instruments, often through extreme measures, to transcribe, translate, and disseminate His message to us. Some of those human instruments we may recall by name such as Luther, Tyndale, and Wycliffe. Martin Luther was ex-communicated from the Catholic Church as a heretic. William Tyndale was executed for his translation efforts. John Wycliffe is credited with the first complete English translation of the Bible. Wycliffe was so hated by Church officials that, following his death, his body was dug up and burned at the stake. These are but a few examples. Others, such as Gutenberg, and King James, though not translators themselves, were very instrumental in the proliferation of God’s Word. Again, many more examples could be mentioned.
Even as we reflect on God’s grace and the gift of His Word, the history is not the real story. What’s of true importance is the life-changing content of the Bible itself. It’s value is the transforming Word of God, Himself.
I’m reminded of prisoners such as Dmitri, imprisoned in Siberia for holding Bible studies in his Soviet home. Dmitri would collect scraps of paper, write scripture verses on them from memory, and paste them on the wet walls of his prison cell until the guards would find them, beat him, and tear down his copy of the scriptures. Then he’d start over. So high was his value of Scripture. Mind you, the scraps of paper were often toilet paper, thrown at him by fellow prisoners because of his verbal prayers and songs of praise.
I’m reminded of the many, many peoples who don’t have God’s Word. As you exit the Bible museum’s gallery displaying the numerous manuscripts, translations and editions that have brought us to the Bible we use today, you find yourself in a circular room completely filled with shelves. Roughly half the room is filled with books quickly recognized as being Bibles in the languages of the world today. But the remaining shelves are empty, save for an empty magazine file intended to hold a Bible in a yet untranslated language. Each empty holder is labeled with a language, a language representing a people group … a people made in the image of God, yet without God’s Word. According to the Wycliffe foundation, at this time there are 3832 languages into which the Bible needs to be translated. Let that sink in.
I don’t know how many copies of God’s word I have, just in paper alone. Multiple translations, Study Bibles, New Testaments, Pocket Bibles, illustrated, indexed, hard cover, soft cover, leather bound … you name it. I have a couple of Bibles in languages that I can’t even read. But the Bible was never intended to be a collector’s item.
There may be a day when it is considered “hate” message. What if our phone company stopped supporting the Bible apps? What if our browser company blocked Christian websites? Far-fetched ideas? Perhaps, but until recently, who would have thought we’d be where we are today?
But in this moment, putting aside the past and the future, are we better off for having God’s Word? We have it … but do we use it? If it sits on the shelf, it’s of no use to us. Do we use it to share the gospel? Do we use it to personally grow in Christ-likeness? Do we use it to make disciples? To pray? To praise God for who He is and what He has done?
The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His will for mankind. He wants to transform me and you through it, but that won’t happen by osmosis. To value God’s word means to delve into it, to study it, to understand it, to apply it. Only then is the Bible of personal value.
May God bless you as He reveals Himself to you in His word.