“For we ourselves were once …”
I was talking with some friends about giving testimony to what God has done for us in our lives, and one person remarked that they had a friend who ‘didn’t want everyone to know their business’, and therefore would not give testimony to how God had worked in their life. This is exceptionally sad, because they have an amazing testimony of what God can do through the hearts and minds of men. They have allowed their own pride to steal glory from God and hope from others.
This is true of many who come to know Christ. We don’t want others to know how bad our past was, and therefore we don’t give testimony to what chains God has loosed and to the pit that He has pulled us out of. But this is not biblical, and it is not loving. If we are to truly love others, we must understand that there is nothing they can know about us that is worse than what God has delivered us from. Does that mean that we tell everyone all of our business? No. We are told not to cast our pearls before swine, and those choice pearls are reserved for those moments prescribed by the Holy Spirit and filtered through the discernment which God has given each of us.
But others, as a general rule, should know the basics about us. If we were so good in our past, what did God need to deliver us from? Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous, He came to save sinners, to call them to repentance. Each of us should carry the attitude of Paul, that we were the chief of sinners, and the least likely to be considered worthy of being saved by our Lord Jesus.
In his letter to Titus, Paul writes “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that. Being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
If we are not acknowledging the pit out of which God has pulled us, how is God glorified? How is God glorified if no one knows that I was once a Saul, persecuting and deriding Christians, but now I am a Paul, preaching the truth of the Gospel to other Sauls. How is God glorified if no one knows that I once struggled with the chains of addiction, but now my chains are gone? We are stealing from God if we lead others to believe that it is through our own sound judgement and smart choices that we decided to follow Christ, and that we weren’t so bad beforehand. How are others given hope if they only see ‘super Christians’ in the church?
In AA, one of the main principles of helping others out of the pit of addiction is to tell them the grit, the truth of our story, and how God helped us out of the pit, and how He can help them out of the pit too. Seeing the success of one who has been there is a strong motivational tool to those who have otherwise lost hope.
We should be transparent enough to allow others to know who we once were, and to allow them to see how God, through His mercy and loving kindness, (and not through any good works or righteousness on our part) washed us with the renewal and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, so that now we are heirs to the kingdom of God and the hope of eternal life.
Ask yourself, “Am I stealing glory from God by my testimony or lack thereof?”
For further reading:
1 Peter 4:1-4
Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-31