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The Dark Side of Dramatic Testimonies
I grew up in a charismatic church - not Pentecostal nor Assemblies of God - but charismatic nonetheless. I remember sitting in my chair, listening to the elder who oversaw the missions department. He briefly shared his testimony - explaining the life he lived before accepting Christ and the life after. I heard of drugs, hippie lifestyles, and rebellion against authority. I think his goal was to impress upon us that God can radically transform even the "worst" of sinners. He probably wanted everyone to see that if he could be forgiven of his sins, then they were eligible for forgiveness as well.
Maybe I'm just different, but I took a different moral from that story. A seed was planted in mind. An understanding that I could do whatever I wanted to do and still be forgiven of it later. The concept of free license entered my mind. After all, if a drugged up hippie could receive forgiveness and walk in purity, I could also get away with a lot of stuff before "reforming" into a godly man.
You see, when it comes to sharing one's testimony, Christians think it's really cool when a brawling, drugged up, alcoholic, blind, lame, deaf, and diseased person meets Jesus and finds forgiveness, healing and restoration.
Those people like to impress the audience with gory details of sin and depravity. The startled looks and gasps of shock on the people's faces is wrongfully equated with conviction. Those personal testimonies are popular for the same reason that reality shows, COPS, and Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Howard Stern are popular: people like to see and hear about depravity. But the goal of sharing a testimony is to impress upon people that saving grace is available. So why do we focus so much upon the story of our sin?
I wouldn't avoid those elements, just so you know. Most testimonies should tell of the pain, suffering, and misery of existence without Jesus. The gory details usually take up all of our time and attention and leave room for only scant mention of actual conversion, forgiveness, and life after.
What about abundant life? What about the Kingdom of God? What about abiding in Him? What about "greater works than these" being done by those who believe? What about healing, restoring, prophesying, encouraging, discipling, intimacy, praying, worship, adoring, and submitting?
The depths of the riches of knowing God cannot be fathomed by a simple "I was a sinner and now I'm going to heaven" message. The question remains: HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?
The Church must not fail to answer this question, both during Sunday services and in the marketplace. Real people want to know about real life. Real life is not a chick flick. The credits don't roll when we accept Christ as Savior. That is not the end of the story. That is the beginning. That is what people do not know, because that is what people do not hear. THERE IS LIFE AFTER MEETING GOD! THERE IS LIFE KNOWING GOD!
Let's think about that and discuss it more in detail.