What is a Christian testimony? Why are Christian testimonies important? What purpose does it serve?
A Christian testimony is given when Christians relate how we came to know the God of the Bible through the moving of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Most commonly, we are sharing how we became Christians by God’s miraculous intervention and work in our lives through specific events (i.e. grace). Often we can only see that in hindsight, but sharing that experience is vital. Also, when giving this testimony, a sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is always a necessity. Though we can include specific information about how we came to accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour, those details should not be the main focus of the testimony. The focus should be about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
A Christian testimony should not end with the conversion experience, but should also include the ways in which the Lord has worked in our lives to sanctify us for His service. As an example, a testimony could include how He brought us through a difficult time in our life (such as a loss or some sort or a severe illness) and built our faith in Him through that experience. We should also be able to describe the continual process by which the Holy Spirit who now indwells us leads, guides, molds and shapes us into mature Christians. Again, the focus should be on the Lord and His faithfulness, and should include at least one verse that speaks of that faithfulness (cf. Psalm 18:2, 6).
The first chapter of John’s gospel was the means of the conversion of a celebrated writer, Junius the younger, one who did good service in the Church. His father, perceiving him to be an ungodly young man, put in his way as much as possible the New Testament, and the following is an extract from Junius’s account of his own life. “My father, who was frequently reading the New Testament, and had long observed with grief the progress I had made in infidelity, had put that book in my way in his library, in order to attract my attention, if it might please God to bless his design, though without giving me the least intimation of it. Here, therefore, I unwittingly opened the New Testament thus providentially laid before me. At the very first view, although I was deeply engaged in other thoughts, that grand chapter of the evangelist and apostle presented itself to me—’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.’ I read part of the chapter, and was so greeted that I instantly became struck with the divinity of the argument, and the majesty and authority of the composition, as infinitely surpassing the highest flights of human eloquence. My body shuddered; my mind was in amazement, and I was so agitated the whole day that I scarcely knew who I was; nor did the agitation cease, but continued till it was at last soothed by a humble faith in him who was made flesh and dwelt among us.”
One of the Platonic philosophers, who considered all Christian writers to be but barbarians, nevertheless said of the first chapter of John, “This barbarian has comprised more stupendous stuff in three lines, than we have done in all our voluminous discourses.” And we will to this day glory in the power of the Holy Spirit, that an unlearned and ignorant man like John, the son of Zebedee the fisherman, should be enabled to write a chapter which excels not only the highest flight of eloquence, but the greatest divings of philosophy.
Let us take a look at the Apostle John’s testimony of the Incarnation of Christ: “6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. 9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:6-14 ).
John the Baptist came to bear witness concerning Jesus. Nothing more fully shows the darkness of men’s minds, than that when the Light had appeared, there needed a witness to call attention to it. Christ was the true Light; that great Light which deserves to be called so. By his Spirit and grace he enlightens all that are enlightened to salvation; and those that are not enlightened by him, perish in darkness. Christ was in the world when he took our nature upon him, and dwelt among us. The Son of the Highest was here in this lower world. He was in the world, but not of it. He came to save a lost world, because it was a world of his own making. Yet the world knew him not. When he comes as a Judge, the world shall know him. Many say that they are Christ’s own, yet do not receive him, because they will not part with their sins, nor have him to reign over them. All the children of God are born again. This new birth is through the word of God as the means (cf. 1 Pe 1:23) and by the Spirit of God as the Author. By his Divine presence Christ always was in the world. But now that the fulness of time was come, he was, after another manner, God manifested in the flesh. But observe the beams of his Divine glory, which darted through this veil of flesh. Men discover their weaknesses to those most familiar with them, but it was not so with Christ; those most intimate with him saw most of his glory. Although he was in the form of a servant, as to outward circumstances, yet, in respect of graces, his form was like the Son of God. His Divine glory appeared in the holiness of his doctrine, and in his miracles. He was full of grace, fully acceptable to his Father, therefore qualified to plead for us; and full of truth, fully aware of the things he was to reveal.
I personally find verse 14 most compelling. In the Jewish Church its greatest glory was that God tabernacled in its midst: not the tent of Moses, not the various pavilions of the princes of the twelve tribes, but the humble tabernacle in which God dwelt, was the boast of Israel. They had the king himself in the midst of them, a present God in their midst. The tabernacle was a tent to which men went when they would commune with God, and it was the spot to which God came manifestly when he would commune with man.
The Apostle John however points to a surpassing excellence in Christ the tabernacle, by which he wondrously excels that of the Jewish Church. “Full of grace and truth.” The Jewish tabernacle was rather full of law than full of grace. It is true there were in its rites and ceremonies, foreshadowings of grace, but still in repeated sacrifice there was renewed remembrance of sin, and a man had first to be obedient to the law of ceremonies, before he could have access to the tabernacle at all: but Christ is full of grace—not a little of it, but abundance of it is treasured up in him. The tabernacle of old was not full of truth, but full of image, and shadow, and symbol, and picture; but Christ is full of substance; he is not the picture, but the reality; he is not the shadow, but the substance. Herein, O believer, do you rejoice with joy unspeakable for you come unto Christ, the real tabernacle of God. You come unto him who is full of the glory of the Father; and you come unto one in whom you have not the representation of a grace which you need, but the grace itself—not the shadow of a truth ultimately to he revealed, but that very truth by which your soul is accepted in the sight of God.
Let us praise God with the hymn “In Love He Came” (in Chinese):