Tuesday, June 5, 2012
A Damaged Testimony?
Have you ever damaged your testimony? You know, damaged your story of your walk with Christ? Do you even know what that means or have you never heard of damaging your testimony?
I used to hear that a lot growing up at my childhood church. It seems that was the appeal to the members of the church, don't do something that will make you look bad in front of others. Of course at the time it sounded really good, then again so did the idea of just saying a prayer and getting it “all taken care of”. Now, looking back, I can see why this was a popular saying in the realm of the “modern gospel”. It is directed at “self” just as the “gospel” was directed.
So, what is wrong with this? Why am I now, 30 something years later bringing this up? Because I had an epiphany today about “damaging my testimony”. I don't know why it popped into my head at work today, other than it lead me to write this blog and shed my thoughts on the matter. I've never really thought about damaging “my testimony” before, so this was kind of out of the blue as I was thinking back over how God has worked in my life, through childhood, my teen years, my young adult life and now my middle years. I can see how God has guided me through the years, even when I was not yet His child.
First the phrase, My testimony, is directed at self. Just as the easy-believism message prominent in my childhood and which has grown to the “norm” now, so was this admonishment to not “damage your testimony”. This was said to those rebellious teenagers out on the weekends doing stuff they shouldn't be doing or the person cheating on their taxes or husband cheating on their wife. It addresses a great problem in the world of professing Christianity (churchianity): If you do not preach a message of repentance, new birth, faith, sanctification and holiness then you have to continually address a lifestyle of sin. Of course ,to those that are truly a child of God this idea seems foreign, to have to continually tell people NOT to sin, the same sins... over and over again. To try and reach a mind and conscience that doesn't grasp the idea of sin in the first place.
The cause of this message is the false gospel that creates false converts that give lip service to the name “Christian”. They said a prayer, walked an aisle, have been in church since they were born, their parents are Christians, or any other number of things that lead someone to believe they are “saved” but actually are still under the wrath of God. I have seen it a thousand times, people make emotional decisions, are pressured into saying a prayer, raising their hand, walking an aisle and their name is jotted on a decision card, they are paraded in front of the congregation and the “preacher” pronounces them saved. The emotionalism reaches its peak as the crowd erupts into applause, tears flow and another person has their fate of hell sealed under the guise of making a “public profession”. They are told to write the date in the back of their bible, and show the devil that page any time he comes sticking his nose in their business. Only thing is the devil never got his nose out of their business and was along side the congregation in applause for the false profession. As the days go by, the weeks add up things change. The elation of the applause was gone after shutting the car door in the parking lot. The handshakes and back slaps lasted a few services, but were quickly diminished. Life resumed as normal. The temporary halting of some sins halted itself and the sins came back, even greater than before. After all, you “got saved”, you live under grace now and all you have to do is ask for forgiveness and it's all taken care of.
When the lifestyle of sin rears its head once again, what is a preacher to do? Go back to the emotionalism once again. Set up a meeting with the one living in sin. Address the emotions once again, something along the lines of “Bubby, you know you shouldn't be doing those things. You can't hurt your testimony like that. What's your mama gonna think if she finds out you been drinking again? Does your wife know you've been dancing with those other women? Don't you feel bad about doing those things again?” Appeals to the emotions to not “damage/ hurt your testimony”, just as the emotional plea to “Come to Jesus. All you have to do is say this prayer”. It's a never ending cycle Why? Because it was a false gospel, by a false teacher, making a false convert.
A major issue with the statement “damaging your testimony” is the fact that you don't really have a testimony. A true believer has a testimony to God about what He has done to you, in you, through you. So how could you damage something that God has done in the first place? A Christian that does sin, who repents, will give testimony to how God, once again, graciously pulled them out of sin. It will not be focused on “me” or “my” anything, but on the One that actually did something, God. Which counteracts the whole message of the easy-believism message today.... It's all about ME. When the true Gospel is all about God.
The whole belief structure of easy-believism/ American gospel is based on self. This goes all the way through the life cycle of the false convert of this system. I say a prayer, I ask Jesus into my heart, I cleaned up my life, I stopped drinking, I stopped smoking, I started going to church every Sunday morning, I got baptized, I sang in the choir, I taught Sunday School, I went to Sunday School, I went on a mission trip, I, I, I. When it should be God saved me, God pulled me out of the mire and changed my heart, God took away my vices, God cleaned me up, God used me to teach other about Him, God, God , God. This mentality follows through when the false convert returns to sin and the leaders or friends see that something is wrong. It's often called “back sliding”, but honestly it is just a returning to the sin that never was washed away in the first place. But damage control has to start and the emotional appeals start again.
If the majority of “preachers” today would actually preach the Gospel then they wouldn't have to continually meet with people to appeal to them to stop sinning. Divorce rates would drop, if not completely go away among those professing Christianity. There would be no more “re-dedications”. There would be filled pews instead of only filled membership rolls. False conversions would be the exception instead of the norm. People would have testimonies of God's greatness instead of having “my testimony”. Sinners would repent. God would be glorified.
The remedy? The Gospel. God. Christ crucified. Repentance. Re-birth, a new creation. Sanctification. Faith. The Blood of Jesus.