The missing link in our testimonies
"I met Jesus, so now I'm going to heaven." What's been left out?
I love hearing about how God has worked in people's lives. Whether it's someone giving a testimony in church, an article someone's written on Fervr, or just an informal conversation, it's always encouraging to hear personal stories of people coming to faith.
However, I think there's often something missing. Have you noticed when we tell or write our testimonies, they follow a formula that goes something like this:
- I was lost in sin
- I became a Christian and have been saved by Christ
- I will go to heaven to be with him
That sounds about right ... doesn't it?
Of course, the above three points are true and important to tell people about! But what I think is missing is the bit between becoming a Christian (point 2) and ultimately going to heaven (point 3). In other words, we should talk about what's happening right now as we live in anticipation of Christ's return.
In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul says:
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)
Paul was writing this letter to the church at Colossae about 1,950 years ago. He was reminding the people that being a Christian wasn’t simply deciding to follow Jesus; they had to continue to know Jesus more and more. And it's exactly the same for us.
Grow like a mango tree
Say I plant a mango seed in my garden, I give it some water and sunlight and a little shoot comes out of the ground. That's nice, isn't it? But it's not going to grow juicy mangoes as a little tiny shoot. It has to grow up into a big, strong tree and continue to grow before it can bear fruit. The tree also has to have good strong roots so that it will stand fast against the wind and the rain.
We're a bit like that imaginary mango tree. We've been planted as a seed. Then we decide to follow Jesus and a little shoot pops out of the ground. If we leave it as that, it remains very fragile. But if we grow in our faith, if we make deep strong roots in the ground, we will bear fruit and stay strong.
There's going to be tough times in our lives. Life isn’t easy being a Christian. The rain, the wind and the hail might come, but if we have strong roots in God’s word, and continue to grow in the knowledge of him, we can stand strong.
How do we grow stronger in Christ?
Earlier in his letter, Paul tells the Colossians:
"...we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might..." Colossians 1:10-11a (NIV)
Again, the image of the tree comes through, and Paul highlights three key things - we need to be bearing fruit (living a Godly life), growing in our knowledge of God and being strengthened by him. So how do we do that?
Just like we can't earn our salvation, we can't grow in Christ on our own either. We need to ask God to help us to grow in our knowledge of him. That means to begin with, it's important we pray regularly to him.
Just as important is reading the Bible - studying God's word for ourselves as well as hearing it explained by others, because the Bible is the primary way God has chosen to speak to his people.
I think we should do both of these things individually and with other Christians. It's important to encourage each other in our faith and knowledge of Christ, but also for each of us to spend time alone with God.
Ready to tell your testimony again?
Next time you're ask to tell your story of coming to faith in Jesus, be sure to explain not only how you became a Christian, but how you're continuing to live in him: to bear fruit, to be strengthened and to grow in your knowledge of God.
My prayer for all of us is that just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord, we continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith we were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
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