by Jim Oesterwind
This is part 3 of a series, here is Part 1, Part 2.
There is no denying the fact that a dramatically changed life testifies to the power of God’s grace in converting the vilest among us. Hardened criminals, brutal terrorists, and party-animal entertainers have all been converted to Christ. Consider Mao Tse-tung, the communist leader of China who declared that Christianity had been permanently removed from China back in the mid twentieth century. But on Easter Sunday in 2009, a Hong Kong newspaper published a picture of Tiananmen Square on page one. A picture of Jesus replaced Mao Tse-tung’s image on a banner which read, “Christ is risen.”
Young people risk their lives to attend Bible studies in the Middle East. A missionary we support was shot with his mother in the car on his way to church in Mosul. One recent atheist celebrated Easter in 2009 because Jesus was the only way to make sense out of life and its challenges. Another British atheist wrote an article which said that Africa truly needs God! Matthew Parris said, “I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa …I used to avoid this truth …but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it.” These are all testimonies to God’s power and grace at work in our world.
Sometimes the power of God is demonstrated in very dramatic ways through life transformations that seem to mystify us. But what do you do when you simply cannot put your finger on the moment you were saved? What do you when one day it just seems to dawn upon you that you were actually trusting in Christ alone for your eternal life? How is testimonial evangelism possible for you?
The solution is to tell people why you are glad you have eternal life. There is no need to invent a ‘before’ or covet the ‘before’ of another believer. Consider this example:
I’m glad I have eternal life, because it has given me the certainty of knowing where I’m going when I die. Because of this, I have no fear of death and dying.
Not long ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I have been treated with chemotherapy and the cancer is being held at bay, but the form of cancer I have is not curable. It is possible to live another ten years with my particular cancer, but barring new treatments and God’s grace, ten years is it. Now, that’s a frightening prospect even if I was not married or had five boys all under the age of 9. You’d think it would paralyze me with fear.
But yet God has given me unbelievable peace through this whole ordeal. I know that if I die, I will go to Heaven. What a joy and difference that has made in the face of this dreaded illness! I know that if I die, I have eternal life. May I ask you a question? Are you as certain?
Note that the above testimony could be the testimony of a child or adult convert. I was converted when I was 25 and this testimony is simply a result of my relationship with Christ. The best way to begin the construction of a similar testimony is to think of one positive benefit of knowing you have eternal life. It could be the peace and security God has brought to your life through your relationship with Him. It also could be the sense of purpose that you have in life.
You should illustrate this benefit with a specific story from your life. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as cancer. Be descriptive and be brief. Conclude the testimony by stating that you know for certain that you have a relationship with God and you’re going to Heaven when you die. Then, simply ask the person if they are 100% sure that their sins are forgiven and that they are going to Heaven.
Adult conversions will typically differ in that they include a negative concept (e.g., a strained marriage or fear of death) that existed before you received eternal life. Then that negative concept is illustrated with a story out of your life experience. Following the Acts 22 pattern, you state that you entered into a relationship with God and received eternal life. It is not the purpose of a brief introductory testimony to explain how this happened. You are creating a thirst for the how. Finally, you state one positive result of receiving eternal life. This is juxtaposed against the negative concept. For example fear would be contrasted with a new-found courage in Christ.
The conclusion of your personal testimony should include questions that will help you determine where the person you are talking with happens to be in their spiritual journey. Jeff Musgrave teaches soul-winners to ask, “What do you think it takes to have a relationship with God and live with Him forever in Heaven?” This question reveals what a person is relying upon. Then, you offer your personal testimony and how God has changed your life. This is followed up by a second diagnostic: “Are you 100% sure that that all your sins are forgiven and you will go to Heaven?” This leads to showing an unsaved friend how the Bible teaches you may know for certain that you have eternal life (1 John 5.13). If a person is depending upon works to get to Heaven and certain he will go to Heaven, then Titus 3.5 may be used to challenge a false assurance.
This should lead into the Gospel with a simple transition question like, “May I show you from the Bible how to have a relationship with God?” The Gospel is then presented and the invitation vocalized. The most difficult path for the believer is the path to people that need Jesus. Our Christian school, our acts of compassion for neighbors, our invitations to people for Bible studies, an online presence, baseball and soccer ministries, annual evangelistic meetings, and flyer/CD distributions all provide paths to people. But most importantly prayer forges the clearest path to the lost. Compassion is the vehicle that drives down that path. May God provide us with a powerful opportunity to see the lost coming to Christ through testimonial evangelism. It’s biblical; it’s powerful! Everyone can do it!
- These examples are taken from Ravi Zacharias, Has Christianity Failed You? (Zondervan, 2010), 105-107. [↩]