Testimonies of this faith

When we think about the word testimony, many of us might think about a court of law.  We know enough about the legal process‒even if we have no professional tie to it‒to know that a large part of evidence given during trial is the testimony of witnesses.  We have the classic scene of an individual placing his or her hand on the Bible and swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and even invoking God in that oath.  When we review the scriptures, we see this act of presenting truth or evidence as a central theme portrayed in various ways.  This is no singularly defined concept or idea, and its many different images are integral to Christianity.  If we study a few of these passages, we can start to get a clear picture of why the concept of witness testimony is so critical to the Christian faith.

Psa. 105:1-6

Oh, give thanks to the LORD!  Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!  Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works!  Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!  Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face evermore!  Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, O seed of Abraham His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

This is not the only passage of scripture in the Bible or even in the book of Psalms that encourages us to sing and speak about the goodness of God’s works.  I have read these and similar words and have received a picture of someone in a quiet place of solitude praising God and giving him thanks in audible voice.  While the act of confessing out loud these things about the Lord certainly is something we should be doing when we spend time alone with him, this passage really speaks to our more public proclamations about the Lord.  The first verse here is a direction to shout this to the nations and the other peoples among us.  It calls us to make these proclamations not before one specific group but before different groups.  There is a distinction being drawn between the value of this kind of confession among like-minded believers and the same act performed before those of a different mind.  Even more, there the another value that exists when the one who loves and seeks after God makes these confessions alone in private.  All three have value in their own time and environment and before each specific kind of audience.

When I sit alone and remember all of the things that God has done for me, all of the miracles and all of the less obviously miraculous blessings, it helps to move me forward.  I can see his hand in my life, and it testifies to the assurance He gives me that He will work for my good.  When we make the same confessions before our fellow brothers and sisters, we give them something perhaps they for one reason or another cannot give themselves in that moment.  God uses us to encourage one another just as we many times can encourage ourselves.  It is possible that a member of the body of Christ is finding it difficult to recall what God has done because he or she feels like nothing is going right, and my testimony can serve to bring a believer up above that.  Then we have the witness we offer before non-believers of the great things our God has done not only for us now but in all of history.  As witnesses of his glorious work, we can take that oath and testify to the things we have seen and experienced, as well as the things we know from record.  In a world where people find it difficult to see God, we can testify to his existence and his presence in a way that gives them another opportunity to see that He is real.

Psa. 119:22-24

Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.  Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.  Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.

Many of the scriptures discuss what would be considered our testimonies.  Likely, when we think about the word testimony with regard to the scriptures, we often think about how we speak about what God has done for us.  He moves, I experience, and that is the testimony I have to share with others.  Then, we have other passages of scripture like the one above, which speak about God’s own testimonies.  In this regard, we find reference to the things to which God himself has testified.  If we look at any testimony as nothing more than a proclamation of truth by a witness, then God’s testimonies encompass those things to which He has testified as being true by his own witness.  The authority on the matter, everything He ever has proclaimed has been true.  Without him, no truth exists.  Through him, we are able to know all truth.  Specifically, the Psalmist here refers to what God has shared about his very character through his law.  The testimonies and the statutes mentioned here are the manner in which God has commanded his people to behave and to live as a reflection of his own character.

This man has suffered the contempt of others as if he were evil, but his defense is that he has kept the testimonies of God.  What he means is that he has behaved in accordance with what God has proclaimed to be true about his own character through his law, and that should be the basis for that contempt being removed.  He is not a guilty man but is an innocent man by virtue of his adhering to God’s statutes of truth.  This is a man who delights in the character of God and in living in a way that emulates that character, not someone who feels oppressed or challenged by this expectation of behavior.  He actually feels comfort remembering and living according to God’s testimonies in the midst of this persecution.  What he is experiencing in the world is false testimony by others, to which he could respond in an ungodly way.  To keep from doing that, he holds fast to the true testimony of God as written in his statutes.  The world bears false witness to assign him guilt, but living according to God’s testimonies evidences his innocence.

2 Cor. 1:12-14

For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.  For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand.  Now I trust you will understand, even to the end (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Just as the Psalmist above, Paul was no stranger to persecution and false accusation.  In the beginning of this chapter, he discussed his trials in Asia.  He wrote that he felt as if he had been pronounced a death sentence.  Certainly, whatever he had endured in that place at the hands of those people was great enough to make him think that it would be his end.  Then, following this description of suffering, he wrote about something in which he could boast.  If he had faced false accusations in that place, if he had been painted as an evil man just as the Psalmist had been when he in fact was a member of God’s saintly priesthood, his conscience provided sufficient testimony to combat those accusations.  If Paul had been imprisoned as a guilty man for no good reason, his conscience was the proof of his innocence.  What he explained as his defense in that instance is not his own spoken word.  He did not tell of any compelling legal argument he planned to present.  What I see here is someone who was resting on his own honest knowledge of his godliness as the evidence of his lack of guilt.

One thing I get from Paul’s few words here is that each of us ought to know the testimony of our conscience.  There certainly are times when we trick ourselves into thinking that we are behaving according to God’s word but should know that we actually are not.  There is something within us that answers the question clearly when we consider whether we have defied God or strayed from his ways.  Paul’s conscience spoke to him clearly that he had done no wrong.  He knew that his own words professing any kind of innocence held no weight so heavy as that of the truth resting within him concerning himself.  What we must ask ourselves is whether we can say the same.  If we cannot, if our conscience bears witness to the fact that we are not living according to God’s statutes, we should know enough to recognize that and have no excuse otherwise.  God gives us a conscience so that we can be steered correctly.  When that inner part of us testifies to our sinfulness, we must recognize it and make corrections.  When it testifies to our holiness, we must keep going on that track.   When we adhere to God’s statutes, we need not offer any words to profess our blamelessness.  It is sufficient to know within ourselves that we stand before God as such.

Mt. 23:9-14

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

There is news, and then there is good news.  Many things in life are true but do not have any eternal consequence.  We take the time to read or watch the news because we want to know the truth of what is happening in the world around us.  Sometimes, that news involves things which are true but rather trivial and only temporary.  There is a plethora of knowledge to be obtained in this world on a daily basis, but much of that knowledge is nothing more than powerless facts.  We say that knowledge is power, but much of what there is to know here is really inert.  Spiritually speaking, it holds no value.  In light of our eternity and the impact on our spirits and souls, it does not matter.  If we read that the scientific community has made advancements in its pursuit of extending the longevity of the human life, this certainly is news.  Yet, it does not deserve even to share the same room with the good news that Jesus Christ has brought us.  His news, the spiritual facts that He has proclaimed and that will be true for eternity, is what this broken world is longing to hear even if it is ignorant of this truth.

This testimony of truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great eye-opener of the people.  The revelation of this truth is what shows us how this world actually has been operating around us all this time.  It points to our brokenness and its source.  It reveals the disastrous end that awaits us if no remedy is found.  It gives us the glorious news that a remedy indeed exists if only we are willing to accept the sacrifice, which is a sacrifice already made for us as well as one which we make ourselves.  It tells us that those who choose wisely are assured of a perfect eternity in the presence of that spotless lamb.  It is the revelation of all truth, the calling of humanity and all creation back to their Creator, and the guarantee that every hope we have in him will be confirmed.  The fact that the end will not come until this good news is proclaimed to all the nations is just another testimony to the goodness and kindness of our Lord.  Not only that, it is a testimony to the truth of the Lord and his work deserving to be recognized by all without question and without argument.

Rev. 12:10-11

I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

In this portion of John’s revelation, we see the conquering of Satan in a mighty way.  What is of note is the specific context in which this defeat has occurred.  This voice from the heavens calls our enemy “the accuser” because he offers false testimony against those who are blameless.  He points his finger and utters words but neither act carries any power beyond mere appearances.  Specifically, here his false testimony has gone against those who have submitted to martyrdom out of faith in and love for God.  Of course, we know that his accusations against people whose faith has taken them to such lengths are wholly empty.   They gave everything for Christ as He had given everything for them.  To combat the false accusations of Satan, two things are offered for their truth in the defense of these saints.  In these truths is revealed the mechanism by which the devil’s false testimony is overcome.  These martyrs gained the victory by virtue of the blood of Christ as well as the word of their own testimony.  Two distinct offers of evidence as they might be, they also are part and parcel of one another.

The blood of Christ was shed for the remission of sins.  It cleanses us of our iniquity and serves as the covering by which we are able to stand before the Father.  We have no holiness or blamelessness on our own, not even by our good deeds, but we can be clothed in the righteousness of Christ by virtue of his blood.  While the blood stands alone, its efficacy is displayed only when it acts upon the object of iniquity and transforms him.  The life and death of a martyr is demonstrative evidence of this transformative power.  The proof that Christ’s blood can save a soul is found in the souls it saves.  Likewise, the testimony of the martyr who offers a sacrifice unto death for the Lord is found only in the Lord’s blood, not in his own.  The blood testifies to his blamelessness, and his sacrifice testifies to the magnitude of the power of that blood.  For these to defeat the enemy in concert is nothing more than to expose the accuser’s false accusations for what they are.  The enemy can offer no evidence to refute either the blamelessness of these saints or the power of the blood that gives them that status and the ability to endure.  

Testimonies are about truth.  That which we know to be true of our Lord as well as the truths He imparts to us are to be proclaimed not just in his solitary presence or in the presence of the saints but also in the presence of the world.  These truths show us not only who and how God is but also how we should be, and they should bring us pleasure while pointing to his holiness.  If we ever question whether we are living as the scriptures implore, which is a life of worship in Spirit and in truth, we should be able to depend on our consciences for the verdict.  God in his grace makes this available to all as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to the ends of the Earth before this age comes to pass.  It is his blood that gives us the power not only to stand blameless in the face of empty and false accusations but also to endure all things to that end.  We testify to the truth, and that means many, many things.  Ultimately, the important truth is that the Lord has been victorious, is being victorious and will be victorious, and we join him in that victory.  This is something to which we should willingly and joyfully testify at any time and in anyone’s presence.