If telling stories is an art, then telling our life story is a trade worthy of being mastered. The only trouble when it comes to our life story, our “testimony,” is what should we tell? Should we focus in our passions, our expertise, our experiences, or even our most secret failures and unwanted mistakes? What is it that receives the accent mark?
The Bible’s word for accent mark is glory! God tends to highlight and place the accent mark on His glory and reputation in all things, whereas, because we are fallen human beings who are ridden with selfishness, we tend to place the accent mark on our own reputation and glory.¹ If in fact we are in God’s story, and He is not in ours, then he deserves the due attention of receiving our highest praise. It would seem, to tell the story rightly, we must mention the author all throughout our telling.
Now, when it comes to the Christian testimony, we must see it as an art and as an act of worship, not as a chance to glorify our failed pasts and all the sin that led us to meet Jesus. We must glorify and accent Jesus!
Karl Barth tells the story of an old lady who once went to the evangelist Kohlbrugge and asked him, “Tell me, sir, when were you converted?” The evangelist, knowing well that she was interested in the details of his Christian experience, replied, “Madam, I was converted nineteen hundred years ago when Jesus Christ died on a cross for my sins and rose again.” He wanted to point away from himself and his own faith to Jesus Christ. The decisive event for him was not primarily anything in his own experience, important as that may be, but that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, buried…the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven.” It was as if he said, “When Christ died long ago for me, I died, and when Christ rose again for me from the dead in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, I rose again. When Christ ascended for me into heaven, I ascended in him, and now my life is hid with Christ in God.”²
That is a true testimony of the faith!!! For the Christian, this is the true art to telling our own stories. It’s not about us! I John 5:7-9 tells us, “there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.” Did you hear any mention of US in that statement?
The fact is, a true story is only given meaning and is only filled with purpose through the intent of an author. Therefore, when it says in Revelation 12:11 that we have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, it is not referring to our own word about ourselves; it’s referring to the good deposit of the Holy Spirit, who testifies in Jesus before the Father on our behalf. Declaring that we are righteous and spotless in Jesus!
This is God’s masterpiece. This is God’s art: the remaking and reshaping of broken human lives into beautiful works that testify to the beauty of the Creator.
¹ Rom. 3:23
² Recounted in Torrance, Worship Community and the Triune God of Grace (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 75.