Testimonies. I love them. Blogs and YouTube are littered with them. From being pulled from the depths of suicide, death, disease, self-image, and loss; I love to hear how God has drastically worked in peoples lives to bring them from ruin to abundant life in Him. Earlier today John Piper tweeted this really thought provoking phrase:
Christian, if you have good roots, that is pure grace. If you don’t you are pure grace.
All morning my mind has repeatedly gone back to that simple yet beautiful statement. Perhaps the statement can serve as multiple metaphors. ‘Roots’ are used throughout Scripture as a picture of the need for deep and strong faith in God to weather the storms of life; much like a tree needs deep and strong roots to survive. (See: Jeremiah 17:7-8, Colossians 2:6-7, Psalm 1:3, Mark 4:17, etc.)
But, I’d like to interpret it this way…
In both sentences, Piper is speaking to someone who is currently a Christian. I believe, however, that in the first sentence he is referring to a life-long Christian; someone who, perhaps, grew up in the church and has identified as Christian for “as long as they remember”. In the second sentence, he’s referring to a Christian who came to Christ later in life; perhaps after a period of non-belief, unbelief, or rejection of Jesus. The point is this; grace is the foundation of our new life in Christ; it’s the foundation on which Christian’s, who either grew up in the church or who responded to God’s call later in life, stand.
Grace is God’s unconditional love to us, otherwise hopeless sinners, wherein He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to be the propitiation for our sin by dying on the Cross. New life is found in Him. Grace requires nothing from us; but surrendering our sin and allowing Christ to take that burden. We can’t add to it, take from it, supplement it. His grace is fully and wholly sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I’m the person Piper is referring to in his first sentence. I grew up in the stereotypical middle class home. I had 2 parents that loved each other, loved Jesus, and loved their kids. My parents provided my sister and I everything we needed; physically, emotionally, and Spiritually. My ‘good roots’ are traceable to my Mom, who faithfully immersed me in the church (no baptism puns intended there). I can remember believing I had no great “testimony”; certainly nothing that would win someone over who was skeptical of the Christian faith. In a twisted way, I longed for a radical testimony. Maybe I was just too young and didn’t have enough life experience. Maybe I was just plain wrong. Probably both.
Over the past year or so I’ve met, and heard from, people who have amazing testimonies. Even I have a little bit of what I would have considered a testimony worth sharing. But I had to get out of my comfortable bubble to see and hear these things. The people with some of the most amazing stories of God’s redeeming grace don’t have stories and lives like mine. I’m thankful for my life, for sure; and that’s the point of Pipers statement! But if you really want to hear stories of God’s radical and pursuing grace you might just have to get outside of your comfortable Christian bubble; maybe the small church you’ve been attending ‘forever’.
While a human testimony is beneficial and important, it’s not what ‘wins’ people to Christ. Christ wins people to Christ. He may use our testimony – but He’ll use it how He planned to use it – regardless of how we feel about it.
We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. -1 John 5:9-10
The only testimony that saves, wins, pursues, and calls is the testimony of Christ’s finished work. Our stories should be a pointer to Christ. Don’t dream someone else’s story. Accept and acknowledge the grace you’ve received; whether through a legacy of a faithful family or the radical grace that pulled you from your situation.
Christ’s death on a cross was an atonement for the sins of Paul (Saul) the Christian persecuter, the lifelong Atheist, me; the kid raised in the Church, and you; wherever you are in life.
So the next time you find yourself thinking that your testimony isn’t powerful; beg for forgiveness; thank God for the Grace and work He’s poured out in the lives of those before you that prepared you for your current life. And then look around your circle of influence for those that need to hear of that same amazing, radical, and available Grace.