There are so many things in my life I am ashamed of. Old life. Past sins. Current sinful struggles. I am embarrassed to list some of those things that are or were a part of my life. But I will, and there’s a reason for that.
- Filthy mouth and hateful words.
- Deceitful heart and actions.
- Adultery…(prior to marriage–clarifying for the sake of confusion).
- Not trusting God.
- Idolizing things other than God: myself, money, marriage
- Disobedient to my parents.
- Wrath and envy.
- Doubt. Comparison.
- Speaking ill of others.
- Murder with my words.
Pretty much all over the map. I think I covered all of the commandments. Not by trying, but just because that is the truth in who I am without Jesus. And I am CERTAINLY not trying to brag. At. All. We are told in the Bible not to boast in anything but the Lord. Therefore, what I do want to tell you is the why behind my reason for being able write all of this out for you to see.
I can say it because God says I can. He tells us in 2 Timothy 1:8, “Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.” God says right in His own word that it isn’t even my story to tell, but His. It’s not mine to brag about, but it is His to glory in. It is not about how bad I was, but how much I have changed.
So what is this “testimony” thing? We hear the word often, especially in Christian circles, but other than just saying, “What’s your testimony?” do we really know what that means?
By definition, you probably know that a testimony is an “open declaration or profession, as of faith.” But another description is the “evidence in support of a fact or statement; proof.” This aspect is what I want to focus on here. While I do have a testimony, and it is the story of my faith, both how I came to be a believer in Jesus as my Savior and also to speak openly of my beliefs. The other is the proof of what I claim to show itself true. These are the actions in my life that let others know what I believe and that my belief is true and real. So much so that there is a difference in who I was before Jesus and who I am today with Him.
Recently, a friend told me that she couldn’t ever see me using cuss words. Hallelujah!!! My heart rejoiced that my friend did not see that in me at all. It means that Christ truly has done a work in me. But, oh in my flesh did I ever. I remember when my oldest son was very little he copied my unflattering words perfectly to my face. It left such an impression on me of how ugly those words were. To this day, I still have thoughts of conversations and words that I have used seared in to my mind as a forever reminder to me of my life before Christ. My friend’s words were such a good mental picture for me, causing me to look back and know that without Jesus I am susceptible to and have committed all kinds of sin.
This also isn’t a message only for those who are not “saved”. This is for us all, the Christian and the non-Christian. This month’s “Boon Challenge” is to try to not say anything negative about anyone else. Nada. Nothing. Rob and I don’t put these challenges out there and not take them to heart ourselves. We are in it right along with you, and it’s not to late to join in for the remainder of the month. Our life is a continual refinement and cleansing. The moment we believe that we don’t need to take a look at our own heart is the moment we set ourselves up for sin to creep in.
So how many times have I struggled with this so far? Probably more than I could count. But as you and I grow in Christ, we are hopefully, growing closer to Him and becoming more and more like Him. So for me, that means that I am noticing as the days in the month continue on, I am struggling less and less with this. I recognize, take the thought captive and let it go. Often it is talking or praying out loud, asking God for His help again and again. It also can be a rewording of whatever the thought was that came in, turning it around to something positive. Positive for God, positive about the person I want to complain about. We must continually seek that heart cleansing so that we are focusing on our own issues of sin and not the other person.
More like Christ and more of Him in us. Never forget that we are on a journey through this life. We will never be perfect, but we can aim at the One who is perfection.
2 Corinthians 12:5 “Of such a one (speaking of God) I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.”
And as far as bragging? Well, this isn’t about my sins being worse than, or not as bad as yours or anyone elses. They just are and they are mine. Jesus died so that in my sins, He could forgive me. The same is true for you. It doesn’t matter what your sins were, or are now. He loves you and He is writing the story of your life. One where He captures your heart and your life changes in an incredible way. One where people look at you in a time to come and say, “I never could imagine you doing those things,” because it’s no longer there. There is no sin too big. There is NOTHING too “dirty” for purification and God’s cleansing. He wants us all and He wants all of you!!!
Remember the part in 2 Timothy where he says to “not be ashamed?” Well, in Psalm 19:7 it says, “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” So we can be absolutely certain that our story to tell is God’s and He is sure about it. He is not embarrassed of our life or our past. Even if we are a Christian and living in current willful sin. He stills wants to continue His work of cleansing and refining where He gets the glory and we are able to worship Him at the wonders He does in our life.
This past week, I saw the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ. Seeing the film truly gave me a sense of the struggle Paul went through with his “old life” before he met Jesus. His incessant memories of his sinful past haunting him. Yet as I read about Paul in the Bible, and again with the artistic portrayal of his life through this movie, I think of him as such an amazing person. After becoming a believer in Jesus, Paul’s travels, his imprisonment, continual attack, his friendships and betrayals, were all for the sake of Christ. And he accomplished much.
At the same time, Paul told Timothy in his first letter to him that he saw himself as the chief of “sinners”. This was after many years serving the Lord and being changed through and through. But the closer we get to Christ, the more we see the wretchedness in our hearts and minds. We too can be reminded our life before Him, but in the light of Jesus, all is exposed and we are free. Free to be changed. Free to turn from our sin. Free to grow and able to be used. Just like Paul grew in his faith and was used to spread the gospel so many years ago.
Paul had been a murderer. Not just with his words, but literally. He caused people to blaspheme God to try to save their earthly lives. He probably mocked at their human frailties seeing himself as powerful over them. He hated God and made it his personal mission to destroy anyone who was for Jesus. Yet in the end, Paul was not ashamed. He only longed for a deeper cleansing in his life.
What this all means is that you don’t have to continue focusing on what you have done, but what God has done in you. You don’t have to look at how “bad” you are or were, or how much work still needs to be done, but that Christ has the means and the power to do the work. The victory is in Christ. The boasting in Christ. The battle is won by what He did on the cross. Not only by dying there, but also taking on the weight of the sin of the world so that we can shout out His testimony in our own lives and the lives of those we know.
Revelation 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
Speak your story. Share your testimony. What can you recognize in your own life that has changed because of your relationship with Jesus? What area(s) is the Holy Spirit calling to you about? Where is He directing you to take greater steps of faith in your continual cleansing? What are you waiting for? Go for it!
You do not need to be ashamed.