(Parts 1 & 2)
By Joseph M. Wilson
(Now in Glory)
I preached a sermon recently
You're writing a gospel,
A chapter a day.
By the deeds that you do,
And the words that you say.
Men read what you're writing,
Whether faithful or true.
Say, what is the gospel,
According to you?
I am preaching to you about "Your Testimony." Every professed Christian has a testimony before those who know him and know he professes to be a Christian. It may be a good testimony, or it may be a bad one; but every Christian has a testimony. However, in this message I am talking about a good testimony, or a damaged or lost testimony.
Let us look a little at the
When Abraham felt that he
In Genesis 19:4-7 we have
the wicked queers of Sodom coming to Lot's house and demanding that Lot
out the two men (really angels in the form of men - who were in his
them so that they could fulfill their wicked and perverted desires on
Then, in v.8, we have a
Then, in vv. 15-16, we see
the angels being forced to lay hold on the hand of
In vv. 32-38 we see
Is it any wonder that
There are other Bible characters who lost, or at least injured, their testimonies. "And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent" (Gen. 9:20-21). I do not see how Noah can be totally absolved of guilt in the sin of Ham, for had Noah not been drunken and uncovered, would Ham have committed his great sin? Did not this act of Noah injure his testimony, even in his own family?
"Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us: and what have I offended thee, that thou has brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou has done deeds unto me that ought not to be done" (Gen. 20:9). Oh, it is a great shame when the unsaved have just cause to rebuke the saved. Had not Abraham injured greatly his testimony by this sin? Could Abraham then turn to Abimelech and tell him of his need of salvation and urge him to trust in the God of Israel for eternal salvation? What effect would such a testimony have had on Abimelech at that time?
"And Abimelech said, What is this that thou hast done unto us? one of the people might have lightly lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us" (Gen. 26:10).
Isaac had followed the bad example of his father, Abraham, in lying about his wife really being his wife, for he feared that someone might kill him in order to take his wife. Now, his sin is found out, and again we have the sad spectacle of an unsaved man of the world rebuking a man of God for his sin. Surely, Isaac had lost or greatly injured his testimony by this act.. Imagine him now turning to Abimelech and preaching the gospel to him, and urging him to trust the God of Israel for salvation.
"Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme...." (II Sam. l2:14). David had committed great sins. He had committed adultery with Bathsheba, another man's wife. He was guilty of murdering her husband in an effort to cover his sin. Now, he has been rebuked by Nathan, the prophet of God with the words quoted above. David had certainly injured or lost his testimony with many. What if he tried to win some of the family of Bathsheba or Uriah to saving faith in the God of Israel? Would his testimony have any real effect upon those who knew of and suffered because of his sin?
"But the Philistines took him, and put out
his eyes, and brought
him down to
"Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew" (Matt. 26:74). Peter had denied his Lord with cursing and swearing. Do you suppose that he could immediately turn and give an effective witness to those before whom he had denied his Lord? Had he not, for the time being, lost his testimony so far as they were concerned? Yes, we have many examples in the Bible of people who injured or lost their testimony.
What I mean by "Your Testimony" in this message is your life before those who know that you profess to be saved. I ask the question; why should anyone with whom you are fairly well acquainted not know that you profess to be saved? Why would any Christian ever be ashamed to let others know that he is saved? It does not speak well for your profession of salvation when those who know you, do not know you profess to be saved. When I am talking to someone about one I know professes to be saved, and I mention something about this one being a Christian and when the one to whom I am speaking says, “I did not know he was a Christian”, this bothers me. It should greatly bother you if your acquaintances do not know that you profess to be a Christian. Why don't they know that? Why are you keeping this, the greatest thing in your life if you are really saved, from them? Do the people you work with know you are a Christian? Why not? Do those with whom you go to school know you are a Christian? Why not? Do your neighbors know you are a Christian? Why not? Again, what I am preaching about is the testimony of your life before those who know you profess to be a Christian.
I have heard it said, "If he's a Christian, the woods are full of them." I had a woman say to me concerning her husband, "If he's a Christian, I don't want anything to do with it." Oh, it is most terrible when the unsaved have just cause to speak thusly of some who profess to be saved!
I know that sometimes the unsaved will expect too much out of the Christian. They will sometimes say, "If I were a Christian, I would not do as some of those Christians do. If I were a Christian, I would really be a good one." Of course, they do not know what they are talking about. They know nothing of the trials and temptations of the child of God. They know nothing of the difficulties of being a true Christian. They know nothing of the grief, sorrow, and repentance of the Christian over his sins. They know nothing of the inner desires of the Christian to be more and more what he should be. They grossly misjudge the Christian. Furthermore, this is just a "cop out" on the part of the unsaved. He is not saved. He does not want to be saved. He uses the failures of Christians to excuse his own lost, undone, and sinful condition.
I know that it is often difficult for the Christian to meet the professed demands and professed standards that the world makes upon him. I know that the unsaved are often simply unreasonable and unrealistic in what they expect of the Christian.
I know that the demands or expectations of the unsaved on the professed Christian will vary as to individuals and as to locations. Some will doubt a man's salvation if he uses tobacco; some will not pay much attention to this. Some will doubt a woman's salvation if she wears shorts - even long shorts; others will pay little attention to this. I know that a Christian might have a fairly good testimony with some unsaved people, and not much with others.
I know that sometimes the unsaved will judge, hate, and persecute Christians without any reasonable cause. I know that unsaved people often like to hurt the Christian. An unsaved husband might say to his wife, "You are not a Christian; you are a hypocrite, etc." when that good wife has done nothing to merit such treatment. The unsaved often show their hatred of God, Christ, and true Christianity by persecuting and speaking evil (undeserved) of the Christians. I know this. True Christians have been hated, persecuted, and even killed; accused of many terrible crimes, when their only fault (it is not a fault, but a glorious triumph) has been to live a consistent Christian life, and give a faithful witness. We Christians must learn to expect this at times, and to just go on living for and serving the Lord, leaving it with Him to justify us before others.
After saying all this, I also know and declare to you that sometimes we Christians give the unsaved just reason to doubt our Christian testimony. We sometimes give the unsaved room to speak against, to despise, to mock our testimony. This is what I am preaching about in this sermon. Let us be careful of our testimony. Let us seek to always live so, that if the world despise us, mock our testimony, or speak evil of us – let us see that we give them no just cause for doing this. Let us live as godly as God will enable us to. Let us seek to live close to our Lord. Let us seek the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh, dear friends, let us seek to live as clean, pure, separated, and holy as God will enable us to do. Let us be careful of our testimony. Let us so live that, if anyone is going to speak evil of us, he will be forced to speak a lie. Let us seek to live so that men will be forced to say of us as they did of Daniel, "...We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God" (Dan. 6:5). What a great testimony is this concerning the godly life of Daniel. Let us so live that men will have to find fault with our godly life if they find fault against us. Let us so live that men will have to lie about us in order to hurt our testimony. Let us so live that men will have to manufacture in their own depraved minds the charges that they make against us. Let us see to it that we do not give just cause to the unsaved to Speak evil of us.
As to the matter of the unsaved sometimes demanding too much of us, let us read what Paul said in I Corinthians , "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." Paul knew, and had defended the position, that it was not wrong to eat meat. But he knew that his eating pork or some other meats might be offensive to his Jewish brethren - that it might injure his testimony with them. He knew he had the right to do this if he wanted to. He knew that they had no real right to be offended with him over this. He knew that it was their ignorance that caused them to thus be offended with him. But, oh, how he loved His Lord and Saviour. Oh, how he desired the salvation of the Jews. Oh, how he desired to be an influence for good and for God before others. Oh, how he desired to be a good testimony to others. Oh, how he desired to be used of God to be a blessing to others. Therefore, he was willing to give up that which he had a right to, to sacrifice his own desires, to go to great lengths to be able to be a blessing to others, and not to offend them. Even when the offense was unjustified, Paul was willing to go to great lengths to remove the unjust and unfair cause of the offense. What an example for us in these matters is the great Apostle Paul.
"...and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts ). Dear brothers and sisters, if we are going to have an effective testimony before the unsaved world, they must be able to see Jesus in us. It is not "seeing us" that gives an effective testimony; it is "seeing Jesus in us." Unless folk can tell by our lives that we "have been with Jesus," they will not be greatly influenced by our testimony.
By your testimony in this message (which I now see will have to be in two parts) I also refer to your word of mouth testimony. Our lives need to be a testimony, and we need also to testify with our words. I say to you most earnestly that these two: life and lips, life and words must go together in the giving of an effective testimony for the Lord. Every believer should be very faithful in witnessing to others concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His wonderful salvation. Every Christian should be faithful in giving the gospel to the unsaved. Every Christian should be faithful in seeking to win the lost to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
But sin in our lives can shut our mouths as to witnessing for the Lord. How can we have the heart to go on giving the gospel to the unsaved, when we know that we are not living right. Sin will rob us of the desire to witness, and surely will rob us of the power of God in our witnessing. Sin in our lives, known by those to whom we would witness, makes it so that we might as well shut our mouths in this matter. What if Abraham and Isaac had witnessed to Abimelech, who had caught them in their lies? What if Samson had witnessed to the Philistines who had captured him in a house of adultery? What if Peter had witnessed to those who had heard him curse and. swear, and deny even knowing Jesus Christ? Do you not see how the lives of these men would have doubtlessly killed the effects of any testimony they might have given on such occasions?
So, I am saying that we should witness to the unsaved, giving them the glorious, saving gospel of Jesus Christ. I am also saying that we must live the kind of life before them that will help our witnessing to be effective. A bad life can kill a good witness. Let me say that again; a bad life can kill a good witness.
Show and tell, my brother, show and tell. Show Jesus in your daily life before the unsaved and then tell them about Him. I do not believe that "showing" Jesus in our lives will fulfill all of our witnessing responsibility. I believe that we should still tell others about Jesus. I do believe that telling others about Jesus will not be as effective as it should be unless we show Jesus in our daily lives.
YOUR TESTIMONY PART II
Last issue I wrote much about what I meant by this subject, "Your Testimony." Let me repeat that I am referring to the influence of your life on those who know you profess to be a Christian. Let me emphatically say again that there is no excuse for anyone who knows you not knowing you are a Christian. I am also referring, to a minor extent, to your word of mouth witness to others. Let me now say several things about, "Your Testimony."
Your testimony is very
important. Very few things, if any, are more important in your
and service. Your testimony is very important as to your witnessing to
who know somewhat about your life. What effect would it have had for
witness of the saving grace of God to Abimelech
had just caught him in a lie? The same is true of Isaac. Could Samson
given an effective and soul winning testimony to the Philistines who
captured him in the house of Delilah? Suppose that Samson had sought to
Delilah to a saving knowledge of the God of Israel? Would she not have
at him, as
Dear brother and sister, you cannot give an effective testimony to those who know that your life is not what it ought to be as a professed Christian. A young lady decided, against her conscience, to go to a dance. She stilled her conscience by promising to witness for Christ on the dance floor. She said to the young man with whom she was dancing, "Are you a Christian?" He replied, "No, are you?" I knew a man who claimed to be a strong, very strong believer in the doctrines of grace. I learned that he stopped for an hour or so each afternoon, on his way home from work, at a bar and had several beers with those there. I rebuked him for this, and asked him what kind of witness he thought he could give to those men. I heard of a man who went to the local bars, drank with those present, and invited them to services where he attended church. Of course, none of them ever came.
Your testimony will be a great help to your personal witnessing, or it will render such ineffectual. You can't go to a bar and drink and win souls to Christ. You can't go to a dance and their beer and effectively witness for Christ. You will not win souls to Christ in the movies. You can't listen attentively and laughingly to someone's dirty jokes and then give that one an effective witness for Christ. Ladies, you will not win a soul to Jesus while wearing a bikini. How many of you have ever won a soul to Christ, or even witnessed to one while nearly nude on the beach with others who were nearly nude?
If you profess to the unsaved that you are a Christian, they will expect something of you. If they do not see some evidence in your life that you truly are a Christian, they will have no respect for your profession, and your witness to them will fall on deaf ears. You just cannot win your companions in sin to saving faith in Jesus Christ. If you stay out of church to go fishing, hunting, playing golf, etc. with your unsaved friends; just try to win them to Christ and see how far you get.
You might say that you will witness to those who do not know your sinful way of life. Well, of course your testimony (way of life) will not hinder your witness to them. But God knows your sins. You must have the power of God to witness effectively, and you cannot have this power with unrepented of and unconfessed sins in your life. Yes, your testimony is very important to the effectiveness of your witnessing. Could I say something here? I will anyway. Many Christians do not witness because of sin in their lives. Most will not even dare to witness to those who know their lives are unworthy, and sins that others do not know about will usually keep one from really witnessing to others. May I make a suggestion? I will anyway. If you are not regularly witnessing to others about Jesus Christ, what is the reason? Is it because of known sin in your own life? I urge, exhort, and challenge you to examine yourself as to this matter.
Your testimony is important as to its effect relative to your church. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard something like this: " Does so and so go to your church?" "Yes, he does." "Well, I would not want to go to a church with members like that." Why, my brother, my sister, if you are not living right before others, it would be better if you never told them what church you went to and never invited them to it; and you probably don't. The influence of a church depends upon the influence of the testimony of its members before others. Few things cause more hurt to a church than the bad lives of some of its members. This is one reason, and a major one at that, why churches should exercise discipline. The only way I know of that a church can counteract the bad influence of the sinful life of one of its members is to exclude that member. Few things will affect the influence of a church more than the lives of the members of that church - for good or for bad.
Your testimony is important as to what men think about your salvation. If your life before others is wrong and sinful, most of them will not believe your profession of salvation. Even worse than this, many of them will think that there is nothing to salvation. They will reason that if what they see in you is all there is to salvation, then there is nothing to it at all.
A lady told me about her husband, "If he's a Christian, I don't want anything to do with it." I have heard many people say something like this, "If he's a Christian, the woods are full of them." It is a shame that God's wonderful, glorious, precious, life changing salvation is degraded, denied, and maligned because of the unworthy lives of many who profess it; but this is how it is.
Your testimony is important as to what many will think about your Lord. Fair or not, right or wrong; men will judge our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ by the lives of those who profess that He is their Saviour. Our Lord is truly glorious and wonderful. He is a wonderful Saviour. He is without spot or blemish. But the unsaved world does not know Him. They cannot know Him. What they see of Him, they see in the lives of those who profess to know Him. "Let others see Jesus in you"; But let them see the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible.
We might say that it is not right or fair for others to judge our church, to judge our Christianity, to judge our salvation, or to judge our Lord by what they see in those who profess salvation; fair or not, that is the way it is. This is a major reason why "Your Testimony" is important. We who are true Christians need to be very, very careful about our lives before others. We need to do our best to not bring shame and reproach on our church, on salvation, especially on Jesus Christ by the way we live. Let us be as sure as we can that men will have no real reason to think lightly or falsely about these things and about Jesus Christ by what they see in us. Oh, let us pray daily that God will give us grace and strength so that we will not disgrace our testimony or our Lord.
Your testimony is very fragile; it can be severely damaged or even totally lost very easily. The world is watching us. The world wants to discredit our testimony. It eases the conscience of the unsaved when they see sin in the lives of the saved. When our life is right, it is a rebuke to the unsaved. When our life is right it is like a light that shows up and reproves the sins of others, "But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light" (Eph. ). When one receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, this reproves the unsaved world as to their rejection of Jesus. Therefore, they delight to see sin in the Christian so as to make them feel more comfortable in their rejection of Jesus Christ.
Also, the devil seeks to ruin one's testimony. He is powerful. He is very crafty. He knows our weak points. He knows how to put temptations before us at our weakest point. Our testimony to Christ is a reproach to the devil. He hates Jesus Christ. He will do all that he can to injure or destroy our testimony for Jesus Christ. Yes, your testimony is very fragile, and there are many wicked and powerful enemies who are ever active toward the hurt or ruin of the Christian's testimony.
There are many things that can seriously mar or even destroy your testimony. Some of these relate to your church relation and activities. You may not think much of it when you miss many services of your church, but I want you to know that you are thereby doing great damage to your testimony. You may not make much of this, but the world will. Your neighbors know, or should know, that you profess to be saved and are a church member. When they know that your church is having service, and know that you are staying home or going somewhere else; this will hurt your testimony with them. When the lights are on at your church, and the lights are on at your home, the lights are out on your testimony for Jesus Christ. Now I know that there are circumstances and reasons at times for this, but most of the time there are not. If you are saved and a member of a church, your unsaved neighbors think you ought to be in church. I know they will not tell you this, I know they will delight in this (after all, if you are not in church, why should they be), I know that they might even tempt you to miss church; but your missing church will greatly hurt your testimony with your unsaved neighbors and friends. Try these things: Go to a ball game with an unsaved friend while your church is having service, and try to witness to him or her about Jesus Christ. Run here and there with your unsaved friends, missing your church services, and then try to win them to Jesus Christ. Try this, if you dare, and you will see how right I am.
The way you dress can hurt
your testimony. I have sadly learned that often when the hems go up on
women, they also go up on women in the church. Saved people should not
like the unsaved, when the dress of the unsaved is immodest or
should try to be a Christian in the way you dress. I know that some of
say, "Joe used to be a Holy Roller, and still has some of that in
him"; but I will tell you that I hate to see women church members made
like the chorus line in a
You can hurt your testimony by the places you go. There are places in which Christians should never appear. Church members, especially the young, often ask if it is all right to do this, or that, or the other. Well, you can find out for yourself mighty easily. Just ask the question (and answer it honestly), will it hurt my testimony for Jesus? If it will hurt your testimony, it is wrong. You might just ask yourself the question, will you witness for Jesus there? It is wrong to go to places where you would not or could not give a witness for Jesus Christ.
If you are interested in having a good testimony; don't go to a dance, young people don't go to your prom, don't go to bars, don't go to rock and roll concerts, don't go to the movies; well I could go on and on, but I will just exhort you to consider your testimony in deciding if you should or should not go to a place or a function.
You can hurt your testimony by your conversation. You can hurt it by things you do not say and by things that you do say. If people know you profess to be saved, and they never hear you talk about Jesus Christ, about the Word of God, about your church, about spiritual things; you will hurt your testimony with those people. Why is it that so often the conversation of the Christian is no different from that of the unsaved? You don't have to tell dirty jokes, talk filthy, or curse to hurt your testimony by your speech; you can hurt it by not having any spiritual content in your conversation.
Of course, you know that you can hurt your testimony by saying things you should not say. Who can or will have any respect for your testimony if you talk filthy, if you curse, if you tell dirty jokes, if you make suggestive risqué remarks, etc.? Your speech says much about you. It tells people what you are. It tells people where your interests lie. This is one of the greatest dangers to one's testimony. Let your conversation always be such that it will be a good witness for Jesus Christ. "Let, no corrupt communication. proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph. 4:29). Oh, the Bible has so much to say about speech. So much can be done with the tongue - for God and good or for great evil. Don't let your conversation ruin your testimony.
You can hurt your testimony by the things you do. I tell you most emphatically that there are places that Christians should not go and things that Christians should not do. You should not dance, you should not gamble (and that includes playing the lottery), you should not - well, I have already mentioned under other points things you should not do. Let me add a word here to young people, especially as to dating. If you are saved, you should not date an unsaved person. You should be sure that your dating habits, the places you go and the things you do are pleasing to the Lord and do not hurt your testimony. Christians should usually get home earlier from dates than do the unsaved - there is so much more sin after 9 or than there is before. You certainly should not engage in heavy petting. Holding hands is all right. Hugging and kissing should be very restrained and not much of it. I would suggest that such be almost like that of a brother and sister. Oh, there goes Joe Wilson again; he does not want us to have any fun. No, I don't want you to have great sorrow. Where there is little to none of hugging and kissing, there is rarely any sex sin. Usually, if you don't go far, you, won't go too far.
You can hurt your testimony by the attitudes you have and express. One who is quick to get angry will have a poor testimony. Anger is a poor handmaid to a real witness for Jesus. One who is hateful will hurt his or her testimony. God's grace produces a kind and gracious spirit. The attitude of constant murmuring and complaining will hurt your testimony. Christians have something to be thankful for. They should express frequently this attitude. A grumbling Christian will be a poor testimony for Jesus. Jealousy will hurt your testimony.
Covetousness will well nigh kill any testimony for Christ. If the unsaved see that you have a covetous spirit, they will lose confidence in your profession of being a Christian. Oh, I tell you that the world expects something out of one who professes to be saved. They know what they are like, but they think you should be different - and you should – and that difference should show in your attitude and disposition as well as in many other ways.
To be discourteous will hurt
your testimony. I well remember the following incident with great
who know me know that I am always in a hurry. I have two speeds: stop
hurry. If I don't have anything to do, I am in a hurry to get it done.
I was in
a grocery a store (Katie should know better than to send me to the
store). There was an old lady headed for the check out. I hurried and
front of her. Oh, I would not have told her I was pastor of
You can hurt your testimony by being self centered and not caring about others. If you have this inward attitude, it will come out, and others will know it about you. There are many other things I could name that will hurt your testimony, but I desist. Let me say that, if you have a deep concern about your testimony, if you sincerely desire to have a good testimony, and if you will pray about this matter; the Holy Spirit will lead you as to things that will hurt and things that will help your testimony.
A damaged testimony is hard to repair, and a lost testimony is hard to restore. Note these three things: Your testimony is important, your testimony is fragile, and your lost testimony is hard to restore. It is so much easier to maintain a good testimony than it is to repair a damaged one. God will forgive you, but men are not as forgiving as God. You may, easily and in a moment of time, hurt your testimony with someone, and you many never be able to regain it with that individual.
The best thing to do about your testimony is to be very careful about it. Be concerned about it. Realize how important it is. Pray much about it Work hard at maintaining a good testimony before others - oh, is there anyone (including Joe Wilson; even especially Joe Wilson) to whom I am not preaching now? I urge, I exhort with all my soul to every believer; be careful about your testimony.
A word to the unsaved: The unsaved man may use my poor testimony of a Christian he knows as his excuse for not being saved. Now, the Christian should be very careful that he does not give the unsaved man any real reason for doing this; but I want the unsaved to know that this is only a "copout". This is not the real reason any man remains unsaved. It is his cover up. It is his excuse; but the real reason is that he is in love with his sins and does not want to be saved. I will preach hard to the Christian about maintaining a good testimony. I will preach just as hard to the unsaved as to his need of salvation, and as to his own personal responsibility in this matter. No lost man will be allowed to enter, at the Great White Throne Judgment, the plea that he would have become a Christian if it had not been for the poor testimony of some Christian he knew. No such excuses will be allowed there.
Christians ought to live
right; but, my unsaved friend, if they do not, it will not excuse you
stand before God. Jesus is God, He was born
virgin. He died a substitutionary death at