I love hearing testimonies. The type of testimony I’m talking about here is defined by Merriam Webster as “a firsthand authentication of a fact; evidence; an outward sign; an open acknowledgment; a public profession of religious experience.” Some churches dedicate a portion of their service to testimonies, allowing church members to stand up and publicly give their statement for all to hear. I think what I like most about testimonies is hearing about real life situations that people were in that seemed dreary, dismal or even impossible through their human eyes, but worked out for good in the end. They are times where all evidence suggested failure, but God turned the situation around in an often inconceivable manner.
In Philippians 3, Paul gives his personal testimony, describing the person that he once was, and the person that God molded him into. He was a “typical Jew” of that era—Circumcised after 8 days (per Jewish custom), a member of the Pharisees, and a real stickler to the rules of the group. Like the other Pharisees, he “perhaps meant to obey God, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist in very limited parts of The Law (plus all that they themselves added to it), that they became blind to The Messiah when He was in their very midst.” Jesus called them “hypocrites” in Matthew 23. Paul’s extremism was apparent in that he arrested, persecuted and abused Christians because he thought he was doing what was right, obeying the law and never questioning the hypocrisy and injustice of the precepts upon which the laws he planned to abide by until his death were based.
Upon hearing this, you would really think, WHOA. Paul was a terrible person! He killed people and threw them in jail just because of their religion! Until you read on and Paul testifies to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ causing him to do a complete 360. He says,” I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.”
When you sit and think about Paul’s progression from his position as a Pharisee, to being on fire for Jesus Christ—a promulgator of the bitter opponent of a group to which he once pledged his allegiance—it sound completely ridiculous! I would never imagine that anyone would do such a thing, changing the source to which they devote their belief, so drastically. But this is why Paul’s testimony is so powerful. Upon accessing all knowledge of human evidence, characteristics, habits and thought processes, I would never guess that someone would do such a thing, yet Paul did.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
This attests to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ and to the fact that God does not judge us based on the things that we DID. The word “did” is the past tense of the word “do.” Therefore, it is used to describe everything that once happened. “Did” cannot properly depict a current situation or a future one. “Did” can only attest to what once was. That means that “Did” can only accurately describe events that God is not at all concerned with!
- Hebrews 10:17 says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
- Isaiah 43:18 says, ““Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
- Ephesians 4:22-23 says, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”
- Romans 6:4 says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
- Philippians 3:13-14 says 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing:, Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
James 1 tells us to be “DOERS of the word” so that we “will be blessed in our DOING.” It does not say that we will be blessed on what we already did. God is concerned about where you are at this moment, because how you think right now affects both your present and your future, while if you choose to discard it, your past will not affect either. Like Ron said last Thirsty Thursday, “Don’t get too caught up in what you’ve done in the past. As long as you are living you are never past the point of saving. Your sins, shortcomings, all can be forgiven.” You may remember what you DID , but there is no need to focus on it, because what you DO day to day is what matters. God does not need to look at your past to bring you to the future that he has for you. This is the evidence that drives us daily to “press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed” (Philippians 3:12)