** This series of posts is designed to help Super Summer Students transition back into normal life after a glorious week. These posts should be helpful to any Christian wanting to grow and work through basic issues of Christian living. **
Can I use my personal testimony as a way to share the gospel with others? This is a difficult question, because it totally depends on what kind of testimony you give. There are some testimonies that only focus on the person and their experience. Other testimonies interweave my story with the biblical truth claims of the gospel. Only those which make clear the truth claims of Scripture—the universal need of all people to repent and turn to Jesus—are truly evangelistic testimonies.
Consider the following 2 paragraphs from Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, 133:
“ Some think of a personal testimony as evangelism. Certainly a testimony of what God has done in our lives may include the Good News, but it also may not include it. In telling other people how much Jesus means to you, you may not have told them the Gospel at all. Have you explained what Christ did by dying on the Cross? It is good to share your own testimony of what God has done in your life, but in your testimony, you may not actually make clear what Christ’s claims are on other people.
Testimony is, of course, very popular in our postmodern, “that’s good-for-you” age. Who would object to your thinking you’ve gotten something good from Christ? But wait and see what happens when you try to move the conversation from what Jesus has done for you to the facts of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and how that all applies to your nonbelieving friend. That’s when you discover that testimony is not necessarily evangelism. ”
Simply put, if all I do is tell a person that trusting Jesus made my life better, all I have done is made an experiential claim with no demands on the life or beliefs of another. It is little different than telling someone that, since I began taking a certain kind of vitamin, I have a great deal more energy. My conversation partner is likely to say to me that they are glad that my experiment with religion worked for me, even though they have no intention of trying that. They may walk away from that conversation assuming that they are free to try their own way and it be just as valid as my experience.
How then do you use your testimony and actually include enough Scripture to follow it up with a call for another person to respond? I would recommend using Ephesians 2:1-10 as a base text that you can pattern your testimony around. If you have a Bible available, you can actually use the text to help a person see your testimony and their condition before God. If you use Ephesians 2:1-10, you can share your testimony in 4 steps:
1. Who I was (v1-3) – Begin your testimony with what God says about all of us before our salvation. We were dead in sins and trespasses (v1). WE all followed our own desires, the pattern of the world around us, and the tricks of Satan himself (v2-3). Because of your sin, you were under the curse of God’s wrath, and rightfully so (v3). Had nothing changed, hell would have been your ultimate destination, as it is the ultimate destination for all who are not forgiven by God.
2. What God did (v4-7) – Then tell them what God did to make you alive. God, the perfectly holy Creator, sent his Son to earth to pay the price for our sins. Jesus died and then rose from the grave to grant forgiveness to all who will come to him. For all who become God’s child, God will grant eternal life and forever kindness.
3. How you responded (v8-9) – Jesus did all the work, but he requires us all to respond to him in faith. We are saved by God’s grace through trusting in Jesus Christ. You did not do anything good to be saved. God graciously allowed you to place your trust for your eternity in the finished work of Jesus. This is how any will be saved.
4. What is different (v10) – God not only forgave your sin if you are a Christian, he also changed your life. Now you live to do the good works for which God created you. These works do not contribute to your salvation at all. Instead, the good things that you do now give you joy as you give glory to your God.
It would be wise to construct your testimony, your true story, around the points above and Ephesians 2:1-10. Don’t spend a great deal of time dwelling on the gory details of your sinful past—this tends to glorify your sin rather than God. Instead, get to the cross and help them to know how you trusted Christ, received forgiveness, and now have joy in following him. Don’t make yourself look perfect; be honest. Simply tell the truth and use the Scripture as your authority for the truth of the change in your life.
Then, as you wrap up your testimony, point out to your friend that Ephesians 2:1-3 says that all of us are in need of God’s grace. Verses 4-7 tell us that Jesus has done the work for all who will trust him to be forgiven. Then let them know that, if they wish to become God’s child and be forgiven of their sin, they too must come by God’s grace through faith in Jesus as verses 8-9 say. If they will come, they will be able to live out their ultimate purpose that God planned for them from before the dawn of time as we read in verse 10.