You are here

Introduction

Introduction

While you are listening to my testimony, I hope that your attent­ion will be fixed on what Yahweh God has done. In giving a testi­mony, my fear is that the attention may be focused on the person giving the testimony and not on God Himself. And if you are merely fascinated with God’s miracles in themselves, that would be to miss the point. But if what God has done in my life moves you to say to yourself, “If God can do that for him, He can do it for me,” then you are listening to my testimony in the right way.

Many people, after reading of Paul’s experiences in the Bible, say to themselves, “Only great men like the apostle Paul can experience God so abundantly. God would never do for me what He did for Paul.” If that were so, it would be pointless to read the Bible be­cause none of it would apply to us directly. The Bible would be not­hing more than a compilation of historical accounts of great men like Paul and Elijah. But James says that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Yet this same Elijah was one of the greatest of the prophets. God answered his prayer on Mount Carmel by send­ing down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice (1 Kings 18:38). Has it ever occurred to you that God may want you to do the same? After all, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.

Long before that incident on Mount Carmel, Elijah had already declared that there was to be no rain in Israel for a few years (1 Kings 17:1). This was an act of judgment against Israel for rebelling against God. Sure enough God held back the rain for three and a half years until that memor­able day on Mount Carmel when Elijah prayed for rain to come down (18:1,45). God used one man—a man who shared our nature and even our weaknesses—to bring Israel back to Himself. If you pray as Elijah did, God can use you just as power­fully. In this generation, we desperately need people who know how to walk with God and through whom God can do mighty things.

A testimony, not an autobiography

Before going to my testimony, I need to point out that it is not meant to be an autobiography. An autobiography is the life story of a person, and that person is the center of the story which is filled with personal details such as his place of birth, his family back­ground, his educa­tion, his achievements, and his life events. But a testim­ony is fundamentally different: it testifies to God and what He has done. It is God and not the speaker who is the center of all that is said. Hence a testimony and a biography are different in character: the former has God as its center, the latter has man. It is possible to make an autobio­graphy more God-centered, but then it would be a combination of testimony and auto­bio­graphy.

In saying all this, my point is that in giving a testimony, my goal is for me to serve only as a mirror so that when you look at the mirror you will see the glory of God and not the mirror itself.

When you look at the gospel records, you will notice that they are not a bio­graphy in the usual sense of the word but a testimony to what God was doing in Christ to reconcile the world to Himself. In fact it is not even possible to write a biography of Christ because not even his date of birth is mentioned in the gospels. There is also no record of his childhood after infancy or any detail of his life before the age of about 30, with the exception of a spiritually important incident when he was 12 years old. The gospels are focused on the final three years of his earthly min­istry, particularly the events of the final week which led up to his death and resur­rection.

In all of this, God was mightily at work in Christ to ac­complish His plan for our eternal salvat­ion. From the Bible we see that God brought humankind’s redemption into being through Christ in the final six days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Six days before the Passover, Jesus was anointed at Bethany by Mary in preparation for his burial (John 12:1-3,7). Paul says that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1Corinthians 5:7).

No exaggeration

There is another thing I wish to make clear: It is my aim that in giving my testimo­ny, there will be no exaggeration. This is a principle by which I live. If I cannot recall something accurately, I would rat­her not talk about it because I might misrepresent or even exaggerate it. Some people who hear testimonies might say, “Wow, these things are amaz­ing; per­haps they were exaggerated.” I assure you, and as the Lord is my witness, I exaggerated nothing, because an exaggeration is, in an important sense, a lie. It is false. You have made the event bigger than what it really was, and that is a falsification. You see the same principle in the gospels: there is no exaggeration. In fact, an important event is often recorded in the Bible just as though in passing:

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. (Luke 7:12-15, NIV).

The amazing act of raising a person from the dead is reported in four short verses! You cannot report such an amazing event in a shorter and less dram­atic way than that. Would a modern news reporter write like that? Anybody familiar with writing would say, “You have to polish up the story, pad it with details, and make it more interesting and sensa­tional.” Many preachers in fact do that very thing to this story; they might not be exag­gerating (it is hard to make a resurrection any more significant than it is!); they just want to make a nicer story out of the short gospel account. But the point to notice is that the gospels them­selves don’t do that, and I will try to follow the gospels in this respect, though I may not always be entirely successful because we all tend to get carried away by our remembrance of remarkable events. But we must under no circumstances add in anything that was not originally there. Any kind of falsehood is displeasing to our holy God.

We are all called to be witnesses

In giving my testimony, I am simply witnessing. Witnessing is some­thing that every Christian can do and should do. You may or may not be able to preach. That doesn’t matter. You can witness, and you must witness. Don’t say to yourself, “Oh, he is the one who does all the wit­ness­ing.” No, I am just setting an example for you to follow because, to stress the point again, every Christian can witness and must witness.

What is a witness? A witness is somebody who has seen some­thing or experienced something, and then tells you what he or she has seen or experienced. If you are a true Christian, you must have exper­ienced God in some way or other. How did you become a Christian if God hadn’t changed your life? If He had changed your life, you would have experienced something important: the miracle of being changed. And if you have been changed, that is what you can witness to. You can say, “I was like this before, and now the Lord has made me into a new person. I didn’t change suddenly for no reason; God did something in my life, and this is what I want to tell you about.”

A witness has first-hand experience

A witness is someone who has first-hand experience. That is why wit­nesses are called when a legal case is tried in a court of law. A witness is someone who has first-hand knowledge of that particular case. In the same way, anyone who has had a first-hand experience of God can be a witness. If all you have is second-hand faith, that is, a faith built on someone else’s faith, you are not a true witness. The most you can say is, “My friend believes, so I believe; he got baptized, so I got bap­tized.” That is second-hand faith. When people don’t have a first-hand experience of God, they will have nothing to witness about Him.

This point is crucial. If every Christian were witnessing for Him, the church would be growing. I have often said that you ought to make it your minimum goal to witness to one person a year—bring one person to church per year. How many Sundays are there in a year? Depending on the year, 52 or 53. If in 52 Sundays you can’t bring one person to church, what is the pro­blem with your faith? But if every member in the church brings one person to church, what will happen to the church in one year? It will have 100% growth. The church will double in one year. Has your church doubled in size this year? Prob­ably not. Then somebody is not witnessing, or perhaps most people in the church are not witnessing. Maybe you tried to witness but nobody listened to you; perhaps your witness carried no punch, no quality, no weight. Nobody listened to it. Well, you had better take a good look at your Christian life and ask, “Is there something wrong with me?”

In the Bible, Christians are called “saints”. Few believers today would dare to think of themselves as saints or holy people. Yet Revela­tion 14:12 says that the saints are the witnesses for Jesus. In other words, if you are a true Christian, you are a witness for Jesus. Are you a witness for Jesus or not? I don’t want to give you my test­imony just so that you can say, “This guy has lots of unusual experiences.” That is not important. What is important is whether I motivate you to do what I am doing. Now, you may not have known the Lord for quite as long as I. You may not have many experiences to recount. But does it matter? If you have one experience to tell others, keep sharing it until you have two experiences. And when you have two experiences, you keep on telling others about the two experiences until you get three. Then your story gets long­er and longer, and you will have more to testify to God about and bring Him glory.

To be a witness we must live a victorious life in Christ

Most Christians do not live victoriously. Do you know that testify­ing for Jesus is a way to live victoriously? Do you realize that? This comes out in Revelation 12:11, “They overcame him (the devil, v.9) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” How did they overcome the evil one? Through two things: the blood of Jesus and their testimony for Jesus. Many people know about the blood of Jesus, but that is not enough. That is only one aspect; the other is witnessing for Jesus. They over­come the evil one by telling everyone of their experience of Jesus and the way he has changed their lives. Go and tell peo­ple about it. Go out there and keep witnessing to the Lord, and you will experience victory. That may explain why the church is full of defeated Christians and doesn’t grow: people don’t witness for Jesus, so they are defeated and wallow in their defeat.

The importance of witnessing compared to preaching

Is preaching easy or difficult? Preaching and teaching is relatively easy if it is just a matter of repeating knowledge that you have learned. In this connect­ion, there is something available in North America which I find astonishing: I received literature from a pub­lisher that says that if I pay a monthly fee, they will provide me with a mess­age to preach every Sunday. It is amazing that some­thing like this could exist in the church. I then real­ized that thousands of pas­tors must have been receiv­ing this kind of literature and are preaching mess­ages which they did not pre­pare, but are simply repeating material written by others and sent by post! There is nothing difficult about that.


Eric Chang at a conference in Hong Kong, December 2006


There is, of course, not­hing wrong with repeating a good message if it meets the needs of a particular church at a parti­cular time. But if preaching or teaching is nothing more than the repeating of know­ledge, then it is only of the head not of the heart. When I preach, I preach from the heart. That is why preaching burns me out; I pour out my life through it. I don’t preach from the head only. If anyone thinks that what I preach are intellectual messages, then they don’t under­stand my preaching. I preach from the heart or I don’t preach at all. Preaching like this will drain your strength. If you can preach five messages and don’t feel tired, you’ve got a problem: You must be preaching from the wrong place, and certainly not from the heart.

Preaching can be just a matter of repeating knowledge or theory, but witnessing is something that comes from life—something you have truly exper­ienced. If you haven’t experienced something, you can’t witness to it; yet you can preach on the things you have never experienced. You can talk about dying and rising with Christ until your mouth gets dry, yet without having experienced it your­self. In other words, you don’t have to experience these things to preach them, but you have to experience them if you are going to be a true witness. So I encourage you to witness. If you don’t know how to preach, don’t worry about it, but witness in order to be victorious in Christ.

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church