“Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ ”
- Acts 22:14-16
“There is a large amount of ineffective Christian testimony among us today. Much of it is well-intended, I am sure—honest and sincere. We do the best we can with what we have. But our performance turns out to be something like that of the salesman promoting fountain pens. He tries to make a case for his product, but his would-be customers know he really thinks ballpoints are far more practical.
“Too much of our Christian witnessing is unconvincing because we have not been convinced. We are ineffectual because we have not yet capitulated to the Lord from glory. It is like the proselyte making proselytes. …
“Perhaps this is happening because we are trying to plan how everything should happen. Everyone of us reads a little how-to book on witnessing. We try to do it the way we have been taught. But it is perfunctory and without any contagious element. If angels can weep, they must weep salty tears upon seeing a proselyte who has never really met the Lord making another proselyte who will also never meet the Lord.”
- A. W. Tozer, Faith beyond Reason
A proselyte is a new convert to a religion or other cause. It is where we get the word proselytize, what you are not allowed to do in many countries around the world. That is, a Christian is not allowed to proselytize while other religions seem to do so without encumbrance.
But if we have a new convert to Christianity giving a testimony, is that not a good thing?
In this sense, it may not be. Is the person a proselyte to the person of Jesus, to the religion, or to an emotion received at a Christian worship service?
I have heard people give such testimonies as, “I was at church camp and while paddling a canoe on a lake, I had this feeling that this was all I ever wanted to do for the rest of my life.” In that statement, there was nothing about making a commitment to Jesus. Jesus was not even mentioned. What does that person want to do for the rest of their life? Attend church camp? Attend any camp? Paddle a canoe? Commune with nature? The life of the person showed at least an intellectual commitment to serve Jesus, so I cannot deny that the person is a Christian, but the words said do not point to a full understanding of what it means to be a Christian either.
Of course, I come from a denomination that has lost the art of giving testimonies generations ago. We had a lady teach a Sunday school class when the regular teacher wanted a break one week. After her lecture, we divided into pairs and gave our testimonies. It was awkward. Many people changed the subject of their own testimony, unable to focus on “Do I really have Jesus in my heart and how can I prove it?”
In another class, one that I taught, I paired people off in the class to give their testimony. One lady yelled, far too loud, “I don’t have a testimony, and I am proud of it!” I guess she thought that having a testimony was what they did in those holy roller churches, and she was not going to associate with that behavior.
But could it be, even for a new believer, a true believer in Jesus Christ, that we might not need to give our testimony until our life speaks for itself (not that settling on giving a good example excuses you from speaking)?
Let’s look at the Apostle Paul who is speaking in the Scripture above. He was commissioned by God to spread the word. He immediately starts speaking in Damascus, but the people there knew he was sent by the high priest to arrest or even kill believers of Jesus there. He escaped from Damascus, barely. The Apostles were split on whether they could trust him. He went into exile, if you will, back to his hometown of Tarsus. And then, when Barnabas was sent to Syrian Antioch, he sent for Paul to join him there. Paul had used that time in Tarsus to grow in his faith.
Think of it. A proselyte has just accepted Jesus. He turns to his friend and is so eloquent, along with the help of the Holy Spirit, that his friend accepts Jesus too.
Then the friend asks, “Okay, we are saved. Now what?”
The proselyte says, “I don’t know. This is as far as I got!”
But Rev. Tozer is using “proselyte” as a negative term, someone who is enamored with the religion, but has never met the risen Savior. You go to church. You act nice around other people. You say the right words. You sing a few songs. But as for the condition of your heart? You have no new creation within you. It is all window dressing.
Jesus called the church at Sardis a dead church in Revelation 3. Having people fill the pews that are only in the pews for the “entertainment” of the religion… That is a sure way of developing a dead church. The house may be rocking, but the pews are filled with people who have stones instead of hearts.
As a new genuine proselyte, we may have to prove our faith through loving others before we open our mouths, but giving a testimony is not an option. It is a necessity. Jesus’ command to spread the gospel to all the corners of the earth did not include any comment about “Mother, may I.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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