There were some reflections I thought about after yesterday’s posting. I want to unpack a little more what I meant by “loving quantitative [i.e. measurable] self-exaltation rather than qualitative humiliation.”
Here’s what I meant. When we “tell our testimony” (a concept worth revisiting in itself) we typically recount what we’ve done for God rather than what God has done in/for/to us. In so doing, we overestimate ourselves and underestimate God’s sovereign grace. For example, if I say “I made a decision for Christ” I infer (probably unintentionally) that I was previously undecided. Scripture, however, never assumes that much of us. We’re not born “undecided” until we decide. We’re born decidedly rebels with no intention of changing our vote until God overcomes us by grace. Joel’s “Valley of Decision” (Joel 3.14) is not our deciding on God, but God deciding on us!
As far as “testimonies” go there’s hardly a better one than the man born blind in John 9. The Jewish leadership asked him for his “testimony” as to how he could now see. Each time he began with Jesus, who applied clay to his eyes (vv11, 15). His focus was never on what he did, but on what Jesus did. All the blind man could bring to the table was his blindness.
The man’s hearers were not mistaken as to who did it. They didn’t care what the man had to say about the Siloam pool, but Jesus (v17). No one even supposed any “power” in the Siloam pool. So Christ-centered was his testimony that the Pharisees were left asking, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” (v26). All attention was on Jesus, who came that “those who do not see may see” (v39).
Our own conversion stories should leave folks asking the same questions: What did He do to you again? How did He open your heart to believe? What do you say about him since He opened your eyes?
Jesus’ 7th sign in John (the crescendo of the signs depicting Jesus’ redemptive work) was the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11). (Notice that with each “sign” we are progressively worse and Jesus is more powerful. What began as “thirst” in ch. 2 ended with “dead” in ch. 11!) No one celebrated Lazarus’ coming out of the tomb. No one patted him on the back saying, “Good job, Lazarus.” In fact, Lazarus didn’t even think to remove his own grave clothes. Jesus had to command even that (v44)!
I doubt Lazarus ever told people how he came out of the tomb. I’m confident He told everyone how Jesus made him alive (Eph 2.5).
What’s the upshot of all this? I’m certainly not categorically condemning those who use language like “I came to Christ” or “I accepted Christ.” We’ve raised a generation or two who simply don’t know what else to say. I know many folks who explain conversion this way do so with humble hearts. And they undoubtedly talk more about Jesus with folks than I do.
What I am saying is this: Let’s make sure that when we talk about conversion (in general or ours personally) we do so with all light shining on Jesus. Let’s leave people knowing or asking about what God does in/for/to us in Christ rather than what we did for God. That means we need to shore up our vocabulary so that we can more confidently exalt Christ.