Our living testimony must reflect the brutal honesty of the cross – that we are all sinners and undeserving of God’s love, grace, and mercy for all mankind.
However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Timothy 1:16)
There is no greater truth than the love of God. The Bible tells us that ‘God is love,’ and it’s good reason to rejoice each day. From this love flows all the things that define Him – justice, mercy, grace, compassion, faithfulness. Every wonderful attribute of God is centred in His vast, immeasurable, inexplicable love. We absolutely must celebrate this truth because it’s the root of our salvation and the power of life. But we so easily settle on all the ‘good things’ His love means for us and avoid the truth. It has a greater purpose than you or I. As recipients of the love of God, we provide living testimony. In this, we reflect the love of God.
God’s love was manifest in Christ’s living testimony.
John 3:16 is possibly the most quoted verse in the Bible: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the cross was the outworking of God’s incredible love. Jesus came because of that love and to restore us to that love. His life and work were a living testimony to the fact that the awesome, almighty God of the universe loves every one of us. What is even more powerful, though, is that He loved us while we were yet sinners. He loved us before we loved Him. His love was despite the way we were, and He continues to love even those who do not choose Christ and salvation.
It’s often difficult to grasp the reality that God loves even the dictators and murderers. It’s way more comforting to think that He loves the weak and the downtrodden, the fallen and the misunderstood. But to understand how important our living testimony is, we need to first understand the magnitude and scope of the love of God. It includes all, even those who we might consider the ‘worst of the worst.’ This is poignantly proven on the cross when Christ asked forgiveness for those who crucified Him. Even in His agony, the love of God for everyone was powerfully manifest. When Jesus died on that cross, He died for all. That some don’t accept Him doesn’t alter this truth. Every human being, no matter what their sin, has equal access to the love of God if they choose to turn to Him, repent, and believe.
Our living testimony is the evidence of God’s love.
This is often the most difficult truth. In the verse immediately preceding today’s Scripture, Paul defines himself as ‘the worst of sinners.’ We could agree with him. After all, he had every advantage of wealth and education, yet ruthlessly set out to kill every Christian he could. We can all smugly compare ourselves and decide that his sin was so much worse than ours. Yet, in God’s eyes, sin is sin. There are no degrees of sin. A small lie – even a so-called ‘white lie’ sits up there alongside genocide. The only real difference is that those who are saved are forgiven and washed clean by the blood of Christ. Our living testimony is that God’s love has released His infinite mercy and grace to us, the ‘worst of sinners.’
It’s much easier and more comfortable to focus on the ‘God loves me’ than on the fact that there is absolutely no reason why He should. Like Paul, it’s only when we fully accept our sinfulness that the full magnitude of God’s love can be appreciated. When we acknowledge, with total honesty and humility, that we are no better than the ‘worst of sinners,’ we can begin to appreciate what it really means to be saved. If we continue to gloss over or minimise our true sinfulness, we will never live fully in the grace and mercy of the love of God. To see that God loves us despite what we are is a far more powerful living testimony than one which claims that God loves us just as we are. The latter implies no need for change, which in turn begs the question why the cross was even necessary.
We magnify God through our living testimony.
Unless we openly admit our desperate need for the saving blood of Jesus, we cannot give glory to God. Salvation is an entirely divine, sovereign, and supernatural event. Yes, we have to choose, and we have to confess and repent. But the work of salvation is the outworking of God’s love through His grace and mercy. It’s critical that in our living testimony we accept that we cannot be saved unless we are first judged. Romans 6:23 says this: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This doesn’t differentiate between ‘big sin’ and ‘little sin.’ It simply says ‘sin’ – all sin. If we sin, we are automatically judged by the holiness of God, and the sentence is death.
This is the truth that renders all sinners equal. It also glorifies God for His infinite love, grace, and mercy. When we speak the reality of our condition before Christ, we magnify God whose great love came to save us. No matter what else happens , this truth is immutable. God so loved the world, even when we were steeped in sin and rife with rebellion. Our living testimony must magnify the sovereign work of a God who had no reason to love us but gave Himself regardless. Unless we speak the reality of our spiritual condition before Christ, without excuses or justification, we diminish the love of God. We make it less than it is. We give Him only part of the glory due to Him. Also, we use the immeasurable value of His love to serve our own purposes.
Our living testimony is for mankind.
Paul puts this into very clear perspective in today’s verse. We receive mercy for ourselves but also to show others. Our mercy is to not only save us, but to reveal the truth of salvation to those still unsaved. We provide a living testimony to the infinite patience of God for sinners. We’re the ‘case in point’ that proves the love of God. It’s proof that should never be diminished or watered down. The message is simple. ‘If He could can do this for me, the worst of sinners, He can do it for you.’ Anything less makes a mockery of the cross and the Gospel. Half-truths, when it comes to the love of God, is unacceptable. Of course, none of us want to accept that our sin is as bad as Nero’s, for example. Yet this is exactly what the Bible says – ‘all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.’ (Isaiah 64:6).
We must understand that we do not live in a vacuum. While our relationship with God is personal and individual, we are citizens and soldiers in His kingdom. When we choose Christ, we choose to live like Christ. If He was willing to assume the utter filth of every sin of humankind, we should have the courage to admit the reality of our own. Jesus was blameless and pure and had no sin. Yet He revealed the reality of our sin in ‘full technicolour’ on the cross. He was essentially saying ‘this is what you are and what you deserve.’ Our living testimony is to reveal the love of God as it really is, even to those who we may feel ‘don’t deserve it’ or who we don’t particularly like. Honesty takes courage, but if we want to live in God’s love, this is our purpose.
We worship God in our living testimony.
Honesty is the beginning of worship. To live as living sacrifices means to be a living testimony. It means to put self and all its pretensions aside and be honest about what we are without Jesus. Revealing our true nature to the world challenges every worldly attitude, but it is the only real reflection of the love of God. If we can, like Jesus, love so much that we are willing to reveal the absolute truth, we fulfil our calling in the kingdom of God. When we glorify Him daily for His grace, mercy, and love while we were yet sinners, we live lives of worship and draw others to Him. It is the truth that sets us free, and that truth can only be found in the brutal beauty of the cross, the eternal symbol of what the love of God really means.
Lord, we come before You this morning just as we are. We acknowledge that we may not always have been honest. Forgive us that we have judged others and found them wanting but minimised our own sinfulness. Help us to see the real truth and to speak it through our lives as living testimony of Your love, grace, and mercy to all.