My testimony from 2005, during my “Leadership Training” Year at Capernwray Harbour Bible School.
“The Missing Link”
I was a good kid. I have so far lived an excellent life that cause minimal to no strife to my parents and to those around me. Positions I have held in my church and other churches included many leadership positions, of small groups, of youth groups, of worship groups. I taught Sunday School, ran the sound board, played the piano and worshiped God with the best of them. I went on missions trips to serve God, and youth conferences and retreats to regenerate my faith, and each time I was “renewed in my faith” with a new sense of purpose. TO DO GOOD FOR THE LORD. This was inherently where my problem was.
I was probably no different than other overachievers out there. To borrow an illustration from Charles Price, I was a car who hasn’t found my engine (which is Christ). And I wasn’t going anywhere. I became good at making the sounds, “vroom vrooming” away in deception, and making people think that I had it all together. Yet when I looked out the window, I was far behind the goal. “[I want to] know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, 11) was the sincere desire of my heart. I just did not know how to go about knowing Christ.
I thought that I could know Him by watching Him from a distance, mimicking His actions… What Would Jesus Do? Right? How wrong I was. I found in this a righteousness of my own, which to the outside world was good enough. I was encouraged and congratulated until my head swelled with pride. Hey why not? I was good at it. I was really good at mimicking Christ. Yet I knew inside of me that Christ was no where to be found. I thought that if I could do well enough, that I would attract His attention, and finally He would work in me. I would find that the opposite would be true. My own actions only caused me to become weary and tired. I would “burn out” doing for good for Christ.
There was a lesson I still needed to learn. There was a missing link. Here it is. “Faithful is He who calls you, He will also do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). This was something that I had never heard before! What? He will also do it? Do what? Do what He has called me to do; “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). What? There it is again. For it is God who works in me? Huh? How? How come I have never heard this before? I’ve read through Philippians, how come I’ve never seen this before?
There is a call in our churches today. That call sadly is for us to do for God, instead of letting God do through us. I reflect on the works that I have done – and again, they were good works. I did for God. And I did well for God. The problem was that I was doing it, instead of Him in me. In futility (that means, vanity, senselessness, uselessness), I continued on my works for Him, and found that I wasn’t going anywhere. “For even though [I] knew God, [I] did not honour Him as God or give thanks, but [I] became futile in [my] speculations, and [my] foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). Though I knew that He was God, I continued on to do my own works. I chose to mimic Him, working under my own strength, instead of giving Him His proper place in my life.
Months ago, I saw that my actions weren’t good enough. I saw that my “vroom vrooming” noises were incomparable to reality of Christ in those who were around me who had gotten the message. More than that, I saw them taking off on a sprint towards that goal of knowing Christ, while I was left behind, where I was squirming in my own strength. I knew that a change had to be made. I knew that things had to be different.
In Psalms 46:10, God says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” This is the first step of faith that I had to take. I had to stop what I was doing, to stop my actions and to acknowledge that He is the Almighty, All-powerful, and All-knowing God. Then in acknowledgement of who He is, I needed to acknowledge who I am: “but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (Romans 7:14). I am sinful, I am human. Nothing I do will ever be able to please Him. Now in light of who He is, and who I am, I then need to realize my dependency on Him: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). This is it! This is what God was waiting to hear from me. He wanted me to realize that I now only live because of His mercy on me: “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all” (Romans 11:32). Finally, based on this dependence, I needed to realize the basis by which God calls anyone to do anything for Him: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counsellor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.” (Romans 11:33-36) Let me say that again. The basis by which God calls anyone to do anything for Him is this: For FROM Him and TROUGH Him and TO Him ARE ALL THINGS. Remember the verses above? Faithful is He who calls you, He will also do it; and, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Praise God!
This is not the end, though. What is now required in light of these revelations is that I respond to Him: “Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). The “therefore” in that is with response to the verses before from Chapter 11. Let’s read it this way. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Because from Him and to Him and through Him are all things, the only thing that I can do is present myself as a living and holy sacrifice to Him. This is my act of worship.
There is something significant about this sacrifice. A sacrifice to God has to die. So how is a sacrifice the act of worship? Did you know that the first time the word “worship” was ever used in the Bible is in the book of Genesis. In Chapter 22, we read the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac. In verse 5, Abraham says to his servants, “stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” It was obvious what he was going to do. He was going up to the mountains and sacrifice (kill) Isaac to God. This was his act of worship. But here’s the amazing part for he says something peculiar. He says that once they have gone up and worshiped, then they will return. This is what worship and sacrifice means. It is the faith that God can bring life to what was once dead. Abraham believed in Resurrection Life. This is how it applies to Romans 12:1. It is in an attitude of faith and dependence on God who is able to resurrect from the dead that I must respond.
Finally, how this attitude is practically applied is found in the next verse on Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Conforming to the world is what I had been doing before in my futility. Conforming to the world is this: the attitude that says I can do it by myself. But the transformation and renewing of my mind is this that I would die to myself and live in dependence on Christ. It is merely saying, “Jesus I can’t, but You can. And so, I must die to myself, knowing that you have the power to resurrect.” This is amplified in a verse that is well known but poorly applied. It is a verse that graces our walls on plaques, and our songs of “worship”, yet is not changing our lives. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). See I had read this verse before; I had memorized it, and even taught Bible studies with it. But without first, the attitude of faith that God is able to resurrect from the dead, then it is meaningless. Crucified with Christ? What does that mean exactly? It means that I became dead with Him. So that when I am resurrected, I live in the same newness of Life that He has. In dying to myself, I realize that it is not my actions that please God, but I yield to Him so that He may do through me what is His pleasure.
It’s an amazing concept actually. Gone are the pressures on me to do good, the burn out, and the futility. When it’s not me working, there is a freedom and joy. When it’s not me working, there is no fear of condemnation. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t become a vegetable and stand there waiting for God to do. Yielding to God’s activity simply means this, the realization and acceptance that there is nothing inherently good within me and in my actions; but, because of Christ’s mercy and grace, He cleanses me, and God is pleased. He can say as the master to his servant in Matthew 25:13, “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master.” It is in this then that we are growing to know Him more: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18, 19). Isn’t that wonderful? To be filled up with all the fullness of God. But remember where it originates, in my presenting myself as a sacrifice, dead to myself, but alive in Christ, to God. Living in the fullness of Christ is this. To acknowledge moment by moment that only He can.
This choice means something different for different people. For me, the choice to die to myself, is the realization that all the good that I had done before were not good at all. I had so much to boast about, “but whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7, 8). Nothing compares to knowing Christ. But to know Him, I had to count as loss all the things that I had done before, so that He may in turn do through me. I still leader worship, I still lead small groups and teach. I probably do more now than I’ve been doing before. But the difference is this, that now it is not in my strength but in Him who gives me strength. He is the vine, and I am the branch. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. But in Him, I bear much fruit (Matthew 15:5).
You may be in the same position that I was: finding that you are working in your strength and not His; merely imitating rather than actually reflecting God’s glory. There’s satisfaction in our God. He is sufficient for our every need. But we need to realize that we do have a need. There is nothing in us that can ever please God. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good” (Romans 3:10-12). Not even faith can save us. Everyone has faith; I have faith right now that this chair I am sitting on is able to keep me up. The important point is the object of our faith. I hope that by this testimony, I have pointed you to the only one in whom we should put our faith on. Put your faith in Christ’s love, mercy and grace: In His ability to make you holy and acceptable to our Holy God. Only then will you find the satisfaction found in the Christian Life.