Friday, June 12, 2015

Two Stories Tall

(submitted by Kerry Patton)
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15

The hymn “Amazing Grace” was written by a former slave trader named John Newton in 1773.  Newton had lived a life empty of religion, but cried out to God to save him during a perilous storm in 1748.  With that event marking his conversion, Newton eventually ended his slave trading career in 1754 or 1755 and went on to study Christian theology, becoming an ordained clergy in the Church of England in 1764.  He wrote “Amazing Grace” to illustrate a sermon he was to preach on New Year’s Day of 1773. The song is arguably the most popular hymn of the last two hundred years, estimated by historian and biographer Jonathan Aitken to be performed some 10 million times annually.
Most remarkable in the lyrics, I believe, is the surprising spiritual depth that is expressed in such simplistic terms.  Perhaps it is this reality that has endeared the song to so many millions across several generations of Christians. Simple pairs of words cover volumes of understanding and become an anthem of Christian gratitude and praise: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see…” Amazing/grace, sweet/sound, saved/wretch, lost/found, and blind/see.  Juxtaposed words illustrate much larger concepts of humanity’s nature of sin, our need for salvation, God’s provision in Jesus’ sacrifice, and our hope eternal in heaven because of that provision.

By the Blood of the Lamb…and the Word of Their Testimony
Revelation 12:11 speaks of those amazing followers of Christ who have and/or who will endure great suffering during tribulation for the cause of their faith: “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”  “…and by the word of their testimony…” I’m drawn to that particular phrase.  In the passage, John the Revelator describes a great heavenly battle in which the devil himself, the accuser of the brethren, is cast down to earth and now makes accusation against the children of God both day and night.  No longer able to fight in the heavens, Satan takes his battle directly to the occupants of the earth.  And how is he defeated? 

·      By the blood of the Lamb, Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, and…
·      By the word of the testimony of the disciple of Jesus…spoken not only through his or her words in proclamation or profession, but in their living of holy lives, by their patient sufferings, and faithful service. 

These testimonies prove the Christian faith to be true and further prove that the accusations of the devil are false.  The blood of the Lamb covered the ransom for sin, and the lives of the believers were lived as proof of the faith.  This was their testimony.

We are in a very real sense, each of us who follow Jesus – only two stories tall. 
·      Story one: I was lost in my sins, blind to the truth and understanding of God’s love; a wretch.  Not a very kind description is it?  A wretch...  A miserable condition no matter how you size it up.  Romans 6:23 clarifies it further: “For the wages of sin is death…” Our condition as wretches is so severe, that our reward is death.  Period. 
AND YET…there is a second story isn’t there. 

·      Story two: I am now found!  I am saved by the grace of God in the blood of Jesus! My eyes are opened to understand the Word of God and his gospel.
I’ve had the chance to hear many testimonies over the years of ministry.  Some are very simple and unremarkable, and others are very colorful…even shocking or surprising!  Some of us have made some pretty remarkable mistakes and choices, and others have passed through some very troubled waters…but praise God for his mercy! 

Bruce Wesson, one of our precious senior members, recently passed away in Virginia, near his daughter and grandchildren.  He used to live next door to me and I would visit with him; always finding him a fascinating individual.  Bruce had found a career in the FBI under the administration of J. Edgar Hoover.  Once I asked Bruce about his career… “I bet you have some amazing stories to tell.”  Bruce’s gaze became very distant and he grew silent.  After a moment, he spoke: “Let’s just say, I’m so very glad to have Jesus on my side.”  Wow.  Enough said.  I didn’t press him any further.  But you know, while I was impressed with the part of Bruce’s story as an FBI agent, I was most impressed with him as a man of Godly character and service.  What a remarkable man…and a great testimony!

Testimonies are usually two part…or two stories tall:  There’s who I was and all the things I did, and then there’s who Jesus is and what he did for me in his death and resurrection.  Because of Jesus, I’m two stories tall…and so are you.

Now, go and live your testimony.  Let others know why you are two stories tall!

Almighty God, help me as I write today’s chapter of my testimony.  Let me live in such a way as to bring you glory and prove to others that my faith is true.  Oh let me not bring disgrace to you or to the faith, but work your will and way in me.  To the honor and glory of thy name, I pray, Amen.

Scripture to Claim
But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."  Acts 4:19-20 NASB

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