“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Testimonies are hard.
Too often well-meaning Christians use them as Catholic confessionals, creating tantalizing breeding grounds for church gossip (“Can you believe sister Linda was a stripper?!”). The excitement a new Christian feels when he’s been delivered from sin understandably overflows from his lips. Sadly, it creates an environment for the Pharisees of the church to sit back and say, “Thank God I’m not like that guy!”.
Should a Christian share his testimony with others? Undoubtedly. The Bible is full of sinful people who’ve been transformed by God. Their testimonies lay naked in Scripture like a billboard in Times Square. Christianity has a very real effect. There’s a continually growing “cloud of witnesses” who display the Biblical truth that through faith in Jesus, God changes people.
Christians all have a story. We weren’t born loving Christ. That includes me. There’s a Damascus road for all of us who’ve been changed by God. Mine was found in the Bronx, New York.
A Preacher And Her Question
In October 2006, I was a Police Officer for the New York City Police Department, assigned to the 46th Precinct in the Bronx.
The night moved along as usual. The patrol car drove at its regular racing pace, lights and sirens wailing amidst the jaded public. Our radio blurted out its laundry list of 911 demands. My partner and I had answered our share of jobs, and managed to find a break from the action.
His girlfriend had a death in the family. The pastor who officiated the funeral ran a church which happened to be located right in our precinct. She had invited my partner to come by and visit. He decided to visit her that night, since the church was near the area we were patrolling. I came along with him.
The pastor seemed genuinely happy to see my partner. While I’d become accustomed to being skeptical about people, she appeared to have an authentic smile and spirit about her. I watched as she nodded and shook his hand, happy that he had paid her a visit. I also noticed my hunger, started thinking about pizza, and wondered how long this visit would take. In this unguarded position, I was blindsided. The pastor looked at me, made eye contact, and asked a question that has ringed in my ears ever since.
“What will you say to God when you die?”
Bewildered, I meekly shrugged. “I don’t know. I protected and served?” Quickly I shot a look at my partner. As a Police Officer, you learn to read your partner’s body language. This language shouted, “Let’s get out of here. Now.” Politely, we left.
A Room To Pace In
The week went on. The pastor’s question stayed with me. It was a pressure in my head, beating like a ruthlessly sadistic migraine. What I hated was the response. In that moment of questioning there was no theoretical objections about religion, or philosophical wanderings about God. God was a given. He just was. And I was in trouble.
My wife and I were having serious problems in our marriage. I won’t bore you with the details (sorry
Pharisees). But it’s enough to say, the last thing I wanted to share with her was my God dilemma. That’s why I was surprised when I woke Sunday morning to another distinctly unusual question. My wife asked, “Do you want to go to church?” Neither of us were religious. We hadn’t been to church in years. How could she decide this week of all weeks to ask me this? I assumed I was having some kind of delusion brought on by my annoying experience with the female religious zealot, and asked her to repeat herself. Sure enough, the invitation to church came out once more. I accepted.
I don’t remember what the sermon was about. There was no fantastic pastoral eloquence or clever Biblical topic that would’ve convinced me to be devoted to God. I’d heard it all before. But something real was brewing inside me, something outside the pastor’s speech. I was standing between two paths, and I needed to decide which road to take.
The next day I paced in my room like a crazy man. The turmoil within me had grown to a feverish pitch. I reasoned that either I was going insane, or God was really real, and He wanted my attention. I began to speak out loud in the empty room. My repentance prayer was something like this: “God, if I do this, I don’t want to be a hypocrite.” I already knew the Jesus story. I simply needed to submit myself to Him.
Absorbed With Christ
Along with the prayer came a new realization. If I was going to do this, I needed to understand what I was believing in. I purchased a little book called, “How To Study The Bible For Yourself.” Putting its method into practice, I began my journey into Scripture.
That first year of studying through the New Testament revolutionized my life. I became absorbed with Christ. Soon I began regular counseling sessions with my pastor, asking him a whole array of questions. I sought out answers to theoretical objections against Christianity. In life I’d been presented with an establishment of intelligentsia that seemed to portray a constant message: “Smart people just don’t believe in that Jesus stuff.”
To my surprise, they were desperately wrong. I found a whole world of scientists, philosophers, and generally brilliant thinkers who intensely argued from a Christian point of view.
What I hadn’t thought about was the effect that God would have on my family. I was simply excited about this new path, and was trying to learn as much as I could about it. But I also found myself with an intense new love.
My marriage began to heal. In fact, it flourished. I began reading the Bible with my children. There was a brilliant light that was creating a new family from the one I had tried to damage.
The New Writer
I’m mortified of my life before Christ. In writing this post I’ve opened up the closet door of my past, reminding myself of the shadowy depth of personal destruction that I brought about. I’ve shut the door again. Its too dark to let others see. Its a reminder that, if I’m ashamed to let other human beings see this, how in the world could I possibly stand before God where the pages of my experience are an open, painful, disgusting book?
All of us have sinned. For me, there was no amount of blue uniform, no shiny shield that would hide the dark, scary depths of sin inside. Before God, I’m exposed in all of my own nakedness. In the past I tried to write my own story, but every action led to further destruction. Jesus writes my story now. In Him, I have found peace and rest. In Him, I have found salvation. In Him, I have found a profound love that I did not know before, a love that is everlasting. In Him, I have found hope and truth. In Him, I have found life.
”In the past I tried to write my own story, but every action led to further destruction. Jesus
writes my story now.”
Who writes your story? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Jason Neil Soto is a Christian writer who works with church plants in San Diego, CA. He has a Bachelors in Religion from Liberty University. This was taken from his website JasonNeilSoto.com