Telling the tales of god
||Human society loves a good story. On the caves at Altimera, in the ancient myths and stories of Helen of Troy and Beowulf, via Shakespeare and Dickens right through to the story telling of today on film and TV as well as the printed words of Iain Banks or JK Rowling.
Some of these stories are based on factual occurances, others on pure fantasy. At their best stories have the power both to awe us and to lift the human spirit.
God made us that way and locked into our DNA our desire for story telling. For reasons that I believe God wants us to explore this morning.
Whilst I am sure that the Lord has a great love for story tellers such as C.S.Lewis or John Bunyan as He has love for all. He delights in those that ‘Tell of the tales of God’. He loves to hear His people speak of all that He has done in their life. Biographies filled my younger Christian life, Corrie Ten Boom’s testimony and Joni Earickson along with others taught me that God was Sovereign and at work in his world.
The problem with these books is that they can seem unreal and distant. You admire them and thank God for His work in their lives, but they are not like my undramatic life.
This is why God has put this love of stories in ALL of us. We have a wonderful opportunity to tell the tales of God in our lives, in such a way that will awe and lift the Spirit of those around us. But telling the tales of God what we Christians like to call testimony does more than just lift the Spirit. As I said it has a very important part to play in building the Kingdom of God.
I want to look at the part our testimony can have in four contexts. There may be others and they certainly overlap
The role of testimony on the journey others make to faith. (initial & subsequent.)
The role of testimony in encouraging the weary
The role of testimony in personal salvation- incarnating the word within you.
The role of testimony in declaring the truth in the face of the lie.
But before I get there as quickly as I can I need to first clarify that I believe that Testimony has three main expressions;
The Testimony of Heart-
This is the impact of God’s love and power in side of us, the change that comes about as a result of a faithful walk with God. It is our internal testimony. The furnace fed by the work of the Spirit in us.
The Testimony of Words-
This is the positive confession of what God has done. Speaking about Him, telling our friends, Honouring Him in public, Telling the Tales of God.
The Testimony of Life-
Being an observable role model that others would like to follow.
The Psalms are full of all three expressions From Psalm One’s Blessed man who’s delight is in the law of the Lord on which he meditates internally,
To the confident declarations of a penitent David lifted from the miry clay in Psalm 40. All the way to the Life of worship encouraged in Psalm 150.
The danger might be to consider a life of testimony that expressed itself in only one of these ways, but I am confident that you don’t need me to spell out the dangers. Of a Testimony of Words with no internal reality, or a testimony of abundant life that never acknowledges the source of that life.
A testimony of Heart, Word & Life is in fact just another way of saying
"You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind soul and strength."
1. The role of testimony on the journey others make to faith. (initial & subsequent.)
Ok so we have arrived at our first role of Testimony Which we will put here and which contains faith journeys.
Please turn to John Chapter 4 And
The story of the abandoned water jar
V28 Then leaving her water jar …. She goes and testifies.
Now let’s just consider her credentials as someone listened to
- A woman In first century Palestine-
- A promiscuous woman at that and yet
You might wonder that she got any attention at all!
Go to v39
Jn 4:39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
Jn 4:40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.
Jn 4:41 And because of his words many more became believers.
Jn 4:42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
I called it the story of the abandoned water jar because this is the story of someone so powerfully moved to testify that she turned aside from all that she was doing and made a personal sacrifice to go and testify.
Come and see a man who…
But what also strikes me from this is the role in the journey of faith because, like her we cannot sustain the faith of others with our testimony alone. There comes a point on the journey of faith when my testimony of What God has done in my life has to be replaced by your testimony of what He has done in yours.
We no longer believe because…
When I pray for people I am often stirred in faith by remembering all the testimony of God’s work I have seen and encourage others to do the same. This reminding ourselves of the deeds of God is also part of that same role of Testimony on our continuing journey of faith the tales of God are a constant encouragement to us stirring up faith. Which leads me on neatly to my second role
2. The role of testimony in encouraging the weary and the strengthened
I want to look at one of my favourite Psalms now Psalm 84.
But we are going to miss out lovely dwelling places swallows finding nests and even the wonderful doorkeeping and go to verses 4-7
Ps 84:4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Ps 84:5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
Ps 84:6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
Ps 84:7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
This is bit of the psalm looks as if it could have been pinched from one of the later psalms of ascents all about the pilgrims going up to celebrate in the temple. But it is more a reflection on a spiritual journey. Drawing from imagery of the geography around Israel.
I have broken in to the Psalm at the point where it identifies the ideal position for those that believe in God.
An important distinction to make here is that It is a community of God’s people being described They, those, whose, not he his
Dwelling in His House.- Dwelling, making it their home NOT passing through this is where they are to stay.
But then after that pause in worship the selah he continues.
From that position of strength IN HIM
We transform our life journey into a faith journey we become pilgrims.
As they pass through the valley of Bacca they make it a place of springs.
- The valley of Bacca simply means a place of oozing bitter waters little life.
- They are passing through here NOT dwelling because they are dwelling IN the temple and passing through the valley of Bacca
- They Make it a place of springs.
Ok so we have an image describing how as a people as we come across either those who are facing difficulty a valley of Bacca. We have the capacity to transform that with our ‘Testimony’ our experience of dwelling In God’s presence, encouraging and strengthening each other.
BUT PLEASE DON’T MISS THE NEXT BIT OF THE ROLE!
Our encouragements have turned the vale of tears into springs of Joy, then it says
The autumn rains also cover it with pools.
There are already Springs now. The Springs get rained on.
I love this. Let the joyful encourage the joyful, let the fruitful and rejoicing and praising people of God also be rained on with more blessing.
Testimony and encouragement is not only for the weary but also for those who know His strength in them.
They go from strength to strength
I love that image too. I had a picture of the climbers, who hammer in a stake into the rock and then fix themselves to that and swing themselves up to the next one.
Just like those guys on the Old man of Hoy in the Orkneys.
Each stake is a moment in our life when we have in the face of circumstances trusted God and found him to be utterly dependable. These stakes become points on which we can rely to hold our entire weight. Obviously the more of these moments of dependence there are the better.
We swing ourselves from one to the next From strength to strength. And faith is what carries us from one to the next.
3.The role of testimony in personal salvation- incarnating the word that is within you.
So my third role then; hopefully you have not got indigestion yet?
Do you talk to yourself. I do quite a lot. The Bible is quite pro talking to yourself Psalm 42 ‘Why downcast oh my soul’ springs to mind. But in talking to yourself you bring into being something that would have remained a thought otherwise the process of speaking it somehow changes it.
For backup I turn to that well known talker to himself Paul of Tarsus.
And his letter to the Romans Ch 10.
Ro 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
Ro 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Ro 10:10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
In Paul’s mind there is clearly something that goes on when you move from a position of reflecting upon and accepting in here that you have accepted Jesus as Lord of your life. That the very act of speaking the truth of it outloud makes it real incarnate
In Chapter 1 of his Gospel John describes how the word of God became flesh and made His dwelling among us The Incarnate word.
The word becomes flesh in us as we speak the truth turning thoughts and reflections into vibrations in our vocal chords no longer abstract but concrete a sound wave that exists in time and space our acknowledgement that he is Lord joins the millions of others.
As described in Phillipians 2:9-11
Phil 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
Phil 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
Phil 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father..
I also would stress that this effect of testimony that you speak does not end with your initial statement, but that all subsequent Tales of God that you share with others, also speaks to your soul and stirs up faith in you.
And so if you can squeeze down a final role
4. The role of testimony in declaring the truth in the face of the lie.
Our bibles are full of Godly men and women who in the face of cultures who had rejected God wholeheartedly stood up and declared the testimony of God.
Yep- Elijah & the prophets of Baal is the easy one.
But Job’s testimony before his friends or Nehemiah’s stand against opposition.
Ultimately you have the rock like position of Jesus in the face of a mockery of a trial In Matthew 26:63
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
Mt 26:64 “Yes, it is as you say,”Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
We need the same courage that he demonstrated.
To own Him as Lord and reject the lies of our secular age.
I would like us to carry out a simple act of testimony now
I am going to read a statement and when I have finished all those who share that belief I would like you to stand. Then I will pray
I know that means that you may not be able to stand but that might also encourage you to explore these questions of faith further. It is not my intention to pressurize or embarrass.
So this is our testimony
We live in world and in an age that desperately needs change.
The amazing work of Jesus is the answer to this need
In His Life death & Resurrection Jesus has brought the possibility of new life for all who trust in Him.
It is my intention to seek to follow Him all the days of my life, dedicating myself to His service.