Psalm 34 TALK: The Power of a God Centred Testimony

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

 PSALM 34 (and PSALM 56) TALK: THE POWER OF A GOD CENTRED TESTIMONY

 INTRODUCTION

 Some 34 years ago I was on my honeymoon in beautiful Tasmania and on the Sunday of the week we were there we attended an evening service in a little Baptist church in the town we were staying in. In this service a couple of people stood up to share their testimonies with us. However to my surprise it was not the usual how I came to Christ testimonies but how God had helped them in some way during the past week. The one that still stands out in my mind was from a young man who was around 18 or 19 years old who shared with us how earlier in the week he had received some really vicious persecution from his fellow carpenter work mates and how he felt like walking away from his Christian faith forever. He didn’t of course but rather prayed to God more earnestly and he rang some friends in the church to pray for him as well. He then testified to the power of God helping him to continue his witness to his fellow work mates and how a couple of them even came to him privately to ask some very real God seeking questions. He asked us then to pray for these men who he intended to follow up at work in the coming week.

This kind of testimony is what I call a powerful God centred testimony in which a real situation is explained but the focus is on what God had done for the person in this situation. I went home to my church, where I was a Youth Worker to encourage this kind of testimonies in our church.

I believe that in Psalm 34 we have this kind of God centred powerful testimony from David. The heading for this Psalm reads, (New International Version) “”Of David, When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left”. Some see this heading being more of a hindrance than help in this Psalm. They argue that David is not acting in a true Godly ethical way by pretending to be mad instead of simply trusting in God to deliver him. I can see where these commentators are coming from but when you look a little deeper into the Psalm you can see as C.H Spurgeon points out, David, “weaves none of the incidents of the escape into the narrative, but dwells only on the grand fact of his being heard (verses 4 and 5) in the hour of peril”. Spurgeon goes on to point a very helpful application of this, “We may learn from his example not to parade our sins before others, as certain vainglorious professors are wont to do who seem as proud of their sins as old Greenwich pensioners of their battles and their wounds”.

Psalm 34 is also another example of an “acrostic” Psalm which some commentators call a “Alphabet Psalm”, which means each paragraph of the Psalm starts with a Hebrew word that commences with a letter from the Hebrew Alphabet in order from beginning to the end of the alphabet. This means that this Psalm was probably written well after the event when David had time to construct this highly stylised type of poem.

In fact David wrote at least one more Psalm (that we know of) with this situation in mind, namely Psalm 56 that we will also look at during this study. In Psalm 56 David seems to have a spirit of repentance when he commences the Psalm with these words,

“Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack”.

This Psalm then seems to have a rawer feel to it and was probably written soon after the events took place in Gath.

David was in a very difficult situation at this time when he was looking for safety and shelter in the arms of his archenemies the Philistines of Gath the very town Goliath originally came from. This reveals how dangerous life had become for him in Israel where King Saul sought to kill him. David certainly made some big mistakes in Gath the first being going there in the first place. He later goes there again but this time he approaches the King of Gath, Achish (Abimelech being the Philistine name for a king like Caesar for the Romans) in 1 Samuel 27 and openly and honestly makes a arrangement with this king to stay there while Saul is seeking to kill him.

In these two Psalm’s we will look at the key underlining issue of having a powerful God centred Testimony and I hope we will learn how we can cultivate this kind of testimony in the churches we attend today.

I have divided this Psalm into 5 headings:

1.     1 – 3:   THE OBJECT OF A POWERFUL TESTIMONY

2.     4 – 7:   THE SUBSTANCE OF A POWERFUL TESTIMONY

3.     8 – 10: THE CHALLENGE TO OTHERS FROM THIS POWERFUL TESTIMONY

4.     11- 20: THE TEACHING DAVID GIVES OUT OF THIS POWERFUL TESTIMONY

5.   21-22   THE FINAL WORDS OF THIS POWERFUL TESTIMONY –  CONCLUSION

 

 1.     1 – 3:   THE OBJECT OF A POWERFUL TESTIMONY

 As David remembers back to the close shave he had in Gath he gives praise to the God who saved him from this terrible situation. The 1 Samuel 21: 10 – 15 text seems to indicate that David thought he could some how hang out with his enemies and not be detected as the great soldier and warrior he was. But very quickly those close to King Achish blow his cover and even the Israelite song sung about him is known by these Philistines. The song went something like this:

“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (vs. 11)

In the following verse we read how David reacts to this dangerous turn of events,

“David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish of Gath”

In the next section we will deal with the substance of David’s testimony but here we will look at the three intents of his testimony of praise:

1.     Praising God always

2.     Praising God alone

3.     Praising God with others

 

 1.     Praising God always

David says in verse 1:

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips”

David is not talking about a marathon of praise. When I was younger some members of my fellowship group and I tried to conduct “all night prayer meetings”.

We only got to about 3am in the morning before we all started to fall asleep and we realised that an all night prayer meeting was not the most practical use of our time. It is not the quantity of prayer God wants it is the quality of prayer he is looking for.

No, David is not talking about praising God all the time but praising God at all times and in all circumstances just like Paul teaches us in conclusion ,

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

I remember here the famous story of the women in a church who prayed out loud during a service but just went on and on. The minister very wisely stood up as she was still praying and announced, “while our dear sister is finishing her prayer we will sing hymn number”. The point is God wants us to live our lives in an attitude of prayer and particularly praise and this can include praying out loud but it is more a lifestyle of praise he is really looking for.

2.     Praising God alone

This is the first great point I want to make about a God centred powerful testimony it must be like David’s focused on God and not us. As David writes in verse 2,

“My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice”

As David speaks about his miraculous escape from Gath he does not talk about what he had done but rather what God had done. David in fact failed as he was overtaken by the fear of man as we saw in 1 Samuel 21: 12,

“David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish of Gath”

The object of his testimony is God himself, “My soul will boast in the Lord”.

In Psalm 56 David speaks of specifically praising God for his word.

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me”. (verse 4)  and in verse 10 we read.

“In God, whose words I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise”

The apostle Paul had much to say about this and I turn your attention to how he encouraged the Corinthians to think about their Salvation and the role God’s word or wisdom played in it and how that should influence how we speak and act, 1 Corinthians 1: 26 – 31,

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

3.     Praising God with others

This powerful God centred testimony of praise is something David wants others to join in with, when we read in verse 3,

“Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together”

One commentator I read named Bob Deffinbaugh calls this “the fellowship of praise”.

David is advocating another great point about a powerful God centred testimony it is not a solo affair something done in private it should be a public proclamation encouraging others to join in the praise of the God who has saved us. Daffinbah goes on to say, “Pauls teaching in Romans chapter 12 indicates that New Testament worship should be a sharing in the joys of fellow Christians” and he quotes Romans 12: 15,

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn”.

This is exactly what my wife and I experienced 34 years ago in that little Baptist church in Tasmania.

We joined with others in prayer and rejoicing for the way the Lord helped the young man in his workplace. We had a fresh and real reminder of the reality of God working in our lives today. This is what powerful God centered testimonies can do and I encourage you all to seek to be involved in the fellowship of praise today.

2.     4 – 7:   THE SUBSTANCE OF A POWERFUL TESTIMONY

 As I said in the introduction David does not even mention his dubious actions in Gath as the substance of his testimony in this Psalm. Instead the focus is on what God did for him in this terrible situation.

David speaks of two main things God actually did for him.

1.     God answered his prayers

2.     God delivered him from his enemies

 

1.     God answered his prayers

Three times David speaks of how God answered his prayers in this section. They are:

  1. “I sought the Lord and he answered me” verse 4
  2. “”Those who look to him are radiant” verse 5
  3. “This poor man called and the Lord heard him” verse 6

Each of these expressions reveals that the main thing he did right in Gath namely he prayed to God for deliverance. The 1 Samuel 21 text does not mention anything about David praying to God for help. Interestingly David speaks of praying or trusting in God while in Gath in Psalm 56. These verses are:

Vs. 1. “Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me”

Vs. 3, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you”

Vs. 4, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid”

Vs. 11, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me”.

It seems David’s initial reaction to his plight in Gath was the fear of man in the person of the King of Gath, Achish. This led David to his ungodly actions of acting as a madman to deceive the king but soon after this, on reflection David turns to God in desperate prayer.

As the king considers David’s condition he decides to let him go. David does not attribute his escape from Gath to his own devious actions but to God answering his desperate prayer.

This is yet another example of the grace of God. David did not deserve God’s answering his prayer when he had acted so shamefully but God did and in fact he used David’s deceit as part of his deliverance as Paul says in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

In our own attempts for a God centred powerful testimony we should acknowledge how God answers our prayers. Just as the young man did in that little church in Tasmania 34 years ago for me.

2.     God delivered him from his enemies

The second thing David attributes to God is the fact that he believed that God delivered him from the hands of the king of Gath.

This can be seen three times in this section,

  1. “He delivered me from all my fears” verse 4
  2. “He saved him out of all his troubles” verse 6
  3. “He delivers them” verse 7

The final testimony of God’s powerful deliverance comes after David speaks of the angel of the Lord.

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him”

David seems to be referring here to the great and mighty divine being who in the past history of Israel came to their rescue. This angel of the Lord even leads Israel in the exodus right into the promised land of Israel, Exodus 14: 19 and 23: 20. Some have suggested that the many references to this “Angel of the Lord” are in fact what are called a “pre-incarnate Christ”.

Psalm 91: 11 speaks of God commanding his angels to guard us,

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways”

Whether this “Angel of the Lord” is a pre-incarnate Christ or just God’s heavenly hosts acting for us to guard us or deliver us one thing is sure from the New Testament that instead of angels encamping around us to give us victory we have the Lord Jesus himself in us to give us victory and deliverance. As Paul says to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 4: 8 – 11,

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you”.

Or more simply put in Colossians 1: 27,

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”.

So we like David have a powerful and God centred testimony because we, who believe in Christ, have him working in our lives to deliver us from sin and death and this should be the basis of our testimony and praise of what God has done for us.

3.     8 – 10: THE CHALLENGE TO OTHERS FROM THIS POWERFUL  TESTIMONY

A good bible teaching friend of mine named Ted Penney teaches that powerful God centred testimonies should contain a challenge to the unbeliever for them to consider faith in Christ for themselves or for the Christian hearer the challenge for them to have a stronger dependence on God through prayer.

This is where David goes in the next three verses of his Psalm 34. He calls upon his listeners to:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”

Fear the Lord you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing”

David’s challenge involves his listeners to do three things:

 1.     Tasting

2.     Fearing

3.     Seeking

 

 1.     Tasting

David wants his listeners to experience for themselves what God can do for them. Many non-Christians say to Christians I will not believe unto I can see for myself that God is true and real. The answer to this is why not take God at his word and see for yourself. I remember when I was a teenager attending church fellowship groups I heard a number of times an older leader challenging us after he had presented the Gospel message to pray a simple prayer like, “God if your there please reveal yourself me” and then he said now sit down in a quiet place and read Johns Gospel. I think he had copies of Johns Gospel in a simple plain English version to give to anyone who was willing to take on his challenge. He had the “Taste and See” approach to evangelism.

David like that fellowship leader had great confidence in God’s willingness to reveal himself as he writes,

“Blessed (happy) is the man who takes refuge in him”

2.     Fearing

 In the next section David has a bit more to say about fearing God but in verse 9 David is very confident that those who show God the reverence he deserves will find God and the blessings he has for those who truly trust in him. Proverbs 9: 10 says,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

The reason why so many people cannot see God and in fact reject the reality of him is because they have no fear, respect or even interest in him. They are still on the road of putting themselves first and in the process deny God’s very existence and this the bible calls sin, Romans 1: 18 – 20,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”.

David however addresses his words of fearing God to believers as he says,

“Fear the Lord, you his saints”

We have learnt from other studies that “The Saints” are the set apart ones, the true believers in Israel and today they are those who put their faith in Christ no matter what race or country come from.

This means that even believers need to be reminded constantly that we need to keep on fearing God or giving God his rightful place in our lives today. Maybe David has in mind what he first did in Gath which is expressed in 1 Samuel 21: 12,

“David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish of Gath”

David had to learn the hard way that he should only fear God and maybe in Gath he did just that as Psalm 56: 11,

In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me”.

Once David came to this realisation in Gath then he learnt the truth he teaches in the second part of this verse,

“for those who fear him lack nothing”

3.     Seeking

 The third challenge David issues as a result of his powerful God centred testimony is that we should seek God,

“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing”.

Leupold believes that this expression “The lions” is poetic language for “those that are naturally strong and self-sufficient like very young lions”.

Many young people have no time for God today for they believe they have no need for him. I have seen over the year’s young people in my own time and right up to the present living like there is no tomorrow and not having a worry in the world about the consequences of it. Rock singers of my age, the sixties, bragged that they would be dead by the time they were thirty and looked forward to this, their philosophy was “live had die young”. Many of them became self for filling prophets and were dead by thirty but many others are my age now and regret the abuse they put their bodies through when they were young. David’s word seems to be a good description of them when he says they,

“grow weak and hungry”

However as the writer of Ecclesiastes says in chapter 12 verse 1,

“Seek your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, I find no pleasure in them”

The old saying has some truth here, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Once we live a certain way for a long time it becomes very difficult to change although I believe God’s spirit is powerful enough to work in people of any age so we must not stop praying for and witnessing to older people as well a young one’s.

Jesus says this about true seeking after God, Matthew 7: 7,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’.

4.     11- 20: THE TEACHING DAVID GIVES OUT OF THIS POWERFUL TESTIMONY

David now wants to teach what he calls, “My children” what it really means to fear the Lord”.  David always felt really close to his people and it is not strange for him to refer to his people as “his children”. Out of David’s very difficult situation in Gath and the miraculous deliverance that followed it David pin points again, “Fearing God”,

Verse 11, “ Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord”.

Besides God answering prayer David’s testimony in both Psalm 34 and 56 feature the fear of the Lord. As I mentioned before David’s first reaction to his situation in Gath, namely being found out and feeling trapped in the enemy’s camp was to fear man, namely the King of Gath named Achish.

Psalm 56 particularly shows that David’s main lesson learnt from this experience is to fear God as oppose to fearing man as he says a number of times in this Psalm but particularly in verse 11,

“In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

So powerful is this idea when David thinks of his deliverance from Gath that he wants to teach his people what it truly means to “fear God” as opposed to fearing man.

David wants his people to have the blessings and life from God he now experienced as he writes in verse 12,

“Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days”

He now gives these people two things they must do to fear God and experience the benefits God gives to those who do this. He also gives a warning to those who refuse to do this.

Interestingly both these things deal with what I call true repentance:

1.     Turn to God from evil

2.     Cry out to God from a contrite heart

 

 1.     Turn to God from evil

 The first time this idea is clearly spoken in this Psalm is in verse 14,

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”

Even in the verse before this David is speaking about turning from evil ways when he writes,

“keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies”

These are very interesting words for David to speak in the context of his escape from Gath as he used deceit or lies to achieve it. However we have learnt from this Psalm and particularly Psalm 56 (written with the same background in mind) that David seems to have realised the error of his ways and turned to God before he left Gath. Maybe the concept of lies and deception are prominent here because David learnt a very real lesson about them through his experience in Gath.

David is a great man of faith but he had many flaws and he never sought to hide these from others but he often sought to use them to teach others. Just as he wrote in his great Psalm of repentance and faith, Psalm 51: 12 – 13,

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you”

So David knows what it is like to truly turn to God from sin or evil. Many commentators believe that verse 15 should be followed by verse 17 which older translators became confused about because of the use of Hebrew alphabet letters here in the original language.

Verses 15 and 17 set out then the positive benefits of turning from evil,

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from their troubles”.

This was David’s experience in Gath and so he now wants his hearers to experience the same that if they too turn from evil to God they too will experience God’s help and their cries for help will not be in vain

However verse 16 deals with what happens to those who don not turn from evil to God,

“The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

Spurgeon makes it devastatingly clear what the fate of those who refuse to turn to God is when he writes, “He (God) will stamp out their fires, and their honour shall be turned into shame, their names forgotten or accursed. Utter destruction shall be the lot of all the ungodly”.

2.     Cry out to God from a contrite heart

David now speaks about another form of true repentance in verse 18,

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”

Here David is encouraging his hearers to come to God with a repetitive heart. Interestingly if this Psalm was written after the Gath experience it is written then before David’s great fall to the sins of Adultery and murder in his affair with Bathsheba. David’s Psalm written after his coming back to God in this affair is Psalm 51, which has much to say about having a contrite heart. In verses 16 and 17 of this Psalm David writes,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”.

Maybe David is implying that in Gath he did actually sin by being so deceitful to its King and it was only after he came to God with a contrite heart that God heard him and then rescued him from his troubles.

Interestingly verse 8 of Psalm 56 reads,

“Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll are they not in your record?”

David goes on to teach that if we come to God with this broken and contrite heart we will not be crushed and uses poetic language to say this in verses 19 and 20,

“A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken”.

These final words could be what John is referring to literally for Jesus death on the cross when he writes in John 19: 36,

“Not one of his bones will be broken”

God offers the sinner who truly repents his love and salvation. As Peter so clearly declared in his great sermon on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2: 38 – 39,

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

So David has taught out of his great God centred testimony what it means to truly fear the Lord namely to Turn to God from evil and cry out to God from a contrite heart.

5.   21-22   THE FINAL WORDS OF THIS POWERFUL TESTIMONY – CONCLUSION

 David has now completed the teaching he decided to bring out of his powerful testimony of God’s deliverance from Gath. He now concludes this testimony with some final words of advice.

“Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who take refuge in him”.

David lifts our eyes in these final two verses to the great coming day of judgement. It is always sobering to think of what we do in these every day times of our lives will ultimately determine an eternal destiny. Even if he had been overtaken by the king of Gath and killed that would not be the end of the matter because God has the final say in judgment. David’s enemies like ours will one day have to face God himself and then they will be slain and condemned for eternity. Thrown into a lake of fire is the poetic picture of the book of revelation.

David has a similar thing to say in Psalm 56: verse 7,

“On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations.”

However for those who turn from evil and seek the Lord with a contrite heart there is on that day redemption and deliverance.

The final aspect of a powerful God centred testimony is the message of judgment. For everyone’s eternal destiny is bound up in how they respond to the message of the Gospel. As Jesus taught on many occasions to lose our lives to this world is to save it at this has eternal consequences as Jesus taught in Matthew 16: 24 – 27

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done”.

I close with David’s final words in Psalm 56: 13, which conclude his powerful God centred testimony,

“For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

 TESTIFY

(Based on Psalm 34)

 I will praise the Lord above

And tell the world he lives

Always point to what he’s done

Of how he saves and gives.

 

Testify. Testify

Of what God’s done for you

Freed you from the chains of sin

And gave you life so new.

 

I will boast of the Lord above

For he is the one who hears

Let all those who suffer much

Find peace from all their fears.

 

Testify. Testify

Of what God’s done for you

Freed you from the chains of sin

And gave you life so new.

 

I was lost in sins dark trap

In darkness I was confined

He gave me life when I was dead

He made my face to shine.

 

Testify. Testify

Of what God’s done for you

Freed you from the chains of sin

And gave you life so new.

 

I did call to the Lord above

And he heard my desperate cry

For in his love he gave his Son

For my sin on a cross to die.

 

Testify. Testify

Of what God’s done for you

Freed you from the chains of sin

And gave you life so new.

 

So tell the world your story now

You people who know his love

For he calls us all to be his voice

And lift his name above.

 

Testify. Testify

Of what God’s done for you

Freed you from the chains of sin

And gave you life so new.

 

By : Jim Wenman

 

PART 2. THREE NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES ON PRESENTING A POWERFUL GOD

                 CENTRED   TESTIMONY

 We have now seen in Psalm 34 and Psalm 56 David’s version of a powerful God centred testimony. I would now like to look at three New Testament passages on giving a powerful God centred testimony.

1.     Mark 5: 1 – 20 – TELL THEM WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU

 One of my favourite miracle stories from the ministry of Jesus is the story of the demon possessed man sometimes called Legion, which is the name of the demon the man, was possessed with.

1.     What the man was like before he was saved by Christ

 I like this story for a number of reasons and the first is the terrible state of this man who is described in Mark 5: 3 – 5,

“This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones”.

This describes a man with deep and terrible demonic mental problems and he certainly deserves pity but I’m sure all he received from the local people would have been fear and hatred.

2.     What Christ reveals about himself by how he saves this man

 The second reason I like the story is the way Jesus shows us who he really is through the amazing events of this story. The many demons that called themselves “Legion” say this to Jesus through this deeply tormented man, Mark 5: 7,

“What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me”.

Jesus then shows his power and authority over evil by casting the demons into some pigs that were near by. This reveals very clearly that Jesus has authority and power over evil in this world and in the spiritual world, which includes Satan himself.

3.     What this man is told to do once he was saved by Jesus

 The third and final thing I like about this story is what Jesus tells the man to do once he was saved and cured by Jesus.

The man comes to Jesus as he was leaving the area by boat and begs him to let him go with him. Jesus reply is, verse 19,

“Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you”.

The man does this and the results are remarkable as the last thing we read about this man, verse 20,

“So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed”.

This story teaches us three things about giving our testimonies:

1.     We should give a simple honest description of our state before Christ helped or saved us.

 Whether we are giving our conversion testimony or a general testimony of God’s help in our daily lives we should tell people a simple but factual description of what our lives were like before Christ changed or helped us. Mark gives us a powerful but factual description of this mans state of mind and life before Christ came along and saved him. This man would have been well-known by the locals and he would have been a terrifying sight to encounter.

2.     We should give a biblical description of who Christ is

 To make the testimony a powerful God centred testimony we should use not only our experience of Christ the focus but what God’s word has to say about him as well. This means we should find some appropriate verses from the bible to include in our testimony presentations.

3.     We should tell them what God has done for us

 Finally we should take the words Christ said to this newly saved man to heart for ourselves and tell others in our testimony presentations what God has done for us. This is the most powerful aspect of our testimony for our hearers. They cannot deny what we say God has done for us. They can only try to attribute it to something else or simply try to block it out from their minds through a hardened unbelieving heart.

The people in the area where this man came from knew his terrible plight and could now see with their very own eyes and hear from his lips what Jesus had done for him and Mark tells us that their reaction was amazement.

Hopefully some of the amazement from our powerful God centred testimonies will lead to faith in Christ or a renewed faith in Christ.

2.     1 John 5: 1- 12 – TELL THEM ABOUT WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US THROUGH JESUS

The letters of 1, 2 and 3 John were written by the apostle John in the first century to particularly put down the dangerous false teaching of Gnosticism. Gnosticism was false teaching that grew and dogged the first two or three centuries of the early church. Basically in John’s day this false teaching struck at the heart of the Gospel message namely the nature and work of the Lord Jesus himself. Gnostics seemed to have preached that the human body is evil but God whom is spirit is good and therefore Jesus could not have been both man (evil) and God (good) on this earth. They taught that Jesus only appeared to have a human body. Salvation they taught was about escaping the fallen evil body through special secret knowledge and the Greek word “gnosis” actually means knowledge.

This heresy leads its followers to live a licentious life because there was nothing they could do about their bodies, as it was evil so they could sin and break God’s commandments. They believed it was through the special secret knowledge they had that they could free their spirit from their bodies and be saved.

So John brings his arguments against the Gnostics to a climax in this final chapter of his first letter. He is basically arguing three main things:

1.      Jesus commands us to love God and others (1 – 5)

2.      Jesus is God’s son who came in the flesh to save us (6 – 8)

3.      Jesus is God’s testimony about how he wants to save us (9 – 12)

 

1.     Jesus commands us to love God and others (1 – 5)

 John knew that the Gnostics put down the importance of obeying the commandments of God. John had heard and recorded in his Gospel account Jesus great commandment. John 13: 34 – 35,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This is what John is referring to in verses 1 – 3 of our passage,

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome”.

So true believers, John argues are those born of God (born again as in John 3) and they show this by the way they seek to live by Jesus great commandment of loving God and others.

In verse 4 John continues his argument against the Gnostics by saying that there is a victory over sin and this world and it is found in being born of God through faith in God’s only Son, verse 4 and 5,

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith”. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”.

2.     Jesus is God’s son who came in the flesh to save us  (6 – 8)

 As I said earlier the Gnostics denied the idea that Jesus could have a human, evil body and taught in some way or another that Jesus did not come in the flesh. John now seeks to give his final argument against this. We read this in verses 5 to 8,

“This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement”.

Johns reference to water and blood is his way of saying that Jesus had a real human body like ours.

He seems to be also referring to the baptism of Jesus when God’s Spirit descended on him to tell us that God was also present in Jesus. This is John’s way of saying to his readers that Jesus was man and God, flesh and spirit. This means that the idea that Jesus only appeared to be a man is false and against the testimony of God through his spirit and the evidence John can testify to as well that Jesus was a true human being.

3.     Jesus is God’s testimony about how he wants to save us (9 – 12)

 This led John to his final argument and concerns this testimony of man (Johns) and God’s testimony through his spirit particularly at the baptism of Christ. We read these words, 9 – 12,

“We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life”.

John sees the issue of who Jesus is and what he has done for us in very clear black and white terms. If we deny that Jesus was truly human and also God we deny God’s testimony and believe therefore in a lie.

This brings us a clear idea of what our testimony of God should always lead to, namely eternal life in God.

When we testify to what God has done for us and do it by pointing to what Jesus did in his death and resurrection then we are offering this world the very words of eternal life itself. This means we must always testify to what God has done for us through Christ.

4.     Philippians 1: 27 – 30 – TELL THEM BY THE WAY YOU LIVE THAT GOD IS ALIVE AND    

                                                           IS POWERFUL

The final passage I have selected from the New Testament concerning giving a powerful God centred testimony is about the importance of how our daily lives are a testimony in themselves.

In Philippians 1 Paul is speaking to the little church in Philippi that Paul had to leave under violent and devastating persecution. We read about this in Acts 16: 39 – 40,

“They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left”.

Paul and Silas had been overcome by a riot, flogged and put in prison in Philippi and now through God’s miraculous workings freed from prison after the chief jailer there became a Christian in a most dramatic way.

Paul indicates in this first chapter that his suffering for the Gospel continues and he is in fact writing this letter to them in chains verse 17. He now indicates that this church in Philippi also continues to suffer persecution as well, verses 29, 30,

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have”.

So Paul now tells the Philippians that the way they live their lives is a powerful testimony to God to all unbelievers, verses 27 – 28,

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God”.

This means that we not only testify to God in our verbal testimonies but our very lives themselves are a powerful God centred testimony. Our lives should tell others that God is alive and is powerful.

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven we thank you again and again for what you have done for us in Christ. How he died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead to give us life even life eternal. Help us by what we say and do to always testify to your great love and grace for us. By this testimony help us to show others the way to you and encourage everyone to look to God in all situations.  In and through the precious name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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