Last Sunday night, James, a man in his twenties gave his testimony. It was terrifically encouraging. This time last year, spiritually speaking, he was nowhere. In almost every other respect he was going great. He’s a bright, engaging, athletic and highly competent young man. But he was dead, spiritually speaking. In his own words ‘Jesus didn’t mean a whole lot to me’. As it happened, even though he didn’t grow up in a Christian home, he’d nevertheless grown up familiar with some Christian truths; the crucifixion and the resurrection, for example. But knowing about Jesus and what had happened to him didn’t make one iota of difference to how James lived. But he had a Christian flatmate. And she went through a really dark period in her life. And that brought him into contact with her church family. It led to him pitching up to some of our mission events last May. He heard enough at those talks to convince him that he had to take things further. And so he attended a Christianity Explored course. And what he discovered there made him want to find out what that following Jesus involved. So he went along to the Discipleship Explored course. And after a while, he came to faith in Christ. His was a wonderful testimony of God’s goodness to him. And it put a broad grin on my face as I listened to James explain to the church family how it happened.
There were a handful of really encouraging things that James said.
First, he mentioned how the ongoing discovery of our sinfulness is one of the hardest things about being a Christian. He’s right, of course. No one enjoys being brought face to face with their own moral failure. It’s humiliating, especially so for the spiritually self-righteous. But it’s so necessary. How else will I rely on the saviour for sinners unless I’m prepared to recognise that I’m a sinner in need of a saviour? And for me, his words were confirmation that the Spirit has been at work in his heart. It’s not natural for us to own up to our wickedness. It takes the work of God in our hearts. And yet he was willing to confess his sin, albeit before a largely partisan crowd!
Secondly, he spoke with deep appreciation of what Christ had done for him in taking his sins upon the cross to be punished in his place. He clearly articulated his confidence that Christ had dealt with the problem of his sin. And he looked like he believed it. You could tell that this was a truth that God was working deep into his convictions. It was the smile that gave it away!
Thirdly, it reminded me that God still saves people through the gospel. I sometimes have a problem in believing that. I know it says it in the Bible. It’s just that we don’t see it a whole load in practice. But the gospel is God’s power to save. Even men. And even rugby playing men like James. We don’t tend to see a whole load of men coming to faith in Christ. It was brilliant to be reminded that God can save whomsoever He chooses through little more than a repeated personal encounter with the gospel.
Fourthly, it was clear that the gospel had so clearly impacted James that he’s already joined the dots and realised how important it was to engage with his unbelieving friends and colleagues. As you might expect, the rugby boys gave him a bit of grief. But, not one for a backward step, that gave him ample opportunity to try to refute their arguments and persuade them of the truth. And not even his work colleagues have been exempt from his new found enthusiasm for Christ. A handful have joined him at a central London midweek ministry. This was a man not undefeated by the apparent disinterest and the opposition of ‘the world’. This was a man meeting the world with the very same gospel that had brought about his transformation.
It was a very powerful testimony. And it was my Sunday highlight. And I wouldn’t mind a few more like that!