“The Gospel according to me”

 

God's Story vs Our Stories by Michael HortonGod’s Story vs. Our Stories

White Horse Inn interviewed evangelical broadcasters at their recent convention and asked them how they prefer to share their faith to others: by presenting the Biblical gospel, or by their own personal testimonies.

The result: nearly unanimously, personal testimonies. This is not surprising, considering that evangelicalism is a religion of subjective experience, “Jesus in my heart, my being born again, my moral transformation, what happens inside of you, your sanctification.” Does any of them realize that their “gospel” is that of the medieval Roman church?

Wow! A few interviewees actually quoted the Bible, specifically, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:11). What is this “testimony” (marturia) in this verse? As expected, they lifted a verse out of nowhere and out of context. This “testimony” is the “testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:2, 1:7, 11:9, 12:17, 19:10, 20:4), not the personal experience of John or any other Christian. It is the true gospel of Christ believed in and preached by believers, who in the early church—and even today—are martyred (martureo) because of their faith in Christ.

One interviewee was honest enough to admit, “I don’t exactly know what gospel doctrine is.” This is another reason why personal testimony is preferred, because evangelicals only have a very vague idea what the true gospel is. If asked what it is, they would probably say, “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

If personal testimony is what the gospel is, no one will be saved. In fact, unbelievers will be turned off and ridicule Christ. Why? Because they see the “testimony” of heretic and scandal-plagued televangelists. Not only that, they see the “testimony” of the lives of those who call themselves “born again,” and their lives leave a lot to be desired. In fact, survey after survey tell them that the supposed “faith” of Christians doesn’t distinguish them from all the rest.

The common thread in the interviews? “No one can question my experience.” The real authority is experience, not the Bible. Experience over Scripture. “MY word versus God’s Word.”

This is evangelicalism’s “gospel.”

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8 thoughts on ““The Gospel according to me””

  1. Some guidelines>
     
    Be a good person.
     
    Do no evil.
     
    Only do those things others can face easily.
     
    Be prepared to experience whatever live gives you.
     
     

  2. Here’s a good example of “experiencial” or “testimonial” witnessing:
    A former member of our church, a Greek,  brought his friend, a Hungarian, to our church.  The Hungarian really admire his Greek friend for being a Christian and church goer and so agreed to his invitation.  After 3-4 years, the Greek left our church.  He doesn’t like our pastor anymore because our pastor kept on rebuking him and correcting his unbiblical ways.  The Hungarian stayed, was presented the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, taught the Word of God, finished studying the Catechisms, and the doctrines, received the Lord in his heart and became a Christian.  His words declare the truth of what was discussed here:
    “I am glad I came to know Jesus.  I love Jesus and I love to come to church.  I don’t care whether my friend is here or not.  I am just sad he doesn’t want to come to church anymore, and  that he is saying bad things about our pastor and our church.  But I don’t listen to him because I know Jesus now.  And I love Jesus and I love this church.”

  3. Scott Youngman

    You identified “No one can question my experience” as a common thread in the interviews. I often hear people say that too. Let’s think for a moment what that implies: “They might question the Gospel, so I had better use a stronger argument by telling my experience instead.”
    Paul saw it differently: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” One might say we don’t really believe the Gospel itself will convict and convince, so we substitute our personal experience to be “more convincing”.

  4. Here’s the introductory commentary by Michael Horton:

    What is the gospel? For many Christians today, the gospel is the good news about how I got saved-in other words, my conversion experience. But is that the way that the New Testament uses the term “gospel” or good news? Not at all. The apostles refer to the gospel as a message concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ: God made flesh, fulfilling all righteousness in our place, enduring our sentence on the cross, and being raised on the third day as the source of eternal life. Where are you in that definition? Where am I? Nowhere!!! That’s why it’s good news. The gospel is the good news about who God is and what he’s done in spite of who we are and what we’ve done. The gospel is good news for us precisely because it isn’t about us.

    It’s striking that we know practically nothing about the personal piety of the apostles. In fact, we know more about Peter’s misunderstanding of the gospel and cowardice before the resurrection than we learn about his godliness afterward. The whole focus of the Scriptures is on God’s salvation of the ungodly, the helpless, those without any hope of saving themselves.

    That’s not to say that there’s no place for telling friends and neighbors about the difference that Christ has made in our lives or telling them how we came to faith through the gospel, as much as that mysterious work of the Spirit can be identified. But we shouldn’t assimilate Christ’s story to our own. What happened to us is the result of the gospel, it isn’t the gospel. The gospel is what happened to Jesus Christ. It is his life story, not ours. And precisely because of that fact, our lives can be grafted onto his. We die to ourselves and “the show about nothing” and are made alive in Christ by the Spirit.

    As we consider how we can be effective witnesses to Christ in a post-Christian culture, it’s vital that we recover the clarity and confidence in the gospel as the good news concerning Christ that is, for precisely that reason, good news for all of us.

  5. Scott Youngman

    Also relevant is this from our pastor Gene Binder:
    “God’s reputation is not dependent on us,
    but on what God has done for us.”
    Application: If we have a philosophy of Works-salvation, we will focus on ourselves; but if we have a philosophy of Grace-salvation, we will focus on God.

  6. Scott Youngman

    This blog post by Joe Thorn is helpful in evaluating the place of personal testimony in evangelism: http://www.joethorn.net/2009/01/22/testimony-worth-telling/
    Joe writes: “…I have two main problems with the Christian testimony. My main problem is that many testimonies, at least as they seem to be popularly told today, make more of the change a person experienced than the One who brought about such change. … another problem is that an argument from personal experience carries very little weight these days…. Your radical transformation, at least as much as can be seen by others, is not very different from the stories told by the disciples of Jenny Craig, Scientology, veganism, or Mac computers. ‘My life is so different now. So better. I am a new person!’ “

    1. … or Alcoholics Anonymous, etc., meetings. Contrast the present evangelical “testimonies” to the preaching of Peter, Paul and the other apostles.

  7. I wonder how many people in my lifetime I could have turned from the gospel if I had given my testimony about how wonderful my life is after accepting Christ, and then when I inevitably show my human imperfections, demonstrate that my testimony is really rubbish.  The announcement of the gospel doesn’t depend on me or my testimony, thank God.

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