Before Jesus. . . Because of Jesus

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Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10

The story of the church can be summed up in 4 words: “God’s Work, Our Witness”. This is true for every Christian church throughout all of history, including my very own FBC Baton Rouge. There are a number of ways that we can look at the longevity of FBC and attribute the effectiveness and endurance of this body of believers for nearly 140 years to the hard work and commitment of so many men and women of God; but that would not be the reason for why we are here today. The only explanation, and the foundational reason for our existence as a church family is that God has done a great work in us and through us for the glory of his name, and we are witnesses to his work in us.

The truth is that the church is a picture of each individual’s Christian testimony. The story of the church is the story of her people. We’ve heard it said so many times “The church isn’t a place or building, the church is people.” That statement is true and we need to be reminded of it daily. But what makes the story of our church unique is that there are so many individual stories that make up the fabric of our collective witness. At the very heart of our witness is not what we have done, but what God has done to make us his people (1 Peter 2:10), sanctify our hearts (1 Thess. 5:23-24), and move to obedience for his glory (Romans 16:25-27). Christian, this is YOUR STORY! God has done a magnificent and glorious work in your life by saving you and making you his own child. This is a miracle that only a God of abundant grace and mercy could accomplish. You were once an alien to God, but now you are his very own child, marked by his Holy Spirit and called to a life of holiness and obedience.

Have you thought about your testimony recently? When was the last time you considered all that God has done in your life to save you from darkness, clothe you in righteousness, and call you for a glorious purpose? The greatest acts of mercy to the tiniest acts of sovereign guidance have all been done by God for the good of your soul and for the glory of his name. This was the heart of the Apostle Paul’s witness, as he shared the gospel with believers and non-believers. The gospel of Jesus Christ was at the heart of Paul’s message, and in his own mind, there was no greater example of the power of the gospel than in how Jesus transformed his own life. Listen to how Paul describes the “before and after” of his testimony:

13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen (1 Timothy 1:13-17)

Paul’s testimony is just like yours and mine: “This is who I was before Jesus saved me, and this is who I am now because Jesus saved me.” That is our story. What is so amazing to me is that as differently and diversely as our individual stories can be told, essentially we are all telling the same story. And that common story is all for the glory of God.

I am writing this to you because I want you to consider your own story. We are currently working on a project for our church family at FBC Baton Rouge that concerns every believer in our congregation. I’m not revealing to you just yet what it is (hope you like surprises!), but I believe it will be a tremendous encouragement to each and every one of you. In the meantime, I need you to do something very important for me and for your brothers and sisters in Christ: Think about your testimony and write it down. Take some time to think deeply and concisely about what you have witnessed what God has done your life and then write it down on 1 sheet of paper. For some of you this will be a difficult task because you like to include every detail. The details are important, but the challenge for each of you is to condense your testimony to 1 sheet of paper while making the entire testimony about what God has done to transform your life. I think the result for this effort will have a tremendous effect on our congregation as we seek to honor God by proclaiming his gospel. Please consider this challenge and accept it with joy.

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