The other week I was sitting in our small group, and I made this comment, “When sharing your testimony, do not glorify sin because it will take away from the glory of the Savior who redeemed you.” I was asked by one of our small group members to further explain my statement. The context of this discussion came out of our group studying Ephesians 2. In our discussion, we challenged each other to share our testimonies using Ephesians 2 as our guide (i.e., life before Christ, salvation in Christ, and life after Christ).
At the beginning of this chapter Paul states:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.Ephesians 2:1-3
Notice how Paul talks about all people before he gets to conversion in Ephesians 2:4-9. He uses words like “dead,” worldly, followers of Satan, “disobedient,” “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” and “by nature children of wrath.” What do all these words have in common? Sins destructive power in our lives. All the brokenness we see in our lives, in our world, in our relationships, in our minds, in our hearts, can be traced back to Adam’s sin in Genesis 3:6-7. When Adam fell, the entire human race fell with him as Paul taught in Romans 5:12, and thus, we live out our deadness in life prior to Christ.
The Common Mistake
How does this impact the way we share our testimony? Many times Christians will talk about their sinful past with a sense of pride. Believers will almost relish in how much they used to drink or party or (fill in the sin here). They will almost present Ephesians 2:1-3 to unbelievers in a positive light. In my statement above, I call this the glorification of sin because we elevate sin to a level that doesn’t seem so destructive.
I understand that it is tempting to glorify sin. In some ways, we are connecting with those who are still in Ephesians 2:1-3. Many Christians who glorify sin in their testimony may have positive motivations for doing so. They might be trying to establish a connection with the person or try to show the unbeliever how “bad” they were before Christ redeemed them (Eph. 2:4-9). I think this is a common mistake when believers share their testimony with others.
The mistake resides in taking glory away from our Savior, Jesus Christ. The main problem I see with the glorification of sin in a testimony is that this type of wording portrays sin in a positive light to the unregenerate person. If we paint sin with a sense of pride, why would an unbeliever repent of it and turn to Jesus? Think of it like this: A lost person hears us boastfully speak about how much we used to sin, but now we are saved by God’s grace in Christ. An unbeliever will ask themselves the question: If they talk about sin in this way why would I need to stop sinning and turn my life over to Jesus? This seems to degrade the gospel of its life giving message.
My point is that when we glorify sin in a testimony we take away from the glory of Jesus Christ who came to save us from our sin. To pull us out of Ephesians 2:1-3 by Ephesians 2:4-9 so that we can live in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Therefore, we need to think rightly about how to share our Ephesians 2:1-3 experience when we are sharing our testimony.
A Better Way Forward
The way forward is the reduction of glorifying sin in our testimonies and sharing how living in Ephesians 2:1-3 brought about extreme brokenness in our lives. Unbelievers will understand that truth, and will follow that realization with a question: How do I get out of this vicious cycle of hurt and pain that comes from “being dead in … trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1)? When an unbeliever gets to this question, the opportune moment has arrived for the gospel to be shared. To put it another way, tell them about the glory of the Savior who heals and redeems all people who call upon his name (Romans 10:9-13).
Let me provide an example of what this looks like: Let’s say you were a classical utilitarian. This type of lifestyle seeks to elevate pleasure and/or happiness and reduce pain and suffering. In other words, do whatever makes you feel good and avoid anything that makes you suffer as long as it doesn’t effect the happiness of those around you. The problem with this philosophical worldview is that no matter how much happiness you try to gain, suffering and pain always accompany these types of actions. For example, when people consume large amounts of alcohol, they may experience happiness for a short amount of time, but the next day they will experience the effects of pain that the alcohol takes on the body. They sought pleasure through sin, but in the end, it only brought them pain and suffering.
The other issue is that no matter how much pleasure or happiness you seek it will never be enough. By indulging your sinful desires of the mind and body, you will still feel like something is missing. So, you continually seek more ways to live out your classical utilitarian worldview, but nothing ever satisfies. Eventually, you will find yourself like the prodigal son in Luke 15–completely broken and longing to be fed. When this type of lifestyle begins to take its toll on your life and relationships, you begin to show the person that you are witnessing to how sin only brings destruction. Therefore, you needed a way out of your classical utilitarian worldview, and you found that salvation and new life in Jesus Christ by God’s grace (Eph. 2:4-9).
Do you see how this is a better way forward when sharing your testimony? You are not glorifying sin by making it sound like a good thing. You are explaining how living in Ephesians 2:1-3 brought about severe pain, suffering, and destruction in every area of your life. Lost people can relate to all of that, but as a Christian, you get the privilege in that moment to extend to them the only hope that will pull them out of the destructive spiral they are experiencing, and his name is Jesus Christ. Therefore, use this better way forward to go and make disciples who make disciples in Jesus’ name when sharing your testimony.