'I ain't got no horror story, God kept me in my youth I give him all the glory'.
That rhyme by Da' T.R.U.T.H is very true for me. I don't have a horror story or some crazy life to recall. But it's okay that I don't have a crazy story, because testimonies really aren't about you or me, they are a witness of GOD's work in salvation. And sometimes we tend to frame ourselves too much in an image that is really supposed to be speaking about God.
I grew up in a Pentecostal Christian home. I thank God for that. God used my upbringing and especially my mother's own love for the Lord to keep me in the way and out of trouble. I was never a bad kid, never been kicked out of school. From young the Lord always allowed me to pick the right path. I knew right from wrong and I always took the right option. I always attended church with my family and we barely missed any Sunday's. I come from a very 'churched' culture. But, I attended some churches that were not well versed in scripture and promoted as well as promised health, wealth and prosperity that never truly came. They promised that every season is 'your season', it was always 'your time'. At the time I took such teaching to be gospel, but I never knew what the gospel was. I remember a friend asked me what the gospel is and I said something along the lines 'it's a Christian style of music', yet I was always in church. I used to rely on my good deeds and works, hard prayers and the like to be in God's good graces. Even as a boy I hoped God would see that I've done good to others and was always a good guy. This would be my ticket to heaven, as well as going up for the occasional altar call even though the Gospel was never truly preached before people were called to the altar.
One day I actually heard the Gospel preached. It was so strange because I'd read certain parts of the bible my whole life, yet never heard something as profound and true as this. This was so different from the self-saturated, 'blessings will fall in your lap', 'decree-and-declare' kind of teaching I was so used to hearing. I knew Christ died for sin, but I never knew what that meant, or why people go to hell or why God was angry at sin. I really didn't know anything. And I certainly didn't truly know I was a sinner in need of grace.
The Lord then did a work that changed my life and eternity. I emphasise that God did a work on me before I could make that choice to believe in Him. He acted upon me through His Spirit, and He opened my eyes to His truth: the Gospel of Christ. Jesus Christ had taken the righteous and just penalty for my sin. I was deserving of judgement because my life was not pleasing to God and was based upon insufficient works of righteousness. But Jesus' work was sufficient. His life was sinless, submitted and obedient to the Father, even to the point of death on the Cross for mankind. And I was included in that fold. Christ died for me, an undeserving sinner. And by His grace through the Gospel, I had believed in His name, His death and resurrection, and turned from my sin through His Spirit, and turned toward the Son. And this is how I'm saved. Though I was a 'good guy', my sin afforded me hell because no one is inherently good (Rom. 3:10). My standards of good were not synonymous with God's. Yet, in His love, Jesus paid that hell. I now don't have to die the ultimate death. Though I will die physically, death has no more sting, as in, death no longer can send me to hell. Christ defeated death and sin's ultimate power to condemn. This was by no religious concoction or potion. This was not by a deep search for knowledge of the cosmos and the universe. This was not a self-motivated inward change where I decided I need to redirect the course of my life, or read 7 steps to getting right with God. I did not pray 5 times a day or give to the poor. I did not read through a whole book, memorise or recite it. I didn't become vegan, or cut out my electricity, or change the clothes I wear. I believed upon Jesus and what His precious life, as well as His precious work on the cross and His raising from the dead has done for me. Historically backed and heartily believed.
And the Lord has been changing my heart ever since.
I still sin and will sin in future. I still make mistakes and will make more in the future. I am nowhere near perfect. But the grace of God covers a multitude of sin by His precious blood, allowing me repentance, not to continue in sin and to be conformed to image of His Son.
As I've been a believer, I've had some really bad times, some really bad temptations, falls and failures. At times I've acted much worse than before I was even a believer! There are times where I was not myself, (or perhaps, I truly was myself in that I showed myself how sinful my heart really is). There were times where I tried to find joy and peace in things other than Christ, and nothing else ever did truly satisfy. For me, things like partying, alcohol and other sinful conventions never satisfied, and for a season I was convinced that they would. But they didn't. And as a testament in my life, I know that Christ satisfies that need that we all have. It's an existential missing gap in our hearts that money, sex or power can never fill, and many of us know first-hand that it cannot be filled with such things.
The Lord throughout my life has kept me from having a crazy testimony story. There have been times where I've wanted to have that big testimony story, but all of that is only of secondary concern. Jesus Christ is the centre of the story of my life and any testimony because He is the One who saves - and none else.
'The blood of the Lamb has saved my soul. That's my testimony.'