The 3 Parts of an Epic Testimony

Pastor Jeff Struecker

We are going to talk about sharing your faith. Christians call this your testimony. And I really believe that most people who are Christians really want to be good at sharing their testimony. Most people who don’t share their testimony don’t share it because they’ve never been trained how to do it. 

So, step three of our Basic Training course (the course in which we teach people how to go deep with Jesus and go deep with others), in step three, we teach you how to share your testimony. I also think that there is a percentage of people who have been trained to do it, but let’s just be honest; they’re scared about it. And if that’s you, this sermon is for you. 

But unfortunately, there’s a third group of people. They have been trained to do it; they kind of know what to do, and they know that they should do it, but they just decide, “You know what? I’m not going to do it no matter what. In fact, you can’t make me do it. You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not the boss of me.”

And for people like that, I hope that today’s sermon makes you so uncomfortable, that you start to think twice about your relationship with Jesus. Because when you get to the point where you’re saying, “Hey, I know Jesus wants me to do something, but I’m not going to do it,” we have some spiritual problems. 

So this sermon is all about sharing your story, sharing your testimony. And I am absolutely convinced every believer, everyone on planet earth (I don’t need to know your story), I’m absolutely convinced if Jesus has saved you, he’s given you an epic testimony. And I’m also convinced that there are three parts to an epic testimony. You see these three parts very clearly from the Bible today in John chapter one. Every one of us that has a testimony, I believe it’s epic, and every epic testimony has these three parts.

Every epic testimony has 3 parts.

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In our testimony, the beginning is who we were before Jesus saved us. The middle is what happened when Jesus saved us (and notice my language; Jesus saved me. I didn’t do this for myself), and then the end is what my life is like now. 

The reason why I call this epic is because the greatest stories (think about it for just a second), the greatest books that you’ve ever read, the greatest movies you’ve ever watched, while you’re watching this story unfold, you start to place yourself in the middle of the scenery, right? You start to think about how you would react or what this was like if this was you. The greatest stories are the kind of stories that draw you in. And today, a guy tells a story about his faith. This guy’s name is John the Baptist, and you see an epic testimony.

Before we get to John’s testimony, I just want to caution you, because I’ve met plenty of Christians like this, who say, “Jeff, I just grew up in a Christian house hearing about Jesus. I wasn’t a drug dealer. I wasn’t a prostitute. I wasn’t a serial killer. Jesus saved me when I was younger. And I don’t remember a whole lot of what life was like before Jesus.” 

And I say, “Hallelujah! That’s the way it’s supposed to go.” Sometimes those people say, “I wish I had the drug dealer, prostitute, serial murder all in the same person testimony.” And I’m like, “No, no, no. That’s not the norm. Jesus does and can save people like that, but the fact that you came to Jesus young in life, that is an epic testimony.” Every time God hits the start button on the human soul, every time God redoes the human heart, that is a miracle. And I don’t want you to ever think your story is any less epic, any less miraculous than somebody else’s just because you came to faith in Jesus early on in life.

Listen to a guy who (no exaggeration), while he was still in the womb, knew who Jesus was, and who loved Jesus. This is the story of John the Baptist. We’re reading in John, the book of John, chapter one. And by the way, the guy who writes the book of John has no relation to John the Baptist. He just happened to have the same first name. One of them is John the author. The other one is John the Baptist (or John A and John B). John the author talks about John B today. And here’s what he says: 

John 1:19-27 This was John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” He didn’t deny it but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” “What then?” they asked him. “Are you Elijah?” “I am not,” he said. “Are you the Prophet?” “No,” he answered. “Who are you, then?” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself?” He said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord—just as Isaiah the prophet said.” Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. So they asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John answered them. “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know him. He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.” All this happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Now, when the Bible says he didn’t deny it, that means there is a “warrant” out for John’s arrest, so to speak. People are hearing about this guy, the religious leaders don’t like what people are hearing about John the Baptist, and they want to shut him up. So they send this delegation on a long journey to go meet with John the Baptist and ask him some really hard questions in public, probably trying to discredit him. 

There are three parts to an epic story. It always has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I am going to use the word way a lot. This is a Bible word. In fact, every time you see the word way, I want you to substitute in your mind Jesus

In Acts chapter nine, verse six, there’s a guy who’s a Pharisee doing everything he can to stamp out Christianity before it spreads. His name is Saul. He goes to a city called Damascus and he (according to Acts chapter nine) is sent to Damascus to kill the people “of the Way”, these men and women who called themselves “followers of the Way”. 

Now, for those of you who are familiar with your Bible, you know exactly what this is a reference to. It’s talking about later on in the book of John (John 14:6) when Jesus says, “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.” The earliest Christians didn’t call themselves Christians for decades. They called themselves followers of the Way. And step one of an epic testimony is to know Jesus, to know the Way. And the kind of knowledge that we’re talking about here, John is very clear about. It is intimate knowledge.

It’s the kind of knowledge where you not only just read about this brother in a book, but you have met him personally. And he has radically changed your life. John the Baptist’s testimony is so groundbreaking, people go on a, four to five day journey on foot! These priests and Levites that are being sent from Jerusalem are being sent halfway across the nation of Israel to this little tiny town called Bethany on the border of the Jordan River. That’s more than 200 kilometers (about a hundred miles) on foot. 

These priests and Levites are going to walk from Jerusalem in the south to Bethany in the north. And they have some questions to ask John. Now, they’re being sent there by the Pharisees, and if you’ve ever been on a long walk (I’ve been on plenty of long walks in my life), you know what people start to do when the walk starts to get long and hot in the desert. They start to complain. 

Can you imagine the complaining on days two, three, and four when they’re not even close to Bethany yet? They’re saying, “Why do we have to go on foot to go talk to this brother named John the Baptist? What is this guy doing that is so severe that you would send us on this far of a journey?” Apparently John is stirring the waters and make a splash so big that people all over Israel are hearing about John Baptist, and they’re going to see him, and their lives are being radically changed. So when these priests and Levites show up, they just simply ask them a question. “Why are you here?” But what sends them there in the first place is John’s epic testimony.

There is something about this brother that is so incredible, that people from all over the region would come to hear his message. And his message is very obviously pointing people to Jesus. They’re going to make this four or five-day journey, and they’re going to do it on foot because John knows something, and the Bible makes it absolutely clear that these priests, Levites, and many of the Pharisees, don’t know who John knows. They don’t know what John knows. 

If you and a friend were ever going somewhere like to a party or an event together, and neither one of you knew exactly where you were going, did you ever have a friend that called you to try to get some directions from you? Now, I’m talking like back in the day before there was smartphones, or maybe this is a friend who doesn’t own a smartphone, so can’t use Google maps or Apple maps. They don’t have a GPS, so now they’re trying to get directions from you without any kind of turn-by-turn navigation (I don’t know if that person even still exists).

There used to be a day when people had to use a map or had to follow somebody else’s directions. I want you to just picture yourself in this scenario for a second. You’re trying to give your friend directions to something that you’ve seen on the map, but you’ve never been there yourself. And you’re going to give him the, “Hey, the map says you’re supposed to go here and stop there and turn here and then arrive there…” Those kinds of directions. Think about it for just a second. 

Those are going to sound very, very different than if you’re giving your friend (this crazy friend that doesn’t own a map, doesn’t own a smartphone, doesn’t have a GPS. I don’t even know how that’s possible) directions to your house. Do you know why these directions are going to sound so radically different? Because you’ve made the drive to your house over and over and over again. You don’t need to look at a map. You don’t need to open up a mapping app on your phone. You know exactly how to get there. You could tell him every turn, every straight line. You know it backward and forward. It’s not something that you read in a book; you know it firsthand. 

Know the way

And when I talk about knowing the Way, step one of an epic testimony is to know firsthand who you’re talking about, knowing Jesus firsthand.You see, when we share our testimony, it’s not just somebody who read about Jesus in a book called the Bible. It’s somebody who has met him personally. This is how I can tell, usually, when I’m talking to a Christian: they use first-person pronouns. They talk about him with the word “my”. My savior and my Lord, instead of somebody that I heard about in a Bible class, somebody that I read about in a book. 

John the Baptist is speaking. Think about how shocking, how offensive this would have been to some of the most religious people in the land when they showed up and asked him some questions. And what John said is, “I know him. In fact, we’re cousins. But it’s not because we’re cousins that I know him. I know him because that man changed me. You don’t know him. Even though he’s in your midst, you don’t know who I’m talking about. But I know him.” And John is not talking about Jesus hiding. John is talking about firsthand, intimate knowledge.

The first step, the kind of can’t go past step one is personally knowing the one who you’re talking about. There are plenty of idiots on social media that speak about something they don’t know. There are very few people who can talk with personal expertise. And in John’s case, he’s saying, “I know what I’m talking about. I know him personally.” Step one is to know the way. 

Point the way

Step two is pretty obvious, right? It’s not just know the way, but pointing the way. You see, what John says next is, “Look, I’m just giving you my testimony. And my testimony is to point to the one who is coming after me. I’m just a voice crying out in the wilderness, and I’m pointing to the one who is the son of God, the one who we’ve been waiting for, for thousands of years.” 

Now, there’s more than one person that had been pointing the way to this moment in history. In fact, a couple of them show up in John chapter one. There  is, of course, John the Baptist, who, Jesus calls in Matthew 11:11, the greatest man who’s ever walked on planet earth born of a woman: greater than David, greater than Moses, greater than Abraham. Nobody fits in the same category with John the Baptist. There’s a Elijah. There are the prophets. If you’ve read the Old Testament, you know when you get to the book of Malachi, even Malachi himself is pointing to the one who’s coming next. Thousands of years of prophecy have been pointing to this moment. And now John’s job is to just simply point the way to Jesus. 

From elementary school, do you remember the answer to this science question? What is the shortest distance between two fixed points? Yeah, it’s a straight line. Did you notice what John is saying? “I’m just making a straight line. I’m pointing people to Jesus, and I’m making the line as straight as I can so that it’s not confusing, so that as many people as possible can see the one that I’m pointing to. I am not pointing to myself; I’m pointing to the one whom everyone needs to know. 

John is just simply trying to get people’s attention so that they will focus on Jesus, not on him. This official visit, this entourage that shows up, they have the power and the authority, legally speaking, to try to shut John down. And John has nothing to do with it. John just wants them to know. In fact, he changes the subject on them and wants them to know, “I’m not here talking about me. I’m here to talk about the one that’s coming after me. The one who is before me, even though I started preaching first, this brother existed before me. Frankly, he was around before everything that was created existed.” John is just trying to make a straight line and point as many people as possible to Jesus. 

I used to teach land navigation to Rangers as they were getting ready to serve in the Ranger regiment, getting ready to go to combat. There are two parts of land navigation. You may also call it orienteering. One is to teach them how to read a map. It’s pretty easy. There are principles. There’s a legend. There are a few things that you need to know, but it’s pretty easy to teach somebody how to read a map. 

The second is not nearly as easy. The second is how to read the terrain. So, we would send guys out all day, all night for multiple days through some pretty ugly terrain and tell them, “Here’s where you are on the map. Here’s where you’re supposed to go. I need you to be able to navigate over land, or orienteer, to this next point on the ground.” And inevitably, some of them, a lot of them, would get turned around, get turned backwards, get confused, and have no idea where they are.

Teaching somebody to navigate over terrain, how to read terrain, you really have to do with them. You can’t do it reading a book. You’ve got to stand there and teach them, “This is what you’re seeing.” Now, I used to tell Rangers, “Don’t ever trust the manmade features. Don’t ever trust roads. Don’t ever trust bridges. Don’t ever trust trails. They’re right there on the map right in front of your face. They’re really easy to see, but they change. And sometimes the road you’re looking at is not the road that you think it is on the map.” Instead of trusting manmade features, trust only in God-made features. I’m talking about mountains, rivers, valleys, and ridges. Those things don’t change over time. In fact, those things have been around since the beginning of creation, and they’ll probably still be here long after you’re dead and gone.

So, if you want to be sure you know where you are and where you’re going, trust the stuff that God made, not the stuff that we made. I’m telling you this, because when we start to point the way, it’s easy to start to focus on us and start to focus the story on us. We tend sometimes to make ourselves the center of Christianity, the center of the story. 

That’s not what John does. They show up and they start asking John about John. And he doesn’t answer them about John. John starts to answer them about Jesus. So, you know the way, you point the way, and you let people, “Hey, I’m here to tell you who Jesus is, and I’m here to tell you what Jesus did for me because Christianity is not about me. Christianity is about Jesus Christ.”

The reason why some people really struggle is really that they have some spiritual problems here. The reason why they struggle to share their story is because they are the center of their story, and it may feel a little bit embarrassing to tell that story. It may feel a little bit scary to tell that story because the story is all about you. When you start pointing the story to Jesus, the one who saved you, now, you are just reporting the news. 

I’m telling you what happened, and I’m telling it to you in such a way that you should be able to benefit from the story as well, because what he did for me, he can do for you. Step one was to know the way. Step two is to point the way. Step three is probably the most important thing you’re going to hear from me today, and you’re going to hear this directly from John the Baptist.

Get out of the way

Step three is to get out of the way. And when I say get out of the way, I may point the attention to Jesus and then let the Holy Spirit step in and do what the Holy Spirit does next.

John the Baptist’s life is in danger when these guys show up, and they start to ask him some questions. And I don’t think these are friendly questions. They’re basically placing him on the carpet and saying, “We’d better get the answers that we want from you, because if not, we have the authority to kill you. Why are you baptizing in the desert? Why are so many people from all over Israel coming to listen to you?” And John doesn’t back down one bit. He’s not hiding, but he is humble. And he does not take the credit for what he says next. When this crowd shows up, he stands among them and he says, “I’m not the one you’re looking for, but he’s in your midst. And by the way, he is so awesome, that I’m not even worthy to bend down and untie his sandals.” 

In John’s day, a teacher, a rabbi didn’t really get a paycheck for teaching for their job. They got disciples, and the disciples followed them around. And the disciples helped the rabbi. The help was the way that they paid their teacher back for teaching them.

Well, John the Baptist has some disciples, and Jesus has some disciples. We’re going to read about them soon. And a rabbi had the authority to ask his disciples to do basically anything that he wanted them to do. There was no task that was off limits. Wait… except for his feet. You see, walking in sandals in the desert, your feet gets nasty real fast, and the rabbi could ask his disciples to help him with anything, do anything for him. But what the rabbi couldn’t do is to ask his disciples to help them with his sandals, wash his feet. That was a job for the lowest slave in the land. Did you hear what John the Baptist, whom Jesus calls the greatest man born of a woman to ever live, did you hear what John the Baptist said about Jesus?

He said, “Y’all have come listening to me, looking to me, asking questions of me. I’ll tell you. I’m not the one that you need to look at. I’m not the one that you need to listen to. The one that do you need to listen to, he’s already in your midst. And by the way, I just want to make sure you understand something; I’m not even worthy of bending down and untying that man’s sandals. I am not even worthy of being treated like the lowest slave to that man. That’s how much more he is above me. That’s how much greater he is than I am.” John is doing everything he can to get out of the way. 

When you share your testimony and you start to tell people about Jesus, treat it like a hundred-meter sprint. Get to Jesus as fast as you can, and spend as much time as you can talking about Jesus, which means spend the least amount of time possible talking about you, the most amount of time possible talking about Jesus. That’s exactly what John does. John says, “Look, I know you’re here to ask me some questions. I get it. I’ll answer your questions. But you’re not here looking for me. I’ll tell you the one that you need to look to.” And then John gets out of the way, and he points all of the attention to Jesus. 

John knows, humanly speaking, “I have no power to influence you, but I cannot change your life. But if the Holy Spirit steps in and rolls up his sleeves, and he takes my testimony and applies it to your heart, I believe he will do a miracle.”

And now I’m talking specifically about that person who has worked on your testimony, and you have been trained on how to share it, but you’re a little bit scared about the conversation, a little bit scared about saying it for the first time. I just need you to hear something from me. You’ve got nothing to be afraid of, because you have the Holy Spirit of the living God who takes your words and he applies it to another person’s heart in whatever way he chooses to apply it. You have nothing to worry about when you share your story, as long as the Holy Spirit is in the midst. 

So just treat it like a hundred-meter sprint and run to Jesus as fast as you can in that story. Make as much time as possible all about Jesus and how he saved you, and how he can do the exact same thing for the person you’re talking to.

I’ll wrap up with this. R.A. Tory, a famous preacher, told a story about some missionary kids. They were actually young adults, college students, who left America and went on a mission trip to the Pacific Islands. Now, these guys were hopping from island to island, and they were helping out just doing whatever they could to try to make life better for the people that they were ministering to. And the salty old trip leader, the guy who was leading this trip for these college students, had been on mission trips time and time again. And frankly, it was just a lot of work with no real results. 

So this salty old trip leader had very low expectations for the trip. And as a result, like any leader with a bad attitude, his attitude started to affect the guys on this trip. They go to one island, they roll up their sleeves, and they serve, but not a whole lot happens that will make an eternal difference. Yeah, it made people’s lives a little bit better but it’s not going to really make an eternal difference.

They go to another island, though, and this island’s different, because when they get there, they start to serve. They roll up their sleeves, and the local missionary on this island says, “Hey, we’re going to do one of those old school tent meetings, and we’re going to ask people from all over the island to just show up in this tent. Would you guys, college students, help us run this meeting tonight?” And what those guys saw that night blew them away. 

They saw some of the worst sinners on the island, some of the people that were most hostile to Jesus and to the gospel, come to that tent meeting. -and not just come to the tent meeting, but hearing the preacher. A guy by the name of Henry Munro simply preached a very clear testimony of who Jesus is and what he can do for you. And then many, many islanders got up and walked forward and said, “If he can do that for you, can he do it for me, too? Because I need what you’re talking about.” 

R.A. Tory said, “The next day, the salty old mission leader said he’d never seen anything like this before; it blew his mind.” And so he went to Henry Munro, this local missionary that was running the mission efforts on this island, and he said, “What did you do last night? I’ve been on these things time and time again. I’ve been to islands. I’ve been all over the place, and I have never seen it before. What I saw last night, how did you do this? What’s the secret sauce? What’s the recipe that you did that made last night possible?” (True story) R.A. Tory said, “Here’s Henry Monroe’s answer: It pleased the Holy Spirit while I was talking to shine on the face of Jesus. And when sinners saw him, they flocked to Jesus immediately.” 

In other words, “I simply knew the way, and I pointed the way. And then I got out of the way, and I let the Holy Spirit do what the Holy Spirit does. And what you saw last night was completely and totally the results of the Holy Spirit.”

When you share your story, it’s not on your shoulders. It’s totally up to the Holy Spirit to take your words and to shine on the face of Jesus because of what you’re saying. And maybe He will radically change somebody’s life just because you had the courage to say it. I’m going to ask you, would you share your story in a very simple way? Just tell someone, “I know with personal, firsthand experience. I didn’t read about him in a book; I met him personally, and Jesus radically changed me.” Would you make a straight line to Jesus? Just point as straight as you can to him, and rush to him in your story like a hundred-meter dash, and then get out of the way, and let the Holy Spirit do what the Holy Spirit does next.

This week, I was reading about the 100 greatest movies of all time unanimously agreed upon by both critics and movie goers. And I was thinking to myself as I was preparing for this sermon this week, What would happen if the actors and the directors and the producers made the movie Citizen Kane? What would happen if they made the movie Godfather, or they produced the movie Singin’ In the Rain, and then they locked it in the vault and never told anybody, never showed anybody? What if nobody ever got a chance to see that story? What would it be like if