A friend of mine recently visited our church to update us on his evangelistic efforts on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Two and a half years ago he and his family were commissioned and sent out as missionaries to plant a church there. He spoke to us of the wonderful things the Lord was and is doing amidst the people on the Island and what God was doing for his family personally. The testimonies he shared were awesome and were living proof that God is faithful to spread His gospel and take care of His servants as they follow Him.

There was one testimony that stuck in my mind and culminated in this article. The lesson I learned will not leave me alone. I have come to see others and myself in a different light. I pray the words you read here will enlighten your spirit as it has mine.

Jose usually starts his update by telling us the first thing he does when he comes back to the States is to get a good haircut. He likes to go to “Super Cuts” in San Francisco, CA, and he always mentions that he prefers women cutting his hair to men. This particular trip he got a guy that he really did not want to cut his hair, for whatever reason.

He sat down and the two of them start a conversation about the weather and the conversation began to take a different turn as Jose was asked what he did for a living. Jose then proceeds to tell him about his livelihood, his vocation as a pastor, where his lives, etc., etc., at which point the gentleman cutting his hair replies boldly, “I’m a born again Christian too! I once lived a homosexual lifestyle but now I’m an overcomer….” The gentleman goes on to tell Jose that he has met some opposition within churches because his voice is a little high and he still walked a little differently as a result of his old life, but he was overcoming these obstacles. The gentleman again made the remark that he loved the Lord with all his heart. I remember an analogy my pastor used, he said it is like placing your hands in oil-based paint, you try to wash it off with soap and water and the residue is still there. You have to use a special cleaner to remove the paint. He still had the residue of his old life and God was in the process of cleaning off the residue so that the beauty underneath could be seen, but the work was not completed yet.

As I pondered this testimony, I began to look at my life and see that I had friends who also had some residue of the world and their previous life-styles still on them, including me. Many of them are in recovery, some have only just came to the Lord, and still others are in denial. Some of those friends have awesome testimonies of how the Lord has redeemed them from darkness. Some of them are pastor friends that now are at the healm of thriving ministries of Recovery, Restoration, Worship and Music Ministries, etc…the testimonies of their salvation are mind blowing. Many of us still carry the residue of our past life because it is part of the consequences of sins we committed.

Please do not misinterpret what I am saying, but hear me clearly. (There is so much here -I pray that the call to search out this matter draws you to further study on your own) What I am speaking of is how we judge others by looking on the outside and not at the fruit in their lives. Is this not the reason that we come together in corporate worship to celebrate God’s saving deeds in our lives? Will not those who come to the Lord be won by the word of our testimony? Whenever I see someone make a decision to accept Christ, I am reminded of how my life was and how it is now. Tears of joy for the newborn in Christ overwhelm me for I know that they have chosen life and not death! I know that true love, joy, and peace await them in their new lives. We cannot judge a book by its cover, but we need to open it up and try to understand its message. If the pages do not line up right, we need to speak to the Editor-in-Charge. We ought to be praying that the eyes of that person would come to see Him in His fullness, and that they would allow God to continue the washing process until the residue no long remains. For some, that will be a life-long process as the pull of sin and the consequences of bad life choices will haunt them as they see the fruit of seeds they planted long ago mature. Our prayer should always be that God will clean each of us with the water of His Word. When we judge, we forget we once lived and were apart of Egypt. Self-righteousness has no place in the heart and life of a redeemed Christian, but we should feel humbled by the grace of God that is boundless in the scope of its forgiveness.

We need to be reminded that Egypt (the world) is forever around us and that we were so involved in its ways that we must now constantly renew our minds to keep from slipping back into the disguises of sin. We should also keep this in mind as we lead worship. We are handing people the keys to continue on in their worship odyssey. We introduce songs that take them through the battles of life. We are all overcomers because Jesus overcame the world and our life is now hidden in Him as the glory of who He is replaces what we were. Utmost in our minds is the thought that we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

The testimony of those who have called on the name of Jesus Christ for salvation has been; He has called me out of darkness to a better way of life. The Message Bible states I Peter 2:9 this way, “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night and day difference he made for you - from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” Overcomers have overcome the world and they walk in the newness of life.

Him who began a good work in you will complete it…

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