A before-and-after story

How did your salvation change your life?

This blog post is especially for people who were raised in the church or have gone to church for much of their lives. 

Chances are, your testimony isn’t usually described as powerful—but it should be.  

Paul and Peter 

Paul’s salvation testimony is exciting to teach. 

His story begins with Paul as a young man witnessing the stoning of Stephen while surrounded by the cloaks of those throwing the rocks. 

The story continues with his subsequent persecution of Christians, his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and a visit from Ananias. 

The scales of blindness fall from Paul’s eyes as he dedicates the rest of his life to preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. 

There isn’t a more dramatic salvation testimony in the Bible! 

Or is there? 

Peter grew up faithfully attending the synagogue and was strong in his faith. 

He was likely a disciple of John the Baptist before he was a disciple of Christ. Peter, with James and John, was chosen to be in the inner circle of Christ. 

Peter was the first leader of the Christian movement after Pentecost. He was “the rock” God used to build his church. 

We know about Peter’s life before the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s life after Pentecost. 

Here’s my question: Is your personal testimony more like Paul’s or Peter’s? 

How did Jesus change your life? 

I’ve often said that the lifelong believer has a challenge that a late-in-life believer often doesn’t. Except for your promise of heaven, how did your salvation change your life? 

When you are raised in the church, that question is crucial. It can be the difference between living as a Pharisee and living as a Spirit-led disciple of Christ. 

If you were raised in the church, your daily life might not have been dramatically changed the day you became a Christian. You knew about the Lord before you were saved and you knew about him after. The Holy Spirit entered your life and affirmed your values more than he changed them. 

So then, how did the indwelling Spirit, who is Jesus, change your life? 

Scripture’s answer to that question is likely found in Peter’s testimony. 

How did the indwelling of the Holy Spirit change Peter? 

I’m writing Bible studies out of 1 and 2 Peter right now. I spent some time comparing the stories of Peter in the gospels to the wisdom of Peter from his letters.  

I’ve spent most of my life thinking of Peter as the man who walked with Jesus, but those gospel stories represent less than three years of his life. Most of Peter’s testimony takes place after Pentecost.  

If you grew up in church, that is a point to ponder. 

Peter was the foundational leader of the early church. He was the one called and gifted by the Holy Spirit to teach and maintain the accurate theology of the Christian movement. Peter knew Jesus and loved him. He was the disciple Jesus spoke to, saying, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15–17). 

Jesus called Peter to that ministry and then gave him his Spirit for that ministry. 

Is Peter’s “before-and-after” story similar to your testimony? 

Peter: Before and after 

Peter was the disciple who climbed out of a boat in the middle of a storm to walk to Jesus. When Peter sank, he understood it was Jesus who had provided the miraculous power. He was a man who understood the power of God.

When the Holy Spirit entered Peter’s life at Pentecost, he was a familiar presence of power. Peter recognized that holy Presence, and Peter left the upper room and walked with Jesus—again. 

Peter didn’t just know about Jesus; he walked with him and served him with his life. That is exactly what happened in each of our lives when we became Christians. Your daily choices might not have changed dramatically when you were saved. But your lifelong choices probably did. 

When did you step out of the boat? When did you sink? 

When did you know you were walking with Jesus? Are you aware that he is guiding your thoughts right now?  

Our before-and-after testimony is this: Before we became Christians, we knew about Jesus. After we were saved, we were able to live with his constant, holy Presence in our lives.  

The power of a lifelong believer 

Paul also grew up with faith, but it was Peter whom the Lord called and used first. It wasn’t knowledge about Jesus that mattered most; it was knowing Jesus.  

That is the difference between a Pharisee and a Spirit-led believer. That is our daily, moment-to-moment choice. We can live with what we know about Jesus or we can live with Jesus. 

Never underestimate the great power that comes from the lifelong knowledge of God and his word. 

If you grew up in the church learning God’s word, you were equipped with the ability to be a foundational leader of the faith. Paul taught Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).  

Paul chose Timothy, a lifelong believer, to continue his earthly ministry. Timothy knew Scripture and was competent and equipped for good works. But Paul wouldn’t have chosen Timothy if Timothy weren’t also a man who walked in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  

Our before-and-after testimony 

If all that is happening in our world is causing you to “sink” just a bit these days, consider Peter’s story. Never underestimate the power of a person who walks with Jesus. Peter left the upper room and started sharing the gospel with everyone who would listen. 

But Peter didn’t preach until he had been gifted with the empowering presence of Jesus. In fact, Jesus told him not to speak until he was.  

If you are sinking these days, is it because you know what you know? 

It’s easy to be a Pharisee these days! But, the only way for miracles of change to happen is to know it is Jesus that has the power, the knowledge, and the plan for the needed change. 

Jesus can help scientists create a vaccine. Jesus can help heal racial divides. Jesus can calm fears just like he calmed storms. Jesus can use all that you know to help you become the person you need to be.  

It is common for God to choose those who have a strong foundation to be leaders. Your testimony might not be dramatic, but it is likely the story that will guide most people to place their faith in Christ. 

A lifelong testimony is difficult to question, and a life that exhibits the presence of Christ is difficult to ignore.  

Live your testimony 

Jesus told Peter, and Scripture teaches us, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). 

What is the Holy Spirit of Christ guiding you to know, speak, and do today? 

Spend some time listening for that answer right now. 

That will be your testimony for today.