I suppose it's good to start right from the beginning, and so here's my testimony--which I recently rewrote this Easter. I was so glad I did, though initially it took alot of courage and self-prodding (I posted it on facebook! can you imagine? I can't either) :P
Remembering this major turning point in my life made me remember all over again the wonder and joy I had felt when I first realised the full impact of Christ's love, and what it meant to my life.
When I gave my testimony for baptism, it was the first and likely last time I stood in the pulpit. As a PK—Pastor’s Kid—Christianity had always been part of my life, long before it defined my life. Even before I was a PK, I was brought up knowing the Gospel, and was pretty familiar with the Bible (if you asked me how many wives Abraham had in total I could give you a pat answer. Ha, nice try. Did you know Abraham had THREE wives?? Try reading Genesis 25:1. *smug face*)
But I wasn’t moved by God to feel its importance. I knew I wasn’t a Christian, but somehow, even though I never doubted that God existed and that the Bible was true, I wasn’t worried about it. Oh well. Judgment Day is coming but as long as Dad and Mom are there too it’ll be all right (don’t laugh, that was when I was seven.)
It wasn’t until much later that God made me realize what it really meant to not be a Christian—it meant that I was in danger of Hell all the time. If God took my life away—which He could at any moment— it would mean Hell for me, forever, without any chance of ever getting out. It would be final.
I was afraid. I knew I desperately needed to get right with God, and I started trying to.
I knew that in order to be saved, you had to repent of your sins. I believed, as the Bible taught, that I was a sinner, but somehow I couldn’t feel a strong sense of guilt about my sin. Sure, we’re all sinners; I’m a small, pretty nice one.
All along, I had only prayed to God when there were problems in my life, or I wanted something. Or an insincere ‘thank You for what You’ve given me’ which I prayed more because I knew I should, not because I really felt thankful to God.
This was the first time I began to pray personally and seriously to God about spiritual things. I asked Him to show me my sin, remembering those old evangelical stories I used to read when I was small. God seemed to always answer the people in those stories who prayed for Him to show them their sin.
And wonders! He actually answered! It didn’t happen immediately, it was more like a slow process—I didn’t even realize God was answering my prayer at first, I just wondered why I suddenly seemed to be not as nice a person as I’d always thought I was;)
When I realized that God had really answered my prayer, I was amazed. I thought I’d always known that God was real, but now He was really and truly ‘alive and kicking’ to me. He heard me. And more than that, He answered me. I was awed—He was this real.
I was also much humbled when I finally saw, quite reluctantly, just how much of a sinner I really was. I had always been a ‘good kid’; I never went out of my way to provoke others or initiate quarrels; I obeyed my parents (most of the time), was polite and kind to (most) other people like my parents taught me to. But that didn’t mean I had no sin. I was full of it, especially those subtle sins that are so dangerous because we pass them over or think they’re not important. Some sins I hadn’t even thought of as sins, because I previously justified them as a response to how other people had sinned against me. So-and-so was obviously unjust or unkind to me! SO, it was perfectly right for me to fly into a rage at them and say hurtful things back!
As a result, He also gave me a real sense of guilt. No one likes to see unpleasant sides of themselves. Your natural response is to correct anything you don’t like about yourself, just as you automatically adjust your hair when the mirror shows you it’s messy. I tried to do the same thing to my soul once I saw that it was dirty with sin, but of course it didn’t work. Even though I had learnt long ago about how hopelessly sinful people are, (I even knew the fancy theological term “original sin”) I kept thinking that if I just tried harder I could stop sinning. If I can just control myself better, I kept telling myself. It seemed so possible—stop biting your nails, stop sinning; the same method to get rid of any other bad habit.
So I kept trying—kept failing—and got more and more depressed and discouraged. In fact, the more I tried, the more sin I kept seeing in my life, and the more desperate I felt when I failed. Why, oh why couldn’t I keep from sinning? The more impossible I realized it was to get rid of my sin, the more I wanted to get rid of it. For the first time I felt a new, urgent desire for righteousness. ‘Righteousness’ had never been very high on my wish list, if it had even been there before; now it was all the way up there and I couldn’t think of anything else.
At first, I had been driven to God by my fear of hell. Now, I was driven by my desire to get rid of my sin.
And then FINALLY—I realized that this was exactly what I had learnt since I was small. God didn’t mean me to be saved by being righteous, because I never could; I could only be righteous through Christ, Whom God gave for that reason. Suddenly what I had learnt since I was small became real, and applied to my own life.
Strangely enough, I still had one more realization to make. I sought salvation as well as I could, just vaguely knowing that it had something to do with Christ. Okay—I knew I was a sinner now and I knew I couldn’t stop sinning by myself. I also knew the only way was with Christ. But—how? What then? (so much for thinking I knew the Gospel in and out!)
Well, for a long time nothing happened. What was God doing? I felt I had done everything I could, and now it was up to God—but He wasn’t doing anything. I felt as if He had walked off, leaving me to deal with this unfinished project of being saved. I was upset with God, and confused.
Until one day, quite simply and casually, I heard my mom telling me the qualifications for salvation. I thought I knew them, but this time they really hit home as I realized that—*drumroll*--that was it. Repentance, desire for righteousness, belief in God, trusting only Christ—they were all there, in God’s eyes I was no longer a sinner but one of His children, and a Christian at last. He had been patiently waiting for me, all the time I thought He wasn’t doing anything. It wasn’t the mysterious, press-a-button type of transformation I had thought it was, and was waiting to experience. It was just humbly and earnestly admitting your need for Christ’s death, asking God to forgive and accept you on that basis; it was more like a decision and a change of mind/heart (being converted didn’t make me any less a sinner than I was before; the only difference in this aspect was in God’s eyes.)
So I began a close, personal relationship with God for the first time, truly with ‘joy and gladness’. It was an amazing feeling to be so close to God, to feel so loved, and to finally be without the barrier of sin. All along, I had never experienced this type of relationship with God. When I was little He had been vague and hazily good and a bit storybookishly-dubious; then He became real, terrifyingly so because He also became a very real Judge of me and my sinfulness. But this was the first time He had really become to me a ‘loving Heavenly Father’. Though I had known God for almost all my life, it was nothing compared to the relationship I now had with Him, which was the real thing.
Christ’s death, and subsequent forgiveness and love, has been the wow-factor of my life. Not only was it the most amazing thing in my life (hey, what else would someone dying for you be? Not just someone, but Someone?), it also enabled me to live. Not merely exist—here without really knowing why; going through day after day with either tantalizingly brief glimpses of happiness, or confusion and blank unhappiness when things go wrong. But to LIVE—as well as we can in our imperfect state, in this imperfect world—the perfect life God meant us all to have. To live with joy, with hope, with comfort, with love. With, and because of, our best Friend.
Happy Easter. We have been given a great gift indeed.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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