In reflecting on my testimony, I have struggled with remembering exactly when and how it happened that I came to faith in Jesus Christ. While digging through old online sermon archives and trying to build an orderly timeline (from 2011 - 2014) of the personal events that happened to me, it has clearly reminded me that ALL credit belongs to God. I have been brought into a more child-like appreciation and calmness in God (the God who is my Father!)
Isn't it amazing, that one is offered adoption through Christ into God's family?
My family moved to California before I turned ten and started fourth grade; so if you were to ask me about how or the specific timeline of what happened, I can really only answer from the memories (both good and bad) that I still have. But I know two things for sure: My dad was in charge and I didn't live in Kansas anymore. So, I hope that you see that in my testimony of how I moved from unbelief to belief, that it was on not strength of my own, but God's will over each step that should be praised.
Hypocrisy: I grew up going to church with my family and had gone through a baptism class with the ceremony before heading to UC Berkeley. At that time, I also had started a job playing organ/piano at a Presbyterian church in Fremont, all while being in Cal Band and studying bioengineering. This created a concoction of oozing self-righteousness, which really blinded me to my own damning separation from God. Before heading to college, I had heard several warnings about kids leaving Christianity; I didn't want that mark of "failure" on me, so I, like a hypocritical Pharisee, found ways to construct rules for myself and push other people down in my mind. I made idols of my work, from my contributions at church to my grades, and to my resistance of certain vices (while falling into others).
It only provided shallow relief, because I would have to quickly build new rules or twist my brain into loops to justify why I hadn't lost my "Christianity". One reason why I didn't seek fellowship in Berkeley was, idiotically and arrogantly, I assumed that there couldn't possibly a good opportunity to be around others at such a liberal-minded, sexually-active, medicated AND drugged, secular school. I also probably was just terrified of being found out as to how much of a fake Christian I was.
Hearing:Despite all my efforts to find comfort in pointing to my own success, I knew it was mainly superficial. At some point in time, I listened to this sermon (God Saves) from Pastor Matt Chandler out of Texas, and I didn't know it then, but I think that was the point at which when God truly revealed the sovereignty of Himself to me. The sermon, which I have re-listened to, is on Romans 8:28-39; this was also the first time I had really felt the comfort that emanates from God's dominion over all aspects of life as a Christian, including salvation.
The other truth that God tells us in the Bible, which I continually was exposed to when listening to Pastor Chandler, is that there is NO HELP for my depraved brokenness within my own works or things of this world. This is the devastating truth of sin.
One point out of that first sermon which sticks out to me now is this clear message: "Everyone in this room is a sinner. No one is clean. Even the most upright, uptight, morally righteous one of you, if we took the thoughts of your mind and the intentions of your heart and put them on this screen, you would not want to stay and watch and you would probably never return to this church. You would be filled with shame and self-hate at who you really are. But because you’re comparing yourself next to maybe a guy who is a moron and isn’t as far along as you are, you can feel pretty holy. But if you compare yourself to the holiness of God, then all of a sudden you’ll feel the weight of your depravity."
God. Is. Holy.
Hunger:I listened to a lot of online sermons following this. I realized the importance with being more discerning with what sermons I listened to and whether or not they were consistent with the Bible. I also found a radio show which reviewed and provided commentary of sermons by this Lutheran pastor, Pastor Chris Rosebrough, who showed how Old Testament stories were meant to point towards Christ, not twisted as motivational speeches for self-centered, fleshly-driven encouragement. The idea of how to discern the truth properly was, as Pastor Rosebrough remarks, "not to listen with an open mind, but with an open Bible"
I found myself really comforted in listening to sound preaching, despite my own disconnect at completely applying the instructions to myself. I quickly learned about Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Universalism vs. Limited Atonement, Cessationism vs. Charismatic, while seeing how ideas like Modalism and Pelagianism were biblically inconsistent. Through this, I got a real appreciation of those who took the Bible seriously and presented it in a serious manner, not for their own gain, but as a reflection of its author: God.
The Bible is eternally true, perfect, complete, holy, incisive, comforting, righteous, and creative.
Help: It had been explained to me several times over and over when I was growing up about how Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins, but it never seemed to click until I realized that you are also accountable for the sin that you are also completely blind to.
How much more is your evil, if you don't even fully know the extent of it?
Through my exposure to Biblical teaching, God showed me that I had egregiously sinned in my attitude towards Him and His creation by living so indifferently about abortion before and during college; I had no real issue with it or consideration of its evil during that time. While I had pursued a degree in bioengineering, to deeply study life and DNA, all of my worldly knowledge could not slice at my soul as deeply as God's clear message of Genesis and Psalm 139. I had intimately known of all my other obvious internal sins, like lusting and lying and envy, but to have another unknown sin so abruptly revealed to yourself was spiritually humiliating.
I now knew that I needed help and deeply repented, as I found myself absolutely bankrupt in spirit.
The death of Jesus became a really sweet and precious truth because I understood why I needed Him. A just God requires punishment for sins, and He offered up His own perfect Son as the COMPLETE sacrifice to satisfy that wrath. Only God can provide the sacrifice because only He truly knows the extent of our sins (past to future, known to unknown, external to internal, against God and against others).
Headship: God did not stop there with me, as He refuses partial ownership of what He has fully purchased with blood. God has shown me how to be more disciplined with the way I act, not for my glory, but for His glory. I have found that my appetite and desire for certain things that God does not approve of was graciously removed through a better understanding of His word with the help of the Holy Spirit. It became more important that my approach in worship and serving at church was that which God instructs rather than what I desired. And the discovery of ways that I had been sinfully living became opportunities to praise the perfect life that Jesus lived.
It is so good to know that God is a faithful and patient shepherd to those who have come to follow His voice. I am constantly reminded to joyfully submit to His headship of the church, for God promises that He will make His yoke easy and His burden light.
Matthew 11:25-30At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”