Where am I today? Where do I desire to be?
My Christian journey can be charted into five progressive stages, categorized in terms of how much I invite Christ into my life. Very often, God places cloud of witnesses in my life to challenge me, showing me that there is more, inviting me to go deeper. Once I have gone deeper with Christ, I would not want to go back. I don’t think I will ever be completely satisfied until the day I see Him face to face. This picture is designed intentionally to be stereotypical in order to aspire for greater hunger for more of Jesus in our lives, though it will never be a complete picture on this side of eternity. There is always more and we can always go deeper in Christ.
#1: “Not really a Christian”
It is a stage that everyone thinks that you are a Christian, you yourself may not disagree to be called one, but between you and your God, in the depth of your heart, you know that you don’t really have a personal relationship with Jesus. Through your church friends, through sermons you heard and Christian books that you read, you may learn a lot about Jesus. But because you only process what you’ve learned about Jesus as a third person, intellectually as impersonal knowledge and information, never as a first person, never as Truth to look inside with, thus no matter how many times, none touches your heart. To you, God is a concept instead of a Person to have a first hand personal relationship with. Sin and salvation are great theological concepts for debates and discussions. Processing bible concepts intellectually as theology creates a safe zone with walls for you to spare your heart from the uncomfortable inconvenience of facing yourself nakedly with these spiritual truths. Consequently, you have never felt convicted of your own sins, you have never come to the end of yourself in desperation to ask Jesus for forgiveness of sins. You have never given your heart to Jesus as the Lord of your life in order to start fresh. To you, it seems to make perfect sense. How can you give yourself to set of theological concepts, or a Person whom you have never encountered? Nevertheless, Christianity is not a bad option among other religions. So you choose to adopt it as a set of religious rituals and programs as a part of your life,; no different from being a committed member of a social club, with its specific set of operational protocols. Since no one can really discern the reality of your heart, if you are by nature popular and capable, people may even ask you to take the lead.
Yes, that was my humble beginning. My journey started when I was in high school. when a friend invited me to attend a church youth group. At that age, I had no resistance to “peer pressure”. I was so desperate to belong that in order to conform, I attended all church programs that I could attend. I used Christian lingo in my conversations. I acted what was expected of me to fit in. Soon I was well accepted. It didn’t take long that I built a social network that I was comfortable with. Before I knew it, everyone in the church assumed that I was a Christian. Self-deception kicked in. I started from not disagreeing that I was a Christian, to start saying that I was, rationalized with the excuse that if so many others thought that I was, then I couldn’t be that far off.
As much as you have read many books about dating and have engaged in as many discussions about dating, you can only talk about dating as a third person if you have never dated. As much as you want to hide the fact that you have never dated, you will be exposed when you are asked to talk about your personal dating experience: what did you two talk about? what did you two do together? what is she/him like as a person? In the same token, the absence of testimony about Jesus, such as what He has been doing in your life, what is He saying to you in your situation, is the first tell tale sign that you are really not yet a Christian because He is not yet in your life.
By God’s bountiful mercy and grace, my D-Day has finally come. In one high school fellowship night, we had a testimony sharing. There were about fifteen of us attending. Everyone shared their week with Jesus except me. I was the only one that had nothing to say. Not a word came out of my mouth that night. As I heard everyone’s story with Jesus, my jaws dropped. At the same time, I felt so ashamed. I came away thinking that they were either lying or Jesus was really that amazing. If He really was that amazing, I really wanted to know Him person-to-Person, not from a distance.
That was the first time I was confronted with my self deception of being a Christian. Painful as it was, it was for my good. That night I went home, alone in my room, down on my knees, I cried out to God and prayed the very first prayer that changed my life forever, “God, if you are real, then I want to seek you. If you reveal Yourself to me in a way that I know without a doubt that it is You, I will give my life to you. If You show up in my life in a manner that I cannot deny, I am Yours and I will not go back on my words.” I thought to myself, if He was not real, I was talking to air, I still have nothing to lose. I also knew that if He was real, He would have heard my prayer and my life would never be the same.
He did exactly that. He revealed Himself to me in big and small ways in that point of my life that I knew it was but God (that was another testimony for another time). I felt as if He gave me eyes to see Him. For the first time, I started reading the Bible with my heart instead of with my head. I felt He was seeing through me. I finally came to the end of myself, confessed to Him that I was a sinner and gave my life to Him and asked Him to be my Lord and my savior.