The past few days, I have rather pensive on the approach of Easter. This year, more so than any previous year, I am acutely aware of the particular threshold I am about to cross. Five Easters ago, possibly on Friday but I’m not too sure, I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior and received Him into my life. Turn the clock back another two thousand years – yet another threshold, and from this one proceeding all the grace, mercy, reconciliation including my very own.
The Bible says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) – What is there more true, noble, just, pure… than the work of Jesus on the cross? As a sinner, saved by grace, I stand forever changed, forever complete, forever restored and humbled over and over again. Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
So – this post is not a preaching, but more a meditation of what manner of salvation I have received and where I am going from here.
Five years ago, in a very complicated series of events, in short, I was invited for an Easter drama at the place I now call my church. I had been to two similar services in previous years, and the message was more or less the same. But this time, I really felt a strong tug in my heart, a conviction that would not just feebly sit there as my will and body stood motionless. My pastor gave an altar call, and I remembered him saying “if you take a step to God He will take a thousand to you” and as my friends prayed for me at the front I believed their words, that I would “walk out of the hall and never be the same”. I felt something so strongly in my heart that weekend – something I now recognise as faith – but I did not know where to go from there. Not knowing how to pray, I made a tiny prayer to God that He would “send an angel to show me the way to Him”. That “angel” turned out to be my friend, who asked me on MSN one night whether I was willing for her to teach me to get to know Jesus. The following Monday in school, she presented me with a NKJV Bible which I still use today and has weathered every storm by my side. She invited me back, took the train with me all the way to the Far East at Expo, invited me to our weekly cell group meetings. And the rest, they say, is history.
Nowadays, there seems to be a certain stigma toward attending a large church. Often, fellow Christians are the ones giving that stigma. But no matter. At that time, it was different. I did not have the chance to experience such a stigma, and I did not even know the type of criticisms people have toward big churches. I had not been to many churches. To me, this was church. This was my church.
As a new believer, I learnt many things about Christianity and Christ through the church. For the first time in my life, I saw a body of people, collectively and individually convicted to live for Jesus in all their actions and conduct, showing the love of Jesus in the way they loved and welcomed me and were excited over me. I learnt that Christ is not ancillary to life, but He was at the centre; Christ can be so relevant and indeed the core of our very existence. I saw people who were on fire for Jesus, and service after service people jumping up and down, praising Jesus; during worship their hands were lifted, fully surrendering and focused on Him; their prayer was deep and intense. I learnt about the passionate love of Christ and how our love for Him should be equally passionate, and I learnt how to be passionate about praising and worshipping Jesus – I remember the first few times I jumped during praise, both self-conscious and at the same time wanting to express my joy and excitement for Him.
At that time, perhaps I did not have a full and comprehensive theological understanding of who Christ was and His work on the cross and might not be able to articulate it, but I could sense Christ as an all-powerful God who was able to restore and guide us in every area of our life. At that point I just sensed that there was nothing impossible with Christ, no life situation too tough for Him to overcome, and He was capable of restoring and making whole every area of our lives. For example, love in human terms. Looking at my leaders and pastors around me, I observed the love that God had ordained for marriages and how the secular truism that no marriage can be perfectly happy forever was in fact not true. I understood that God had an intended plan for every area of our lives, and it was good.
At this point I would in humility urge all brothers and sisters withhold any impressions one may have of any church, of whatever shape and size. Beyond the fundamental aspects of our faith, let us accept the different ways we have of serving the Lord. Let us seek to live out the Truth, but never discount the truth in a fellow believer’s life – “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand… we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:4,10)
Even as I recount my early experiences as a Christian, I am reminded of the simplicity and purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ that as older believers we tend to over-complicate. I am also reminded of the simple and pure faith I had in response to this gospel, and Christ my first love. Having gone through five years as a Christian, I am thankful that my convictions are anchored ever more strongly on the solid rock, that I have become more mature as a believer, that hopefully I am more like Jesus and a better representation of Him than I was five years ago, that I am being enlarged in my capacity to be yielded to Him, that I have a testimony to share on how He has changed me, and most importantly that I can love Him still more and more day after day. Yet I do not wish to undermine the everyday struggles of being a Christian. In the Foreword of Mere Christianity written by Kathleen Norris, she says, “The Christianity Lewis espouses is humane, but not easy; it asks us to recognise that the great religious struggle is not fought on a spectacular battleground, but within the ordinary human heart, when every morning we awake and feel the pressures of the day crowding in on us, and we must decide what sort of immortals we wish to be.”
Indeed, as a believer there will be times when we find the Christian life a chore and how burdensome it is to live for Jesus every day. Yet if we simply think back on the time and nature of our salvation as I had been able to do writing this post and meditating on Easter we realise that the Christian life is not meant to be bondage at all – perhaps we are like the children of Israel, having been freed from bondage but still carrying the slave mentality everywhere with us. Galatians 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Another version says “It’s for freedom that Christ has set us free.” He is the lover of our souls, the bearer of our burdens, and we can cast our cares on Him for He cares for us. We forget how we were once yoked to masters of a very different nature from our current one – they only brought misery and condemnation. But now we are ‘yoked to Jesus’, but is a good yoke – of obedience leading to righteousness.
So today, five Easters on with Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I am ever more humbled and grateful for the work of the cross. You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free; and I thank God for the privilege of knowing Him and being able to walk in His freedom. The Word also says that we should be “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Cor 4:10) Easter is an important season for all of us, but it should not stop there. The work of the cross is for all our lives, now till eternity.