A decade ago, I met four women who were instrumental in my journey in knowing Jesus Christ. During our training, they introduced themselves as Christians. I was drawn to them thinking they could give me more insight about the Lord. They welcomed my curiosity and readily answered my questions.
I don’t think I have thanked them for boldly sharing their faith and for teaching me some of the most essential spiritual disciplines through their example. I am a fruit of their obedience and labor in the Lord. I am forever grateful for them for reaching out to me and sharing the most important treasure anyone can ever have.
Part I: Bad News and Good News
After a conversation about the Lord, Angge said she had something important to tell me. I waited expectantly. After training, we were assigned to different teams on different floors and had different schedules so we had no opportunity to meet often. When I couldn’t wait any longer, I went to her station and reminded her of what she promised to tell me. She took a quick break to accommodate me. We looked for a quiet place. Then she brought out a colored booklet with no words in it.
The Bible teaches that everything originated from God. All things have been created through him and for him. He has created mankind in His image and likeness. God is holy and perfect, and He requires that we be holy (without sin). Righteousness and sin is defined by the holy standard of a perfect God, not by human standards. God hates sin because it is the exact opposite of His nature. For the Lord is not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with Him.
The BAD NEWS is all of us has been separated from a holy and righteous God because of our sins. The Bible says that everyone has sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard. We all have committed sin even at one point in our lives. Thus, we all fall short and unable to meet God’s standard of holiness.
The wages (payment) of our sin is death… This death refers to ‘spiritual death’ which is the eternal separation of the human soul from God and everlasting punishment into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – or what we call hell. One sin means one death penalty. Considering all the sins we have committed would reveal that we are unable to pay for our uncountable transgressions.
How about good deeds? Can our good deeds make up for our sins? God’s requirement is perfection, sinlessness. The person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. The point is we have still broken the law and it demands punishment (death) from a just God. The Lord also said that our righteous acts are like filthy rags to Him. No amount of good deeds will make us acceptable in God’s eyes because His standard is holiness. This is our condition: Helpless. Wretched. Eternally condemned. Deserving of God’s wrath.
But there is GOOD NEWS! What we could not do to save ourselves, God accomplished for us: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. He is God who took on human form. He lived a holy life, in complete obedience to the Father. While we were still sinners, Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, victorious over sin and death. So that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross demonstrates God’s love, mercy and grace by making a way for us to be reconciled back to Him, be with Him and enjoy Him forever. At the same time, it displays God’s holiness, justice and righteousness by fulfilling His righteous requirements, consistent with His holy character, through the shedding of the blood of a perfect sacrifice as a substitute for sinners, thereby satisfying God’s righteous wrath against sin.
Knowing these truths and agreeing to them do not grant anyone salvation. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. (emphasis mine)
We must confess that we have sinned, turn to God and trust in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. “It is finished.” Jesus said. The penalty of sin has been paid in full. There is nothing that we can add on to it, not our good works or sacrifices.
God provided the perfect sacrifice for our sin, not because we deserved it or earned it, but only because of His love, grace and mercy. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jesus said to His disciples:
“If you love me, obey my commandments…
Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them…
All who love me will do what I say…
Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.” (John 14:15-24)
How do we know God’s commands? By reading His Word. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Part II: Unashamed of God’s Word
It was in the wee hours of the morning. I just had my lunch. I went to the main lobby and sat on a couch. Then I saw Van seated at the end of the room, absorbed in her book. I went up to her and had a quick chat. She said she came in early and was waiting for her shift. I asked her what she was reading and she said it was her Bible. “She’s not ashamed to read her Bible in public?” I mused.
Her example was refreshing for me. In principle, we were taught that the Bible is holy and is the written Word of God. An authority that should guide a person for living. Anyone who sincerely believes that should be eagerly reading it and paying close attention to it. But in reality, it was just a mere decoration that accumulates dust in the house. I didn’t know anyone even opens their Bible.
That very brief moment inspired me to buy my own Bible and motivated me to also read it despite of the many difficult-to-understand passages. They advised me to buy a certain version which is easier to read and understand. Then they suggested for me to start with the Book of John.
Part III: The Living God
One Sunday, Aiane invited me to their church. It was the first time I attended a Christian worship service. During the sermon, the pastor mentioned something about idols made by human hands, then quoted Psalm 115:3-8
3 Our God is in the heavens,
and He does as He wishes.
4 Their idols are merely things of silver and gold,
shaped by human hands.
5 They have mouths but cannot speak,
and eyes but cannot see.
6 They have ears but cannot hear,
and noses but cannot smell.
7 They have hands but cannot feel,
and feet but cannot walk,
and throats but cannot make a sound.
8 And those who make idols are just like them,
as are all who trust in them.
He gave an example, made a comment and the people laughed about it. Everything he said was practically true and on that sense their reaction was valid but I was offended because my belief was challenged. So I snapped at my friend, “What’s so funny?!”
After the service, she toured me around their church. It was nothing like the churches I had been to and this piqued my interest. As soon as we stepped out, I found myself praying: “Lord, I also want to attend a church like this but can You bring me to a church near our house or my workplace so I will not have an excuse not to attend.”
Looking back, I was amazed that even though I was offended with the truth, the Lord made me eventually disregard the offense and gave me the desire to be part of a Christian community. More than two months after that day, the Lord brought me to a church just two blocks away from where we worked. How neat is that! 😉
Part IV: Dates with Him Who Loved Me First
Day 2: You are not an accident.
Your birth was no mistake
Your parents may not have planned you, but God did.
Long before you were conceived by your parents,
you were conceived in the mind of God.
You are alive because God wanted to create you.
God decided how you would be born.
Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or who your parents are,
God had a plan in creating you.
God never does anything accidentally, and He never makes mistakes.
He has a reason for everything He creates
Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love (Ephesians 1:4).
I broke down in tears upon reading the first sentence. I didn’t know I needed to hear (read) these words from Him. It was like Him telling me: “You are not an afterthought nor an unexpected consequence. You are in my mind even before the creation of the world. I have loved you since then.” His gentle reassuring words resonated in my heart and comforted my soul. His Word healed a wound I never thought was there. This was one of the dates I had with Him who loved me first.
Mommy Mae lent me her Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren which was my first devotional book. As a new believer, this helped me grasp Biblical truths that were too complicated for me to chew by myself.
She also gave me, as a Christmas present, Charles Swindoll’s His Name is Wonderful. This was my first Bible study guide. It was very useful in bringing me to a deeper understanding of God’s Word and His character as it examined the different names of Jesus, each introducing a unique aspect of His infinite nature.
I remember those times when I would excitedly go home from work to meet with Him in my room by reading and studying His Word through the help of these study guides. These intimate dates with Him are some of my sweetest experiences. Such is the love of Jesus, relentlessly pursuing and drawing near an unworthy but dearly loved sinner like me to be set apart for Himself and enjoy Him forever.
For it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13).
Prior to all these, I used to picture God as someone who is distant, unreachable, and oblivious of the sufferings of mankind; someone who looks down from heaven with crossed arms and scrutinizing eyes, ready to punish and discipline those who will make a mistake. I realized I viewed Him that way because I only knew about Him through the information taught in schools and in the church. I didn’t understand then that the Lord is a personal God whom we can have an intimate relationship with.
So what now? I urge you to see and experience for yourself this intimate relationship with the Lord by believing and accepting the truth of everything He said about Himself, repenting of your sins, and trusting in His Son Jesus Christ.
Make sure to read ‘Part I: Bad News and Good News’ in this post.
O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8)