1. How would you describe your life before you knew Jesus?
I cannot remember a time when I did not believe in God. I grew up going to church every week; I thought it was important, and I loved going. But despite all this, I had no assurance of salvation. Sometimes I thought I was going to heaven; other times, hell. I was taught that purgatory was real, and so I thought I might also end up there. I had so much uncertainty about where I would end up after death that I had a real fear of it. I never felt like I could do enough to please God. I lived with a lot of guilt. It was a terrible and unnecessary way to live! Looking back at that time, I would describe myself as a God-fearer.
2. When and how did you come to trust him as Saviour?
A friend of mine named Helene became a Christian the year before I met her. Her sister took her to a Billy Graham Crusade, and she responded to the gospel. I met Helene at the beginning of high school, and she invited me to the lunchtime Christian group, ISCF. In that group, I was taught for the first time in my life that Jesus died for my sins and that his death alone was sufficient for my sins. I loved that Jesus was my Saviour and the assurance of salvation this gave me, and I became a Christian.
Yet I didn’t know God’s character in a deep way at all. I didn’t understand God’s goodness and his love, that the way he wanted me to live was best and freeing for me, even if it was difficult at times. So I was extremely reluctant to accept Jesus’ lordship over every part of my life. I didn’t understand that Jesus as Saviour and Lord went necessarily together! It took me a long time to come to the point in my relationship with God of trusting him at his Word, obeying it, having joy in him, and sharing him with others.
Much of that maturing in my relationship with God came through suffering I experienced. But, the more I continued to read God’s Word personally, and as other Christians taught it to me, and as they shared their wisdom and lives with me, God’s Spirit worked in me to accept that Jesus’ lordship over my life was not just right and necessary, but also good and great.
Along with my friends from the ISCF group, I soon started attending a local youth group and church. At first I found it terrifying to enter a Protestant church—I thought everyone would tell by looking at me that I wasn’t from a Protestant background! But the youth group leaders and church staff were brilliant. It was also helpful that it was a Prayer Book service, because simple things such as standing, kneeling, sitting and praying corporately made it feel more familiar to my previous church. But there were some stark essential differences. The focus on grace—from the expository preaching of God’s Word—opened a whole new world for me, as well as the truth that God revealed himself to us in his Word, and we could understand it. It was wonderful hearing sermons like this, and it changed my life forever!
3. What is the biggest difference Jesus makes to your life now?
Being united to Christ makes so much difference in my life. Everything we have and who we are is because of him. We have received every blessing from God because of Christ. One blessing that has stood out to me recently is that the Father loves us just as he loves the Son. So because the Father always loves the Son, he cannot love me less; he cannot stop loving me. The love God has for me he has for every other Christian because we are united to Christ. And being united to Christ, I am also united to other believers and will be for all eternity. So that corporate identity is an integral part of understanding who I am, and it affects how I choose to live life now.
My relationship with God is certain because of Christ. Therefore, there is no lack of assurance like I had when I was growing up.
This certainty in my relationship with God gives me enormous peace and contentment. This has characterised so much of my life and is something I love about my relationship with God—so much so that my favourite word in the English language is ‘contentment’.
The grace that I have been shown and continue to be shown because I am united with Christ means that life makes complete sense. I know where I have come from, who I am, and where I am going.
It helps me have a clear conscience and to treat others graciously. It helps me to understand that this life is all about getting ready for the next, and so I can hold on to this life loosely. It gives me hope as I look forward to sitting around Christ’s throne with others. So I pray for opportunities now to share Jesus with others, and I pray that I will be Christ-like in how I live. Of course, I regularly fail (as anyone who knows me can testify!), but I trust in God’s unfailing grace to me.
2 Timothy is my favourite book in the Bible. These great words from chapter 2 encourage us to keep persevering as Christians:
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tim 2:8-10)