How does a pastor’s kid come to truly know Jesus?
The same way as everyone else: an encounter with grace.
I was born in Sydney, Australia, raised in England and am Tongan by ethnicity.
All of this movement was due to dad being a Methodist minister who was trained in Australia, worked in Tonga and had an eight-year placement in England.
My upbringing was one full of love, adventure and ministry. I grew up being around church all the time, having people constantly at our place and having to set an example everywhere I went (I’m also the eldest of three – you understand!)
Unfortunately, I think this cultivated something insidious in me.
It seems that my story is one of being transformed from being a Pharisee. You know, the religious leaders in the New Testament who thought they knew everything: they were self-righteous and acted like they were better than everyone else; they were represented by the elder brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal; they arrogantly prayed in public to impress and intimidate others. Jesus would declare these men “hypocrites”. So in the midst of my upbringing full of church, I was heading somewhere spiritually dangerous.
We moved back to Australia in 2004 and I continued to go through the motions – attending church, youth conferences and regular family devotions at home. Then a significant turning point came three years later during my first year of university (the University of Western Sydney, now WSU). Attending the campus Bible study (like a good pastor’s kid) the chaplain asked me a question that made something ‘click’. Something that should have clicked years ago!
He asked, “If you were to die tonight and come face to face with Jesus and he asked, ‘why should I let you into my kingdom?’, what would you say?”
I paused briefly with a slight smile on my face. I’ve got this!
I replied, “Because I’ve tried my best to follow you.”
Scott McKenzie, the chaplain, graciously smiled and began to explain how ‘my best’ was not good enough. Not for an unimaginably holy God. It would take the righteousness of another to let a sinner like me into God’s kingdom. So by grace, God gave his one and only Son to die in my place and offer his perfect record in my stead. This is something I believe I knew before that night, but only now was the Spirit opening my eyes to see grace for what it truly is: an ill-deserved gift given through faith in Christ. Given, not because of how good we are, but in admitting that we’re not good and throwing ourselves at the foot of the cross.
I walked back to my room on campus having recognised for the first time why grace is amazing.
I saw that I was the “wretch” the hymn talks about.
That night was a catalyst for further reading and growing to understand the gospel better. It would be many years later (2013) that my convictions were to be most significantly challenged and refined. I joined St George North Anglican Church (Sydney) and was later encouraged by trusted brothers and sisters to consider training for full-time ministry. Under God’s sovereignty and through the love of many who invested in me, I am now completing my third year of study at Moore Theological College and excited to serve God wherever he would have me.
While there continue to be many challenges and areas for growth, struggles with sin and wrestling with indecision, the biggest difference since coming to know grace is having a burden lifted.
I’m no longer burdened by a fear and anxiety to achieve. I just want to please my Saviour who died for me. I am less burdened with a judgemental attitude. As the saying goes, I am simply a beggar wanting to show other beggars where to find bread. I am less burdened by the need to be perfect. Jesus was perfect in my place.
I believe one word captures the cause behind this change. Other than the name of our Lord, my favourite word in all Scripture is grace. Every time I think about it, I am absolutely floored by it! God’s goodness versus my unworthiness brings grace into focus, because in the gospel of the Lord Jesus, grace appeared (Titus 2:11)! We are saved by grace (Eph 2:8–9), we stand in grace (Rom 5:2) and grace is sufficient for us (2 Cor 12:9).
And as we continue in grace, we’ll see as the hymn writer saw, that:
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead us home.
 Amazing Grace by John Newtown (published 1779)