I first came to hear about Jesus Christ when I was brought up in a Catholic school in Canada. To me, I felt that it did not matter whether I was brought up in the west or the east when it came to religion – because even though I was brought up in a Catholic church, I had no intention of worshipping God. In fact, I lived for 17 years as if He did not exist, but only occasionally going to Him for comfort when I am about to fail an exam, or that when a friend passes away. However, on a day-to-day basis, I didn’t see Him, hear Him or acknowledge Him. I felt that many westerners brought up with Christian parents, or studied in a Christian school, did not necessarily believe in Jesus. In fact, some go on to become atheists or take part in a different religion altogether.
However, I was touched when I first heard a verse from a Bible one time when I decided to attend a Christian church.
Rom 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
When I first heard that verse, something suddenly struck me. In this world, we are very alone – it did not matter how many friends I had, how loving my family was, how many achievements I accumulated. In my short 17 years of my life, I started to hope that this verse is true – that in life where nothing seems certain, where we do not even know with complete certainty what tomorrow holds for us, this verse tells us that God knows for certain. It gave me assurance, and comfort, and I did not understand why older people would want to believe that there is no meaning to life and that there need not be an objective truth that they can hold onto.
For the first time, I began to attend a Christian meeting once a week and over the last few years it dawned on me that Christianity was not only something for me. The claims made by Jesus Christ were completely different from what people had told me. In the past, all I relied on what was people told me about Jesus and “Christianity” – how Jesus was just a moral teacher, how Christianity is just a popular western religion slowly dying away. When I read the Scriptures, it says a very different thing about Jesus which I have learnt to share with as many people as possible. If I can describe who I believe in, in one sentence:
That is a long sentence, and I will quickly explain why Jesus is not just a moral teacher, and that being a Christian is not about doing good works to be saved and it is definitely not just for westerners or merely a cultural tradition.
- Jesus Christ is the prophesied Son of God
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is not only man, but he is God who became man to communicate an important truth to us. He has the authority to tell us what is true and what is not, because he is God. The Old Testament of the Bible is filled with prophecies which speak of Jesus Christ, calling him as the hope and offspring of our first ancestor (Genesis 3:15), to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), who will be despised and will be punished on our behalf (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 53:3-6). These prophecies were made from 400 to over 4000 years before his birth, and all of them concern Jesus Christ.
- Who was Sent by His Father
Many people think that “God” is a higher being, so distant from us that there is no possibility to know Him. However, Scripture says that God is one united family – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28), loving one another perfectly now, and even before the creation of the world. In the words of Jesus:
John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”… (Joh 17:5) And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed… (Joh 17:24) Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Because of their communal nature, God is not distant, but has sent Jesus Christ to us so that we can not only know Who He is, but also enter into a relationship with God on a daily basis.
- By the power of the Holy Spirit
However, sometimes it is hard to understand the Bible, or to understand Jesus Christ’s words, or even have faith in a God whom we do not see with our eyes. The Holy Spirit is also God, and part of Jesus’ family. He is not a non-Christian’s conscience, because he is very different from the teachings of the world. There is no other way to describe him except for you to read what Scripture says about Him:
1Co 2:1-16 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4) and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (6) Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. (7) But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (8) None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (9) But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”– (10) these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (11) For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (13) And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (14) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (15) The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. (16) “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
God has promised that every Christian will receive the Holy Spirit and that He will dwell in us if we truly have faith in Jesus. That is why Christians view the world differently and live their lives differently – a life that reflects Jesus Christ. The reason is that we have the Holy Spirit, and “understand the mind of Christ”, our God.
- To redeem all of mankind
You are probably wondering why God has to ‘reach out’ to us, and why we cannot feel, touch, smell or experience God since birth. Scripture says that we are fallen, sinful creatures since we are born because of our first ancestor’s disobedience (Genesis 3; Romans 1:18-32). Even though some non-Christians ‘sense’ that there is a higher being, by not having the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for them to know Who this higher being is. Our thinking, our eye-sight, our hearts are all impure and corrupted, and only Jesus, the “light of the world” can shine into the darkness of our hearts (John 1).
This is also why I find it curious when people try to ‘seek’ a higher being in religion as if he is an inanimate diamond waiting to be found in the bloody soil of South Africa. God is alive, He is living today – and He has communicated to everyone in the world, through the Bible, that his son Jesus Christ came to the world as our Saviour. He put his hand out first, and we only need to accept Him. We worship a living God who tells us who He is and what we are, and not a man-made imagination.
- From impending judgment, and to renew the world from the corruption set forth from the beginning of creation
Because we have sinned in a world created by God, Scripture says that God is a just God. It means that he will not overlook our sins. He will punish us for our sins if we do not repent. However, many people in this world do not want to accept that God will punish us, because they do not like being told they are wrong. All I want to say to that is that if God is just, He will not overlook your sins you have committed against him.
In Luke 5:31-32, Jesus likens us to a patient awaiting a physician. We are not only patients with an illness, but some also refuse that they are even ill at all. Some patients even decide to accept they are ill, and live with that illness without wanting to be healed. What I find about most Chinese people is that many are too proud to acknowledge they are fallen, and perhaps think that they are still good, and spiritually healthy in the eyes of the higher being. Jesus says that we are all ill, and it does not matter where you come from or what upbringing you have.
Jesus comes to tell us that we are firstly sick, and secondly that only He has the power to heal us and save us. However, it will come at a cost, which is for him to die in our place.
- All accomplished through the Son’s work on the cross
This brings us to understand what this cost is – God’s Son. Christians most often read John 3:16-18 as the verses which summarise the entire Bible:
Joh 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Because God is just, it is important to see that our sins must be atoned for. That is Christians call Jesus Christ a gift of salvation. If we do not have Jesus Christ; that this impending judgment is true; that our God is a judge; then we cannot possibly enter into a relationship with God at all because of how sinful we are. No matter how many good works we do, we will still fall short of God’s glory:
Rom 3:22-25 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
If you have read this far, thank you for humoring me – but even more so, I hope you begin to understand what is at stake. Christians call Jesus Christ’s gift of salvation the “gospel”, which is a word for “good news”. It is indeed good news if all of what I said is true. I furthermore pray that at the end of this letter, you will consider how serious God is about entering into a relationship with Him and the consequences of not doing so. The Christian Bible is compiled for the purpose of men, having the opportunity to read about Jesus Christ. I highly recommend reading the book of John first, and then move onto Matthew, Mark and Luke. These are four writers writing from their different perspectives, but they are all witnessing to the same Jesus Christ and the same son of God and the same gospel truth that God has provided to all of mankind.