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The Day I Could No Longer Deny Jesus

Written By Jefferson, Singapore

“Do you want to know about the Truth?” my religion study teacher asked my friend and I one afternoon recess. We were in the teacher’s room, though I can no longer remember why we were there.

“Sure, sir,” I replied.

My teacher directed us to the library and, as soon as we found seats, he asked, “Who is Jesus?”

I answered right away, “He is the Savior.”

“Correct, though incomplete.” He replied.

I glanced at my friend for help, but he looked just as clueless. I did a quick mental review of the materials from the religion study classes I had attended in my Christian school—nothing came up.

Registering our confusion, my teacher told us to take a Bible from the shelf and read Romans 10:9. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” we read aloud.

“So, who is Jesus?” our teacher asked again.

The answer was clear; the Lord’s plan that had led me up to that moment however, wasn’t as clear-cut.

 

Doubting Christianity

Since I was a boy, I had an interest in existential questions. “Who am I? What is the meaning of life? What will happen after I die?” As I grew older, I began searching for answers.

My first stop was Catholicism. When we were little, my parents would teach my younger brother and I about Jesus dying on the cross to save people from sins so that they could enter heaven after they die. They would also take us to the weekly Mass.

However, as a little child, I neither understood about salvation nor enjoyed the Mass. All I knew was that church was dull and ritualistic. I would rather stay at home and watch cartoons than go there. “If salvation means going to the boring Mass every week, I don’t want to be saved,” I thought. After countless complaints and tantrums from my brothers and I, my parents, who were pretty indifferent about religion themselves, decided to stop attending Masses altogether when I was about eight.

My next stop was agnosticism and atheism. By then, I was enrolled in a Christian middle school. However, the behavior of my so-called Christian classmates was not Christ-like at all. To me, it seemed as though Jesus, who claimed to be God, was unable to turn people toward righteousness. So I concluded that Protestantism was as powerless as Catholicism. I started developing my own philosophy—things I believed could help me live a good life—which was greatly influenced by Eastern pantheism and Western secular humanism.

This only lasted for three years. By the time I entered high school, my beliefs had been battered by constant challenges and setbacks. For instance, I used to believe that by sheer willpower I could focus on philosophical things, which I considered to be more worthwhile than the pursuit of fun. Yet, my mind would inevitably wander and I often found myself distracted by entertainment like comics and movies. These repeated occurrences proved that I was incapable of doing any good on my own.

Having been let down by my own philosophy, and, knowing from experience that human ways always lead to disappointment, I turned to the faith I used to despise: Christianity.

Why Christianity? Three years studying it in middle school taught me that it was different from other faiths. Christianity says that I am saved only because God wants to save me. As I began to understand how His love fills and penetrates every corner of His creation, I found answers to my initial objections to Christianity, including that about my “Christian” friends.

For several months I flirted with Christianity. I began praying but did not treat God as God. I also started reading the Bible for interest but did not believe its theological claims.

This continued until I met this religion study teacher, who talked about the end times as described by the Book of Revelation in his first lesson. Having watched a documentary about this a few weeks before, I approached him at the end of the lesson to clarify several things with him. During our brief discussion, his logical answers intrigued me. I had never thought that the Christian theology was a rational one. This led me to several more talks with him about the relationship between faith and reason.

But though the pull to believe in God became stronger, I kept resisting. Though I found it more and more difficult to deny His existence, I did not want my life to be ruled by God. That is, until that fateful question was asked.

“Who is Jesus?”

 

Struggling with the Truth  

If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord”. . .

“Okay, I can just confess and live pretending that Jesus is not really Lord. I am the lord of myself, after all!” I thought.

. . . and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I felt like I was cornered. This verse brought me right to the center of Christianity, where I could picture Jesus standing in His glory, very much alive, with His hands and feet still bearing the holes from the crucifixion, His stomach the wound from the spear, His arms spread out toward me, as if calling me back to Him.

My defense mechanism kicked in, my mind trying to argue that this could not be true. Interestingly, every one of my arguments only further supported the claim that Jesus is indeed the Lord. One of my strongest arguments against Christianity was that Jesus was not able to change my friends to live righteously. However, reflecting on my own experience and this verse, I realized that living righteously requires faith: When one believes that Jesus really is the Lord whom God raised from the dead, God’s love will fill and enable him to live a God-glorifying, righteous life.

I began to see that every second of my existence, every single thing I could ever find in this world, points to the existence of God and His sovereignty as the Lord. The fact that He did die and rise again gave me hope that despite having wandered far from God, I can be saved and return to Him. There was no escape. I had to believe.

Looking at my teacher, I found myself saying, “The Lord.”

 

Living with Jesus as Lord

For the first 15 years of my life, I had lived a miserable joyless life. All my attempts at living “a good life” floundered. Only after my repentance did I feel the joy and peace of surrendering to the Lord who makes known to me the path of life (Psalm 16:11).

Since Jesus is the Lord over creation, no one can claim that he has control over his life. We can choose to either live acknowledging Jesus as Lord or denying it. As the missionary Hudson Taylor once said, “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all.” And if we do claim that He is Lord, everything we do ought to point to Him and His glory, even trivial things like cleaning our rooms (1 Corinthians 10:31).

It has been more than six years since I acknowledged Jesus as my Lord. I can say that it has been totally worth it.

Soli Deo gloria.

3 Lessons I Learned When My Marriage Almost Broke Down

My wife and I fought a lot in the early stages of our married life.

We argued over mere trivialities and our usual way of ending disagreements couldn’t be more different. My wife would be emotionally tense and make attempts to fix the problem, whereas I would be emotionally distant and try my very best to remain aloof and indifferent to the actual issue of contention. I would even go to the extent of waiting for my wife to make some irrational comment just so that I could nitpick at her every word and conduct a “fact-check” on the points being made. I would also conjure up theories just to justify my stance.

Our relationship was turning sour—something had to be done to salvage it. I knew this, but the thing was, I had not the slightest idea of what to do.

Finally, we decided to go for marriage counseling—together. I remember thinking this of my wife at the time: “Baby, you got to start fasting and praying. Repent, girl! Whatever the counselors tell you to do, do it! They will tell you what I’ve been telling you this whole time.” To my self-centered mind, my wife was the key problem in our marriage. For our relationship to improve, she had to change. So, I went into counseling with this fixed mindset.

In His love, God graciously intervened and showed me how wrong I was. Halfway through our counseling sessions, I realized that it was I who needed help—I, Jonathan Hayashi, was the problem. This was a key turning point for me, and God led me to see how pride had utterly consumed my heart and affected my relationships with people around me, my marriage being the most precious of all. These counseling sessions were a timely reality check as God grew my self-awareness and helped me to recognize and acknowledge the deep need for repentance and change in my life.

As I spent much time in reflection, God revealed these three things to me.

 

1. My Incorrect View Of Marriage

I had bought into the media’s lies and over-romanticized marriage. I set unrealistic expectations on my wife and of what she ought to do to make our marriage work. I had idealized the whole notion of marriage and wrongly thought that marriage would complete me and bring that long awaited “happiness”—that there wouldn’t be any conflict, and love would constantly be in the air. I thought life would be much easier now that my wife and I could face the troubles of the world together.

But oh boy, was I wrong—my wife and I brought entirely new troubles into our lives. When my bubble burst, I was left in a state of misery. Divorce was not an option for us Bible-believing Christians, and I remember thinking “Wow, I guess I’m stuck in this for life. I will have to stay miserable for the rest of my days.”

By God’s grace, He revealed this misconception I had and taught me this truth: God created marriage for us to complement each other and point us to Christ. It wasn’t created for us to complete each other’s needs—only Jesus can do so. Marriage was never about my wife or I. It was all for God’s glory and was a means to reflect that glory to all around us. I realized that I had been looking to the wrong source (my wife) for the security and safety I so desperately craved. The only One who could truly and fully fulfill my longings was Christ Himself.

As St. Augustine once said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

 

2. My Incorrect View Of Myself

“Why don’t you respect me? Why don’t you support me?” were some of my oft said retorts to my wife. This would lead her into a downward spiral of self-blame and shame and she would try even harder to please me.

As I spent time in God’s word through my personal devotions, He opened my eyes to see the deep-seated insecurities I had about my identity and masculinity. I was trying time and again to gain the approval and affirmation from my wife for who I was and all that I did. When she didn’t give me what I wanted, I got upset and took it out on her.

God led me to realize my folly and convicted me of the need for repentance and to turn to Christ for forgiveness and assurance. My worth does not come from tearing other people down. Instead, my worth comes from Christ’s sacrifice for me, not anything I do or not do.

 

 3. Christ As My Perfect Example

I recall a specific incident that happened while we were travelling from one place to another in our vehicle. As I was talking with my wife, I was hurt by a statement she made. This led to my usual tirade of silly accusations and rationalizations that all stemmed from a place of hurt. Being the ever gracious and compassionate wife that she is, my wife extended her hands towards me and lovingly said, “I don’t know what’s going on, Hun. But remember: I’m for you, not against you.”

This act of Christ-like love struck me to the core and reminded me of Jesus’s unconditional love for an undeserving sinner such as I. As I reflected on the passage of Ephesians 5:21-33, I realized that I’d fallen far short of the call of the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church. Christ loved the church to the point of giving up His own life, and here I was, nitpicking over issues that were of no eternal value. As I looked at Jesus’ obedience on the cross and His sacrificial love, it began a redeeming work upon my heart firstly as a follower of Christ, and secondly as a husband.

In His divine love and patience, God has shown me the beauty of covenant marriage.

 

I have grown to appreciate my wife and our marriage. I will never be able to fully express how thankful I am to God for her—the wonderful mother of our children, my dearest friend and closest companion. Her steadfast love and constant support motivates me daily to walk and grow in greater Christ-likeness in the way I relate with her and our children.

I trust that God has placed her in my life for His work of sanctification, and our marriage is an ongoing, growing relationship that continues to transform us both to become more like Christ, by the grace of God.

God saved my marriage and I trust that He can work in your life too.

Would you allow Him to?

5 Reasons You Should Repent – Again and Again

Photo By Ben White

What is repentance? Do Christians need to repent? When was the last time you repented?

As believers, we know that Jesus calls people who have yet to believe in Him (Matthew 4:17) and Christians to repent when they have fallen away from Him (Revelation 2:5; 2:16; 2:21; 3:3; 3:19).

And yet, repentance seems like a rather unpleasant thing that we have to coerce ourselves to do. It’s like taking bitter medicine when we are sick. We don’t want to take it but force it down our throats anyway, because we know it’s supposed to be good for us.

I used to think of repentance in this way, until I realized what repentance really is. In a nutshell, it involves these three things: Recognition of our sin, renunciation of our sin and returning to God.

The more I came to understand what repentance really is, the more I realized that it is, in fact, a wonderful gift by God to us. Here are some reasons why.

 

1. Repentance lets God restore, forgive and purify us

I used to feel unworthy of God’s forgiveness when I fell into sin. I’d think, “I’m already a Christian and yet I’m still disappointing and failing God in this way. How can I still expect Him to forgive me?”

Thankfully, God assured me by reminding me of this truth: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Since then, I’ve made it a point to confess my sins before God no matter how “unworthy” or “unclean” I might feel, knowing that He will forgive me my sins and purify me, so that I will be righteous before Him again.

Just as God reached out to us before we came to know Him, He is still reaching out to us and calling us to return to Him today if we’ve fallen in sin: “Return to Me, and I will return to you” (Zechariah 1:3, Malachi 3:7). God promises to restore us when we repent of our sins (Jeremiah 15:19).

 

2. Repentance helps us to be humble

I find that when I have trouble repenting, it’s often because I have pride issues in my life. Pride is spiritual blindness that causes us to think our standards are better than God’s standards.

The opposite of pride is humility, and one definition of it, which I really like, says, “Humility means agreeing with the truth.” Perhaps that is why Paul says that repentance leads us to know the truth so that we can come to our senses (2 Timothy 2:25-26). When I repent and learn to agree with the truth of God’s standards of righteousness and sin, I am growing in humility.

God values humility; He shows favor to those who are humble, but He opposes and mocks those who are proud (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). So let’s be quick to repent, so that we may grow in humility and receive and enjoy God’s favor.

 

3. Repentance drives the devil away from us

During the times when I was willfully disobeying God, I found it so much harder to believe God’s truths. Instead, the voices of guilt, doubt, fear and condemnation would ring a lot louder in my heart. Thoughts like, “God doesn’t love you anymore,” “You’ve really blown it this time. God won’t give you a second chance,” and “God has given up on you now” would keep harassing me, giving me no peace.

But when I repented and returned to God, these deceptive whispers of the enemy would start to fade and I’d be more able to perceive and receive the truths of God again.

The Bible tells us, “Submit yourselves . . . to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In this verse, submission to God means washing our hands and purifying our hearts from sin and double-mindedness (James 4:8).

When we sin, we’re actually giving the devil permission to draw near to us, for “[t]he one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). The enemy is close to those who does what he does (John 8:44). And when he is near us, he “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

When we submit to God by repenting, we’re proclaiming that we belong to God and we can fight against the devil and his evil influences in our lives.

 

4. Repentance frees us from the torment of sin

I’ve found this to be true in my life. When I insisted on my own sinful ways, the one who suffered the most was me. Although sin may feel good, it ultimately hurts more than it seems to promise.

And when I wasn’t willing to confess my sins to God and others due to pride and shame, I found myself continuing in my sins because the devil had gained a foothold in my life to ensnare me in the darkness. It’s only when I brought these sins into the light by confessing them to people I trusted, that those sins started to lose their power to further deceive and hurt me.

I’m thankful that God gives us confession and repentance as the means by which we can receive His mercy. Because Jesus is our great high priest who is always interceding for us before God (Hebrews 4:14; 7:25), we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

The Bible gives us this promise: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). If we do not repent, we will not be able to receive help and relief from the torment of sin.

 

5. Repentance leads us to fullness of life with Jesus

Sin will lead to spiritual death. God’s Word tells us plainly that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and Jesus said, “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). On the contrary, repentance leads to life (Acts 11:18) and salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Ultimately, when we repent, we are inviting Jesus to have fellowship with us. After urging Christians to “be earnest and repent,” Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me” (Revelation 3:19-20).

The immeasurable joy of having intimate fellowship with God is what Jesus won for us through His death and resurrection, so that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). It certainly beats the deceptive and fleeting “joy” of any kind of sin by any measure!

Eternity doesn’t start when we go to heaven. It starts right now with having fullness of life with God, and repentance allows us to have that.

 

Would you repent and draw near to God today?

ODJ: Jesus and the Junk

April 22, 2016 

READ: Revelation 3:14-22 

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends (v.20).

We all have that space in the home we would rather no one see—the messy garage, the cluttered study, or maybe, like me, it’s the yard. There are few things more beautiful than a well—kept lot with lush, perfectly mowed grass, neat hedges, and precision—trimmed roses. Our property’s hedges look more like an overgrown jungle and the grass is patchy and dry. So when our pastor’s wife, Mel, offered to help plant the roses she’d given me, I panicked! I was ashamed of our yard.

Just as there are parts of our house and our yard that we may be ashamed of, there are parts of ourselves we keep hidden from others and God. Lustful thoughts, uncontrolled anger, dishonesty—whatever it is, Jesus stands at the door to that shameful place and knocks. He says, “If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” (Revelation 3:20).

The church in Laodicea was complacent and mediocre in all they did. Since they were “neither hot nor cold,” Jesus challenged them to be “one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (3:14—16). They slumbered in the numbness of accumulated wealth and succumbed to self—reliance and indifference towards the most vulnerable in society, so God called them “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (v.17).

My friend Mel showed me that the only way to tame an unkempt garden is by focusing on one manageable spot at a time. Jesus didn’t give up on the church in Laodicea, and He hasn’t given up on you. He knocks on the heavy, locked door of your junkroom, and if you allow Him, He’ll come in to cleanse you and remove your shame (v.18).

—Ruth O’Reilly-Smith

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit (v.16).

365-day-plan: 1 Kings 22:29-40

MORE
Read Matthew 8:1—3 and Luke 7:36—50, 19:1—10 to see how Jesus drew close to and even touched people viewed as untouchable or undesirable. He’s ready to touch the most shameful places in your heart! 
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What are you trying to hide from God and others? How will it affect you and your relationship with Him if you bring your shame to Him? 

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