I believe that I was born dead in my trespasses and sins. Growing up, though, it really didn’t feel like it.
I grew up in a Christian home. I’ve attended church since I was in the womb, and I went to a Christian school for thirteen years hanging around Christian friends who also grew up in Christian homes. If someone were to tell me when I was a child that I was a desperate, lost sinner, I would have responded in ignorance, “No, I’m not. I’m a Christian.”
I remember one night when I was around seven years old, my mother sat down with me and asked me if I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. Knowing that believing in Jesus was the only way to go to Heaven, I answered with an enthusiastic “yes!” We prayed the sinner’s prayer together with me repeating each line after her. I remember thanking Jesus for dying for me and asking Him to come into my heart. Being only a little child, I really didn’t know what I was saying, and all I was doing was repeating words that I heard. After that night, I considered myself a Christian and even told my friends that I was one. However, throughout elementary and middle school, my life was marked by rebelliousness against God. Jesus was in no way my Lord. I was my own lord. I cared only about myself and did whatever I could to make myself happy. Among my favorite sins were lust, greed, and pride. I remember how my friends and I thought that Tech Decks, miniature skateboards that you use your fingers to play with, were the coolest things in the world. So, we would go to KB Toy Store after school and steal them. During my middle school years I also became greatly influenced by peer pressure. I wanted to look cool in front of my friends so that they would like me. I actually got quite good at pleasing man, and as my popularity grew so did my ego. I had no desire to turn from my sin and enjoyed the temporary satisfaction that it brought. However, I still believed that I was saved simply because I grew up in a Christian home and repeated that prayer with my mother when I was a child.
It wasn’t until the summer after my freshman year in high school that I truly understood what it meant to trust in Jesus Christ. For so many years I had identified myself with the title “Christian,” but it wasn’t until I attended a summer camp hosted by Chinese Bible Mission that I realize that Christians were those who repented of their sins and trusted in Christ. At the summer camp, my counselor took me aside and asked me, “Chris, if you were to die today, do you know for sure that you’d go to Heaven?” I hesitated to answer. I knew I could answer “yes” and back it up with the typical Sunday school answer if I wanted to. But the truth was that I wasn’t sure I was on my way to Heaven. My sin and rebellious lifestyle made me feel distant from God. After swallowing my pride, I answered that I wasn’t sure I was saved. My counselor then explained what it truly meant to follow Christ. For the first time, I understood that I was in a wretched state because I had not truly repented of my sins. I understood that Christ was my substitute who died for every single one of my sins, and if I would only trust in Him, He would forgive me of all of them. I realized that only Jesus could bridge the gap between a sinner like me and a holy God. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Knowing God’s immense love for me, holding onto my many sins and refusing to submit my life to the lordship of Christ simply didn’t make sense anymore. I believe God opened my heart to truly believe in Him that day.
God has changed my life since then. While I once was a slave to sin, pursuing it with all my might, I am now dead to sin and alive to God. Because His Spirit lives and works powerfully in me, I am able to follow Christ and obey His commandments. I am not a perfect man. I still sin every day. But God has opened my eyes to see His Son as the treasure hidden in the field that is worth giving up everything for. God has made light shine into my once pitch black heart to understand the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. So every day, by His grace and His power, I seek to love, trust, obey, and honor my Lord.
The more I reflect on my testimony, the more amazed I am at the grace of God. Before God saved me, I was rebellious and selfish, though I maintained a clean exterior. This hypocrisy, which became second nature to me, made my sin all the more heinous in God’s eyes. I was a whitewashed tomb and a bowl that was clean on the outside but filthy on the inside. Truly God is good to save someone like me. I was also prideful. In fact, I was so prideful that I almost couldn’t even bring myself to admit that I wasn’t sure I was going to Heaven to my camp counselor. I was almost content to live my life having people admire my clean “Christian” exterior all the while living in fear of divine judgment. I look back myself at that time and see so much foolish pride. I would rather go to Hell than admit I wasn’t sure about my salvation! On my own, in my hardness of heart, that made sense to me. But I am so thankful to God that He cracked that hard heart of mine and gave me the courage to admit my double life and confess my sin, which led to my true conversion. I suppose my testimony is the diary of a church kid. But growing up as a church kid living a double life has made me all the more aware that God is the one who reached out to save me and that it is by His grace alone I am saved.