Connie is a 3rd year studying Biology at UCLA. She enjoys studying in coffee shops, spends too much money on Japanese writing utensils, and collects postcards (please send me one).
I was first exposed to church at a young age, in around first grade. My grandma, who had recently been saved, took my sister and I to church; the rest of my family did not regularly attend church, although they supported my sister and me, hoping that we could learn good morals. From a young age, I believed in the existence of God and trusted that He made me and the universe – however, that was the extent my of understanding. Although I remember hearing phrases like “Jesus loves you,” I did not understand my sin or the gospel at all. I treated God as a genie, and only I went to church for social purposes, rarely paying attention during service. Sometime during 5th grade, I stopped going to church altogether. Church was unfulfilling and in my laziness, I preferred to sleep in on Sundays. Because my family didn’t attend church, nobody pushed me to go back.
Throughout middle school and high school, I sometimes thought about revisiting church but never did. However, even in my stubbornness, looking back, I see ways that God was working in my life, even then. In middle school, I prided myself in being well-liked, never getting caught up in disagreements or in drama. However, I was secretly a gossip and enjoyed complaining and criticizing others with my closest peers. I saw God work in the life of one of my closest friends; she suddenly stopped gossiping and instead spoke highly of others after she was saved. I wondered at her change of behavior, but didn’t ask her about it. My freshman year of high school, I attended a medical mission trip to China to give medical check-ups to the underserved populations with a team of Christians (although I wasn’t Christian, certain circumstances allowed me to attend). I saw the team’s genuine kindness towards me and towards one another. Though I saw God’s work in these people around me, I saw Christianity as a religion of endless rules, and I wanted to be in control of my own life.
Towards the beginning of my senior year of high school, one of my closest friends invited me to her church. She told me that she had been praying for me and really wanted me to go. Although I was curious, I was stubborn and did not want to go. I was afraid of meeting people and did not want to be an outsider among people who had grown up together in the church. I still saw church as too much of a time commitment, and selfishly wanted to use that time for my own use. Most importantly, however, I realized that if I decided that God truly existed, this would have heavy implications on my life. How would I live my life if I really believed this were true? After my friend faithfully reaching out to me week after week, I finally decided to attend. By God’s grace, the church cared for me and kept me accountable, displaying Christ-like love. I started going out consistently Fridays and Sundays and started reading my Bible every day. However, although the gospel was preached, and I knew that salvation was not gained through works, I don’t remember if I had a true understanding of my sin and Christ’s work on the cross at the time.
Fast forward to college, I started fellowship hopping fall quarter of my freshmen year. Accustomed to my home church, I was extremely confused by all the different fellowships and the ways they conducted worship and service differently. I questioned my faith and didn’t understand why there were so many different interpretations of the Bible. This period of questioning led me to search Scripture for answers as I formed my convictions on what the Bible had to say. Although I didn’t have the answers to everything, I was encouraged by the fruit in the lives of GOCers. I remember thinking, “If I could be like this in a few years, that would be cool,” so I decided to join GOC.
It was through GOC where I gained a better understanding of my sinfulness and need for a Savior as I grew to appreciate the teaching at GCC. However, freshmen year was by no means easy. I was still confused about a lot of things and questioned the assurance of my salvation. How could I be certain that my knowledge of the gospel wasn’t only head knowledge? I kept looking to my past, trying to pin-point the moment I was saved, but struggled to find one. People would ask me how I changed, comparing how I was before salvation and after. I would have no answer. I knew that I was a sinner, but failed to identify specific sins in my life. Was I even saved? I analyzed my life, looking for fruits, knowing that we are not saved by works, but that fruits of the Spirit could be indications of a heart change. I was discouraged when I couldn’t find any. However, God was faithful in putting people in my life to challenge me and point me back to Scripture. I also started reading the book, “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart” by J. D. Greear and a particular passage answered what was on my mind –
“The gospel, in that sense, is like a seed that starts small but blossoms into a mighty tree. Don’t grow discouraged at how slowly the plant seems to be growing. Quit focusing on that and focus on Jesus instead… rejoice daily in the fact that God’s acceptance of you is not based on how much spiritual fruit you’ve produced but on Christ’s finished work.”
In trying to understand whether or not I was truly a believer, I focused on works, trying to find evidence in my life of a transformed heart. I kept looking to my own past, when truly what I needed to do was find assurance in the present by thinking about what Jesus did in the past.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)
I still don’t know when I was saved, but I know that I can rest in what I believe now; I finally had a true understanding of the relationship between my sin and Jesus’ work on the cross. There is nothing that I could do to gain favor before God, because I have absolutely nothing to offer Him. It was He who lovingly pursued me and initiated the relationship, allowing me to understand truth; He, being rich in mercy, sent His perfect Son to die for me, a sinner deserving of death. I am saved by His grace alone, because I can never reach God’s holy standard. Thinking back to my middle and high school days, I saw Christianity as burdensome, holding me back from the things I wanted to do. I realize now though, that only in Christ may find freedom because I am no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:17).
God has been so gracious to me these past few years. Throughout college, His Word has revealed to me many sins, including idolizing comfort, fearing man’s opinion of me over God’s opinion of me, and being judgmental. Although I am far from perfect and will never be in this lifetime, I find peace in knowing that I have a perfect Savior who willingly bore my sins for me.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, ESV)