Isabelle: It’s All About God! #Reformation
Isabelle: It’s All About God! #Reformation
Isabelle Khaw, A-Levels student from MCKL
“Cool shirt! What does it say?”
It was December 2018 and I was at my college’s Christian Fellowship camp. Mr. Wong and I were making our way to the eating area when I noticed his impressively designed (wink*design department) white T-shirt, on which titles like ‘Heaven is not on earth’ and ‘If Jesus is the Christ, then NO religion can save. Only Christ can.’ were printed.
I tried to recall the last time someone wore a shirt like this. “My church does this series called ‘Wait, What?’ on interesting topics from the Bible. There’ll be one happening next week! Wanna come?”, Mr. Wong enthusiastically invited me.
Interesting… but nah…
I mutter an excuse and hoped my thoughts were soundproof. Little did I know, this would be only the first of my encounters with this white T-shirt……
Let’s rewind a bit. Hi Christ Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC), I’m Isabelle, born and raised on the island of Penang, where everyone kinda knows everyone or at least knows someone who knows someone you know. I was brought up in a Christian home and spent some of my 17 years in Penang being involved in church activities, playing captain ball, and being homeschooled. Everything was going fine and well… until July 2018, when my worldview came crashing down. I had just moved to Kuala Lumpur to do my A levels when a series of events took place, causing me to realise that many of the ‘words’ and impressions I thought I had received from God were actually… made up. These things deeply intertwined with my identity and my life plans, so the fact that they were imaginary made me question my entire reality. Over the next few months, I felt my way through the dark, hoping to get to grips with what was real and what wasn’t. Were those voices I thought I heard from God really… just my own thoughts? Who then is God? And if my thoughts, experiences and senses, and even reputable people (who apparently received words from God and passed them on to me), were unreliable sources of revelation from God, how then can I know Him?
If church is about community, then why couldn’t I just form
one with my friends who are also passionate about God?
Consequently, I had many questions about the point of church. If Christianity is ultimately about having a relationship with God, then why couldn’t I just seek God on my own? If church is about community, then why couldn’t I just form one with my friends who are also passionate about God? I had a deep desire to be in a community like that of the believers in Acts 2:42-47, but I couldn’t find it in the churches I attended, back home in Penang, and even in KL. These unanswered questions brought me close to leaving organised religion altogether to pursue that vision. But (thankfully) the year 2019 kicked off to a rocky start, forcing me to look for a church to regularly attend. So I slipped in and out the churches in Klang Valley, still looking for that Acts-like community. I had a nagging feeling that they all shared symptoms of a systemic problem I had yet to understand. As the list of churches dwindled, so did my hope. It was then that I remembered: Mr. Wong’s white T-shirt.
With Mr. Wong and the T-shirt in question.
Mr. Wong was no longer the only one in a ‘Wait, What?’ shirt. The constant chatter that lit up the hall paused every now and then as kind faces took the stage to read out passages from the Old and New Testaments. Conversations then resumed as the congregants huddled in earnest discussion about the passages that had just been read out. That morning, we prayed for a couple who were leaving for work in another state and, following another interval of discussions, for fellow brothers and sisters who were absent due to illness. I remember feeling so encouraged. It was the first time I was seeing the New Testament model of the church in action, where the people of God met up every Sunday not just to sing songs and follow a program, but to actually encourage, rebuke, and spur each other on in love.
A regular Sunday gathering in CERC.
Still, I had my reservations. CERC was very word-centred, and I was concerned that it meant they neglected the spiritual and emotional aspects of Christianity. Everything changed when I saw a picture of the acronym ‘TULIP’ on a wall in CERC and asked David Kuok, my Tertiary Growth Group (TGG) leader about it. A week later, David met up with me to show me some passages in the Bible where the first of five points, the ‘T’ for Total Depravity, could be seen. As we read from my newly-bought Bible, the Holy Spirit pierced His Word right through my soul, bringing about a clarity unlike anything I had previously experienced. Romans 1 in particular, rocked me to the core when I realised how I had suppressed the truth about God and exchanged His glory for a lie, all while calling myself a Christian when I was actually a New Age spiritualist in disguise. Ironically, in my efforts to connect people with God, I had only led them further and further from Him like a blind person leading the blind. It was clear that the only thing I deserved was hell. So it made absolutely zero sense when we got to the ‘U’ for Unconditional Election, then the ‘L’ for Limited Atonement, then ‘I’ for Irresistible Grace, and finally ‘P’ for Perseverance of the Saints, of TULIP.
So you’re saying that there’s literally nothing I can do for me to be saved?
No seeking of God, no voluntary faith, that would earn me my salvation?
And that means God did all the work and He gets all the credit?
For the first time in my life I came to understand God’s love – it is far bigger than any cheap, self-indulgent counterfeit I had ever attributed to Him in the past. The 5 points of Calvinism was the first time I heard the one point the Bible had been making all this while – the Gospel.
And so, I have been attending CERC ever since. Far from a gospel of intellectualism, I now see that God requires human beings to love Him with all their hearts and minds and souls, and out of that love for Him, to love their neighbours – even their enemies. This is something we could never do in our depraved states, but in His unfathomable mercy, God raised us up with Christ, gave us new hearts, so that we, the church, would be His holy people that would finally be able to do what we had been designed to, which is to give Him the glory He deserves. All this we do under the Lordship of His Son, Christ Jesus our King and saviour. I finally found that community that I had been looking for – a community of transformed human beings, gathered around His Son and His Word, to live lives of love for Him!
With my TGG Original fam at our GEDDIT Get-Together
These days, I look forward most to weekends when I get to spend time with my TGG Original fam (5 hours is seriously NOT ENOUGH!!!!!) studying the Scriptures, and hearing God’s Word as it is preached with conviction from the pulpit. And finally I understand this: the church is not about us – it isn’t even about community ultimately; it is about God, just like everything else in the known and unknown universe. This Reformation Day, I am so grateful to God for preserving His gospel through the Reformation (special shoutout to my man Gutenberg for inventing the printing press), and now through faithful gospel ministries like that of CERC. May Christians from all around the world continue to reform their churches, communities, and their lives, calling all of existence to conform to Scripture, as it is through Scripture alone that the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, calls us to submission, and glorifies the only one who is good – Christ.
Semper Reformanda. Soli Deo Gloria.
Happy Reformation Day 🙂
Posted on 28th October 2019