#CERCStories ft. Kristen: I Loved Being a Christian Girl But I Did Not Know God.
Posted on 4 Dec 2020 by CERC
Hi there! My name is Kristen Lam, and I’ve been attending CERC for close to a year now. Friends who knew me from a year ago would probably gasp at the fact that I’m now committed to a church, and maybe even wonder if I’m the same person. A year after, and a lot has changed, a lot indeed.
Life was all about God… right?
I grew up in a typical Malaysian Christian home — from the cross that hung just above the living room mirror to the piles of devotionals and bibles stacked under the coffee table; from the hectic Sunday-morning worship practices (my family was that family that was always on stage) to the countless nights of personal devotion, simply spending time with Jesus. You see, I loved being Christian. I wasn’t the type of Christian that abhorred my busy weekend schedule, or the type that complained about serving, or the type that swore in school from Monday to Friday but put on her Sunday best. I was so happy to be Christian that some of my classmates started calling me ‘Jesus girl’ derogatorily. (I used to think that was my share of being persecuted for being Christian and was secretly proud of that title).
But when I was 15, I started to question my Christianity more and more as my overly-simplistic, black-and-white worldview began proving itself to be a sham. At one particular Christian conference, I met a lot more Christian friends and was so glad to have them. I thought they would be my friends for life — who would journey with me, guide me and teach me to be more and more like Christ. But all I saw was more hypocrisy and double-standards. Claiming to love Christ, they lived their lives just like non-Christians. As I sought to criticise and correct my Christian friends for their hypocrisy, I instead began to see that I was much worse.
We would claim that together, we were a community of friends that loved one another, but I felt nothing close to that except that I was being suffocated by empty promises that I felt I was expected to just ‘believe’ in. I began to see a collective pattern of symptoms among my Christian friends, and that really left me disappointed and hurt. The definition of “being Christian” became murkier than ever to me. Whenever I had questions, people would just tell me to ‘cast the doubt away and have faith’. It got to a point where I realised it was no longer about me being faithless, but that I didn’t even know what I was putting my faith in.
I hit rock-bottom when one leader prophesied over me saying that I should leave my church, but yet another leader prophesied saying that I shouldn’t. It undermined my entire system of thought, affecting every single aspect of my life and how I made decisions: ‘How do I know that God is God?’ ‘How do I know what’s real or not?’ ‘How do I know that Christianity is the right way to live?’
Unhappy that my church and friends did not understand and care about the same burning questions I had, and convinced that God had shown me a vision that I should leave my church, I left. For months, I searched everywhere for answers to these troubling questions, in hopes of a new start.
I visited church after church, read book after book, spoke to leader after leader, and all of them seemed to be saying different things while instructing me ‘to just have faith and be patient’. The gospel that so many churches seem to always talk about slowly became no more than a cheap way for churches to lure people into their marketing regimes. Phrases like ‘Jesus died on the cross for you’, ‘faith over feelings’, ‘be patient as God is molding and shaping you’, ‘trust in His promises of blessings’ were so often repeated to me I began to see them as nothing but mere meaningless religious cliches to persuade me to maintain my membership in Christianity.
I came to a crossroad and it really got me thinking:
Is it merely just a title I choose to uphold because the benefits of Christianity seem to outweigh all the other options I have? Is it just another matter of preference and of lifestyle choices? Is it just about saying and doing the right things?
Deep in my delusion, I thought Christianity was merely a title I could claim simply because I chose to be one — yet when confronted about it, I realised I actually knew nothing about it. My whole life, I claimed to be a Christian and professed to genuinely love God — I really did love Him — yet I didn’t have the slightest idea of what it meant to be a Christian, how to be one, or why I should even be one. This then led me to question: who is God, then? Why is everyone saying one thing and another? Who decides that this version of God is the right one and that we should all worship Him? Who decides that this or that is the right way to worship Him?
God — the determiner of all truths
Thankfully, after being failed countless times by other people’s and my own ideas of God and Christianity, my friend, Isabelle, rang me up and invited me to read the Bible with her. Unbeknownst to me, that would be the first of my many encounters with the true God of the universe through His Scripture. By His grace and mercy, His Word pierced a light so bright in my state of darkness that it made me realise how, all my life, I had been worshipping a God that I had pieced together from all the cherry-picking I had done from all over the place. I remember how she boldly told me that, ‘essentially we are worshipping ourselves — since we decide for ourselves how this ‘God’ should be — just borrowing ideas and jargon from Christianity.’
Slowly I could see how God’s written word was (and still is) truly “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12) as, like Paul, the ‘scales’ fell off my eyes and I could finally see the true majesty and splendour of God and simultaneously the truth of my state of darkness and depravity.
No extraordinary vision or prophecy was needed, no audible voice of God was heard, but for the simple plain truth of His word. It was like honey to my ears as I began to see from the Bible that Christianity has absolutely nothing to do with what I can achieve or what I choose to believe, but absolutely everything to do with what God has achieved through His Son’s work on the cross and through His Spirit opening my blinded eyes. I didn’t even know I was blinded —how can a blind man know he’s blind unless someone tells him?
I joined one of CERC’s ministries – called SOLIDD – to continue growing in my understanding of God and His Word. We were going through a series by Matthias Media called Just For Starters and from there, I slowly began to be transformed and convicted by the Bible more and more each week, growing with a beloved community of truth-seeking believers. There I could see how reality was defined and determined by God and His Word alone — just like how we can love one another as Christians because He first saved us and renewed us to be able to love. In other words, we can be Christians only because God made us Christians. God defines our status before Him, how we are to serve and worship Him, how we live, how we love and therefore even how we should see Him as God.
This is reality in its truest sense — where God is the definer and control of all other truths. Christianity is not just whimsical ideas about social change and moral behaviour (like I used to think), nor is it just some ambitious abstract concept about self-improvement and assurance of the after-life. Christianity, as the name suggests explicitly, is about Christ. Being Christian, therefore, is not about us claiming to be Christians but proclaiming Christ accomplishing salvation for His people once and for all on Calvary, as He cried out “It is finished”.
I remember my SOLIDD leader, David, probing me to think harder about the significance of the cross. Until you see how it was supposed to be you instead of Jesus on the cross, only then can you truly appreciate the gospel as ‘good’ news. Until you see how you were nothing but a rebel against Him and an enemy, only then can you comprehend how great Christ’s love is. Until you understand that you deserved death and condemnation, only then can you recognise salvation as truly an act of God’s grace from start to end. Only in this alone can the Christian have hope. As a line in the hymn “Rock of Ages” rightfully expresses:
simply to Thy cross I cling”
The end of the matter: How God sees you
After this humbling experience, I finally understood how it really doesn’t matter if you hide behind your Christian duties and feel that you’re Christian.
It doesn’t even matter if you believe that God’s love is real and for you, nor does it matter if you genuinely feel like you’re close to God — what truly matters is how God really sees you. That’s the only thing that matters.
Our darkened hearts and perverse minds would never be able to love God, nor will we ever want to. Only until we are “transformed by the renewal of our minds” by His Word and Spirit can we “discern the will of God” (Romans 12:1) and therefore worship Him the way He wants it. It’s not about how intentional and genuine your worship is; it counts as nothing if it’s a worship that’s not from a renewed mind! (Hint: Look at Saul’s pre-conversion story. He was so passionate and sincere in his love for God, but in his very own warped and sinful way of worship, he ended up persecuting God.)
Does He see you as a sinner, or as a justified sinner? It’s only a difference of an adjective, but they are of extreme opposites! It’s important that we should strive to see the world, and therefore ourselves, according to God’s standards and lenses alone, lest we succumb to the deception of our own lies. God’s opinion of you has the final say and is the objective truth of who you are, simply because He’s God.
Kristen Lam is a membership candidate of CERC. She is also currently an A-Levels student in MCKL. Upon understanding the beauty and authority of the Bible, she started loving to read it! In her own time, she loves to create art and music.