“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Imagine walking alone inside a long dark tunnel with no light at the end! Clawing at the walls with fingers that have seen very hard days, you begin to make feeble attempts to break free and breathe! But choked by your endless legitimate desires, you begin to drown in a ocean that never fills your inner longing. Life can be sordidly devastating with no God to obstruct your vision. This was true in my own life.
As you read this, I pray you will see that my testimony is not merely about me, but mainly about Jesus who saved me from eternal damnation, and gave me a new life by the power of His resurrection. I am reminded of the days when Grandma would read scripture to me & my siblings. Every single day, she led us in a family prayer meeting. Possessing a stern, rather dry, but incisive and prophetic voice, she would share from the bible relentlessly & passionately. I felt nervous and uneasy back then because her abrasive personal style of delivery sounded authoritative and looked utterly foolish. Whenever my Grandma stood up to speak, her simple message would prick my heart and conscience, demanding from me “the requirements of the law.” It made me feel wretched & desperate, because her grand style of thinking & feeling were alien to my juvenile–disobedient life style. My responses were often abrupt, rude and rebellious in nature. Quietly shutting the door behind me I would slip out of the house, ridiculing her. This became an ongoing habit! Some sort of religious mystical idea had overcome our family, or so I thought. The natural man (the old self) could not comprehend spiritual truth “for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Growing up as a teenager, I began clawing at things that I thought were fun. I started playing the acoustic guitar at age eight. Feeling rather isolated, deep down in my heart, I began looking for “good friends.” I hung around friends who wasted their lives away. The greatest potentials of our age lie beneath the graves, because they were never discovered. But “good” friends turned out to be those that really influenced my life. Songs that greatly impacted my life were “Suicide Solution” by Ozzy Osbourne; “Pain Killer” by Judas Priest, “666-Number of The Beast” by Iron Maiden etc. The list is endless! On January 13, 1986, Ozzy Osbourne was eventually taken to court by the parents of John McCollum (a depressed teenager who shot himself in the head while listening to “Suicide Solution” song). One thing was certain! The bands & the songs were pre-supposedly “cool.” If your dreams are shattered, your home is broken, you loose all hope and feel no love at all, “Suicide Solution” sounded good in the ears. The idea of looking for “Pain Killer” was enticing. With no God to obstruct your vision, “666 Number of the Beast” looked eerily fancy. In other words, conforming to the present culture had much to do with shaping my life & growing up as a young man. As a result, I slowly began to drift towards the influence of cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.
Everything in life starts from small. Big ministries also starts from little. Small countries develop into big countries. A little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5: 9). And so it happened with what I thought would bring me “freedom”– drugs & rock and roll. I was slowly driven into the life of desiring what could never satisfy. In the meantime I tried using my musical gifts as a covering, but they offered very little shelter. With our band winning awards, I was involved with many bands of my generation: Black Juveniles, Joey’s Sabotazh, Terminal, Super Gurus– just to name a few. My band was always covered in some of the most popular music magazine, like Rock Street Journal. The popularity & money blinded my sinful heart from seeing reality. People worshipped me on stage as a guitar guru. (when they ought to be worshipping Jesus) The “I” was the center of the universe, worshipped by thousands of audience. But the parties never lasted for long. The more I partied the emptier I felt on the inside and always ended up in the same process of wanting for more. This vicious cycle repeated itself into fatality. The rock shows lasted for few hours, during which I’d find some measure of temporary pleasure & peace. But true “happiness” did not exist in my vocabulary nor could I find it in my life’s dictionary. Solomon would agree (if he was around) that all was “utterly meaningless!” (Ecclessiastes 1: 2). I was like that half-hearted creature, whom C.S Lewis described as “a little child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” I was never happy for more than an hour in a day. Emotional instability began to creep in. I finally broke down, knowing I could no longer continue life in that state anymore. I, then, became deeply aware of my spiritual bankruptcy, realizing the need to repent. A “broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51: 17) He did not despise!
When Adam & Eve fell short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 28), they “knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3: 7). Men always look for coverings. Our sinful nature is always in search of something to shield itself with. For me, it was my electric guitar & life as a musician. “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God & the refreshment of the soul” (J.S Bach). But it is usually the case that music is aimed at self-glorification. So the void in my heart was never satisfied, as long as I was the center of worship & adoration (until Christ came into my life powerfully during a revival in 1995). My walk with Jesus only began to grow after I ended up in Harvest Bible Training Center (2002). I never came out the same again. The resurrection of Jesus Christ became real, and the Word of God became “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
The Holy Spirit began to show me that Grandma had been right all along. She would read 1 Corinthians 1:18, “The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.” A foolish message wisely changed my life to the core. What I once considered foolishness, became to me: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). The “message of the Cross” which once sounded so “foolish” to my ears has now become the constant life-changing “power of God.” The Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans. 1: 16). In it the “righteousness of God” is revealed (our self-righteousness is as “filthy rags”-Isaiah 64:6).
I used to dream of becoming a great somebody with my musical gifts. But God showed me that I was a nobody. In love He called me to tell everybody about a Great Somebody who can save anybody- His son Jesus Christ. The Gospel is for “everyone who believes.” It is the power of God! This Gospel is what brought me to Japan in September 2004 (Read Why Japan?)
Satan hates the Gospel and the testimony of Grace. Church leaders must make sure people (and their demonic accusers) hear the whole message (not half). Miraculous changes do happen, but temptations aren’t always “instantly nullified by conversion.” Even Christ, our sinless Lord, was tempted (Luke 4: 1-13). Hence Christians are tempted & tested throughout their lives in various ways. But the sovereign grace of God in Christ will triumph and enable us to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5: 16).
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5: 11-21).
- Read related article from The Resurgence: Do testimonies unintentionally empower satan?