By Rev Tan Eng Boo
When I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and personal Saviour in 1967, I had a strong desire to know this living God personally. I attended church and Sunday School regularly and was excited to do so. But there was one bad experience I had which stumbled me. It happened at a church outing where I experienced church leaders who looked down on people who are poor and lowly educated. So I skipped church for one year because of that incident. That was the most unpleasant experience I had as a young believer.
The apostle Paul reminds us, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Rom. 14:13). Eventually, I went back to church because of my mother’s persuasion. Thank God indeed!
After returning to church, I continue to pursue after the Lord. I wasn’t satisfied with merely attending Sunday church service or Sunday School Class. The phrase from Philippians 3: 10 “that I may know him,” was the theme of my life in those days and has continued to be one of the themes in my life.
My brethren, Jesus is real. Our God is real. The Bible says that our God is the true and living God. “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9 KJV). Now, if my God is real and alive, I want to know Him. I want to seek after this living God. The prophet Jeremiah was told by the LORD: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). Israel was told: “But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).
These are wonderful promises from the Bible. These are promises you can claim for your own Christian life. Will you do that? Will you seek the Lord with all your heart in church whenever God’s word is shared as well as when you are on your own?
Going through the rituals on Sundays
Don’t we go through many religious rituals every Sunday? We come together to hear the Lord’s Word (sermon), discuss the messages (sermons) in Bible Class, talk about the theological implications and applications of it, and we think that we have fulfilled our religious rites. Then through the week (Mon-Sat), we seem to live a different lifestyle. God doesn’t quite fit into our daily life. After Sunday, God seems to vanish because of the pressure we face at the workplace, family life, school work etc. Why is that so? Where is Jesus in our workplace, home, school etc.?
One reason which explains this is, “For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:21).
George Verwer wrote in the introduction of his book Hunger for Reality, about the “spiritual schizophrenia” Christians face:
“No one could say in these days that we Christians are spiritually starved. Through the care and faithfulness of God’s servants, we are generously fed, taught, encouraged, pampered, stimulated, supported, nursed along. A religious world of sermons, discussions, magazine articles, hymns, messages, books, meetings, and conferences surrounds us for our participation and growth. Yet we know very well, if we are honest, that these things have all too little effect on our lives. Why is this so?
If we give the matter a little thought, we will realise that most of us are living in “two worlds.” We have split our convictions, activities, and goals into two categories. In the first place our religious experiences: what we believe; what we sing about; what we pray about; and what we defend in argument.
The second category contains our world of secular values and actions: our use of leisure time; our actions taken to impress people; our attitude towards associates who are better or worse at their job than we are; and how we get our money and use it.
We keep these two worlds strictly apart, and though we may vaguely feel that something is wrong, we don’t suspect we are suffering a major disorder – a sort of spiritual schizophrenia. In church, and occasionally among Christian friends, we talk about dedication, commitment, surrender, revival, a life on fire for God, and other expressions of loyalty and love for God. But the words and their corresponding deeds get little exposure outside church wall.”
Is that a description of who you are? Is God real in your life 24/7?
A heart after God
Beloved, our Christian belief must correspond with our everyday life. It can’t be only for Sunday. Can that be done? Yes! Let the apostle Paul tells us how to do so. He says,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….” (Col. 3:16).
In other words, we must: Let the Word of God get into us! This is different from just “getting into the Word.” We get into the Word, but does the Word “get” into us? We come out from listening to the sermons and the Bible Class lessons each Sunday, but did the Word of God impact our hearts? If it did, it will transform us to be Christ-like. It would revolutionise us (Acts 17:6). The evidence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit will be manifested (Gal. 5:22, 23). The living God speaks to us from His Word.
Take this step first. Go into Bible reading and Bible study with a sincere heart to know the living God. Do not make your daily Bible reading or Bible study a ritual. Knowing God involves: Listening to God’s Word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, and then applying it to ourselves.
“There’s a difference between knowing God and knowing about God.
When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him,
and contentment in Him.”
– J.I. Packer