This article was written by Pastor-Elder Denesh.
I really don’t need Jesus, thank you very much. I excelled in sports, I aced my exams and I had a great career before me. As I said, I really don’t need Jesus, thank you very much.
Or so I thought. I went to church once – and that changed everything.
It wasn’t the sermon – I can’t remember what that was all about. It wasn’t the songs – I didn’t know any of them. It wasn’t some mystical spiritual experience – I was fully conscious during the whole 90mins of the church service.
It was the Bible.
Truth be told, I was bored out of my mind in the church service. One minute, everyone around you was standing to sing, and the next minute, everyone was sitting to pray. They opened their Bibles to read a passage from it but by the time you got there, they had closed their Bibles and moved on. It was a rather disconcerting experience, like being a fish out of water. Do you remember that segment in Sesame Street…“one of these kids is doing his own thing”…well, I was that 21 year old “kid” over a decade ago.
We all have our own ways of surviving such experiences, don’t we? Some of us would have caught up on sleep while others would have started our “To Do” list for the week. I saw the Bible on my lap and thought I might as well browse through it to see what the fuss was all about.
What stumped me were the maps at the end of the Bible. Maps of Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean. For the first time in my life, I found myself curious: “You mean the Bible is actually based on historical truth?” Pardon me for my ignorance, but I always thought the Bible was just a bunch of fables concocted out of thin air to teach us good morals. The fact that the places and people mentioned in the Bible really existed in history forced me to change my presuppositions about Christianity.
It sparked my interest and I signed up to join a Bible Study group. I started to read the Bible non-stop after that. I was incredibly curious. What was it all about?
I made four discoveries.
First, I learnt from the Bible that God made this entire universe including brilliant ole me.
Now, I must admit that this didn’t sit well with my rational mind initially. After all, it looks like the ultimate cop-out argument. “Ok, so you Christians can’t explain how this world came about scientifically so you just cop-out and say ‘God did it’.” How does anyone argue against that?
But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The Bible doesn’t tell me the mechanics of how God made the world but it does say God made the world by commanding it into existence with His powerful word. Furthermore, it tells us why He did it: God made this world and us so that we might respond to Him in loving relationship. For example, the Bible says:
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24-27).
You see, that explains to me why every single civilization since the dawn of time has had an innate desire to worship a Being external to ourselves. We look at this marvelous world – the billions of uncountable stars in the sky, the vastness of the ocean, the majesty of mountain ranges – and we instinctively know that this is not the work of blind random chance but of an intelligent purposeful Creator.
No wonder British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle said that the probability that life could emerge through random mutations of dead matter is as far-fetched as a hurricane bursting through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747 airplane!
Indeed, Dr. Francis S. Collins, a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God, said that his research into the human genome allowed him to “glimpse at the workings of God”.
“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”[i]
Perhaps it’s not surprising then that staunch atheists like world famous philosopher Antony Flew now believes in the existence of God. Said Flew in his book, There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind:
“I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and production originate in a divine Source.
Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than half a century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science.”[ii]
If you think about it, God as Creator makes sense of lots of other things, too. It explains why love and relationships are important to us – because God made us for a loving relationship with Him and one another. It explains why we appreciate abstract things like music and art and natural scenery – because God is the ultimate creator of music, art and natural beauty. It explains why we value morality and justice and know innately that we should do good to one another – because that is how God intends for us to live. You can’t explain all of that in any other way except that that is how God made us. And thank God He made us with such wonderful capacities!
My second discovery is this: I had rebelled against God.
Yes, I may be pretty good compared to Hitler and Mas Selamat[iii], and yes, I may be an upright and law-abiding citizen. But that still doesn’t address what the Bible says is the fundamental problem with me.
In God’s eyes, I have rebelled against Him as my Creator and King by either ignoring Him in my life, rejecting Him outright, or replacing Him with some other gods like materialism and success. The Bible is absolutely scathing here. Just listen to these words:
“No one is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
It wasn’t an easy accusation to face up to but I knew it was absolutely true. I had never once stopped to acknowledge God or thank Him for my existence. In fact, I had convinced myself that I was the sole reason for my successes in life. But it was actually God who had given me everything I had – my intellect, my sporting abilities, my looks (just humour me on this one!) etc.
The Bible warns me that rebellion against God puts me on a collision course with God. Right now, I stand condemned by God already for rejecting Him. Right now, I am under His righteous judgment (which the Bible calls “wrath”). Right now, I am walking on Death Row heading for an eternity without God (what the Bible calls “hell”).
It was here that I made the third discovery, and it was the best news I ever heard: Jesus Christ died on the Cross in my place.
That is, Jesus took the punishment I deserved for rebelling against God by dying on the Cross, when it should have been me, Denesh Divyanathan, hanging and bleeding on that Cross for my sin.
The most startling thing about this discovery is that I didn’t have to earn my way into God’s heart. No, God had done it all by sending His Son Jesus to pay the price to set me free.
I didn’t need to will myself to be a better person, I didn’t need to obey the 10 Commandments to earn brownie points with God, I didn’t need to offer religious sacrifices or embark on a religious pilgrimage to win God’s favour.
When Jesus died on the Cross, he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Everything that needed to be done to redeem a sinner like me was completed by Jesus’ death.
My spiritual bank account no longer said “Debt Outstanding”. But now, by the blood of Jesus shed for me, it read “Paid in Full”. That’s what Christians mean by “grace”. We didn’t deserve the loving mercy of God sacrificing His own Son to save us. But that is exactly what He did.
And I can be certain that God will accept me if I put my trust in Jesus because Jesus didn’t stay dead. God raised Jesus from the dead after three days as a public declaration that He accepts the sacrifice that Jesus paid for all who will trust in him.
The resurrection of Jesus sounds like the most bizarre thing in the world. Dead people just don’t come back to life, do they? Well, Jesus did.
The resurrection of Jesus stands as one of the best attested facts of history to this day: How else do you explain how more than 500 eyewitnesses saw the resurrected Jesus over the course of several weeks?
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, why wasn’t his body ever found after his resurrection?
How else can we explain how Jesus’ petrified disciples turned into the most courageous advocates of the Christian message after seeing the resurrected Jesus?
If they knew the resurrection was a hoax, would they be willing to preach a message which would lead most of them to suffer horrific deaths?
That led me to my fourth discovery, which was that I had to make a choice.
Was I going to own up to my rebellion against God, ask God for forgiveness and put my trust in Jesus as my new King and Saviour? Or was I going to go my own way again, waving God away like a pesky housefly?
Jesus explained the importance of this decision in stunning clarity: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36).
Don’t get me wrong, it was not an easy decision to make. None of my family were Christians. I had done well in life all by myself so it wouldn’t be easy handing over the keys of my life to Jesus and submitting to God’s ways as revealed in the Bible. I had a good career ahead of me and dreams of making it big in the world. It was a costly decision. But I knew it was the right, intellectually rational and morally honest decision to make.
So I said my ABCs.
I admitted to God that I was guilty as charged – a sinner who had rebelled against Him.
I believed in what Jesus did for me on the Cross and I placed my trust in him as my Saviour.
And I confessed that Jesus was now the Boss in my life who called the shots and I asked God to help me to live His way from now on.
It’s been 15 years since I became a Christian. And it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. In truth, it’s not so much a “decision” as me submitting to the truth of who I am (a sinner in need of rescue) and what God has done for me in Jesus.
Now it’s your turn to face up to God’s truth. You know, it doesn’t matter if you have a PhD or if you are from ITE[iv], it doesn’t matter if you have platinum credit cards or if you use only NETS[v], it doesn’t matter if sex and getting a high is your thing or if you are Mr or Ms Goody Two Shoes.
We are all in the same boat. We have all turned our backs on God. Without Jesus, we all stand condemned right now. That’s why Jesus matters. Because we have messed up our relationship with God. But Jesus offers us a way back to God through his death and resurrection.
Can you really afford to have Jesus not matter to you?
[i] Francis S. Collins, quoted in “I’ve found God, says man who cracked the genome,” by Steven Swinford, The Sunday Times (UK), June 11, 2006.
[ii] Antony Flew (with Roy Abraham Varghese), There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 88.
[iii] Mas Selamat is a leader in the terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah. He is being detained in Singapore for terrorism-related offences.
[iv] The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is a post-secondary training institute in Singapore offering non-graduate level courses.
[v] NETS is an electronic points-of-sale card used in Singapore.