Christ Lives in Me
The testimony in this chapter was given on December 25th, 2000, at a Christmas Camp in Trolak, Malaysia
God Works Miracles
In this section of my testimony, I will describe some of the things God did during the 10 years or so of my time in London, England. Ten years is quite a long time, so I can only select a number of events and, even so, I will have to leave out a lot of details. I looked to the Lord and asked Him, “What do You, Lord, want me to say about what You did?” Whatever the Lord does is inevitably unique in character, we call it the miraculous. Everything that God does is miraculous to us because it is not natural; and what is supernatural always astonishes us. I aim to choose those incidents for which there is no real human explanation. In other words, you can’t think of some valid psychological explanation or some human way to explain them. I choose those accounts for which it is difficult, if not utterly impossible, to find a human explanation.
Learning to Let Christ Live in Me
We mentioned earlier that the whole Christian life, if it is a genuine Christian life, is miraculous. If it isn’t miraculous, it isn’t God who is working. When God works, there is a miracle, isn’t there? The Christian life begins with dying and ends up with life. That is the reverse of all that goes on in the world. We begin by being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2.20) and through this God raises us up into newness of life (Romans 6.4).
To drive home the point about dying, what I will do today is to describe matters in reverse. That means at first I will talk about my life in Christ or Christ living in me, as the song says, “Christ lives in me”. I don’t live anymore, Christ lives in me. It is important to understand that we experience God’s miracles working in and through us only if Christ lives in us. What worries me about so many Christians is that they hardly ever experience anything that can properly be called miraculous or supernatural—God’s work. And it worries me because I wonder if Christ is truly living in them. Is Christ living in you? When Christ lives in you, God will do things in and through you, and what He does appears to us as miraculous. He does not do amazing things to impress us or to impress other people; it is just that when we are living the life of Christ, walking along his path, living to serve him, miracles just happen constantly. I will give you a number of examples of some outstanding things that Christ did. But I would also like to show you that when he lives in us, even the way we think will become totally different.
A Motorcycle to Teach Me to Trust in Him
In an earlier part of my testimony I mentioned that at one point I finally acquired a motorcycle. This motorcycle (for those of you who know something about motorcycles) was a BSA (which is no longer in production). It was a 150 cc British motorcycle, which was fairly powerful. It was much heavier than most motorcycles we see on the streets of Malaysia, for example, which seem to be mostly 80 cc or less. I acquired this old motorcycle, and for a poor student (as I was at that time) who owned next to nothing, a motorcycle was a very valuable possession. The friend from whom I bought the bike, had been a classmate of mine at the same Bible institute; he was a graduate from Cambridge and was soon going to Japan as a missionary, so he sold me his old motorcycle for £50. Wow! For a poor student, £50 is a lot of money. I couldn’t pay the whole amount in one go, so he kindly agreed that I pay in installments, whenever money became available.
Someone Stole my Motorcycle
Not long after I had bought the motorcycle, something happened to it. At that time I was staying in an apartment which I shared with two Malaysians, one was studying architecture who was from Ipoh and the other was studying electrical engineering who was from Kuala Lumpur, a brilliant scholarship student. One day an American-born Chinese brother came to visit us and he stayed in my room with me. We had some time of fellowship and finally said “Good night” and went to bed. But a few minutes later I heard a distinctive “click” coming from outside our window. I knew the sound right away: it was my motorcycle stand being pushed up. I knew somebody was messing around with my motorcycle three floors down; I could hear it three floors up. I jumped out of bed, rushed to the window and took a look. I saw two fellows sitting on my motorcycle and the fellow in front was trying to kick start it. I ran down the stairs full speed and was just about to grab the neck of the fellow at the back when the engine started and the motorcycle shot off. It was gone.
But the thing I want to emphasize is this: there was total peace in my heart about the loss of the motorcycle. I experienced the heavenly, supernatural peace which the apostle Paul speaks of in Philippians 4.7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (see also v.6). Now, you could rightly say that I lost the only thing I had that had some monetary value. Moreover, it affected my transportation, because I rode on it to get to college and also to church. Now I would have to take the underground trains and pay what for me were expensive fares. The motorcycle was gone. Yet the beauty about Christ living in you is that the world means nothing. It doesn’t matter; I did not even let it bother me for a moment. Okay, the bike was gone. I went upstairs, committed the matter to God, went back to bed, and promptly fell asleep. My American friend couldn’t believe it. He said to me the next day, “I don’t understand you.” I asked, “Did I do something wrong?” He said, “No, but your motorcycle just got stolen and you go back to bed and just drop off to sleep!” I said, “Well, what’s the problem?” He looked at me in complete disbelief. We seemed to be talking two different languages. So he shrugged his shoulders and walked away evidently thinking, “This guy is impossible to understand.”
Looking back at my friend’s reaction, I realized that he expected me to have reacted like a “normal” human being and be very upset that I had lost my most valuable possession, my motorcycle. He couldn’t understand that it didn’t bother me at all. He knew that this was not because I had so much money that I could go out and buy another motorcycle. I couldn’t. Even so, it didn’t bother me in the least. This is not “normal”. Is there any human explanation for such perfect peace? Or is this not an example of how we can experience for ourselves the peace which Paul spoke of in Philippians 4.7? It is a peace that is beyond human understanding; it was a peace that guarded my heart and mind in Christ so that I remained undisturbed in the confidence that everything remains under God’s control.
How do you feel when things in the world don’t go your way? Do you sit there and ask, “Lord, I am here living for You, I gave my life to You—and yet You allow my motorcycle to be stolen! What kind of God are You? Surely, You can protect my motorcycle, can’t You?” Isn’t this the way the human mind reasons? What do you want to believe in God for, if He can’t do anything for you? He can’t even protect your motorcycle! But I was not bothered because I knew that God had a good reason for this, even though I didn’t know what that reason was. It was good enough for me that since He gave it, He can also take it away, just as Job said, “Yahweh gave and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21) He gave me the motorcycle; He took it away. Let His name be praised.
But do we normally think like this? Or has our thinking not yet been changed? That is why we have nothing to witness to. We have no impact. But when the Lord changes our lives, we become different; we have perfect peace in circumstances where normally there would be no peace. That is why my American friend looked at me in total disbelief. You don’t even have to talk; your life will witness to God’s peace and power. Someone who met my American friend many years later told me that he still mentioned this incident. Later on, he himself became a servant of the Lord. He went back to the United States, completed his studies, and went into training for the pastoral ministry. I did not know about this until many years later.
Witnessing is not just a matter of talking. We could talk our mouths dry, but it is a matter of the kind of life we live, a life that moves people to say, “Hmm, this guy is extraordinary. He is unusual. What is the secret of his life?”
What is more, because my motorcycle was stolen, it became the reason for another series of miracles that I will tell you about in a moment. In the meantime, I also had to do something that was quite normal: I went to the police station the next day and reported that my motorcycle had been stolen; this is what the law requires. They told me, frankly, that the chances of finding a motorcycle in a city like London are close to zero. London is too big a city, and there are too many motorcycles. I told them, “That’s okay. I am just letting you know that it was stolen.” But a few days later, I got a call from a police officer, “We’ve found your motorcycle; just come to the station and collect it.” So I went there and got the motorcycle back. But whoever was rough-riding the motorcycle did some damage to it. The rear brake was now defective; that was one thing, and there seemed to be a leak somewhere in the engine which I could not locate.
But should I let these things become a cause for complaining? You see, I was just about to go on a mission to Ireland when the motorcycle was stolen. I was about to go there to serve God with another brother who had a similar motorcycle. His motorcycle was in perfect condition, but mine was now defective. Anyone who rides a motorcycle would know that a defective brake can be dangerous and deadly. In this case, relying on the front brake alone, the bike would be unable to stop quickly enough at higher speeds and could skid if the road is wet, which in England is quite often. When a motorcycle skids, it is not like a car that has four wheels; you fly off the motorcycle and your life could be in danger.
Westward to Wales
Defective brakes and impending rain
For the term break, I had arranged with my friend to go to Ireland to evangelize. Much of my testimony about my time in London is about witnessing. It was my constant joy and determination to witness for my Lord. I was going to Ireland to witness together with this friend of mine, and now my motorcycle was defective. If I used the little money I had to repair the brakes, I couldn’t go on the mission. But if I go on the mission, I would have no money to pay for the brakes. So what to do? I asked the Lord, “What do You want me to do now?” And the Lord gave me confidence. “You go. I will be with you.” Of course, this doesn’t mean that we could be careless; so when we were setting out on the mission, we listened carefully to the weather forecast. I usually don’t pay attention to the weather forecast, but when you have defective brakes, it is wise to listen. The forecast said that on the day we were to leave, it was going to rain. I asked God, “Do You want us to go on the mission on this day or not? It is going to rain; shall we delay this project?” Rain was forecast for several more days. After further waiting before the Lord, I received the confidence to pray, “Lord, I know that the enemy wants to stop us from witnessing for You, but we are ready to go forward and we entrust the whole motorcycle situation into Your hands.” The Lord granted us His peace and so we went forth.
The two of us set out for Ireland. From London to Ireland, you would travel westward through England and Wales. I still remember that the road was the A40 that goes through Oxford, and from there we went on to Wales. We looked at the sky and there was something that I had never seen before. Looking westward, in the direction we were heading, the sky was all clear. In front of us the sky was blue, but looking backward it was all black. Have you ever seen anything like that? A north-south line stretched right across the sky: black behind, blue in front! I looked up and said, “My God is going to do interesting things today.” My friend and I prayed together, and rode off towards Oxford, then through Oxford westward. Whenever we looked up, do you know what? The line was following us. Where our motorcycles were, right above us was the line, black behind and blue in front. We left London in the morning and by mid-afternoon we were about halfway to our destination in Wales for that first day; all day we were following the sun going westward.
When we were not far from the Welsh border, I remembered that there was somebody I wanted to witness to in a nearby Catholic monastery. So I said to my friend, “Let us pause our journey and witness to a monk in the monastery.” He exclaimed, “What? Witness? Look at the black clouds moving, we’ve got to keep ahead of the clouds.” I said, “Well, let us do the Lord’s work and we will leave the weather to Him.” He thought I was being reckless. I said, “No. We put God’s work first and He will take care of the weather.” This brother was from a conventional church and had no particular experience of God, so he thought that the whole idea was unreasonable. Anyway, I spent some time with the monk, witnessing to him, and then we continued westward. Looking up, remarkably the cloud was still right above our heads, and as we went on, that line kept moving west. And then it got darker and darker until we couldn’t see very much of what was going on above any more, but we rode on.
Stranded in the darkness of the night
When we were riding, we took turns riding in front with the other person behind. This was especially useful in the dark because riding in front in the dark and relying only on your headlight requires more alertness and is more tiring. The one behind just follows the red taillight of the one in front, so he can get a little rest on a long ride like this one. On one stretch, when I was riding in front and my friend was riding behind, suddenly my engine faltered and stopped and my lights went out. Everything went black. What happened? My electrical system was not powered by a battery but by a dynamo that generated electricity for the lights. This means that while the engine is running there is light; but when the engine stops, the lights go out. My friend came up to me and asked, “What happened?” We looked into the engine and saw that I had no more gas. There was a small leak in the engine because of the damage done by the theft, and we hadn’t been aware of it. The gas was draining faster than usual. My friend, who rode a similar motorcycle, needed no gas at this time; indeed, he didn’t need any for the rest of the journey that day. What should we do now? We were in the countryside in the middle of nowhere, and in pitch darkness. What are we going to do? We prayed and committed this whole situation to the Lord. Then my friend rode off, and I watched him as his lights disappeared over the hill; now I was standing there in the darkness by myself, just looking to the Lord.
A few moments later, I saw a light coming back. My friend had come back with a can of gas. He said, “It’s amazing! When I went over the top of that hill, I found a gas station right there. The man was just about to close the garage; I got there just as he was about to lock up, and he gave me this can of gas.” Have you noticed the timing of God’s works? Neither of us knew that there was a gas station there. Only God knew, and He did not allow the engine to die until we got close to the gas station. The Lord wants to test our faithfulness and whether we trust in Him all the time. What is faith? Faith is trust. Do we trust in Him? I also realized that through this whole thing, God was speaking to my friend. The Lord was transforming his life by giving him a chance to witness the remarkable things He did all along the journey. In this incident, my friend realized that God’s timing is amazing. He got to the garage just as the owner was locking up the place. Can you imagine what would have been our situation if it had been five minutes later and the man at the garage had already left?
I filled the tank, and we rode on into Wales, to the small town of Caerphilly where we were going to stop for the night. When we got to the house in Caerphilly, do you know what happened? When we got there, removed our things from the motorcycle, and stepped inside the door, at that precise moment the rain came down, absolutely pouring. If it had been pouring while we were on our motorcycles, we would have been blinded by the rain, utterly soaked, and also in great danger because Wales is a hilly place. The road goes up and down, left and right, and when you have brakes that don’t function properly you could be in real danger. Now you know from this account that God controlled the weather—not only for that night, but for the entire three weeks or so of our journey. Do you know what? It never rained in the daytime for three weeks!
Walking with God was a privilege granted to us! I still remember how when we stepped in through the door in that house in Caerphilly, it was as though we had stepped on some device on the floor inside the door that triggered the sudden downpour of rain. I looked at my friend, and saw that his mouth had dropped open as he stared at the rain. The timing was so astonishing; indeed, it was awesome. Can you think of a human explanation for all this? Shall we just call it a coincidence? You will find that when you walk with God, there will be one “coincidence” after another until there is no more coincidence worth talking about, because if a coincidence happens every time, it is by definition no longer a coincidence.
A message from God
On our way to Wales we stopped for a drink at a small town and I said to my friend, “You know, God has given me a message to speak to the brothers and sisters in Caerphilly”. Surprised, he asked, “Do they know you are coming?” I said, “No, I don’t think they know.” “Then how do they know you are going to preach this Sunday?” I said, “I don’t know. All I know is that God gave me a message to give to them this Sunday.” He looked puzzled. The day after we got to the town (I think we arrived on a Friday night), the people of the church said, “Oh, we didn’t know you were coming, otherwise we would have invited you to preach.” I said, “That’s all right.” After they left, my friend looked at me and said, “Ah! So what about that message God gave you to give this Sunday? They’ve already got a preacher from a Bible college.” I said, “That is all right. I mean, it is God’s message. If He wants me to give it, I will give it. If He doesn’t want me to give it, I won’t give it. Either way is fine with me.” But he must have thought that I had heard the Lord wrongly in regard to this message from Him.
Early Sunday morning there was a knock on the door. My friend opened the door, and there was a young man standing there. Neither of us knew him. The man couldn’t talk properly; his throat was hoarse and he whispered, “I am the man who is supposed to preach this Sunday, but I don’t know why during the night I lost my voice. Would you be so kind as to preach in my place?” I said, “Oh, no problem. I would be pleased to.” My friend looked at me, “Your God is real. Oh my, He is real!” Mind you, he was a Christian, yet had never experienced the Lord, and that is true of many Christians today. My friend found all this awesome. I had told him in advance that God had given me a message for the church in Caerphilly, but he found it difficult to believe. When we were told after our arrival that they had already arranged a preacher for that Sunday, it seemed clear to him that I had been quite wrong. But now he was amazed.
In recounting this incident, I emphasize that it doesn’t mean that I am any better than this brother from the Bible College. Not at all. It is just that sometimes God gives a particular message through one person, and at another time through someone else. He is the Lord, and He chooses whom He wants to speak on any particular occasion. So I am not implying in any way that I am better than this brother from the Bible college, whom I didn’t even know personally. I am simply relating the events as they happened.
Transformed through experiencing God
What about my friend who traveled with me on this three-week mission trip? His whole life was transformed, revolutionized, not because I was preaching to him but because he saw what God was doing, and he was simply stunned; he said he had never seen such things before. And do you know what happened? Yes, he became a servant of God too. After he completed his engineering program at University of London, he went to a theological college and then went into the ministry. But that is another story.
Sharing Christ’s Life in Cambridge
During this period in London, I was driven by a desire to witness for the Lord. If you haven’t tried witnessing, you won’t experience God’s working. One of the ways to experience God is to witness, and then see what He will do in another person’s life. I can give you account after account of how people turned to the Lord, and not because of the eloquence of my witnessing. In fact, there were often times I didn’t even have to start a conversation, yet the Lord drew the person to Himself. Take for example the case of a Vietnamese student in Cambridge who later became a good friend of mine.
I must first explain that I often went to Cambridge because, though I studied in London, London is a big and bustling city. I was very busy in the church, so it was often hard to find the quiet that I needed to study. I loved the quietness of Cambridge. But whenever I was in Cambridge, I would have a strong desire to witness, and I would go around looking for people to witness to about God. I stayed at a place in Cambridge called “Tyndale House for Biblical Research”. Though it was called a house for Biblical research, in fact many graduate students living there were not doing Biblical studies but doing their Ph.D.’s in engineering or some other subject. They were permitted to stay there if rooms were available, if they were graduates, and if they were believers.
That was where I stayed in Cambridge. The woman in charge of the day-to-day management of the place was a very fine Christian who was always trying to witness, especially to the Asian students in Cambridge. One day she told me that in one of the colleges there was a Vietnamese student that she would like me to meet. She asked, “Would you like to witness to him?” I said, “That’s fine. Just give me his name and tell me where he is staying, and I will go look for him.” He was a brilliant scholarship student studying electrical engineering. I visited him in his room. When God works, you don’t even have to think of all sorts of ways to start a conversation by asking questions like, “Are you by any chance going to church? Have you been to church? Do you know any Christians?” It is amazing that when God works, He speaks to the other person at a deeper level; often I just keep quiet. After briefly introducing ourselves to each other, the Vietnamese student immediately said, “I am a Buddhist, are you a Christian?” When I said “Yes” he went straight to the point, “Tell me about Christianity.” From the first minute he already wanted to talk about Christianity! I had just walked in through the door, and he didn’t even know me, yet he said, “Tell me about Christianity.” He explained, “I am not satisfied with Buddhism. I have looked into Buddhism (Vietnamese people are traditionally Buddhists), but I am not satisfied with it, so tell me about Christianity.” That same evening, I think not much more than an hour or so later, he knelt down with me and yielded his life to the Lord. We became good friends. He also began to experience God in amazing ways. But that is another long story.
Let me tell you about a person from Taiwan, whom the lady at Tyndale House had invited for tea. She would often do this. She would invite people for tea in Tyndale House and then she would run to my room, knock on the door, and ask me to come downstairs, saying, “I’ve invited someone for tea, come and talk to him.” I ended up talking to a good number of people in this way. So there was this Taiwanese research student who was invited for tea. After some conversation, he yielded his life to the Lord there and then, that very afternoon.
I always like to tell the story about him because some time later I saw him and he was full of joy. He said, “You know, God is really wonderful.” I asked, “What did you experience?” He said, “I have to tell you about this. The other day I was walking along one of the narrow streets in Cambridge (in fact, it is the road that leads from Tyndale House towards the city center). As I was walking down that road, I had the desire to pray. I said to God, ‘I am going to pray now. I am going to close my eyes and please see to it that I don’t bump into the wall or into trees while I am praying.’” This is a brilliant research student doing his degree in mathematical economics, whatever that is. My father studied economics; but I am not so sure what mathematical economics is, though we know that economics is becoming more and more involved with mathematics. Here he is, like a little child; he wanted to pray and he just closed his eyes. He said, “You know, I walked down the entire road praying with my eyes closed and I never hit the wall and never hit the trees.” I know the road he was talking about, and the sidewalk of that road is quite narrow. You couldn’t even walk with your arms stretched out, that is how narrow it was. On one side were trees and on the other side was a long wall, so the chances of hitting a tree or the wall is quite good. He walked down the entire road and never hit a tree or the wall. And he said, “God is so amazing. I just pray to Him.” I smiled at him and said, “That is wonderful but let me tell you something else that is also wonderful.” He said, “What is that?” I said, “You can also pray with your eyes open.” “You can?” he said in astonishment. So lovely and so childlike, isn’t it?
There was a student from Hong Kong whom I got to know by simply knocking on his door. The nice thing about witnessing in Cambridge is that you can just go and knock on someone’s door. When he opened the door, he looked at me and invited me in. “Where do you stay?” he asked. I told him I was staying at Tyndale House for Biblical Research. “Oh,” he said, “you are a Christian?” “Yes,” I replied. Right away he said, “Well, tell me how you became a Christian.” As fast as that! What is it that draws people? Do you find it hard to witness? You try to witness but the other person never raises the subject and you say, “Uh, by the way, have you ever read the Bible?” “No.” “Do you have Christian friends?” “No.” And you don’t know where to go from there; it’s so awkward, isn’t it? But here within two minutes he was asking me to tell him how I had become a Christian. That is how fast things go when it is God who is working.
Then as though he became afraid that he had opened a door he might not be able to close, he said, “But don’t try to convert me, all right? Just tell me how you became a Christian, but don’t try to convert me.” I replied, “Sure. That’s fine.” I could give him that assurance because the fact is that I am not the one doing the converting. It is God who converts a person. True conversion is something that only God can do; only He can change and transform the human heart. Knowing this, I knew that I was not the one to convert him. I was only a witness.
So I witnessed to him, but my principle is this: When you start witnessing, don’t keep on talking and talking. You are going to wear everybody out and they will be tired of your witnessing. So I witnessed for a few minutes and stopped. He said, “I am still listening.” I normally continue on when the other person is eager to hear more. This is an important principle of witnessing: Don’t talk to a person until he is sick of hearing you. I shared with him a while longer and stopped again. Every time I stopped, he asked me to carry on. Finally I said, “I think I have shared enough for today, it’s time for me to go.” So he said, “Okay. We will talk again.” Indeed, we met together several times after this.
He was studying medicine in Cambridge. Most medical students there, after completing their first three years at Cambridge, have to go to London to complete the rest of their medical training in one of the well-known teaching hospitals in London. And when he got to London, where did he live? Oh yes, God knows what He is doing all the time. That student ended up in the same district where Helen and I were living! When we found out where he was staying, we invited him over for supper. Do you know what happened? He walked in through the door and said, “By the way, where did we finish last time? You were telling me how you came to the Lord. Please continue. But don’t try to convert me, all right?” You can see his great spiritual hunger, yet he doesn’t want anyone to give him pressure. He was hungry to know God, so I shared with him. Later on we had to leave London because I had to go to Liverpool to take up the ministry there. The work was very busy, and I eventually lost contact with Arthur (which is this medical student’s name).
Many years passed, and one day I thought to myself, “What ever happened to Arthur?” Then some years ago, we went to serve the Lord in Hong Kong. Somehow God brought Arthur Lee back to my memory. I looked him up in the telephone directory. Do you know how many Lee’s there are in Hong Kong? The directory has many pages for this common surname. “Arthur” too is a common name. There was no way for me to find him like this.
A year or so later, I was watching the news on television and someone was being interviewed, and then the name of the person being interviewed appeared on the screen: “Professor Arthur Lee”! I seldom watched that local news program, but I happened to turn to it that evening. Yes, Arthur had become head of the medical department of the Chinese University, and Professor of Surgery, teaching at the well-known Prince of Wales Hospital. We had found him after all these years. The student in Cambridge was now a professor in Hong Kong. I picked up the phone and called him, and even after more than twenty years, he remembered me right away and he said, “How about we have lunch together?” He invited us to meet him at an exclusive club in Hong Kong. I, being ignorant of these high-class clubs, didn’t even know it was some high-class place until I got there. After lunch, when I tried to pay he smiled and said, “You can’t pay here. You’ve got to be a club member.” Anyway, the main thing I wanted to know about him was his relationship to the Lord. He replied, “Yes, I am a Christian.” Amazing, isn’t it? Somewhere along the way, he had come to the Lord.
It is through witnessing that we have the privilege of seeing people’s lives being transformed by God’s love and power. Is there any greater joy that this? Or any greater miracle than this? By the way, I saw Arthur on television again a few months ago. He is now Vice Chancellor of the university. But now that he knows the Lord, I don’t see the need to contact him, at least not unless God leads me to do so. In any case, it is truly amazing what God does.
The Joy of Witnessing: Seeing Him Change Lives
Many of the things I am sharing with you today I have already shared in various messages over the years in order to use these experiences of God to illustrate my messages at various times. When we were in Kuala Lumpur a few days ago, I said to Helen, “All one has to do to know what I have witnessed for the Lord through the years is to run through all my messages, take all the stories out, arrange them in some kind of sequence, and there you’ve got my witness. Then I don’t have to say all this here.” She replied, “Yes, but the only problem is that you’ve preached several hundred messages. It would take a long time to dig out all the accounts from these messages.” That is why I guess I have to give the account here.
But I want to stress again: Isn’t it a tremendous joy to witness for the Lord and to see God’s power working in people’s lives? I have seen so many people’s lives changed. Preaching the word of God by itself can also change people’s lives, but I always put in my own witnessing as much as possible, even in preaching.
One of the great joys of preaching the gospel in Liverpool was to see people’s lives being changed in front of my eyes. As I witnessed to them and preached the word of God to them, it was amazing in those few years to see that people were being transformed. Witnessing is something that is and should be close to every Christian’s heart.
Another time I experienced God very deeply in connection to the matter of witnessing, was when I stayed at the Foreign Missions Club in North London. One evening as I was studying, the Lord spoke to me very clear and distinctly: “Eric, get up and go down to the YMCA in central London.” Nowadays, many people think it is strange that God would speak to you, but why such doubts? The Bible is full of such instances. Have we not frequently read in the Old Testament that the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets proclaimed a message from Yahweh God with the words, “Thus says Yahweh”? Do you think the prophets dared to invent those words? Would they dare to say that Yahweh said something when He didn’t? No. It means then that God spoke to the prophets in such a way that they could hear it, and having heard what Yahweh said to them, they declared it with the words, “This is what Yahweh says…” Count how many times “Thus says the Lord” occurs in the Old Testament and you will be amazed (over 400 times!). Even today, God speaks to His servants all the time; this is true for those who are living in such a way that Christ lives in them.
God said to me, “Get up and go to the YMCA.” So off to the YMCA I went, but not without some mumbling to God that I had a lot of homework to do. I was thinking about how I was going to get through my work if I had to go down to the YMCA. I was also wondering what I was supposed to do when I got there. Anyway, I got on my motorcycle and went on the long ride to the city center. The YMCA was right in the city center near Oxford Circus (for those of you who know London). I arrived at the YMCA and said, “Lord, what do You want me to do here? I haven’t got a clue about I am supposed to do.” As I stood inside the YMCA wondering what to do, the Lord directed my attention to the front revolving door where people were coming in and going out. The Lord said, “Look towards the door.” I looked, and I saw a tall Chinese gentleman coming in. Then the Lord instructed me, “Talk to this man.” As I went towards him, I asked God, “What am I supposed to say to him?” I had never seen this man before, and had no idea what I was to say. The Lord said, “Ask him if he needs help.” Would you normally stop someone in the middle of a public place like the YMCA and ask, “Do you need help”? Well, I asked him, “Do you need any help?” I was surprised by his “Yes.” I no longer remember what kind of assistance he needed, but what mattered was that we got into a conversation, and soon we were talking about spiritual things. He was older, perhaps in his mid or late forties. I, being much younger, felt it was not appropriate for me to be the one to help him on the spiritual level. So I arranged for him to meet the pastor of our church the next day, and there and then he came to the Lord!
Listening to God
When this gentleman later told me his side of the story, I realized how amazing God’s leading was; and one cannot think of any human explanation to account for the course of the events. The day I met him, he had just come in from Taiwan, where he was a fairly high ranking government official. He was on his way to Geneva as a representative for some trade talks. I did not ask him for any details. He had just arrived in London, and did not know the city. That was why when I asked him whether he needed help, he said “Yes.” Moreover, he was leaving the day after the next, which meant that he had only two days in London. Either he comes to the Lord now, or he will never. After the conference in Geneva, he was to go back to Taiwan; so he only had those two days in London.
It struck me later that that was exactly what happened when Philip went to meet the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert (Acts 8:27-39). The eunuch was also a government official who was traveling; so Philip’s timing had to be perfect or he would have missed him. When Philip arrived in the desert where the eunuch was traveling through, he found the eunuch reading the Bible in Isaiah, and Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” That is also to say, “Do you need any help?” The eunuch needed someone to help him understand it, and Philip was there to explain it to him, and the eunuch yielded his life to the Lord. This was what happened in the case of the government official from Taiwan when he committed his life to the Lord. The timing was just marvelous. Had I not listened to God, had I disobeyed Him, the blood of this man would have been on my hands. He wouldn’t have come to the Lord. He said to me afterwards, before he went off to Geneva for his conference: “It is amazing. I was looking for God. I didn’t realize I will find God, or God will find me here in London.” This had to happen exactly within that short time slot. Can you find a human explanation for this? Our God is amazing. What He does is truly amazing. I am filled with amazement, but also with fear and trembling that had I not listened, what would have happened to this man? Will someone pass away without knowing God because you were not listening to the Lord?
Deeper and Direct Communication
For the sake of clarification, something else needs to be said. You may have noticed that the experiences described above happened when I was quite young—young not only in terms of physical age (I was in my mid-twenties at the time) but also in the sense of being spiritually young. So when I was still young in both senses, God had already spoken to me audibly on a few occasions. But when I became spiritually more mature, God communicated with me in another, non-audible, way. He now lets me know His will directly (that is, without words being used) and clearly (that is, I know clearly it is from Him and not something produced by my own mind). He impresses upon my heart, “This is My will,” in such a way that I have no doubt what He wants me to do. I have not heard God speak to me audibly for a long time; He doesn’t need to, because as I have learned to walk closer to Him through the years, He communicates His will to me heart to heart, straight to my heart. As I wait and listen to Him, He lets me know what He wants me to know or to do. I don’t need to hear it audibly anymore. I think that when I was much younger spiritually and physically, I was not walking with God close enough to receive the message directly from Him into my heart. I needed to hear it with my ear, as it were. But He knows our needs and is very gracious: He will meet you at your point of maturity or lack of maturity. If you are very young in the Lord, He will talk to you at your level. It is like the difference between talking to a little child and talking to an adult, you don’t talk to a child in exactly the same way you talk to an adult. So He talked to me when I was spiritually immature in a way that I could clearly understand Him.
Nowadays He often makes His will known to me like seeing a flash of light, clear as day, at whatever time He chooses to do so. I know it is from Him because what He reveals is beyond human knowledge. For example, the future is always unknown to us, yet we need to know what God wants us to do, where He wants us to go, whether it is later today or tomorrow. But how can we be “led by the Spirit,” as every child of God should be led (Romans 8.14), unless He reveals His will to us? If He wants me to help someone, He will reveal it to me. If really necessary, He may even reveal whether a particular person who is seriously ill will die or not. Of course, He doesn’t reveal things to satisfy my curiosity; He only does so if there is a definite need for me to know.
For example, there were two separate cases of doctors saying that two persons (one person in one case, another person in the other case) would surely die, but God revealed to me that they would not die. When I told the relatives and friends of the seriously ill persons that the sick person will not die, they responded, as one might expect, with the words, “But the doctors said he will die.” So they had to choose whether to believe the doctors or what my Lord had told me. In the end, of course, the doctors were wrong and what the Lord said to me was true. Certainly, no one blames the doctors for being mistaken, because we know that they spoke according to the best of their medical knowledge, but God’s power works beyond the limits of man’s knowledge. That is the wonder of walking with the living God.
Dead to Sin ~ Alive in Christ!
So far I have talked about Christ living in us. Now I need to draw your attention to a verse that is very short, yet is one of the most important verses in the New Testament for practical Christian living: Romans 6:7, “He who has died is freed from sin.” He who has died is free, that is, free from the most fearful thing in this world: sin. When sin is in your life, the devil has a grip on it. You don’t believe in the devil? It doesn’t matter. The devil doesn’t want you to believe in him. He doesn’t need you to believe in him, because he is very real whether you believe in him or not.
The same is true of God: If you don’t believe in God, it doesn’t change the matter. Do you think God disappears just because you don’t believe in Him? God is there. Whether or not you believe in Him doesn’t change that fact, therefore it doesn’t make any difference. But it does make a difference to you. For example, if a doctor told you that your body has a malignant cancer, and you say, “I don’t believe you,” do you think your cancer disappears just because you don’t believe it exists? That cancer will kill you; whether you believe the doctor or not makes no difference. The thing that does make a difference is how you react to it. “Oh, there is cancer in me. Now I need to know what I have to do.” But if you don’t believe, and therefore take no precautions, you will die. If you respond wisely, you might live. If you respond foolishly, you will die. God is real. Not believing in Him doesn’t change the fact of His existence. He doesn’t cease to exist just because you don’t believe in Him. But your belief or disbelief affects you yourself, because how you respond to Him is a matter of life and death.
The same is true of the devil. If you don’t believe in the devil, he doesn’t disappear. But your disbelief does affect you because you will let your guard down, you won’t be cautious any more. But the devil can’t do anything to you when sin is not controlling your life; he can’t touch you then. He needs to have sin in your life, then he has got a handle which he can grab hold of, and with it he can shake you around. Is there sin in your life? If there is, then the devil has got a grip on you. Do you have sin in your life? If you do, then the world has a grip on you too, because the world is what the devil uses to work on you. He is the “god of this world (or age)” (2Corinthians 4.4). The world is his tool. When you have sin, you are dead, my friend, spiritually dead. And the way to get out of it is to die to sin, and therefore die to the death that sin brings. The path to freedom—freedom from sin—comes from dying to sin. Have you ever experienced the joy of that freedom? Or are you simply a slave that Satan can push around as he likes? Few Christians experience complete freedom, and that is because so few Christians have experienced death—death with Christ (Romans 6:3-7).
This death through being united with Christ is not an end or goal in itself. Dying is only a door to life. Have you ever seen a Christian die, I mean physically die? There are people who have come to God just by watching a Christian die physically, seeing the sheer peace, and even the quiet joy. For them, death is simply a door to eternal life. The early church had a powerful witness to the world around them because the non-Christians were terrified of death. The fear of death is what the devil uses to control people. Are you afraid to die? Of course. You don’t know where you are going—apart from going six feet (or less) under the ground. But the one who has lived with Christ in this world knows where he is going. He is already freed from being dominated by sin, and therefore freed from fear. Sin brings fear. Free of sin, free of fear. Nothing to fear. It is simply wonderful, the freedom that comes from being dead to sin.
Finally, I want to share with you some things relating to my family life. Though these things are deeply personal and which we may prefer not to talk about, yet I don’t know any other way to witness to you about my dying with Christ and its effect on my relationship with my mother, and what the Lord did in that relationship. Some time ago I mentioned a little about my family. I said a bit about my father, but almost nothing about my mother. You see, my mother was someone I hardly knew when I was a child, because even when I was an infant I was cared for mostly by a succession of nannies. I was only five years old when World War II started. My father, being a patriotic man, joined the war effort against the aggressors by serving in the wartime government. He slipped out of Shanghai just before the Japanese army took the city. My mother and I were stranded in enemy territory for the duration of the war. She found a job to have some income, and again she hired a nanny to do the housework and to look after me. When I was ready for primary school she thought it best to send me to a boarding school, which was on the other side of Shanghai, for the first two years. I would come home only on occasional weekends, which meant I rarely saw her. Even when I was home, she was usually not at home. She was young and beautiful and, understandably, wanted to enjoy some social life when there was opportunity. All this meant that I grew up hardly seeing or knowing my mother and therefore not experiencing motherly love.
I didn’t experience motherly love except in a surrogate form, that is, a substitute form. My “amah” (nanny) was a mother to me. She brought me up. She was very devoted to me. She loved me so much that, in a way, I never really lost anything, because though I didn’t have my natural mother, I had another mother who loved me as her own child; and it could be that she loved me more than most of you have experienced from your own physical mother. So in this sense, God had already graciously provided for me; He provided me with an amah who was really more like a mother than an amah. Even so, no amah, no matter how good, is actually your own mother. So I didn’t know how to relate to my own mother.
My pet chicken
To make things worse, my mother did a few things that hurt me deeply as a child. Amah once brought me a fully grown chicken from the countryside where her home was. She had gone home for a visit, and when she came back she said to me, “I’ve got a present for you.” Children, of course, love presents. I asked, “Yes, what is it?” She opened her large basket and to my surprise and delight, out came a chicken! It had beautiful feathers, and apparently was clever too! How clever? Whenever my nanny called it, it would immediately come to her. At that time we lived in an apartment on the third floor, and there were two main entrances on every floor. This served as an intelligence test for the chicken because when my nanny called the chicken from the third floor window, how would it know which of the two doors of the building was the right one to enter? And which floor does it have to go up to? And which is the right door on the right floor? My super chicken was really something! It would know exactly how to get home.
My amah would put the chicken out in the garden; it was not a private garden but a public garden that was open to the street. Yet this chicken would never walk out to the street, it would always stay inside the garden. Who taught this chicken to stay in the garden? Remember that it was not brought up as a little chick in that garden. It was already a grown chicken when it came. And yet it would stay in the garden and feed there, and when my amah goes to the window and calls it, the chicken comes running up the stairs, through the right door, to the right floor, and right into our door! Is that not a “super chicken”? This chicken became very precious to me.
One day I came home from school, and where was my chicken? It was in the cooking pot. I demanded an explanation from my amah, “What do you mean by cooking my chicken?” “I didn’t want to cook your chicken, but your mother told me to,” she said sadly, because that chicken was dear to her too. “Why did she do that?” The explanation given was that my mother had some guests and she wanted to put more food on the table—so that’s what happened to the chicken. Now, remember that I was just a child and this chicken was precious to me. To you a chicken may not mean much, especially if it is not your pet chicken. I didn’t know how to forgive my mother for that (though I don’t recall that she ever asked for forgiveness). It was a cruelty to my pet. I looked back through my earlier years and I thought: I didn’t get anything from my mother and now what was dear to me she has taken away from me.
My Pekingese terrier
One of the greatest friends and greatest pets you can have is, of course, your dog. I had a little dog, a Pekingese terrier. It was a little white terrier, with long fur that covered the eyes so that you can hardly see the eyes. It had a round, very cute face. It looked like a little teddy bear. It was very dear to me because when I came home from school at weekend, my dog would welcome me excitedly, jumping all over me. You cannot get a warmer welcome than from a dog. I hadn’t received such a warm welcome from human beings. Isn’t it true that in many households when the husband comes home from the office, the wife is too busy cooking, washing the clothes, and looking after the baby? Often the husband is also too tired or too busy to give his wife much attention. Often neither husband nor wife has much time or energy to welcome or greet each other when the husband comes home. The thing about dogs is that they always give you a warm welcome. They jump all over you, licking all over you. I came home one day but there was no dog. No welcome. No pet. No nothing. What happened to my dog? “Oh, your mother forgot to close the door. The dog went out, disappeared into the streets and never came back.” My chicken was gone. My dog was gone. I had lost just about all that gave me joy. This was a little too much to take.
Not to receive much by way of motherly love is one thing, but to bring about the loss of the things were dear to me (even though unintentionally) is something else.
If you grow up with anger, resentment, and bitterness, what kind of person will you become? If God had not worked in my heart, I think that is exactly what I would have become. Why do I feel no bitterness at all against my mother? Why don’t I feel resentful? Why don’t I hate her? Because I have died; and in my dying with Christ, I lost the old person in me that was offended, hurt, and neglected. I entered into life without bitterness, without anger, without hatred, only because Eric Chang, who grew up without his mother’s love, without even the minimal attention from a mother, had died. I don’t suffer from any psychological effect, none whatever. Afterwards, I could even love my mother. And before she died, we became very close friends with one another. That is the evidence of God’s saving and transforming power.
Now it is evident why I have never actually talked about my mother in the past. It is because I didn’t want to say these things about her. The reason I finally do say something about this whole matter is because only by doing so can I testify about this very important aspect of the Lord’s work in my life, and then afterwards also in her life. Unless you know about the seriousness and painfulness of the situation I grew up in, and its potential for deep and permanent inner damage, you will not be able to appreciate the greatness of God’s work in changing me into a new person. By drawing me into a new life in Him, God also transformed my attitude and my relationship with my mother, which finally resulted in her being changed too.
Nowadays there is a section of the Christian church that preaches something called “inner healing”. They claim that this “inner healing” applies to everyone, but in particular to people like me who were hurt inwardly. It is true that, when I search my memory, not one example of mother’s love comes to mind. If you ask me to quote just one such incident from my childhood years, I can’t think of one. This does not prove that she did not love me; it is only to say that no expression of motherly love has been impressed upon my memory. Such a childhood is supposed to inevitably leave emotional and psychological scars on one’s mind. But I can’t find any scars. There is nothing to be healed. I don’t need to go and see a psychiatrist or psychologist and work through the effects of psychological hurts and the like. Why? Because Jesus came into my life; I died with him at baptism and rose with him to a new life in him. In dying with him, my old self with its old memories and attitudes all passed away. The old “me” had to die so that a new “me” could come into being.
To “heal” the old “self” is like patching an old garment with a new piece of cloth, which in time will make the tear even worse. In saving us, God does not patch up the old person but, in Christ, He makes a new person out of us. That is the New Testament teaching (2 Corinthians 5:17, etc). After God saved me, I began to love my mother, and I didn’t even know why! But I could do that only after Jesus had come into my life. He lives in me and he is a friend of sinners. He forgives sinners just like me, and he put his love into my heart. This love was the most powerful thing that turned my mother around, such was the wonder of what the Lord had done in me.
During the summer holidays in London, I went to her home to visit her. I can’t call it my “home” because I wasn’t really welcome there. Again, I could have felt hurt or harbored hatred, but no, I wouldn’t let that get to me. “He who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6.7), and hatred is sin.
But my presence was interfering with her private life, so my being there was somewhat inconvenient for her. So I would only stay for a short time. But when I stayed, I would wash the dishes and do the things I was not expected to do. I thought: I am not going to preach to her, but I will witness with my life. If my life doesn’t speak to her, nothing will. One day she asked me, “By the way, how do you pay for your studies? Who provides financially for your studies in London?” I told her, “My God provides.” “Yes, but surely He doesn’t drop money out of heaven.” I said, “Well, perhaps sometimes He does! In any case, one way or another, He has His ways of doing it.” She said, “I don’t understand.” Because she didn’t know the Lord, she couldn’t possibly understand that our living God looks after His children and provides for their needs when they look to Him to take care of them. After I had graduated a few years later, she said to me on one occasion, “I don’t understand how the Lord provides for you, but I see that your God is real.”
The matter of inheritance
A few years later, my father died. I was still in London at that time. My father and my mother had been separated. I find it difficult to talk about these family matters, but again I see no other way to bring out what God did in my life without making some reference to these things. Officially they were divorced, but my father had written in his will that my mother is the one to whom he bequeathed all his possessions. He loved my mother, and still hoped to reunite with her, but she didn’t want to. When he died, the executor of his will looked at it, and saw that he had instructed that his possessions were to be given to “my wife,” namely, my mother. The court refused to permit the execution of my father’s will according to that instruction unless my mother could prove that she was still his wife. She couldn’t, of course, because they were divorced. Consequently, the court decided that since my mother could not claim the inheritance, it must be given to me.
My mother wanted to contest, or at least appeal against, the court’s decision. Would we not be inclined to think, “Isn’t this going too far? You don’t want to be his wife, you don’t want to be a mother, but you want the inheritance!?” But let us remember: she was not a Christian. What then should I do in such a situation? Well, this is what I did: I said to my mother, “I will give you the whole inheritance.” I went to the lawyer, at my own expense, and instructed the lawyer to write a statement on my behalf whereby I relinquished the inheritance which the court in the United States (where my father died) had declared to be mine. So I signed away my inheritance. I said, “Give it all to my mother. I don’t want it. Give it to her. I am a servant of the Lord.” I had no money myself; and I couldn’t pay the lawyer’s fees immediately. The lawyer, who was a good Christian, was touched by what I had done, and he said to me, “I don’t want you to pay me. In the future, whenever you need legal help, you come to me and I will do it for you free of charge.” That is how the inheritance went to my mother.
A New Person in Christ
Slowly, slowly, God was working in her heart and the hardness and selfishness began to melt away. One of the most profound moments in my life came on the day she said to me, “Eric, how do I come to know the God you trust and serve? How can I know Him? Tell me how.” I asked her, “Mum, do you really want to know?” She said, “Yes, how do I get to know Him?” I said, “Well, are you prepared to kneel down here with me and open your heart to God, break with the past, yield your life completely to God, and let Him make a new person out of you? Are you willing to do that?” She said, “Yes.” I asked, “Shall we kneel down together?” She said, “Yes,” and so she knelt down with me and yielded her life to the Lord. Tears of repentance poured down. She wept abundantly. It was amazing. I can never think about this incident without feeling the power of that emotion as I looked at what God was doing in my mother’s heart. She had been a person who didn’t want to see the inside of a church, who wasn’t interested in the gospel, who didn’t believe in God, who lived only for herself, yes, for herself alone—God had now made a whole new person out of her, right before my eyes. I am a witness to this wonderful event. We became very close to one another. There was a whole new kind of love for one another. It is very hard to explain. It was just amazing.
Since my mother cannot be here to testify to how the Lord saved her and changed her into a new person, I am sure she would be happy that I have done it for her. Moreover, if she were the one to describe her former life, she would perhaps have described it in stronger terms than I would; this is because we see ourselves and what we were in the past, so much more clearly after the Lord has changed us. For my part, if I try to avoid the unpleasantness of having to mention past events and therefore do not refer to them at all, then you would have been unable to see how vast and astonishing was the change that God had accomplished in her life. She became a totally different person from the one I had known before.
Sorrow because of love
A few years after my mother came to the Lord, she passed away. I felt a deep pain in my heart. In fact, it is one of the few times (I will be honest with you and confess to you) that I was unhappy with God. I said to God, “You know, all my life I didn’t have my real mother. Now mother has come to You, she now loves You, she wants to walk with You, and I am just beginning to know that I have a mother—and You take her away. I don’t understand this. Lord, I am unhappy about this.” I confess to you that I grumbled to God. Why did He do this? To be perfectly honest with you, I still don’t quite understand. Just when we had become closer to one another, when we had a new love for one another and such sweetness—she passed away. What seemed to have been an ordinary cold developed into a vicious viral pneumonia that no antibiotic could stop. She went into a coma and died within a few days.
I never even got to say goodbye to her, not even over the phone. I was away on a mission at that time. Shortly after I returned, a telegram brought the news that my mother had passed away. Yes, I know that being a Christian is not always easy, and I frankly admit that it grieved me tremendously that God saw it fit to take her away, but I also know that there must be a reason for that which one day I will more fully understand. Until then, I am reminded by the Word of God that:
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares Yahweh. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The important point I want to emphasize is that because of my having died with Christ, I did not have any unhappiness with my mother. After I had come to know God, there was no problem to forgive. In fact, I could no longer think of anything to forgive because I—the one who had once been neglected, hurt, and so forth—had died. That Eric Chang did not exist anymore. There was a new man in whom Christ lives. And my mother encountered the saving power of God in this new man, and this power changed her, a person whose heart was so hardened that, humanly speaking, it was impossible to save such a person.
I hope that you have come to see what it means to die with Christ. I never needed any “inner healing”. I had no need for emotional healing, because once you have died, then all that which was bad and was hurt has died with you. The old life, together with its scars and sins, has passed away.
Quite recently, there was a young woman who told us that she went through the terrible experience of being painfully abused, and she was left with deep psychological scars. But after she died with Christ, she required no psychological treatment, no healing of any sort. The old had passed, the new had come. She experienced for herself the truth that the one who has died is free from past sins and hurts, free to live a new life that is enriched and made meaningful by the glory of God, the joy of God, and the liberty of God. The salvation and transformation of a person is the greatest miracle you can ever see. I have experienced and witnessed many miracles, but none is greater than the transformation of a person. There is nothing to compare with that. It is simply amazing. I visit my mother’s grave from time to time when I am in that part of the world, and I would say, “O Lord, how marvelous are Your ways!”
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church