Imagine someone holding his breath with the fear that the air is toxic and that breathing the air would guarantee him a lethal ending. When it came to living, that’s what religion brought me to: “don’t breathe, else I will die.”
The not-breathing part didn’t happen all at once but gradually over time. With every rule I came across, including the ones introduced by religion, I breathed significantly less and less. All the do’s and don’ts left me hanging by a thread.
At the end of the day, I would be trying hard to do something that is impossible: pulling myself away from myself. I was led to believe that I could obey God. I was led to believe that if only I tried hard enough, I could become others who seemed to be obedient to God.
Of course, there was always a similar relapse to one from a stretched rubber band. Eventually, I became so stretched in trying to please everyone, I had forgotten who I was. It wasn’t until my moment of being rejected by those I looked up to, that my tower of works and efforts came crumbling down into dust. Such was bound to happen. And thank God that just before it did, Bob Christopher had sowed the Basic Gospel into my heart.
Five years ago, in the few days before the new year 2013. I heard the gospel in the most plain yet bold way ever. I heard it, not as a message to me, but as a living testimony of another. To me and all the listeners that day, Bob presented through the radio program his testimony. He shared how he struggled to be God’s guy by every imaginable mean. And then he shared the gospel as his way out of such struggle.
Immediately, I thought that if this could be for Bob, then it can be for me too. Holding his testimony as one to reflect upon over and over again, I discovered a lot of similarities to who I thought I was and who I was trying to become. Bob’s declaration of freedom in Christ wasn’t out worries or concerns to his listeners but joy, pure joy, pure infant joy of being set free from the many paths of bondages by the simple fact of being loved by God.
And of course, if there ever was a gospel that I once heard, it was “do my part, and God will do his part” and also, “do my part to preserve what God has done for me”. Bob Christopher, Richard Peifer, and Andrew Farley suddenly became my colleagues leading me like a young child into who I am before God for all eternity.
So when the rug of religion, the rug of all my religious works and beliefs was to be pulled from underneath my feet, I had the gospel, the basic gospel, to stand upon firm and rejoice. It was like waking up from a bad dream. It was like breathing for the very first time. Forever grateful for the change, I am. Forever grateful that I can finally breathe.
I took everything these colleagues said and pondered over them while asking myself, “Could this be true?” And every conclusion of my research was, “Hallelujah!”
The hymns, the worship songs, the words of Christ, the letters of the Apostles, everything in truthful reference to Christ, suddenly had clear meaning to me. And I then found myself rejoicing day after day like a newborn baby, smiling and laughing and dancing and singing, not just because I can but because it brought so much joy to my heart and mind in remembering what I never thought could have ever been, that Jesus is my kinda guy that I’ve been trying to be but couldn’t. It brought so much joy to my heart to know that both what he did for me, who he is to me and who he is in me, are all more than enough for me and I can rest because I am at rest.
It was a much needed change for a year end to meet an upcoming new year. Even if I didn’t get to see that new year, knowing the truth of the love of God was more than enough for me within the first few seconds of hearing it because it brought life, eternal life to me, in ways I never knew ever existed. I got to breathe again. Hallelujah. I got to breathe again. The joy shared by those individuals in sharing their way out of struggles, such joy caused me to breathe again when I thought, “what if it was true?” and that my heart, when aligned by God with the Scriptures, and the Hymns, the very testimonies of those who came before me, burst into joy to sing at the highest pitch, “IT IS TRUE!”
Hallelujah. It is true. Thanks be to God through Christ by His Spirit that is it true. Amen.