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5. Christ Lives in Me

Chapter 5

Christ Lives In Me

God works miracles

In this section of my testimony, I will describe additional things that God had done during the ten years or so of my time in London. Ten years is a long time, so I can only select a few events and even then I will have to leave out many details. I looked to the Lord and asked Him, “What do You want me to say about Your deeds?” What­ever God does is inherently unique in character, and we call it the miraculous. Everything God does is miraculous to us because it is not natural; and what is supernat­ural astonishes us. I aim to share those incidents for which there is no human explanat­ion, that is, for which you can’t come up with a plausible psycholo­gical or human explanat­ion to account for them.

Learning to let Christ live in me

We mentioned earlier that the whole Christian life, if it is genuine, is miraculous. If it isn’t miraculous, then it isn’t God who is work­ing. Whenever God works, the miraculous happens. The Christ­ian life be­gins with dying and ends with life, the reverse of what happens in the physical world. We begin by being crucified with Christ (Gal.2.20) and through this God raises us up into newness of life (Rom.6.4).

To drive home the point about dying, what I will do today is to describe the matter in reverse order. It means that I will first talk about my life in Christ or Christ living in me, as the song says, “Christ lives in me”. I don’t live any­more, but Christ lives in me.

It is vital to un­derstand that we experience God’s miracles working in us and through us only if Christ lives in us. What worries me about many Christ­ians is that they hardly ever experience anything of God’s work that can be properly called miraculous or supernatural. 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 will appear to us as miraculous. He doesn’t do amazing things just to impress us or other people. But when we live the life of Christ, walking along his path, living to serve him, miracles are bound to happen regularly.

A motorcycle that taught me to trust in God

Earlier in my testimony, I said that I had 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 150cc British motorcycle, which was fairly power­ful and heavier than most motorcycles we see on the streets of Malaysia, many of which are around 80cc. For a poor student like me who owned next to nothing, a motorcycle was a valuable possession. The friend from whom I bought the bike had been a classmate of mine at the Bible Institute; he was also a graduate of Cambridge and was soon going to Japan as a missionary. So he sold me his motorcycle for £50. For a poor student, that is a lot of money. I couldn’t pay the whole amount in one go, so he kindly allowed me to pay it in installments, whenever the money became available.

Someone stole my motorcycle

Not long after I had bought the motorcycle, something happened. At the time I was staying in an apartment shared with two Malaysians. The one from Ipoh was studying architecture; the one from Kuala Lumpur, a brilliant scholarship student, was studying electrical engin­eering. One day an American-born Chinese brother visited us and stayed in my room with me. We had some time of fellowship, and finally said good night and went to bed. A few minutes later, I heard a distinctive click coming from outside our window. I knew it was the sound of my motorcycle stand being pushed up. I knew that some­body was messing around with my motorcycle three floors down. I jumped out of bed, rushed to the window, looked down, and saw two guys sitting on my motorcycle. The one in front was kick-starting it. I ran down the stairs full speed and was about to grab the guy at the back when the engine started and the motorcycle sped off. It was gone.

But what I want to stress is this: There was total peace in my heart over the loss of the motorcycle. I experienced the heavenly supernat­ural peace which 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). You can rightly say I had lost my only possession which had substantial monet­ary value. More­over, it affected my transportation because I would usually take it to college or church. Now I had to take the underground trains and pay what to me were expensive fares. The motorcycle may be gone, yet the beauty about Christ living in you is that the world means nothing. It doesn’t matter; I didn’t let it bother me. I went upstairs, com­mitted the matter to God, went to bed, and promptly fell asleep.

My American friend couldn’t believe what he saw. He said to me the next day, “I don’t understand you.” I asked, “Did I do something wrong?” He said, “No, your mot­orcycle just got stolen, and you go back to bed and drop off to sleep!” I said, “What’s the problem?” He looked at me in dis­belief. We were talking two different languages. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away apparently thinking, “This guy is hard to understand.”

I think he expected me to react like a “normal” human being and be upset that I had lost my most valuable possession, my motorcycle. He could not under­stand how it didn’t bother me at all. He knew that I didn’t have so much money that I could go out and buy another motorcycle. I couldn’t, but it didn’t bother me in the least. This peace is not “normal”. Is there any human explanation for such perfect peace? Or is this not a case of how we can experience for our­selves the peace which Paul speaks of in Philippians 4:7? It is a peace beyond hu­man under­standing, a peace that guarded my heart and mind in Christ so that I remained undisturbed in the con­fidence that every­thing remained under the Lord’s control.

How would you feel if things in the world don’t go your way? Do you sit there and say, “Lord, I am living for You and have given you my life, yet You allow my motorcycle to be stolen! What kind of God are You? You could have protected my motorcycle.” Isn’t this how the human mind reasons? What do you believe in God for if He can’t do anything for you? He can’t even protect your bike!

Yet I was not the least bothered because I knew that God had a good reason for this, though I didn’t know what it was. It was good enough for me that since He had given it to me, He can take it away: “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.

Do we have this kind of thinking? Has it been transformed? Not in the case of many Christians, which is why we have nothing to witness to. We have no impact on people. But when God changes our lives, we become different; we have perfect peace in those circumstances in which normally there would be no peace. That is why my American friend looked at me in disbelief. You don’t even have to say anything; 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 for training in pastoral ministry. I did not know of this until many years later.

Witnessing is not a matter of talk. We can talk our mouths dry but what counts is the kind of life we live, a life that moves people to say, “This guy is extraordinary. What is the secret of his life?”

What is more, because my motorcycle was stolen, it set off a chain of events that I will explain in a moment. Meanwhile, as required by law, the next day I visited the police station to report the theft. They told me that the chances of finding a motorcycle in a city like London are close to zero. London is a big city with too many motor­cycles. I told them, “That’s okay. I am just letting you know that it was stolen.” A few days later, I got a call from the police, “We’ve found your bike; come to the station to collect it.” So I went there and got it back. Whoever was rough-riding the motor­cycle did some damage to it. The rear brake was damaged, and there seemed to be a leak somewhere in the engine which I could not locate. But do I allow these things to become a cause for complaining?

You see, I was 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 defective brakes can be deadly. In this case, relying on the front brakes alone can be dangerous because the bike would be unable to stop fast enough at high speeds and could skid if the road is wet, which is a common condition in England. When a motorcycle skids, it is not like being in a car that has four wheels; you can fly off the bike and be killed.

Westward to Wales

Defective brakes and impending rain

Much of my testimony regarding my London years is about wit­nessing. It was my constant joy to witness for the Lord, and I did this with great determination. For the school term break, I had arranged with my friend to go to Ireland to evangelize together. But my motorcycle was now damaged. If I had used the little money I had to repair the brakes, I wouldn’t have money to go on the mission. But if I go on the mission, I wouldn’t have money to repair the brakes. So what was I to do? I asked God, “What do You want me to do?” And He gave me clear confidence: “Just go, and I will be with you.”

It doesn’t mean that we can be careless. When we were setting out, we listened carefully to the weather fore­cast. I usually don’t pay attent­ion to the weather forecast, but when you are going on a motor­cycle trip, it is wise to pay attention. 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 that day or not? Rain is expected, so should we delay our departure?” Rain was forecast for several more days. After waiting further 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, so we entrust the whole situation into Your hands.” God granted us His peace and so we went forth.

The two of us set out for Ireland on two motorcycles. To go from London to Ireland, you would travel west through England and Wales. I still remember that the road was the A40 which runs through Oxford, and from there we went on to Wales.

We looked at the sky and saw something I had never seen before. Looking west in the direction we were heading, the sky was all clear. The sky was blue in front of us but black behind us. Have you ever seen anything like it? A north-south line stretched right across the sky: blue in front, black behind! I looked up and said, “My God is going to do some interesting things today.”

My friend and I prayed together, and rode off towards Oxford, then through Oxford westward. Whenever we looked up, the line was following us! Where our motorcycles were, right above us was always 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 west.

As we were approaching Wales, I suddenly remembered some­one from a nearby Catholic monast­ery whom I had wanted to wit­ness to. So I said to my friend, “Let’s pause our journey and witness to a monk in the monastery.” He said, “What? Witness? Look at the black clouds, we’ve got to keep ahead of the clouds.” I said, “Let us do God’s work and leave the weather to Him.” My friend 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 miraculous 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. It got darker and darker until we couldn’t see much of what was above us anymore, but we rode on.

Stranded in the darkness of the night

During the travelling, we would take turns riding in front with the other following behind. This was especially helpful in the dark because riding in front in the dark and relying only on your headlight requires greater alert­ness and is tiring. The one behind just follows the tail­light of the one in front, so he can get a little rest on a long ride. 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. My electrical system was powered not by a bat­tery but by a dynamo that generated electricity for the lights. It means that while the engine is running there is light; but when the engine stops, the light goes out.

My friend asked, “What happened?” It turned out that I had run out of gas. There was a small leak in the engine because of the damage done by the thieves, and we didn’t know that the gas was draining faster than usual. My friend, who rode a similar motor­cycle, needed no additional gas at this time. In fact he didn’t need any more for the rest of the day. What were we going to do? We were in the countryside in the middle of nowhere, in pitch darkness. We prayed and committed this whole matter to the Lord. Then my friend rode off, and I watched him as his lights disappeared over the hill. Now I was standing in the darkness by myself, just looking to the Lord.

A few minutes later, I saw a light coming back. My friend was holding 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 petrol.” Do we see the timing of God’s work? Neither of us knew there was a gas station there. God knew, and He did not allow the engine to die until we got close to the station.

The Lord tests our faith all the time, to test whether we trust in Him. What is faith? Faith involves 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 remarkable things all along the journey. In this particular incident, my friend realized that God’s timing is amazing. He arrived at the garage just as the owner was locking up. Can you imagine what our situation would have been if my friend had arrived five minutes later and the man at the garage had left?

I filled the tank, and we rode on to Wales, to the small town of Caerphilly where we were to stop for the night. When we got to the house in Caerphilly, do you know what happened? When we re­moved our things from the motorcycles and stepped inside the door, at that very instant the rain came pouring down. If the rain had pour­ed while we were still riding our motorcycles, we would have been blinded by the rain, utterly soaked, and in great danger because Wales is a hilly place. The road goes up and down, left and right, and if your brakes don’t function properly, you could be in real danger. In fact 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 during those three weeks! Walking with God is a privilege!

When we stepped in through the door in Caerphilly, it was as if we stepped on some device on the floor that activated the sudden down­pour. I looked at my friend and saw his mouth drop open as he stared at the rain. The timing was so aston­ishing, indeed awesome. Can you think of a human explanation for all this? Shall we call it a coincid­ence? When you walk with God, there will be one “coincidence” after another until there is no more coinci­dence to talk about, for 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 by that statement, he asked, “Do they even know you are coming?” I said, “No, I don’t think so.” “Then how can 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 them this Sunday.” He looked puzzled.

One day after we had arrived at the town (I think it was 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, “What hap­pened to the message that God gave you for 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 probably thought that I had heard the Lord incorrectly.

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. He couldn’t talk properly. His throat was hoarse and he whispered, “I am the man who is supposed to preach this Sunday, but I lost my voice during the night. Would you be so kind as to preach in my place?” I said, “No problem, I would be happy to.” My friend looked at me, “Your God is real. Oh my, He is real!” Mind you, although he was a Christian, he had never experienced the Lord in this way, and that is true of many Christians today. My friend found all this truly awesome. I told him in advance that God had given me a message for the church in Caerphilly, but he found it hard to believe. And when we were told after our arrival that they had already arranged a preacher for Sunday, it seemed clear to him that I had been quite wrong. But now he was amazed.

In recounting this incident, I want to stress that it doesn’t mean that I was any better than this brother from a Bible college who had lost his voice. Not at all. God would sometimes give a mess­age through one person and at an­other time through someone else. He is the Lord, so He chooses whom He speaks through 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.

What about my friend who traveled with me on this three-week mission trip? His whole life was transformed, not because I preached to him but because he saw what God had done and was stunned. He said he had never seen such things before. And do you know what? 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 into the ministry. But that is another story.

Sharing Christ’s life in Cambridge

During my time 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 of experiencing God is to witness, and then you will see what He can do in people’s lives. I can give you account after account of how people turned to the Lord, and it was not because of any eloquence in my witness­ing. In fact, I oftentimes didn’t even have to start a conversation, yet the Lord drew the person to Him­self. An example is a Vietnamese student in Cambridge who later became a good friend of mine.

I would often go to Cambridge even though I studied in London because London is a big and bustling city. I was busy in the church, so it was often hard to find the quiet that I needed for study. I loved the quietness of Cambridge. Whenever I was in Cambridge, I would have a strong urge to witness, and 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 designated a house for Biblical research, many graduate students living there were not do­ing Biblical studies but their doctoral studies in engineer­ing or some other major. They were allowed to live there if rooms were available, provided they were graduates and 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 worked hard 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 whom she would like me to meet. She asked me, “Would you like to witness to him?” I said, “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 a way to start a conversation with questions like, “Are you by any chance going to church? Do you know Christians?” It is amaz­ing that when God works, He speaks to the other person at a deeper level. I would often just keep quiet.

After briefly introducing ourselves to each other, the Vietnamese student immediately said, “I am a Buddhist, are you a Christian?” I said yes, and he went straight to the point: “Tell me about Christian­ity.” Right from the start he 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 Buddhist), but I am not satisfied with it, so tell me about Christianity.” That evening, little more than an hour 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 story.

Let me tell you about a student from Taiwan whom the woman at Tyndale House had invited for tea. She would often invite people for tea in Tyndale House, and then 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 like to tell his story because some time later I saw him and he was full of joy. He said, “You know, God is wonder­ful.” I asked, “What did you experience?” He said, “I have to tell you something. The other day I was walking on one of the streets in Cambridge (the narrow road from Tyndale House to the city center). As I was walking on the road, I wanted 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 the 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 don’t know what mathematical economics is, though we know that econom­ics is becoming more and more connected to mathematics. Here he was, like a child; he wanted to pray, so he closed his eyes. He said, “You know, I walked the entire road praying with my eyes closed and I never hit the wall or the trees!” I know the road he was talking about, the one with a narrow sidewalk. You couldn’t even walk on it with your arms stretched out, that was 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 are quite good. He walked down the entire road without hitting a tree or the wall. 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 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 childlike!

There was a student from Hong Kong whom I got to know just by knocking on his door. The nice thing about witnessing in Cambridge is that you can just 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, “Hmm, by the way, have you ever read the Bible?” “No.” “Do you have Christian friends?” “No.” You don’t know where to go from there; it’s so awkward. 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 God works.

As if he was afraid that he had just opened a door he won’t be able to close, he said, “Don’t try to convert me. Just tell me how you be­came a Christian.” I said, “Sure. That’s fine.” I could give him that assur­ance because 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 transform the human heart. With that assurance, 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 everyone out and they will be tired of your talking. 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 for a bit 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 in Cambridge, after completing their first three years, 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 moved to London, where did he stay? Oh, God always knows what to do. The student ended up staying 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 didn’t want any­one to pressure him. He was hungry to know God, so I shared more with him. Later on we had to leave London because I was taking up a ministry in Liverpool. The work there was very busy, and I eventually lost contact with Arthur, this medical student.

Many years had passed, and one day I said to myself, “Whatever hap­pened to Arthur?” Then later, 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 in Hong Kong. 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 about to be interviewed. Then his name was displayed on the screen: Professor Arthur Lee! I seldom watch that particular local news program, but I happened to be watching it that evening. Arthur had become the head of the medical department of Chinese University and also Professor of Surgery, teaching at the well-known Prince of Wales Hospital. We had finally located him after all these years. That 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 said, “How about lunch toget­her?” He invited us to meet him at an exclusive club in Hong Kong. Being ig­norant of these clubs, I didn’t even know it was some high-class place until I got there. After lunch, I tried to pay but he smiled and said, “You can’t pay. You’ve got to be a club mem­ber.” Anyway, the main thing I wanted to know about him was his relationship with 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 lives being transformed by God’s love and power. Is there any greater joy or 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 already knows the Lord, I didn’t see the need to contact him, at least not unless God leads me to. What God does is truly amazing.

The joy of witnessing: seeing God change lives

Many of the things I am sharing with you today I have already shared in various messages over the years as illustrations of experien­cing God. When we were in Kuala Lumpur a few days ago, I said to Helen, “To find out how I have been wit­nessing for the Lord through the years, all you need to do is to listen to all my messages, take the stories out, arrange them in sequence, and there you’ve got my witness. Then I don’t have to share anything here.” She said, “Yes, but the problem is that you’ve preached several hundred messages. It would take a long time to dig out all the stories from these messages.” I guess that is why I have to give the accounts here.

I stress again: It is a tremendous joy to witness for God and to see His power working in people’s lives. I have seen so many changed lives. Preaching God’s word can also change people’s lives but I always put in my own witnessing as much as possible in my preaching.

One of the great joys of preaching the gospel in London or Liver­pool was see­ing people’s lives being changed in front of my eyes. As I witnessed to them and preached God’s word to them in those years, it was amazing to see people being transformed. Witness­ing is something that is and should be close to every Christian’s heart.

Another time I experienced God deeply in connection to witness­ing was when I was staying at the Foreign Missions Club in North London. One evening as I was studying, the Lord spoke to me very clearly and distinctly: “Eric, get up and go down to the YMCA in central London.” Nowadays, people think it strange that God would speak to us, but why such doubts? The Bible is full of such examples. Have we not read in the Bible that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets would often proclaim a message from Yahweh God with the words, “Thus says the Lord” (literally, “Thus says Yahweh”)? Do you think the prophets dared to in­vent those words? Would they dare to say that Yahweh had said something when He hadn’t? Certainly not. God would speak something to the prophets in a way that they could hear it. And having heard what He had said, they declared it with the prefatory 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, to those in whom Christ lives.

God said to me, “Get up and go to the YMCA.” So off I went to the YMCA, but not without some mumbling over the fact that I had a lot of home­work to do. I was wondering how I was going to complete my work if I had to go to the YMCA. I was also wondering what I was supposed to do there. Anyway, I got on my motorcycle and went on a long ride to the city center. The YMCA was 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.” As I stood inside the YMCA wondering what to do, the Lord directed my attention to the 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 him.” As I went towards him, I asked God, “What am I supposed to say to him?” I had never met him before, and had no idea what I was to say. The Lord said, “Ask him if he needs help.” Would you normally stop a stranger in public and ask, “Do you need help”? Well, I asked him, “Do you need help?” I was surprised when he said yes. I no longer remember what kind of help he needed, but what mat­tered was that we got into a conversation, and soon we were talking about spiritual things. He was older than I, being perhaps in his forties. I, being much younger, felt it was not approp­riate for me to be the one helping him on the spiritual level. So I arranged for him to meet the pastor of our church the next day. There and then, he came to the Lord!

When this gentleman later told me his side of the story, I realized just how amazing God’s leading is. One cannot think of any human explanation to account for the course of events. The day I met him, he had just arrived from Taiwan where he was a high ranking govern­ment official. He was on his way to Geneva as a repre­sentative for some trade talks. I didn’t ask him for the details. He had just arrived in London, and didn’t 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 he had only two days in London, only one of which was a complete day. Either he comes to the Lord now, or will never. After the conference in Geneva, he was to go back to Taiwan; so he had only those two days in London.

Later it struck me that this is like what happened when Philip went to meet the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert (Acts 8:27-39). The eunuch was a government official who was on his travels when Philip met him; so Philip’s timing had to be perfect or he would have missed him. When Philip met the eunuch in the desert, he found him reading a Bible passage in Isaiah. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” That is to say, “Do you need any help?” The eunuch needed someone to help him understand its meaning, and Philip was there to explain it to him. Then and there the eunuch yielded his life to God.

This was what happened in the case of the govern­ment official from Taiwan when he committed his life to the Lord. The timing was marvelous. Had I not listened to God or obeyed 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 setting off for the confer­ence in Geneva: “It is amazing. I was looking for God. I didn’t think that I would find God, or God would find me here in London.” This had to happen exactly within that short window of time. Is there a human explanat­ion for this? Our God is amazing. I am filled with wonder 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 weren’t listening to the Lord?

Deep and direct communication

For the sake of clarification, something else needs to be said. You may have noticed that all the experiences I have shared happened when I was young—young not only in terms of physical age (I was in my mid-twen­ties) but also in the sense of being spiritually young. When I was still young in both senses, God spoke to me audibly on a few occasions. But when I became spiritually more mature, God would commun­icate with me in a non-audible way. He now lets me know His will direct­ly (without words) and with clarity (I know clearly that it is from God and not something fabricated 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. God has not spoken to me audibly for a long time; He doesn’t need to, because as I learn 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, He lets me know what He wants me to know or 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 a 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 with you accord­ing to your maturity or lack of it. If you are young in the Lord, He will talk to you at your level. It is like the difference between talking to a child and talking to an adult; you don’t talk to a child the way you talk to an adult. So when I was spiritually immature, God talked to me in such a way that I could clearly understand Him.

Nowadays He often makes His will known to me as though I see a flash of light, clear as day, at a time of His choosing. I know it is from God because what He reveals is beyond human knowledge. For exam­ple, we don’t know the future, yet the practical reality is that we need to know what God wants us to do or where He wants us to go, whether it is today or tomorrow. But how can we be “led by the Spirit” as every child of God ought to be led (Romans 8:14) unless He reveals His will to us? If He wants me to help someone, He will reveal that to me. If necess­ary, He may even reveal if a particular seriously ill person will die or not. Of course He doesn’t reveal things to satisfy my curios­ity, but only if there is a definite need for me to know.

For example, there were two separate cases of a doctor saying that a patient would die, but God revealed to me that the two patients would not die. In both cases, when I informed the relatives and friends of the seriously ill per­son that the 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 between believing the doctors or believing what God had told me. In the end, of course, the doctors were wrong and what the Lord said to me came true. We don’t blame the doctors for being mistaken because 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 been talking about Christ living in us. Now I draw your attention to a verse that is very short, yet is one of the most important Bible verses for practical Christian living: “He who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7). He who has died is free, that is, free from the most fearful thing in this world: sin. When sin reigns in your life, the devil has a grip on you. You don’t believe in the devil? It makes no difference. 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 facts. Will God disappear just because you don’t believe in Him? God is there. Whether you believe in Him or not doesn’t change that. But it does make a difference to you.

If a doctor tells you that you have malignant cancer, and you say, “I don’t believe it,” will your cancer disappear just because you don’t believe him? The cancer will kill you whether you believe the doctor or not. What mat­ters is how you respond to it: “Oh, I have cancer. Now I need to know what to do.” But if you don’t believe it and take no precau­tions, you will die. If you respond wisely, you may 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. Your belief or disbelief affects you yourself, and how you respond to Him is a matter of life and death.

The same is true of the devil. If you don’t believe the devil is real, he won’t disappear. But your disbelief does affect you because you will let your guard down. On the other hand, the devil cannot touch you if you are not controlled by sin. He needs to have sin in your life before he gains a handle on it and shakes you around. Is there sin in your life? If so, the devil has a grip on you. The world will also have a grip on you, for the world is the devil’s instrument to work on you. He is the “god of this world (or age)” (2Cor.4:4), and the world is his instru­ment. When you harbor sin, you are spirit­ually dead, my friend. And the way to get out of it is to die to sin, and therefore die to the death caused by sin. The path to true freedom—freedom from sin—comes from dying to sin. Have you experienced the joy of that freedom? Or are you a slave whom Satan pushes around? Few Christians experience complete freedom; that is because few Christians have experienced death—death with Christ (Romans 6:3-7).

This death with Christ—which goes together with our union with Christ—is not an end in itself, but a door to life. Have you ever seen a Christ­ian die physically? Some people have come to God just by watching a Christ­ian die phy­sically, having seen his peace and quiet joy. For such Christians, death is simply a door to eternal life. The early church was a powerful witness to the world, for the non-Christ­ians were afraid of death. The devil controls people through the fear of death. Are you afraid to die? You don’t know where you will end up apart from being buried six feet into the ground. But the one who lives with Christ in this world knows where he is going. He is free from the dominion of sin and therefore free from fear. Sin brings fear, so when one is free of sin, one is free of fear. The freedom that comes from being dead to sin is simply wonderful.

My mother

Finally, I would like to share some incidents involving my family. Although these things are deeply personal and I prefer not to talk about them, 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 God had done in her life. I have already shared a little about my family, mainly about my father but almost nothing about my mother.

You see, my mother was someone I hardly knew when I was a child; that was because when I was a child from infancy, I was cared for by a succession of nannies. I was five years old when World War II broke out. My father, a fervent patriot, joined the war effort by serving in the wartime government. He slipped out of Shanghai just before the Japanese army took the city. So my mother and I were stranded in enemy territory for the duration of the war. She found a job to earn some money, and again she hired a nanny to do the housework and look after me. When I was ready to attend primary school, my mother felt it would be best to send me to a boarding school on the other side of Shanghai for the first two years. I would come home on occas­ional weekends, which meant I seldom saw her. Even when I went home, she was often not home. She was young and beautiful, and under­standably wanted to enjoy some social life. All this meant that I grew up hardly knowing my mother and not experiencing motherly love.

I didn’t experience motherly love except in surrogate, that is, in a substitute form. My “amah” (nanny) was a mother to me. She brought me up and was very devoted to me. She loved me so much that, in a way, I had never lost anything. Although I didn’t have the care from my nat­ural mother, I had another mother who loved me as her own child. She probably loved me more than most of you have experienced love from your own mothers. In this sense, God had already graciously provided for me, giving me an amah who was more like a mother than an amah. Even so, no amah, no matter how good, is actually your own mother. But I didn’t know how to relate to my own mother.

My pet chicken

To make things worse, my mother did things that hurt me deep­ly. Amah once got me a grown chicken from her home in the country­side. She had gone home for a visit, and when she came back she said, “I have a present for you.” Children, of course, love presents. I asked, “What is it?” She opened her large basket and to my delight, out came a chicken! It had beau­tiful fea­thers and was clever too! How clever? Whenever my nanny called for it, it would immediately come to her. We were living in an apartment on the third floor, with two main entrances on every floor. This provided a way of testing the chicken’s intell­igence because when my nanny called for it from the third floor window, how would it know which of the two doors to enter? And which floor to go up? And which is the right door on the right floor? Yet my chicken would know exactly how to get home.

My amah would put the chicken out in the garden, which 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 but would stay in the safety of the garden. Who had taught it to stay in the garden? It was not brought up as a chick in the garden, but was full grown when it came. Yet it would stay in the garden and feed there. And when my amah called for the chicken from the window, it would run up the stairs through the right door, to the right floor, and right into our door! Isn’t that a super chicken? It 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 it, but your mother told me to,” she said sadly, because the 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. I was just a child and this chicken was precious to me. To you a chicken may not mean much, espe­cially if it isn’t your pet. I didn’t know how to forgive my mother for that (though I don’t recall that she had ever asked for forgiveness). It was a cruel thing to do to my pet. I thought to myself: I didn’t get anything from my mother and now she has taken from me what was dear to me.

My Pekingese terrier

One of the greatest friends you can have is a dog. I had a small white Pekingese terrier with long hair that covered its the eyes so that you can hardly see them. It had a cute round face, and looked like a teddy bear. It was very dear to me because when I would come home from school during the weekends, my dog would welcome me excited­ly and jump all over me. You cannot get a warmer welcome than from a dog. I didn’t receive such warm welcomes from human beings. In many households, the husband comes home from the office only to find his wife busy cooking, washing the clothes, and looking after the baby. Often the husband is too tired or busy to give his wife much attention. Often neither husband nor wife has the time or energy to greet each other when the husband comes home. But dogs would always give you a warm welcome, licking and jumping all over you.

One day I came home and there was no dog. No warm welcome, not pet, no nothing. “What happened to my dog?” “Oh, your mother forgot to close the door. The dog went out and never came back.” My chicken was gone, and so was my dog. I lost the thing that had given me the greatest joy. It was too much to take. Not receiving much by way of motherly love is one thing, but losing something dear to me is another.

No resentment

If you grow up harboring anger, resentment, and bitterness, what kind of person will you become? If God had not worked in my heart, I would have remained bitter. Why do I feel no bitterness or resentment or hatred against my mother? Because I have since died with Christ, and in that dying I lost the old person in me that was offended, hurt, and neglected. I entered into a new life with no bitterness or anger or hatred because Eric Chang, who grew up without his mother’s love and lacked even the minimal attention from his mother, had died with Christ. I didn’t suffer any psychological damage, none what­soever. I could even love my mother. And before she died, we became very close friends. That is the evidence of God’s saving and transforming power.

Now you can see why I have not previously talked about my mother. It is because I didn’t want to say these things about her. The reason I can finally say something about her is that in doing so, I am testifying about this important aspect of the Lord’s work in my life and later also in hers. Unless you know the seriousness and painfulness of the situation I grew up in, with its potential for deep inner damage, you will not be able to appreciate the greatness of God’s work in trans­forming me into a new person. By drawing me into a new life in Him, God changed my attitude and my relationship towards my mother, and this 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” ought to be used on everyone, in particular those who, like me, were hurt inwardly. It is true that when I search my memory, not one example of my mother’s love comes to mind. If you ask me to name just one such incident from my childhood years, I wouldn’t be able to think of one. It doesn’t mean that she didn’t love me. I only mean to say that no ex­pression of motherly love has ever been impressed on my mind. Such a deprived child­hood is thought to leave emotional and psychological scars on one’s mind, but I don’t find any scars. There is also nothing to be healed of. I don’t need to go see a psychiatrist or psychologist and analyze the effects of the psychological hurt. Why? Because Jesus came into my life; I have died with him at baptism and rose with him into a new life. 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.

The “inner healing” practice of “healing” the old self is what Jesus would describe as patching an old garment with a new piece of cloth, which over time will worsen the tear. In saving us, God does not patch up the old person, He makes a new per­son out of us, in Christ. This is the New Testament teaching (2Cor.5:17, etc). After God saved me, I began to love my mother, and I didn’t even know why! But I was able to do that only after Jesus had come into my life. He lives in me and is a friend of sinners. He forgives sinners like me, and put his love into my heart. This love was the most powerful thing that turned my mother around, such is the wonder of what the Lord had done in me.

When I was studying in London, I would visit my mother during the sum­mer break. I wouldn’t call her place my home because I wasn’t really wel­comed there. Again, I could have felt hurt or harbored hatred, but I won’t let that get to me. “He who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7), and hatred is sin.

But my presence at her home was interfering with her private life and was inconvenient to her. So I would stay only for a short time. But during the stay, I would wash the dishes and do the things I was not expected to do. I said to myself: I am not going to preach to her but will witness to her with my life. If my life doesn’t speak to her, nothing will.

One day she asked me, “How do you pay for your studies? Who provides financially for your studies in London?”

“My God provides.”

“Yes, but He doesn’t drop money out of heaven.”

“Perhaps sometimes He does! One way or another, He has His ways of doing it.”

“I don’t understand.”

Because she didn’t know the living God, she couldn’t poss­ibly un­derstand that He looks after His children and provides for their needs when they look to Him to take care of them. A few years later, after I had grad­uated, she said to me, “I don’t understand how God provides for you, but I see that He is real.”

The matter of inheritance

My father died a few years later when I was still in London. My parents had been separated. I find it difficult to talk about these family matters, but again I see no other way of sharing what God had done in my life without making some reference to these things. Officially my parents 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. After he had died, the executor of his will looked at it, and saw that my father had instructed that his possessions be given to “my wife,” namely, my mother. But the court blocked the execution of my father’s will according to that instruct­ion until my mother could prove she was still his wife. She couldn’t, of course, because they were divorced. So the court decided that since my mother could not claim the inherit­ance, it will 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, yet you want the inheritance!?” But let us remember that she was not a Christ­ian. What 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 hired a law­yer at my own expense, and instructed him to write a statement on my behalf where­by I relinquish the inheritance which the court in the United States (my father died in USA) had declared to be mine. So I signed away my inheritance. I said, “Give it all to my mother. I don’t want it. 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 help you free of charge.” That was how the inheritance went to my mother.

A new person in Christ

Slowly and over time, God worked in my mother’s heart such that her hardness and selfish­ness began to melt away. One of the pro­foundest mo­ments in my life came on the day she said to me, “Eric, how can I come to know the God whom you trust and serve? Tell me.” 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 with me and open your heart to God, break with the past, yield your life totally 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 look back at this incident without feeling the power of that emotion as I looked at what God had done in my mother’s heart. She had been one who didn’t want to see the inside of a church, who wasn’t interested in the gospel, who didn’t believe in God, and who lived only for herself, yes, herself alone. Yet right before my eyes, God made a whole new person out of her. I am a witness to this wonderful event. We became very close after that. There was a whole new kind of love for one another. It is hard to explain, but it is 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 probably have described it in harsher terms than I have. That is because after God changes us, we see ourselves and what we were in the past with much greater clarity. On my part, if I had tried to avoid the unpleasant­ness of mentioning the past events and don’t refer to them at all, you wouldn’t have seen the vast change that God had effected 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 had come to the Lord, she passed away. I felt a deep pain in my heart. In fact it was one of the few times in my life that I was unhappy with God, to be frank and honest. I said to God, “All my life I didn’t have my real mother. She has since come to You, she loves You and wants to walk with You. I am now just begin­ning to know that I have a mother, and yet You have taken 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 this day I don’t know. Just when my mother and I had be­come closer to one another, just when we had a new love and sweetness for one another, she passed away. What seemed to be 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 didn’t even get to say goodbye to her, not even over the phone. I was away on a mission at that time. Shortly after returning, I received a telegram informing me that my mother had passed away. I knew that being a Christian is not easy, but I frankly admit that it grieved me tremendously that God saw it fit to take her away. But I know there must have been a good reason for that which I will fully understand one day. 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 crucial point I want to stress is that because I had died with Christ, I did not harbor any unhappiness towards my mother. After I had come to know God, there was no problem for me to forgive her. I could no longer think of anything for me to forgive because I—the one who had once been hurt and neglected—had died. That Eric Chang no longer exists. There is a new man in whom Christ lives. My mother en­countered God’s saving power in this new man, and it was a power that changed her, a person whose heart was so hardened that, humanly speaking, it was impossible to save her.

I hope that you can see what it means to die with Christ. I never needed any so-called “inner healing”. I didn’t need emotional healing because once you have died, all the hurt and all the bad things have died with you. The old life with its scars and sins has passed away.

Recently a young woman told us that she had gone through a painful experience of being terribly abused, and was left with deep psycholo­gical scars. But after she had died with Christ, she no longer needed psychological treatment or healing of any sort. The old had passed, the new had come. She had 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, 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 greater than that of the trans­form­ation of a per­son. There is simply nothing to compare with that.

I would 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