Nathan Chau is a first year Peach player in Smash, second year mechanical engineering student, third year movie actor wannabe, fourth year volleyball fan, and nineteenth year germaphobe.
I grew up attending various Roman Catholic churches near San Francisco that shaped my spiritual beliefs for the first eighteen years of my life. I believed heaven existed, but that it was attainable through my own merit—by my human effort to refrain from wrongdoing. And that was such good news to me because in my own ignorance, I believed that I was a righteous and moral person. I undoubtedly thought that God reserved my spot in heaven because I would never do anything wrong enough to condemn myself to hell. I fed myself this comforting lie so much that nothing I ever did became “wrong enough” in my own eyes, let alone God’s eyes. This pride of mine justified no need for God in my life, and so for eighteen years I shamelessly paraded around as god of my own life. The reality is that my hard and impenitent heart was storing up an unfathomable wrath for myself on the day of God’s righteous judgment (Romans 2:5). I did not know my Creator, much less love and fear Him.
But God is merciful. When I was twelve, God saved my older sister in college and she guided me away from the false instruction of Roman Catholicism and led me to the biblical teachings of a Protestant Christian church. However, I went to the church with no family nor friends since my parents didn’t attend with me and I was the only middle-schooler among a congregation of adults more than twice my age.
But God is faithful. He kept me in that church, although I voluntarily hardened my heart to the preaching of the Gospel. I was presented the reality that God’s righteous judgment will be revealed on the day of wrath upon all sinners, which I refused to believe includes me. By my unrighteousness I suppressed the truth (Romans 1:19) and laboriously indulged in the lusts of my flesh. I was prideful, displaying humility before others only to glorify myself. I was idolatrous, valuing education only as a means to wealth and material possessions. I was selfish, loving others only as an avenue to love myself. My entire life was marked by an intense pursuit of the money and glory that I thought would source my greatest joy, and I was completely ignorant to the possibility of there existing anything more satisfying in life than the pleasures that the world has to offer.
But God is sovereign. One Sunday morning during my senior year, my pastor quoted C.S. Lewis on worldly joy,
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
I was insulted by this radical proposition that I don’t know what makes me happy—the worldly pursuits I had dedicated my life towards in the name of my happiness were somehow foolish. But I was intrigued by the mentioned rewards of the Gospel, so I determined to find out all that I could about this infinite joy God offers. After graduating high school, I met with a church elder throughout the summer to read the book of Romans in the Bible, and I beheld the power of God’s Word for the first time. Scripture slowly stripped away my pride and showed me that I’m not as righteous as I deceived myself to believe (Romans 3:10-18). I am, under all my facades, a sinner filled with every manner of evil, ruthlessness, and everything in between (Romans 1:29-30). God convicted me of how far I fall from His glory (Romans 3:23), and this truth led to the most terrifying one of all: I was not heaven-bound… I was hell-bound, sprinting the course straight towards the punishment that all sinners deserve (Romans 2:8-9).
But God is love. God’s Word presented to me the glorious good news of the Gospel: God offers me a free gift of salvation from His wrath upon my sin through faith in Jesus Christ, the human Son of God who is Himself, God (Romans 4:5, 22-25, John 1:1, 14). The Bible also speaks of the cost of following Jesus, and I knew I would have to submit my life to God to be a Christian (Romans 6:17-18). I was strongly tempted to neglect repentance, to get the best of both worlds by trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins while continuing in them, to accept Jesus as Savior but refuse Him as Lord. But my loving Father shepherded my heart in showing me that I must necessarily pursue the superior satisfaction that is found only in Him and not at all in the fleeting pleasures of sin… the holiday at the sea rather than mud pies in a slum. A couple weeks into college, after years of rejection in my heart, God’s grace brought me to wholeheartedly embrace Jesus Christ and His work in my life! Jesus’ death paid the penalty for all of my sins and He reconciled me to God, whose wrath has been appeased and who now frees me from all condemnation (Isaiah 53:5, Romans 5:11, Romans 3:24-25, Romans 8:1). Despite my utter unworthiness to be saved, God found worth in me. Even though I don’t deserve salvation or any gifts of grace, God lavishes both on me. Although my entire life is stained with sin, God washes me clean and now sees the righteousness of His sinless Son in me as He saw my sin in Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). I will be praising Him for these joyous truths for all eternity!
My life since God saved me has been a joyful conforming to the heart of the psalmist who writes in Psalm 37:4,
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
I’ve realized and experienced that greater than any sinful indulgence is the lasting joy found only in God: to be undeserving and saved from a spiritual death, to have a loving Father who gives only good gifts to me, to spend an eternity with my Savior, and now to obey God in doing the good works that Christ purified me for (Titus 2:14, Ephesians 2:10). This pursuit of joy in God severed me from a life that relentlessly abuses His grace, and I long for God not to fulfill my own desires but to plant His desires into my own heart. God promises that enjoying Him leads to pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11), so I can rejoice in worshiping and glorifying Him through prayer, reading His Word, fellowship, and killing sin. I still too often grovel in the muddiest pits of the slum; I’m prideful, idolatrous, selfish, ungrateful, unloving, and ungodly in too many ways. Yet God gives me faith that how far I fall cannot compare to how far He removes my transgressions from me, for my sins are many but His mercy is more! Praise God!
May my testimony be a declaration that the many twists and turns in the path of my life were hand-drawn with love by my sovereign Creator, who guided me through them Himself, all to His own glory. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)← All Posts