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Jonathan

God prepared my heart for the gospel to take root in me - Too often I take for granted what a fortunate life I have had. I have caring and loyal friends, a loving family and a beautiful fiance. I received world-class education, work as a lawyer, eat great food, travel the world, and have financial freedom and security. These things promised a full and satisfying life. And whilst I can’t deny that these things gave me moments of temporary happiness, they never gave me true satisfaction, security, purpose or peace. I am always left dissatisfied and empty-handed, always wanting fuller relationships, newer experiences, a better career, and more money.

 

During university, I became friends with a number of Christians. There was something about them. They were radically generous, joyful and at peace with what life had thrown at them. They were willing to take time out of their day to tell me more about this man called Jesus. Why were they wasting their time, energy and money on me? They could have better spent their time studying, securing a better career, and saving more money for their own future. Where did they find this genuine and unshakeable peace and satisfaction?

 

Receiving faith in Jesus’ work truly satisfies - Jesus promises full and lasting satisfaction to those who want to know him and follow him. To follow Jesus is to recognise your own sin and trust that he died for your sins in order to fully experience God. Sin boils down to refusing to recognise and honour God as our true creator and provider, and not wanting any part of him in our lives. For me, one of my many sins took the form of elevating things that were created and given by God, such as money, material possessions, experiences and relationships, to a position above God and in place of God himself.

 

After being convinced of the historicity of Jesus and years of learning about the character of God, I can truly say the single most satisfying event that has affected and continues to transform my life is the fact that Jesus died and rose to life again for me. He died for me before I had even heard of him and when I was actively against him, so that I can be in the presence of God and experience him. This is the amazing grace of God - that whilst I was beyond unworthy for God, I was counted as righteous and belonging to God.

 

Following Jesus and taking up the cross - The satisfaction and peace that comes with receiving and experiencing the grace of God is in my experience immeasurably greater than any experience, relationship or amount of money in this world. By being freed from sin, I have felt a freedom and a huge burden lifted from pursuing futile things of this world, and a true freedom of being bonded to the goodness and grace of God.

 

As I continue to follow Jesus, my prayer is for God to continually transform all aspects of my life to bring glory to him; to pour out the love he poured for me, to forgive as he forgave me, and be generous as he was to me, in order that others may see and experience God’s amazing grace.

 
 
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Morgan 

So I grew up in a non- Christian family, however my mum had friends who went to church, and they recommended that she should take me to Sunday school. I must of enjoyed it and my parents must've liked not having me around the house because i started go every week. Afterwards, I started going to a youth group called boys brigade, which is like a boys scout for Christians, and in primary school i started to go scripture. So even though my family was non Christian, i was blessed enough to have a strong Christian upbringing.

 

Most of the time it was just stories to me, it was generally just a lot of fun doing all the activities but being a child i never thought too much into it. In year 6 during scripture one day, our teacher was going through a evangelical talk. He talked about how we were dirtied by sin, we were imperfect and that ‘the wages of sin is death’. Instead God who loved us, shows us his grace by sending Jesus to take our place. So when Jesus died for us, instead of seeing our sins and our dirtied imperfect selves, God sees Jesus himself who is pure and as white as snow. So my scripture teacher told us that this was a gift from God, by his grace and love, that we didn’t have to do anything for it besides accepting it. In that moment I kind of thought to myself, ‘well, i’ve heard of this so many times already, it sounds good, and it’s free, i have nothing to lose’. So at that moment i prayed that I accepted this free gift, that i believed Jesus died for me.

 

Of course i was just a kid back then, so chances are i forgot all about it by the time i got home from school. But from that point onwards i started to call myself a Christian. My decision at the time was impulsive and was made with pure innocence and naivety. And i didn't really give it too much thought until years later. One day at boys brigade one of the leaders pulled me aside and told me something that changed my life, he asked if i wanted to step up into a leadership position of sorts, and he said that ‘the younger kids look up to me’. I was shocked, you have to realise at the time i was still such an annoying brat, i was always sarcastic and making jokes, i never took anything seriously. It was at that moment i stopped to think about what i was doing, what i believed. I was calling myself a Christian, going to switch, Boys brigade and scripture, but besides that, the rest of my life was devoid of God. Was i really a christian? Did i really believe in God?

 

I began researching about christianity and other religions, looking closely at what i truly believed in, what i was dedicating my life to. It took me a while but i realised how sinful i really was, that i was in the end i deserved death for my sins.Which just made God’s grace and love so much more amazing, that Jesus had literally died, for me and my sins. I hate ever being blamed for something i didn’t do but Jesus was completely innocent and he took the punishment of my sin upon himself so i could be saved.

And to comprehend how someone had literally died for me, for the bad things I had done was life changing. And so that's what i did, i tried to change my life.

It was at this time that i found one of my favourite verses.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” - James 1:22

 

I had lived my life content to just hear the words, but i hadn’t taken to heart, and i hadn’t practice, so i started.

It was through the support of people at Boys brigade, scripture, Sunday school as well as ISCF and eventually EU which helped me grow and mature as a Christian. And in no small part my parents willing to drive me around from one activity to another. Now that i look back i can really see how God has used my life to grow me and to show me his love and grace, even in times where i thought he wasn’t there. I pray that He would continue to mature me and that everyone here can continue to support me , an i them. For those who are not Christian or unsure, i would love to talk to you afterwards, and i hope that my story helps you to consider more about who God is and what it means to be saved by Him.

 

 
 

Cynthia

I was not born in a Christian family; however, I was blessed to be able to attend a Catholic primary school for a couple of years. So I knew there was a god, but I didn't really know God personally. My religious knowledge was limited to Mass every Tuesday and hoping that my Tamagotchi isn't hungry so it won't scream during mass. 

 

Fast-forwarding to high school, I was truly blessed to have a high school friendship group with many Christians. But I was always curious as to why they would spend their Fridays and Sundays doing church activities. I thought, "Surely you can be doing something more fun or productive like watching TV or studying?". One day, they invited me to their youth group on Fridays. The experience was surprisingly fun, but frankly I didn't really know what they were talking about sometimes. At that point in time, it was a social activity for me. So, when it came to HSC crunch time, I didn't continue with that because, like the dutiful asian I am, I was to focus on my studies for HSC. 

 

My university stint marked a time of change and new experiences for me. That unfulfilled curiosity about Christianity and God was always present but I never really followed through due to internal and external pressures to study. But at uni, I had more freedom. Another blessing God gave me was that one of my good friends happen to go to church near me - Northside. So she invited me to her youth group. I went along, starting to learn more about Jesus but I lacked consistency and ultimately, youth group was a social activity for me.

 

However, mid way through uni, I experienced immense heartbreak. Despite how cliché it was, it left me devastated and I didn't know if I was worthy of love anymore. In the midst of the darkness, I was drawn to God and started to attend church more often. It started to dawn on me that God loved me unconditionally despite how unworthy and broken I was. This was the pivotal point for me as a Christian. I recognised His unlimited grace and His sovereignty in this world. I could rely on Him and, despite everything, He will love me. 

 

There was another point in my life which really solidified God's strength and love. Last year, I went through a very severe health episode which left me home-bound and in pain for 6 months. It was incredibly difficult to wake up everyday in pain. I saw myself in the mirror and was completely disgusted, despite everyone's best efforts to reassure me. Doctors couldn't do anything so it was a dark road, which I did not know if there was an end. Because of this, I desperately needed to cling onto something bigger than what the world could offer me. I turned to God for comfort and reassurance. Because He loved me, He had blessed me with a church full of loving brothers and sisters in Christ, who cared, prayed for me and checked up on me constantly. Once again, God showed me that His sovereignty and unconditional love. 

 

So through my journey, I can now boldly proclaim God loves me and all sinners. With this in mind, I want to spread this good news to the world so that others can rejoice. 

 
 
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Andrea

I grew up in a family who went to church, and so ever since I could remember I went to Sunday school, church holiday programs and girl’s brigade. I thought that since I was in a Christian family, that I was automatically by default a Christian too. At Sunday school, I enjoyed playing fun games, making craft and seeing my friends but when it came to the bible story part, it was in one ear and out the other. I didn’t think much about Christianity and didn’t question anything like why my family went to church or why I went to these activities.

 

In years 7-8 (high-school) I joined my church’s youth group and I started to pay more attention to what we were learning about. I also received a ‘daily devotional book for teens’ as a gift and I started reading through it one day, found it interesting and continued reading it. During this time, the things that I learnt were not new but I found that I could relate to it and so I liked calling myself a Christian. I liked the idea that God loves me, is always with me, understands me, is always in control ( …. but only when things were difficult) and that I could take my worries to him. However, God to me in this point of my life was distant, someone that I could ask things from and he revolved around me. I had a very basic and one-dimensional view on God, taking out the things that I liked about Christianity but not thinking about what it means to be a Christian on the days where I didn’t go to church/ youth group / feel like it. I felt that I was good where I was at.

 

In year 9, I went to a Christian event called Rice rally and that night, I felt the weight and significance of what God had done for me through Jesus, that he sent his precious and only son to die on the cross for me. God did that even though we were his enemies, having rejected him and I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly ever do that for someone else, even for a loved one. It was the gospel message that I’d heard many times before but only just realised then. I knew that I hadn’t been living the way that God had wanted me to in light of what he has done for me and I wanted to respond to what I’d just heard. Yet, going through the rest of high school, Christianity was still not my priority. I would only think about it the during times when I needed to … during church, scripture or when times were difficult, only praying and reading the bible then to rely on God.

 

Before university started, my mum’s friend suggested that I join a Christian group at UNSW, a group called Campus Bible Study (CBS). I was interested to join, I thought it was a great way to start uni and make new friends and so I joined with a social intension. However, God in his kindness and patience helped me understand what being a follower of Christ means through the bible talks, bible studies and training groups. At Mid-Year Conference (MYC) camp, the topic was on the power of the cross and what the cross represented. At that camp, I learnt what it looked like to be living the way God wanted me to and was really challenged about how I had been living prior to this. I learnt that as Christians, we are called to live a holy and set -apart life and to follow Jesus, denying ourselves and taking up our cross (Mark 8:34-35). Throughout last year, I also learnt more about God as both just and loving. Just in that the penalty (His wrath) for our disobedience and rebellion towards our Creator had to be paid, but also merciful having a promised and fulfilled plan to send his Son Jesus to take our punishment and His judgement on the cross so that we can have a reconciled relationship with Him. I also learnt the importance of reading the bible (something I didn’t do before). The bible is God’s word to us so that we can learn more about God who is faithful, sovereign and our Father, what he has done and how we should live our lives in light of this. The bible finally made sense to me, it is not an old book where we can look to sometimes when we feel like it but is the living and breathing word of God, where we can look to for his guidance.

 

I’m thankful for God’s faithfulness and kindness in how he has worked in my life and in softening my heart. He has constantly reminded me time and time again of his power and sovereignty and I’m thankful for the opportunities, events and the people that he has placed into my life who have challenged and encouraged me. Jesus is now Lord and Saviour of my life and I want the Holy Spirit to keep working in me to keep trusting him, holding on to the truth at all times, to keep my eyes fixed on the cross on what Jesus has done and to be a witness so that others may know of His grace.

 
 
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Stephnie

Four years ago, if you were to ask me about Christianity, I was indifferent. Up till then, life was imperfect but easy. Despite occasionally going to church, I have never thought about the meaning of life.

 

Shortly after life has made a dramatic turn where I went through a period of low. The experience made me wonder about my purpose. I still remember staring at the ceiling before sleep, asking myself why I am here and whether there is something bigger than life. I started reading various philosophical books but couldn't find an answer. Desperately seeking for something to believe in, the crazy me even visited a psychic once which turned out to be a total scam lol.

 

In the journey to seek truth, I was blessed to become friends with a few Christians. Their faith and passion for god amazed me. I wondered what is so great about god that they can devote all their time and energy to church week after week. This inspired me to give Christianity another go. After going to several Christian events in the city, I joined captivate and became a regular member here. I was overwhelmed (out of joy) by how lovely and welcoming everyone is in this church. In the past year I have lost count of how many people here I should be thankful for in my spiritual journey. Thank you for all the encouraging chats, short courses and bible study nights.

 

There are many moments that gradually leading up to me trusting god. It all starts from the day at the Christianity explored course where we read through the gospel story - God forgives our sins by sacrificing his own son Jesus. Someone asked an intriguing question why Jesus has to die. Later that night, I was reading a book that touched on forgiveness, and something struck me. It was written that “In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die”. If I were to forgive someone, it will be a super uncomfortable process. Something may have to die in return, for example trust or friendship. Yet god loves us so much that he can forgive us by using his own son as the sacrifice. How great god’s love is. If someone can go to such a great extreme for us, who am I to keep questioning him. That moment I saw him as a father - doing whatever he can to protect us, to discipline us, to forgive us when we are naughty and to love us even when we don’t love him. We are so blessed to have someone like him in our life. I started to understand why we come to church. It is because we love him so much that we feel joyful simply to be around him. It is the best way to end the week - to spent time with god and enjoy the relationship with him.

 

That was just the start. Later on I still felt confused about many things, spent countless nights wrestling with my thoughts and kept doubting whether he truly exists. But god has been patiently guiding me throughout my exploration. I couldn’t pin point the exact moment that I developed trust in god. It was not until time after time my struggles and questions got answered that I realised he was there helping me. That he is the shepherd leading me home. That he exists. This changes everything. With him by our side, I feel more hopeful and courageous living out my life with the knowledge that he is the loving god.

 

I would like to refer back to my favourite verse – “Not only that, but we rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character products hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because god’s love has been poured into our hearts through the holy spirit who has been given to us.” God is hope. Life will have ups and downs. Yet god’s love is unchanging. Whatever happens in life is all part of his plan so that we can have good character and steadfast faith. More importantly we will never be alone because he is always with us. Dear heavenly father, thank you for revealing yourself to us. Amen.