Hey everyone, I’m Valerie in case you don’t know me, and I’ve been at Gracepoint for around seven years now. I’ve known of Jesus my entire life, so that’s why I’m really excited to share with you all today how God has been working to regenerate, redeem and reconcile me to Him through Christ.
I grew up in a first-generation Christian Asian migrant family. I was brought up with a Christian faith, Christian values and had Christian knowledge. We went to church on Sundays and Bible study groups regularly. I was a kid who loved reading so I read the Bible vigorously. I was even the number one kid in my Sunday school class, who had the most knowledge of the Bible. I was really good at memorising Scripture verses, and my parents made me and my sister recite them in both English and Chinese, as well as writing them down. I knew all the bible stories from Old Testament to New Testament. I also knew the story of salvation – that Jesus died in the cross for my sins to reconcile my broken relationship with God. But in hindsight, all this was just intellectual knowledge.
As I entered high school, I went through an edgy rebellious teenage phase – where I promptly followed what all my friends were doing, forgot about God’s presence, and conformed to ways of the world. I would do things such as disobeying my parents, lying, swearing, sneaking out for social events and being a public nuisance. By God’s grace, I didn’t go down the extreme path of drugs or underage drinking (which could have actually been a genuine possibility). But coming from a super conservative Asian family, this was the equivalent of illegal activities. Ultimately upon reflection, I was caught up in the empty pursuit of self-worth, self-pleasure and desiring approval from others. This was incredibly exhausting, hard to maintain, and induced much doubt about my entire life.
Fast forward to Year 8, and my mum forced my sister and I to attend a Christian women’s youth camp in Melbourne. With no choice, I went. But there I saw young women who loved God and lived for Jesus wholeheartedly with great devotion, faith and passion. I started questioning my own faith and I wondered why I didn’t love God like that? Then I realised that my so-called faith was actually intellectual knowledge, and I had never genuinely repented of my sins and submitted my life to Jesus. The Holy Spirit opened my eyes of my heart to see the fact that I indeed was a sinner against God. By God’s grace, I realised that I was born in iniquity and corruption, prone to evil, and incapable of doing anything good. Despite my sin against Him, God pardoned me and declared me righteous before Him because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. All he asks is that I believe in His Son and put my faith in Him, and that I did – I gave my life to Jesus, trusting solely in His work to save me from my sin, to reconcile me back to God and to live the rest of my life for Him.
Salvation in Christ meant true freedom. No longer did I need to seek the approval of others. No longer did I need to find worth in how others perceived me. No longer did I need to obsessively care about how I presented myself to the world. No longer did I need to find the next new thing that could consume my time and energy and give my life meaning. I had a new identity in Christ, and my worth was as God’s adopted child who was saved by His grace. What now mattered was how God saw me and approved me – holy, righteous and justified because I was covered by the atoning blood of Christ. Instead of rebelling as I saw fit and living for my own selfish pursuits, my life was now bought by Christ’s blood. My exhausting pursuit of approval, self-worth and living for myself was over.
As high school went on, I wanted to seek God and understand what it meant to live for Him, but I didn’t really know how to grow spiritually. I did my daily devotions and attended church youth group, conferences and camps, but everything was still done in routine. I don’t even think I grasped the concept of growing in maturity and faith. In the words of 1 Peter 2:2, I was a newborn infant, except I did not crave pure spiritual milk that would help me grow up in my salvation.
By the grace of God, this all changed when I decided to do a gap year program for youths with SMBC called ‘The Bridge’. Here I learnt the intricacies of Scripture like how to read, digest and treasure it. I learnt theology and doctrine, and continued to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. Here I learned the power of prayer to an almighty all-authoritative sovereign God. Last but not least, I learnt about God’s mission – how he was working in his world to redeem his chosen people of all nations, tribes and backgrounds, and of the world’s great need for Jesus.