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Faith Journal (November 2016)

A person’s conversion is characterised by recognising that all have sinned, the wages of sin is death, there is judgement after death, and we have to invite Christ into our life as Lord and Saviour to forgive us of all sins and be ‘born again’.

For those who have been sharing the gospel, the formula is that simple. You do not have to be weighed down by any theological arguments. But for some, simplicity will always bring on its own questions. In this age and time, we tend to make simple things complicated.

My mum is 94 years old, did not have any formal education, and in recent years has been blind. In all her life, she has only known hard work and simple living, having experienced abject poverty on the farms in China when she was young. When she came to Singapore in 1957, her only goal was to be a good wife and raise her three kids despite living hand to mouth. She did well. I would call her a successful woman, not according to the standards by which we would normally judge success, but due to the fact that she raised three well-brought up children with just the clothes on her back.

Sharing the gospel with her was challenging, mainly due to the dialect she speaks. The concepts of sin and Jesus Christ were alien to her. She was brought up in the strict tradition of Taoism, a belief she carried with her from China and, to this day, she remains dutifully faithful to its observances. Always mindful that we must still share the gospel with her, this sense of urgency became all the more pressing when she was diagnosed with cancer last year.

Curiously enough, when Luis Palau was here in Singapore in 1986, she answered the altar call at the National Stadium when invited to receive Christ. I was a very young Christian then and I must have egged her on to go down to the front however little she understood of the message. Sadly, the experience ended there.

Even as we re-introduced the personhood of Jesus Christ to her again in recent years, she was not entirely receptive. She was fearful of letting go of the past. All 94 years of it. However, in recent months, she recited the sinner’s prayer with my sister – on a few occasions. Someone suggested that I should also pray with her. I did. Whenever I have the opportunity, I will hold her hands and pray for things that are closest to her heart, simple prayers that I can make her understand. She was clearly happy, presumably not just with the intimacy of a mother-son moment, for she nodded her head as I prayed.

What does all this mean to me? Is she converted? Has she crossed the line? Does conversion happen immediately or is it a process? Is the devil – the author of confusion - placing doubts in me? Should I throw away her altar and risk distressing her? Or is it just another Luis Palau moment for her?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple. Simple enough that a child can have a good idea of gospel basics by the time of his eighth birthday. The faith of children was the centre of some of our Saviour’s most significant teachings. Remember that occasion recorded in Matthew 18:1-4 when the disciples asked Him:

“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whosoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Without doubt our Saviour had in mind the implicit faith and sincerity of a little child as He answered His disciples on that occasion.

James 3:17 also says:

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

“The gospel…is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16) because “salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

There are still obstacles ahead. In the meantime, I will continue to show my mum as much love and patience as I can while I await the conviction in my heart that she has truly entered the Kingdom of God, even if it is with a child-like faith. I will continue to pray with her, knowing that the gospel is peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated and full of mercy. I see it as a process of growing, overcoming and developing. In the words of John Calvin, “we are partly unbelievers until we die”. The truth is, once God rescues sinners, His plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them deeply into it. We all need the gospel every day.