Testimony of Jonathan Tan
Jonathan Tan shares with us how he came to faith and also his heart for Grace Baptist Church. This sharing was originally provided as a part of the Elders' elections at the English Congregational Meeting.
By God’s grace, I have served as an Elder since 2020 Feb and hope to continue serving for another term.
I grew up in a Christian family. My parents, William and Michelle Tan, are both Christians and went into full time ministry as missionaries to China when I was four. So I remember them explaining to me what moving to China would be like to prepare me for the transition. I don't remember many things before the age of four, but I remember seeing Mom reading the Bible and praying. One day before we left for China, my Mom explained the gospel to me. She also explained to me that Jesus is now raised from the dead and alive with God, and that I can invite Him into my heart to be my Lord and Saviour. I didn't really understand everything she was saying, but I trusted my Mom, and I saw how she loved God's word. And if she said it was good to invite Christ into my heart, then it was good enough for me.
Growing up in China, I knew in my head that God existed, that He hated sin, that Jesus died for my sins, and because of that I was accepted by God. I was well-mannered, I memorised Bible verses with my parents, and went to church on Sundays with other missionary families. I lived the typical life of a missionary kid. However, I had an incomplete view of God. I saw Him as mostly a Friend and Provider. And my understanding of sin was about “doing bad things”. Because I was not outrightly doing anything bad, I thought I was living the life of a real Christian. However, I was really living a me-centered life that did not honour God as Lord of my life, instead it revolved around me doing whatever I wanted, which was consumed with skateboarding and hanging out with friends.
During my senior year in high school (by this time I was in an international school). It struck me that I was soon going to leave behind what I had known, and enter the unknown of National Service and being apart from family. The big questions in my mind were: would I be able to cling to my faith in Jesus Christ after leaving my community of friends, believers and mentors? Is my faith really my own or just something inherited from my parents? And practically, would I be strong enough to withstand the temptations of strip clubs during NS R&R trips overseas? (I thought that maybe if I was able to abstain from sin that I would be able to prove to myself that I was a real Christian.) During my last few months of high school in China, I started reading my Bible with greater urgency and met up with a few guys from school regularly to pray. It was through my Bible reading that I realised I had been thinking of God as someone like myself: tolerant of sin, and thinking about me all the time. I was convicted of my sin of diminishing God. At the same time, through my prayer sessions with the guys, I was able to hear other believers openly repent of their sins. They did not know all their theology, but their prayers were honest confessions, with genuine desires to turn away from their sin and their prayers revealed what it was like to have high views of God. This both awoke me to my own sin and showed me what it was like to turn back from sin.
But I still don't think my initial questions were answered until I met a brother from GBC whom Kiyoko introduced me to. He took the time to show me how to read the Bible carefully. He helped me put together all the gospel truths that I thought I knew well, and showed me how it related to me personally.
We read the Bible together, about the Creator God who created heaven and Earth, we read about sin and how it is not just doing bad things, but fundamentally rejecting God and the order He created. Sin is thinking that God is one like myself: reducing the Creator to creation. We read that because of my sinfulness, I was utterly unable to pay the penalty for my sins before God, but Jesus Christ, God’s only Son was sent to live perfectly and die willingly for the sins I committed, and Jesus calls me to respond by repenting from my sins and putting my faith in Him daily. It was at this point that I truly understood what the Gospel was. I repented from my sins and understood what it meant to be counted holy before God because of Jesus Christ. At that point, I knew for a fact that my faith was my own.
I would like to encourage anyone today who, like me, thinks they know the Gospel, but does not feel the wonder of it to please seek out someone to closely read the Bible with you. I say this not as someone who has achieved anything, but someone guided by the sovereign hand of God who used events and people to bring me to Himself.
Now, I know that it was not so much about how well I could cling onto my faith in Jesus Christ, it was not so much about how well I was able to obey His commands, but rather that God was holding me fast and keeping me in the faith all these years even though my faith was and still will be imperfect in so many ways. And as a true believer of Christ, I now know I am to live daily in this Gospel of grace and to bring Him glory with everything He has given me. Be it as a church member, a husband, a father or as a worker. I look forward to continue life in church. To serve and love one another as we do life together, to grow in deep relationships, confessing our sins to one another and reminding each other of the Gospel.
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