Editor’s Note: This August, we have been praying for the area of learning for the church in China. Sister Xu has spent the last year in systematic theological study, and speaks eloquently of how intentional and devoted study changed her and her relationship with God and others.
While theological education is not the only type of learning Chinese Christians are pursuing, it is an important area which CP has covered extensively in the past. This reflection gives an important window into the impact on-the-ground theological learning is having on modern Chinese believers as it shapes their worldview and outlook.
Thank you to all the pastors and colleagues for their leadership and hard work this year. It is a miracle I actually graduated; last year, when I was about a third of the way through the course, I was struggling and suffering. I felt I had overestimated myself, and wanted to give up.
But God shows his power and strength when we fall and when we are weak. After I prayed, God himself led me forward with determination. That is why we are so joyful today. I would like to share four aspects of what I have gained through my studies: a renewal of knowledge; a change of life; a methodical reflection on evangelism; and finally, spiritual transformation.
Renewal of Knowledge in the Faith
This course lasted one year. During that time, we covered the Old and New Testaments, the creeds, and biblical theology. Taking this course was like taking an aerial photo of the Bible, as our eyes were guided by the Holy Spirit. Yet at the same time, we also had an in-depth introduction to the Pentateuch and the Gospels. We saw not only the forest, but also the trees. This strengthened the foundation of our faith.
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The Bible is God’s word, the absolute truth, and is God’s message to humanity. Our faith is and must be based only on Scripture. I realized even more how important the Bible is as a divine instrument given to us by God. The world we see through the Bible is completely different from the world we see with our blind eyes. In front of this divine, God-given instrument, lies have no place to hide.
These classes have also given me a new perspective on theology. I always thought theology was the study and reflection of God. But through these courses I have come to realize theology is actually study, reflection, and response to the message God has revealed. Research and reflection are important, but response is also imperative. There is no way for us to actively think about God except through his own willingness to become an object of our thought. We also have no way to directly study God, because he is completely beyond the reach of our reason. The only thing we can do is respond to him in faith after we have received his self-revelation in the Bible!
It is clear to me God has shaped my worldview through this year of study. This is a wonderful feeling. The silent power of these courses is like the power of water, which gently washes over a piece of rock, and slowly changes its shape over time.
In particular, certain lessons on early history left such a deep impression on me that I felt as though I experienced a visible change in my vision. Suddenly I was able to see the world from a higher dimension. It was as if I had grown eyes in both the front and the back. The greatest miracle in a believer is a changed life.
Methods of Evangelism
I came to faith more than a decade ago, but this was the first time I systematically studied theology. These courses not only showed me the beauty of biblical theology; they also helped me build a Reformed theological perspective. As you know, evangelism is for all kinds of people: both the godless and the godly. Every person has their own preexisting, position, whether that is godly or ungodly. Evangelism is preaching God’s glory, manifest in the salvation of man through Jesus Christ. But it is more than that. It is also a way to express our theological positions to the other person.
Because I have experience in Three-Self churches, broadly evangelical churches, and also in Baptist churches, I was confused and uncertain when it came to theological views and positions. This created great confusion in the process of evangelism. If a seeker had questions because they received different messages from different denominations, I felt very powerless. Many of their questions were actually the same questions I struggled with. It was impossible to give them answers when I myself had none.
But about halfway through these theology classes, I realized I now had a comprehensive and solid theological perspective. This made evangelism much easier, and many questions which seekers asked became simpler for me to answer. God used this new perspective he had given me to help me help others. As seekers slowly followed and reflected on my words, they were able to carve a new path in the midst of their confusion. This experience was as exciting to me as Columbus’s discovery of the New World, because I discovered how God was using me as a conduit.
If we compare spirituality to a radar placed by God in the human soul, then God turned the radar off when he expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after they sinned. But when I became a Christian, it is as if God turned my radar on again. As my spiritual radar scans the range of input coming from the kingdom of heaven, it takes in both small and large information. I am beginning to understand what he has done in human history, both the simple and the deep. As time goes on, God constantly makes adjustments to this radar, correcting my thoughts, actions, and emotions. These courses have been one of the ways God has adjusted my radar.
According to God’s timing, at some point our spirituality will break through the bottleneck and make a great leap. God leads each person differently, and the experience is very personal to each of us. I so hope everyone will taste the Lord’s grace and have the same surprise I had. Give God time, and he will surprise you.
Again, I thank God for the way he prepares all things. I also thank his servants, who worked so hard to lead this course. I look forward to growing together with more brothers and sisters in the year to come.
Sister Xu is a pseudonym for a Chinese believer who lives in the Chengdu area. Sister Xu is a member of Early Rain Covenant Church.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for more Chinese believers to have opportunities to engage in systematic study of God, so they may come to know and love him more.