The Gospel and the Souls of the Chinese People, Part 3

Editor’s note: This is the final post in a series by a house church pastor reflecting on the gospel and its impact on the Chinese people. The material was originally presented at the China Partnership annual conference in January 2015.

Dear pastors and dear colleagues, I am grateful for being able to share here God’s work in China, how the great power of his gospel is working in each soul and in his church. For this we can give thanks together and be encouraged. At the same time, I am grateful for your sacrifice and faithful service in the gospel for the souls of China, and to you all I offer my deep gratitude.

There was a particular church in Beijing. The head pastor of the church was led to Christ in the 1990s by a Korean-American missionary, and for a time grew under the discipleship of the missionary. Later this brother gave his life to evangelism. The church was founded in 2007. Ever since the beginning, it focused on spreading a genuine gospel and helping those who already considered themselves believers to more clearly understand the gospel. For those who have already experienced the power of the gospel, the church also placed great emphasis on the importance of living an obedient and missional life. From the beginning until now, the church grew from ten people to about five hundred people. Through the years, there have already been seven brothers who were inspired by the gospel to devote themselves to ministry, and some have already finished or are receiving theological training and serving in pastoral ministries on the front line. Below is the testimony of one of the brothers about his growth in the gospel. He spoke of three stages in his course of coming to faith.

1. From an Atheist to a “Godly Person”

In the first stage of my religious belief, on the one hand I denied there was a god, but on the other hand, I had conflicting sympathy and respect for Christianity. I acknowledged that the Christian religion had certain positive effects in human civilization’s self-discipline, morality, lifestyle, and goodness. At the time, in my own reading, I began to consider some of the tragedies in history. Also, through some literary works that exposed the evil of humanity, I discovered that I too was just as abominable. I agreed that I was a sinner. Therefore, I needed a religion.

But while on the one hand I acknowledged that I was a sinner, on the other hand I was still very prideful, thinking that because I had this realization, I was much wiser and nobler than other lowly people. At that point, I neither realized that sin is an offense toward God, nor did I believe that Jesus really rose from the dead. I only appreciated and liked Christians because of my interactions with them and their testimonies. I wanted to be with them, to be “happy” and “noble” like them.

In March of 2004, I prayed the believer’s prayer. Very soon I joined a baptism class, and was baptized in June of the same year. But in reality, I lied during my catechumen exams, because at that time I still did not believe in God, nor did I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I even thought that all believers must have lied when they answered these questions. “How is this possible? This is only the residue of stupidity from religion’s early days.”

But very soon, I discovered that although many people in church were really just like me, some serious believers in church always solemnly affirm their faith. Therefore, I began reading books like The Song of a Wanderer, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and Mere Christianity. Finally I was convinced by the arguments from the verses surrounding Romans 1:18-20. From an atheist, I was transformed into a Christian; from an agnostic to a “Godly person,” who was taught to believe that God existed.

This is the first stage in my experience of understanding the gospel. In fact, I did not really believe in Jesus at that time. I only thought: if God is real, then I can simply accept all that the Bible teaches as a package, there is no need for dispute. Anyhow these things really did happen, I believed it all. At the time, I felt very strongly that I really believed and I also began to enthusiastically tell other people that there is a God. I invited people to church. I thought that was spreading “the gospel.”

2. From “God Loves Me” to Sensing “God’s Wrath”


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My self-evaluation was this: I was a mistreated but kind-hearted person. I had received too much unjust and ruthless treatment in this world. I had been searching for the truth in the world, but was not able to find any. Finally, I discovered the love of God. I thought that if I return to him, he would open wide his arms to hold me tightly and wipe away all my tears.

When I became a “Godly person,” that was my understanding of what the Bible says when it talks about God’s love. Therefore, I loved some parts of the Bible, such as “…for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). I thought that was the love of God. I would tell other people, I am hanging out with “Brother Jesus.” My belief was that this “Elder Brother” would watch over me; this was God’s love.

When I first realized that sin is an offense against God, it was also connected to the Epistle to the Romans. At that time, the pastor at church was preaching on Romans 1-3. Verse 1:18 clearly stated, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” This was the Bible’s description of me: I was not someone who seeks after God. I was aware of God in my heart, since creation undeniably confirms his existence, and I knew there was a God, but in reality I acted according to my own desires, thoughts, and lusts. I suppressed the known truth, did not worship God as the true God. I was someone “…who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth;” I was “ungodly and unrighteous.”

After reading the Bible more, I realized that I was someone who resisted God and lived under God’s wrath. Therefore, I realized that the Bible not only spoke of the “sun ris[ing] on the evil,” it also talked about “render[ing] to each one according to his works.” Moreover, there is a real and miserable hell. When I really sensed that God hated sin, and that I really was a sinner, my ending was eternal death. I was detestable because I was a sinner, but at the same time I was pitiful because the ending is so tragic. I could only wail: How can I be saved? Do I have an escape?

3. From “Godly Person” to “Christian”

From listening to sermons, I learned from very early on that Jesus sacrificed his life for me. Other than depending on him, I could see no other way out. Therefore, I began to sense and acknowledge that as our mediator, Jesus’ death is the only solution to the sin of mankind. But I still had some doubt: is this real? Sometimes I would say, “I am not going to think about it anymore.” I would say in an evasive and superstitious way, “I surrender to Jesus.” But there was still no peace in my heart.

My doubts mainly came from two aspects: one was the truthfulness of Jesus rising from the dead; the other was that I had noticed not many people at church preached about the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. This fact was not the center of many Christian books or the church’s lively worship meetings. I had experienced the prosperity gospel and the charismatic movement at church. I knew of marriage counseling and children’s education that were centered on the family, and evangelistic activities and church formations that were centered on the church. These themes occupied the majority of space and content of the church. The speakers on these topics should all have known about Jesus’ atonement on the cross (at least I hope that was the case), but I did not hear much about Jesus’ substitutionary atonement in the content of their preaching. Therefore I would ask, what is the main purpose of the Bible?

In 2009, I once again had another opportunity to objectively focus on the Bible. Confronted by the Bible, I slowly began to affirm the Bible’s reliability, the truthfulness of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the authenticity of eternal life, and the love of Christ as he laid down his life for me! I turned from a “Godly person” to a Christian. Only this is true confession. In my past experience, God was playing “hide and seek” with me and I often asked “why” in life. But on the cross, God clearly demonstrated to me that “God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Every time I fixed my eyes on Jesus on the cross, or consider God’s Bible, I became both fearful and grateful. In this faith, what I experienced was a love that made me “fearful,” an amazing grace. Through reading the Bible and studying theology, I understood the meaning of justification; I also understood that through the works of the word and the Spirit, I am united in Christ through faith.

But I could not understand why God’s grace would fall on me! I was such a broken person: evil, weak, shameless, fake, and detestable. But the majestic Lord shed his blood for me. This could only happen according to God’s own decree. When I did not know him, while I was still resisting him, despising his grace, and often betraying him, he had already planned to sacrifice his only beloved Son for me. Through Jesus I was reconciled to God. I was totally overwhelmed by this love.

Thereafter my growth was a demonstration of God’s love taking root in my life. I was transformed from someone who was cold, selfish, self-centered, and who only shared the gospel because he was commanded, into someone who holds Jesus’ temperament and vision, who has mercy on lost souls, and who is willing and eager to spread the gospel. I would say in my heart, “Lord, if this person is someone I can share salvation with, even though I am tired, even though my circumstance is not good, even though there is still a lot of weakness in my character, even though I cannot accept myself; but you are my Lord, for you I am willing to try one more time, tell him the gospel of you sacrificing your life for us sinners.”

Through these ministries, my understanding of the gospel went from comprehension and apologetics to preaching and growing through my preaching. At the same time, I discovered that in the midst of my biggest growth and kindest acts, there is pride, deception, and pretense. I can only be justified through faith in Jesus Christ. I meditate more often on the cross of Jesus Christ. Through the cross, I experience the depth of my offense toward God, the evil and magnitude of my sin. I also experience God’s love for me. I am motivated by this love, and I am willing to live more and more for the Lord. I feel that I am a sinner who has received special kindness from God.

 

Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors writing and thinking critically about issues related to the spread of Christianity in their nation. They are committed to preaching a grace-centered gospel, developing resources for the church, and loving China’s urban centers.

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Further Reading

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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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