The Throne Where God Is Sitting, Part 2 – Grace Is the Personal God

Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors thinking and writing 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.

The author of this article first delivered its content to a large conference of house church leaders. He is the head pastor of a large church in a major city and is heavily involved in theological training initiatives in China. He received his M.Div. in Singapore and is currently completing a D.Min. from an American seminary that provides training in China. Read the first part of this series, The Throne Where God Is Sitting, Part 1 – The Lion and the Lamb, and check back next week for Part 3 of the series.

My aunt was very influential on me and the other children in my family. I remember once when we were being persecuted, my aunt talked to me secretly. At that point she was in her senior years, and she told me: “Let me tell you a story, you must be brave!”

Because of her faith, my aunt was kept in prison for about a total of sixteen years. When she was in jail, she was a very capable person. She graduated from Shanghai Conservatory of Music as one of the top students, but she went to jail for the Lord. In prison, she was also very talented and she did a lot of things, but then she got hepatitis, her body turned yellow, and she had no strength to walk. During that time, she had to walk slowly, so the prison warden asked her to go from her cell to the toilet, probably across a place as big as a basketball court. Because she was usually very competent, when the warden saw her walking [slowly], he said: “Come and see, [the prisoner] is now malingering to escape doing her work!” Then he told everyone to mock her.

One time God gave her grace and when she walked to the toilet, a sister in the prison walked by her side and took her along the way. God touched her, and she thought about her childhood. Then she was beautiful and often played [among the] flowers. She remembered that as a girl she was once scared, because all the horns would ring when the church door was open. She was very young at that time and was scared half to death, but she pretended to be calm as she walked past the door. God reminded her of this scene, and she understood that the prison warden was like a large horn, shouting there, and beside her was a sister holding her, so she was going to the toilet just like a bride. She was very happy and very joyful, and the Spirit of God said, “This is a blessed way,” so she was very happy.

A few days later, she thought, “No, if every time the warden speaks to me like this, what should I do?” So she said she should explain to the warden, for Christians should not humiliate the name of the Lord. So she ran to talk to the warden. When she walked to the door of the warden, she heard the warden’s wife crying and saying, “God, help!” She felt strange – why was she asking God for help? So she asked and found out that the warden’s son also contracted hepatitis; his body turned yellow and she walked as slow as she did. So she said, “Wow, God is righteous.” So she came back, and did not go to explain, for God had done this for her.

She told me, “Do not be afraid, although they blocked you tonight, you can still walk.” So that night I went over the wall.

But what I want to say is that she always said that you should know the God you believe in [is the God] of grace, and also of righteousness. She said when she was in prison, she cannot live one day without God’s justice and grace. She said she was happy to be in solitary confinement. Why? Others could stand the solitary confinement room, but she could stay with another sister there. Usually they worked, but in the confinement room they could sing hymns and talk about God, so Christians are happy to be in there. The warden liked her and also hated her. Because she helped the warden to grow a plant, the warden washed her clothes and returned them to her, so she was happy.  

But they were often scared by a cadre, who was very domineering. He closed the door with very loud noise, “Boom, Boom.” Then she said, “Every time we are scared, Lord, you are righteous, and you can discipline him.” So, the next day, God did that. How? God let him make a mistake that night, and then he was criticized openly. After that he felt humiliated, and closed the door very quietly from then on. She said, “If I did not experience God’s justice and his mercy, I would not know how to live.”

Brothers and sisters, grace is not self-centered, but it is the personal God. We see that the personal God becomes the deepest bottom line in our lives. So when my aunt encountered any persecution, she might be nervous, but nothing can take away joy. John Piper has a book named God Is the Gospel. The nature of God – his glory, righteousness, and holiness – is the gospel. And all discipline from God is also the gospel. God’s discipline of, training of us, and eventual taking of us to the renewed country, these are the grace of God. So it is the Lord who helps us to return to God, and we also know that the growth of our lives is inseparable from Jesus Christ, and inseparable from the justice and mercy of Christ.  

The cross of Jesus Christ, according to Timothy Keller, convicts the deepest. You cannot redeem yourself by your own actions. You cannot rely on the behavior of a group of people to redeem you. You cannot rely on all the good behavior and merit of everyone in the world to redeem you. All these are not enough. Only God himself could become the sin offering, and then he was able to redeem us out of sin. So our sins are certainly deeper than we can imagine. If we do not recognize his holiness, glory, and righteousness, we do not know how deeply we have sinned against him.  

But his love does make us confident. In the universe, the greatest one is gazing upon us and making us join his fellowship. What can take our peace and our joy away? What pit is so deep that he cannot redeem us? So we know we are such sinners that we humble ourselves and esteem others better than ourselves. Because of the love of Jesus Christ, we are capable of loving. We become willing to do everything good which in our nature cannot be done.


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God’s grace is displayed in his law and grace. We always hear the story of John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” like this: Newton grew up in a culture accustomed to slavery, then, he was tempted by greed to become a slave trader. He was the captain, and once in a storm in the sea, he suddenly found life insecure. He needed God to rescue him; he needed to return to the gospel. So he prayed, and he began to change all of his life to break with slavery. This is the story we often introduce as the background of “Amazing Grace.”  

In fact, this is not true. In fact, when he was in the storm, he really completely woke up and decided to turn to God, but he was still tied up by deep sin. He landed and went to the minister and went to find books, but he came back to continue to be a slave trader. Then, he earned money and went into debt, and was even involved in gambling and adultery. He said he remembered the days of that period as just like a dog going back to his vomit. When John Newton had no money left, he again went to trade slaves. He said he repeated and repeated this for a long time. He said it was only because of his health, or he would not have stopped his work trading slaves.  

Later he landed and worked for a while, and then he determined to work for the Lord and become a minister. Throughout the whole process, he slowly realized that the slave trade was so terrible; it was not allowed in God’s glory and holiness. So over a very long time, he came out of it and suddenly found himself really a downright sinner. So when he was old and talking to others, in just thirty minutes he could talk about his slave experience and his own deep sins, as well as how great the grace of Jesus Christ was that rescued him from sin. That is why his song touched so many people, for he did know that he was blind and could now see.  

In the process of Christ’s redemption, as it says in 1 Corinthians 10, he has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. His redemption is not over after you confess; in his glorious nature, in his grace, mercy, justice, and holiness, he will shape us and make us more aware of sin and more willing to rely on him. That is the only way you can grow. 

Let us see the sanctification there is in the gospel. The law of God is so high that the more we approach him, the more we find that we are dust, nothing. We also experience God with love and benevolence, and he can deliver us from any deep pit. When we begin to believe in the Lord, our cross is small and our prayers are very simple. We say, “Lord, forgive all my sins, all the sins in my thoughts and words, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” After such prayer we feel comforted, and our knowledge of God is very shallow at the beginning of the faith, so that we know little of Jesus Christ’s salvation.

But when you approach God, you will find that your sin is even deeper than you imagined. You find his holiness and his glory attracts you when you experience the loving Lord, and you are enlightened to find there is sin. Before when I came to church and conflict with co-workers, I discovered that we cared so much about face. We had an idol deep inside to be recognized; as long as people did not recognize me, I would fight to the end. Once again, when the light of Jesus Christ sheds upon you, you are able to say, “Lord, forgive me, because your salvation does not leave me.” So our lives can once again be saved and renewed by his gospel, and the cross in our life becomes larger and larger. Finally, we say that we worship him in the whole of life.

When I was young, I felt there were so many elders who were hypocritical in the churches of China. For they always said: thank the Lord, thank the Lord for everything. I thought, “You have been going through this for sixteen years, why do you still thank the Lord?” So I thought it was hypocrisy, but afterwards I realized they have a true and beautiful relationship with the personal God, the glorious, holy, just, and merciful God, the God who is both a lamb and a lion. Their lives have been renewed, and as they experiencing him and be with him, they keep a good relationship with God and are reluctant to leave him. So at the end they could say, “I have only one goal, and Jesus Christ is becoming the ultimate goal in my life.” 

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Further Reading

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The Internal Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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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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