What if that joker is right and I am a sinner?

David Lim is a Sydney GP.

I sent my daughters to the Presbyterian Ladies College, not because it’s a Christian school, but because it was a good school in terms of education. I was very surprised when they came home with a picture Bible and began to read it.

I was really annoyed, because I had sent them for a good education and not to read fairy tales, as I called it. So I put the book away and started to read them books at night that basically said that Jesus never rose from the dead or that he did not even die and just raced away with Mary Magdalene and weird things like that.

I started off not just trying to wash the thoughts out of my daughters’ minds, but also I began to take offence with Christians around me, asking horrible questions and trying to trip Christians up with difficult ones. So, I came from a very dark place.

The door was opened by a conversation I had with someone a friend brought to my home. I did not know who this man was. He tells me his name’s Al and that he is a minister.  I said, “Look, I need a minister in my house like a hole in the head.”

He went, “Okay, why is that?”

I said, “I have too many issues with the Christian faith. How can a child that’s just been born be sinful?”

Al turned it around and said, “David, what do you think sin is?”

I said that sin was a transgression against my fellow humans’ physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

He said, “Ah, you think that sin is a transgression against the second commandment of the new covenant.”

I went, “Sorry, you lost me – there were 10, right?”

He said, “No, God gave Moses 10 for Israel. Jesus only gave two.” He said the second was to love your neighbour as yourself.

And, being a very proud man then, I said, “That’s me – I love people.”

Then, he asked a series of questions I will never forget. He said, “David, who gives your life direction?”

I said, “Well, I do. I always set myself a goal and then I get to it.”

“Who teaches you what is right and wrong?”

I said, “Al, I’m 42; I know what is right and wrong.”

“But what about good and bad?” Same answer. “Who gives your life meaning?” Bit tricky.

I said, “I give my life meaning by contributing to the society I live in and through the relationships I make.” I thought I covered it well.

Then Al said, “David, in view of all your answers, who is in the centre of your life?”

I went, “Oh, it’s me.”

And he goes, “Okay, where does God fit in?”

I said, “Well, to be honest, I don’t have a lot of space there for him.”

And he said, “Remember that child. If that child grows up and takes God out from the centre of his life and replaces him with himself as you have, then you would have both transgressed against the first commandment to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And therefore, David, you are a sinner.”

I said, “Al, you don’t even know me. How can you call me a sinner?” I got so annoyed I stood up, walked him to the door, and kicked him out of my house.

But after that, I would sometimes go to bed and think, “What if that joker is right that I am a sinner? And if I am, what can I do about it?”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew it was not the thing to do.

About a month later, I took my children to South Durras for a holiday. When we got there, it was a bit grey, windy, and cold, and the girls said it was too cold for them.

So I went for a walk on the beach alone, and there was no one there. But as I started walking, I was aware that somebody was looking at me. I stopped several times to look around and there was nobody. By the time I was halfway down the beach, I could not walk any further because that feeling of being looked at was so overpowering.

I stopped and said, “Look, I don’t have a mental health disorder. I’m not paranoid. I’m a man of science. I think I’m rational. How am I supposed to respond to this feeling that I’ve been looked at?” And I went, “Challenge it.” So I turned out to the sea. I just knew it was out in the sea. There’s nothing out there. And I screamed at the top of my voice, “Who are you?”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew it was not the thing to do, because almost immediately I became aware that whomever or whatever was looking at me was looking into my heart. And I knew it was seeing things that, if anybody else knew about me, I would die of shame. I began to feel awful. I was curled up like a ball in the sand, thinking, “What is going on here?” And then, I heard this voice in my head, saying, not angrily but completely objectively, “You are not good.”

The feeling was so awful I got out of the sand and ran back to the cabin. I had no idea what happened. But interestingly, I said to myself, “I need to read the Bible,” a book I had never read in my life. So I started through the gospels and I hit 1 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 4. It says, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time, each will receive their praise from God.”

The things that were barriers in the first place became the very things used by our Lord to convict me.

Those last two sentences made my blood run cold, because that was exactly what happened to me on the beach. Therefore, the person who was looking at me could be none other than Jesus. At that instant, I realised that all I had said about the absurdity of believing in someone who had come back to life after three days evaporated as I realised that Jesus Christ is alive now … and always will be.

What scared me was the fact that he was going to come again. I got so frightened. I said, “I cannot stand in front of him again.” He had completely exposed the fact that I was a sinner, and I knew I could not hide it.

The turning point was reading John Stott’s The Cross of Christ, which explained why Jesus had to die and the importance of the resurrection. In discussing the book with a Moore College student at church, Eric, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, my heart changed from someone who said, “This is impossible”, to “There’s nothing more important since the creation of humankind than that Jesus died and rose from the dead.”

Interestingly for me, my reaction towards being called a sinner by Al led to the powerful realisation that I was indeed a sinner and my disbelief in the resurrection was instantly dispelled when I realised it was Jesus who looked into my heart. The twin things that were barriers in the first place became the very things used by our Lord to convict me and to turn my heart towards him.

I thank our Lord God for revealing himself and his Son to us through the Bible. I thank our Lord for every Christian Bible-believing school, for the school college councils, for the principals, the chaplains, every Christian teacher and teachers of Scripture classes, for their ministry extends to unsaved parents. And I thank our Lord God for his love, grace and mercy. We have a most holy and faithful Heavenly Father and a most powerful and loving Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth,  who will seek out sinners to save them at the greatest cost to himself.

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