by John Chow as Interviewed by Anton L S Chan
John Chow has worshipped in CCMC for more than 20 years. He attended D1 of the Disciple Bible Study Programme in 2016 and finished the series of four courses in 2019. He is now a co-facilitator of D3 class 2020 and a student of Christian Believer Course.
The right time to make a decision to follow Christ
I did a survey in my small group some time back. I asked, “In which period of your life did you make the decision to follow Christ?” The majority said it was during a period of uncertainty, suffering, or at a lower point of their career, family life or health.
When we are losing hope and in our brokenness, we find it easier to accept God's grace. When we are doing well, we tend to rely on ourselves. So, sometimes I think that it will be easier for people to decide to follow Christ when we are not doing so well. Could the likely conclusion thus be that “trouble-free” or “successful” people are less likely to think that they need to be saved?
Some of us may not have major setbacks in life, but does it mean that we can put God on hold till we need Him? In Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins, the bridegroom can come back any time (Matt 25:1-13), and also regarding the occurrence of the second coming: “No one knows about that day or hour” (Matthew 24:36).
Do not let worldly temporary success carry us away from our most important decision in life.
Do not let worldly temporary success carry us away from our most important decision in life. Always be ready. Those who are doing well in their life, being self-reliant and self-righteous, face the main hurdles of walking with Christ. It originates from pride.
To accept Jesus and follow Him should be here and now because we do not know what will happen to us tomorrow.
Being a Good Christian
I once asked Anton Chan, “Some churches preach that as a 'good Christian', God will bless us more. How true is it?” Anton pointed me to two passages of scripture: Deut 28 and Hebrews 12.
Duet 28:1-14 is about blessings and 15-58 talk about curses. (Note that there are three times more of curses than blessings!) The key phrase there is "follow all". In Hebrews 12:6-11, the key message is "discipline". There is also ‘hardship’ and ‘not pleasant’ in Hebrews 12:6,11.
Suffering is deemed to happen in the life of Christians; we carry the cross of Jesus.
To tie them together: although Jesus came to fulfil the law, no one can follow all the law and thus claim the promised blessings. The only way by is grace through Jesus. But Jesus stressed that to follow him we need to be disciplined and that the path is tough. So, suffering is deemed to happen in the life of Christians; we carry the cross of Jesus. However, we will still have blessings along the way, but it is not our entitlement. It is through God’s mercy and by His grace. It is not earned; it is by God’s sovereign will.
I remember Pastor Malcolm message’s on suffering. Through suffering we can learn humility (like the Israelites in the wilderness), be tested (if we can hold on to our faith) and receive teaching (so we shall live by His words alone as our priority).
God’s grace assures us of survival (against the world), bearing fruit (even in difficult times) and the choice of not to sin (drawing on God's unfailing promises).
A good Christian therefore overcomes and endures suffering in this world by faith in Christ and through His grace. Indeed, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Hab 2:4).
Being obedient in big and small things
It’s not just about studying the Bible by joining courses like the Disciple Programme. It is about practising what we have learnt in our lives – being obedient.
In the book of Galatians, Paul, without so much as a greeting, showed his authority right from the start. Why is it so different from his other letters?
The issue was about not mandating circumcisions for the gentiles. Paul argued that circumcision was an outward sign for Jews to accept God's covenant responsibilities. If applied to gentiles, it would undermine the Gospel of salvation by grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We need stand firm when it comes to important doctrines.
In our lives, we should, like Paul, hold firm to Biblical principles. We need stand firm when it comes to important doctrines.
We must also not let small acts affect our walk with God. The “small” act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden had huge consequences for all of mankind. Do not say “do it’’ because it is just a small sin or say “no need to do it’’ because it is just a small deed of kindness. We need to practice our faith in every area of our lives.
Staying humble under the Lordship of Christ
The Pharisees hated Jesus. They thought that they were the faithful followers of the Mosaic law and commandments and that they were a class above others and therefore deserved respect. Jesus’ teachings, such as the sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), showed them that they fell very short of God's standards. The shock to them was hard to bear. And also, to the protect their own interests, they plotted the crucifixion of Jesus.
We know that Jesus did not come to disappoint us but to offer us the best and only solution. So, we must humble ourselves before Christ (James 4: 10).
The Importance of Biblical Doctrinal Knowledge
In 2018, I had a retinal tear that was fixed by a simple procedure. A gradual improvement in eyesight was expected. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I discovered that I was losing by eyesight bit by bit. I called up my eye doctor, but he was on holiday. The nurse referred me to another doctor who initially did not see any problem. I insisted that he check again. He finally discovered that I had early-stage retinal detachment. It was quite unusual to discover it at an early stage. If I did not have knowledge of this problem, I could have lost most of my eyesight in one eye after just one day.
Our Christian walk has even more critical outcomes if we are ignorant of some key spiritual understanding. Not understanding and taking action on salvation and being born again will cost us eternal life!
In studying the Bible, we need to understand doctrines and how to interpret Bible properly.
In studying the Bible, we need to understand doctrines and how to interpret Bible properly (hermeneutics). We do not need to be experts, but a basic understanding can greatly benefit our studies and can go a long way.
I am starting to head in this direction and find that it is not as difficult as I expected it to be. Knowing some key principles will help in understanding how pastors approach and structure their explanations in sermons.
I did D1 because the course covers 70-80% of the Bible in one year. It seemed like a good way to have an overview of the Bible in a short time! I enjoyed the four series of the Disciple course and learned much, contributing to my growth in my spiritual journey as a disciple of Christ.
So, after the Disciple Programme, I continue to attend the Christian Believer Class to learn the basic doctrines of the Bible.