I didn’t really know Jesus. To me, He was a genie in the sky that would reward me for doing good things.
But I grew up in a Christian home. I attended Sunday School faithfully and knew all the Bible stories by heart – yet I was also the kid at the back who would fold her arms while everybody else was singing “Jesus loves me this I know.”
This detached relationship with God changed when I attended my first youth camp. One morning, my group was sharing the meaning of our names over breakfast. We had a few good laughs, and I found out the meaning of my name is “pure”.
That day, one of the Church staff conducted a workshop on how to hear God’s voice. She taught us about voices – the ones we were supposed to shut out, and the one we were supposed to listen to. The idea of hearing God’s voice was pretty absurd to thirteen year old me – but I still gave it a shot.
The staff worker taught us to pray, “Dear Lord, please silence out the voice of the world, the devil’s voice, and my own voice. Let me hear only yours, and may I listen as You speak.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect after the prayer, so I thought I might read the Bible. But the Bible stories I was familiar with had always seemed so dramatic with their burning bushes and split seas. Up until this point, it was simply another book to me, one I couldn’t understand and would fall asleep reading.
But I picked it up and played the juvenile game of “Bible roulette.”
I fell on Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 1, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” This chapter reflected the state of my life without a relationship with Jesus. I identified deeply with the sea that was “never full”. And one of Solomon’s questions echoed deep within me: “What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun?”
Was every achievement I had ever accomplished for nothing?
I saw plainly the meaningless nature of a life blinded by physical and material things. In my time reading, God showed me that the flesh lusts for worldly things which prevents us from seeing His plan for us. God was answering the questions I’d been asking for years.
Next, the Church staff gave us an exercise to help see where our relationship with God was heading. The page that I turned to blew my mind.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
Of all the passages and verses in the Bible, God used a beatitude with my namesake (pure) to invite me into a personal encounter with Him. In that moment, I realised that God knew me intimately. He singled me out – spoke to me like a father to his child – and my life was changed.
That day a decade ago was my first encounter with Jesus. Since then, God has never stopped speaking. Yes, there were times I could not hear Him – but those were also the times when my heart was impure.
I was reading Matthew 23 recently, where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees. “Blind Pharisee! First, clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean.”
I often find myself measuring my relationship with God by what I do. Having spent a long time in Christian community, I have learnt to say the right things and brush shoulders with the right people. But none of these things are a good measure of my relationship with Christ.
A pure encounter with the Lord is one where I am at the end of myself, acknowledging the sin that has taken root in my heart, and then allowing Jesus to confront them.
Purity is something like the theme of life, where sanctification is a daily commitment. In Exodus 33, we can see a beautiful picture of sanctification and intimacy in Moses’ life.
“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” (Exodus 33:12-13)
What really struck me was how Moses then asked God, “For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (16).
That made me realise a pure life looks distinctly different from a life where God is absent. The purer our heart and its intentions, the closer we are to God’s heart. Without purity, it is impossible to be intimate with God, because He is the holiest of holies. Although it seems impossible to lead a righteous life, it is something we are called to do – relying on the grace of God made evident to the watching world.
This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway.