6241194_sRecently someone dear to me asked, “Why are you a Christian?” He was relooking at his own journey of faith and asked me for my reasons for being a follower of Jesus. It has been a long time since I have visited this question. A lot of my ministry is with followers of Jesus so I am not confronted with this query often. But I thought that at my 57th birthday it might not be a bad idea to rearticulate my reasons for being a Christian.

I came from a Christian family. Mum in particular made sure I attended church. Some of my friends came from families who followed other faiths. When they decided to follow Jesus, they were rejected by their families to varying degrees. In comparison, my conversion held no such trauma. It didn’t really cost me anything to follow Jesus. It was expected, though I think my own conversion experience didn’t happen till I was in Form 3 (Grade 9). All that I learnt about the Christian faith made sense.

My first, and to date my only, crisis of faith happened when I was finishing dental school. I believed God was calling me to enter a church-related vocation, popularly called “full-time ministry” in those days. I was always clear that all legitimate work was equally important and I never saw church work as more spiritual than dentistry. Still, I grew in conviction that I was to give my life to teaching the Bible and to encouraging people with God’s love and truth. But I was also the only son in a peranakan family that had high hopes of my pursuing a career in a profession that promised to pay well and that brought some degree of status to the family.

I appreciated what money could do. (If anything I understand its power even more today.) I too wanted to make enough to take care of my family and to enjoy some of the good things in life, and to give to Christian work. What was most difficult however, was disappointing my parents. They were not rich and had sacrificed much to see me through dental school. I wanted to make them happy. It broke my heart to see the sadness in their eyes when I told them I wanted to do church-related work full time and not pursue a career in dentistry. I had to be sure that it was indeed what God wanted me to do. But that provoked a more fundamental question. Was Christianity even real to begin with?

With its call for purity and sacrifice, the call to live for others and even to forgive your enemies, Christianity was not the easiest faith around. There were other faiths that looked simpler and more enjoyable. (I wasn’t post-modern enough to DIY a faith with the elements I liked from various faiths.) And of course there was always the option of the worship of self. Was Christianity true? Was Christ who He claimed to be? It came down to this: If Christianity were not true I was going to stop playing moral games. I would probably have chosen a hedonistic path for my life. But if Christ were real, He would have to be Lord and God. He had died for me. My life was His. I would do whatever He wanted me to do.

I embarked on a personal quest to see if Christianity was indeed true. My daily life continued. I finished my dental programme and commenced my work as a dentist. But I was also investigating the claims of Christ. I read and considered arguments for and against the veracity of Christianity. After a number of months, I concluded that Christianity was true. What clinched it for me was the resurrection of Jesus. Here was a unique sign for a unique claim. Everybody dies. And when we die we don’t come back. For someone to really die and come back, not as a ghost, but even more robust and more alive than before, well, such a person’s claims must be taken seriously.

I noted with interest that it was also the resurrection that clinched it for Paul. Here is Paul on the implications if the resurrection had not taken place:

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19 NIV)

And if the resurrection did not happen, he too advocates some form of hedonism:

If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
(1 Corinthians 15:32b NIV)

But here is Paul’s ringing affirmation of the resurrection:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. (1 Corinthians 15:20-21 NIV)

(How did Paul know that Jesus’s resurrection took place? How can we know? I hope to take this up in a subsequent piece.)

Death is THE human universal. There are no “ifs” and “buts” about it. Any Saviour wannabe must be able to defeat death. For all claimants to Lordship, this is the sword that must be pulled from the stone. You must be able to defeat death. Jesus died and rose again. Christianity is not just a collection of theories and ideas. It is based on something that actually happened. Jesus is who He claims to be. He is Lord and God. I chose to follow Him in 1969. I continue to follow Him.