Since I Believed in the Lord
In a blink of eyes, seven years have passed since I was baptized. During these years, I have traveled extensively and I have been writing a lot to testify the Lord's grace on me. Nevertheless, what He has done for me far exceeds what I have done for Him. In retrospect, every footprint I make, whether it is for myself, my family, my daily life or my service to the Lord, reflects the invisible presence of the Heavenly Father. His guidance and care are so delicate and inexplicable that they are simply beyond words. What I can do in this article is to discuss three spiritual issues our Heavenly Father impacts on me.
Heavenly Father wants me to give up the world
In early spring of 1991, my atheist world became a world of deity. Then immediately, the glory of God filled my heart and soul, my brain, my ears and my eyes, and it filled every single piece of my exiled life. Dark shadows of life were completely wiped out. Sunlight and grass proclaimed to me His love; blue sky and vast ocean displayed to me His power. Even what used to be part of routine life now all came alive to testify the gracious salvation of God. From then on, I could no longer ignore God. I began to live in God's kingdom, where one feels the existence of God. I used to be confused at what Sartre had to say: "Life is absurd and ridiculous; one comes from nowhere and one goes toward nowhere." Now I get it: isn't this the true identity of atheists' uncertainty? Isn't this their subconsciousness that forever haunts them? Nietzsche shouted: "God is dead! If He is alive, then I can't live!" I used to take this as meaningless madness. Now I see this as a true confession of a fallen sinner while he is painfully struggling in front of the righteous God. No wonder Nietzsche soon became insane and died. Indeed, God's glory is indisputably present even in the field of philosophy, where people typically search for God, ignore God or even reject God. Hallelujah! This is Heavenly Father choosing to reveal Himself to His children.
The world immediately uncovered its original form. It was no longer attracted to me. It was not that I gave up the world. No way. I was born into the world and I grew up in the world. How was I supposed to just give it up? It was the work of the Heavenly Father who is good and true and who appeals to my heart. It was His power and authority that gently pushed me into His bosom.
I had no choice but to give up my research in political culture and to work on my confession: My Baptism-Rushing Toward The Hometown Of My Dream, despite the fact that many people were stunned and they failed to understand. I was not able to reject invitations from many churches and fellowships to testify the salvation of Jesus Christ on me, although many advised me to first build up a solid spiritual foundation for myself. I was not able to suppress my joyous feeling and I had to share this great news with my wife who was still in Beijing, even though I expected her to take it as one of those Arabian fable stories. One year later, I finally had to begin studying in the theological seminary, although my wife had just come to America and had not believed. Some kind-hearted pastors and elders advised me to wait a while longer based on common sense and rules, but there was no way I could challenge the call of God.
In September 1992, I was enrolled in Jackson Reformed Seminary. I wrote to brothers and sisters: "It is not out of my sentimental outburst that I have made up my mind to study theology and spread the truth. I do this because it is God's will. As God has come into my heart, I have to live with Him. I think of Him day and night. Nothing I see or hear is unrelated to Him. What I have learned in the past also becomes alive in light of the Way. Wherever the Spirit is, all worldly thinking is no more. For this reason, I have no other choice but to walk the path toward Heaven. I often praise the great wonder of God and I am always thankful for this." (from Hometown is lost, there comes the Heavens, p.203)
Thanks to Heavenly Father! As soon as I began to know Him, He reminded me to understand the fundamental differences between Him and all sinners-be it sinners that have received God's grace or those that have not. He taught me to ignore everything but Himself, and to place my trust and hope on Him. When I walked into the church, I saw various problems such as sins, divisions, narrow-mindedness, or falsehood, none of which, however, could bother me. On the contrary, because of these problems I was able to commit myself even more to God. A Christian once published an article in a Taiwanese magazine proclaiming his withdrawal from Christian belief. He listed several reasons, including problems in theology, church and other believers. I immediately wrote to him: "There is a vast difference between God and the church, between Christ and Christianity, between the Divine and theology. Sometimes the latter steals the glory of the former; sometimes the latter even blasphemes the former. Didn't history offer a lot of examples like that? God is God and man is man. Those who believe in God remain as men. My faith in God is not based on men; on the contrary, total disappointment in men, including myself, makes me believe in God… So come back. Do not just come back to the church; do not just come back to theology. But come back directly and completely to Him, your everlasting God." (from the same book above, p.233)
A friend of mine who came from Beijing to Harvard University told me three stories: Yuan Zhi-ming joins the church because he failed to accomplish anything in the course of Chinese democracy and he wanted to find a different way out, or because he was weak in spirit and fragile in sentimentality so he had a need for spiritual comfort, or because he wanted to remain fashionable, like exactly what he had done before by joining the Communist Party and by participating in democratic movement. These rumors really hurt my wife. The Heavenly Father taught me to ignore all of these. It is quite natural for others to think that way. I wrote an article named I have God: "I do not entertain glory from men, nor do I take reproaches from men because I have God. I do not wear crowns given by men, nor do I care vicious remarks by men because I have God. I do not drink wine from men, nor do I taste bitter cup from men because I have God. I do not believe in truth from men, nor do I fall at temptations from men because I have God… (from the same book above, p.215)
In May 1992, every member of the Princeton Chinese Scholar Society took turns to declare if they wanted to retain their membership because there wasn't enough membership slots and other exiled scholars were eager to join. Nobody wished to leave. I was the last to declare my position: I was willing to study theology in Mississippi. This implied I would have to give up all the membership benefits. A good friend advised me not to be too stubborn to avoid further failure. But I remained peaceful and faithful. At that time I didn't know how I was going to manage the tuition and all the living expenses of my three-member family, nor did I even think about how I was going to survive three years later. Like a little child following the shadow of his father, I walked toward the unknown but I seemed to know it all; I walked toward nothingness but I seemed to possess everything. A little sister in a Chinese church made a song which I thought was specially done for me: "What I possessed I no longer have; what I searched I cease to search; what I longed for I wave my hands; what I walked along I no longer do. Sweet it is when we have God; bitter it will be when we do not have God. We are determined to follow the Lord; do not be retained by the world…"
Heavenly Father forces my old self to die
In Princeton, Heavenly Father wanted me to give up the world; at the Seminary, Heavenly Father wanted my old self to die.
My initial study at the Seminary was a mess thanks to my insufficient English; My wife didn't believe in the Lord and she insisted she would go to New York to find a job; my daughter suffered from racial discrimination in kindergarten; I often suffered from headaches and stomachaches; my first encounter of different theological theories cast a deep shadow on my fresh and simplistic belief… Those were very difficult days, if not completely unmanageable. Time and again I had to kneel down and pray. Then I seemed to have heard the call of the Lord: My child, come to me! Indeed, in the wearisome two and a half years when we lived in that desolate place, I took a lot more lessons directly from God than those the Seminary had to offer. Now I get it. All I had suffered was due to God's love and He forced me into those sufferings. Every night I prayed under tremendous pressure; the more intensive the pressure, the longer I prayed. In the nights before final exams, I was not able to do anything but praying. It was not that my spiritual life was superior, nor was it that I knew how to rely on God. It was that I had no other choice. I was supposed to take the final exam on the next day and yet I was not even able to memorize all the vocabularies in the textbook! There was only one night left. And I remained helpless no matter how hard I worked through the night. So I had to pray and ask for God's mercy! Whenever this happened, Heavenly Father never failed to grant me extraordinary peace and awakening. He filled me with sweetness and faith; He comforted me and encouraged me.
One day, I was overwhelmed by worries and anxiety and yet God didn't seem to respond to my prayers. So I fell down on the floor and, facing the ceiling, I stretched my arms and cried out in despair: "Oh Father! Crucify me! Crucify me!" Then, as if the nails that crucified Jesus fell onto my left hand, my right hand and my feet, I felt extremely painful and I cried out loud three times. I said: "Oh Father! Into your hands I commit my spirit!" Then I was dead. In total silence, my spirit was filled with happiness and content like a weaning baby finding comfort in his mother's bosom. It was beyond description! The entire world became non-existent; the entire universe offered but tranquillity. I, too, was no more. The eternal God alone remained. When I started to recover, my first thought was: "Oh Father, let everything be like this forever…" Then came an intimate voice: "Child, you should do this to fulfill all righteousness." (Mt. 3:15) I got up and went to bed. I was fast asleep. It was daybreak.
Thanks to the Lord! I passed all exams in the Seminary. I got quite a few A's and A+'s. My wife also believed and was baptized. She also completed her double major in business management and accounting. My daughter received fine education in a Christian school. During the two and a half years of time, Heavenly Father gave us abundant supplies for our tuition and daily needs. My headache and stomachache were gone too.
How wonderful He is! He prepared all of these for me, and yet he didn't let me have them in an easy way. He placed me in hardships so that I had no choice but to come close to Him and to put my old self to death! Heavenly Father knows me the best and He knows I would never have sought Him alone if I hadn't gone through all those sufferings. God loves me the most and He knows that I would be much better off finding Him than possessing the entire world. Oh, dear Father, I can't thank you enough with words. I'd only like to say to you: To you I commit my life without worries!
In retrospect, the most valuable lesson so far is to die with the Lord and to live after death, taught by Heavenly Father. Jesus and his disciples repeatedly emphasized that we must sacrifice ourselves to carry the cross. This is indeed not a tough job on us but the grace of all Heavenly graces. Ever since God forced me to have a taste of this grace, I cannot live without it. Every night I pray to God that I would die: let my flesh die along with the sinful nature it produces (Ga. 5:24); let my worldly wisdom completely die (I Co. 7:29-31). I know very clearly that if I don't die I won't be able to reserve a piece of holy dwelling in my heart to greet the descending of God; if I don't die I won't be able to feel the urge and fellowship of the Spirit; and if I don't die the Lord Jesus will not fully live in me.
I was reading a book named Serve the Lord Wholeheartedly. The author Oswald Chambers wrote in the Section of Do you walk along in white robe? "A Christian must go through a white funeral before he can be raised from the dead." Death comes before resurrection, i.e., resurrection in the life of Jesus Christ. Death means you no longer exist. Are you really at the end of your life? Do you have the courage to say to God: This is my last day on earth! Do not walk around the graveyard and refuse to die. Remember, if there is no death, holiness is but empty talk!
Heavenly Father leads me into visions
Why should I give up the world and put my old self to death? Is it for some kind of personal pleasure? Is it for self-cultivation? Not at all. God wants me to fix my eyes on Him and Him alone and He forces me to come close to Him. He knows this is the only way for me to withstand the heavenly visions, power and personality and to spread the Gospel.
Spreading the Gospel of salvation is not only a heavenly duty for a saved Christian, it is also part of the heavenly nature. One cannot keep on living without spreading the Gospel. Jesus said: "That is why I have come." (Mark 1:38) Paul said: "Yet when I preach the Gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach the Gospel." (I Corinthians 9:16)
Ever since I believed in the Lord, I have been all over the place spreading the Gospel. It is not that I am willing to; it is the Good News that lives in me outbursting, sometimes rapidly and sometimes gently, and in any case I would choke if I didn't share it with others. I started out testifying Jesus' wonderful deeds that have happened to me; then with Heavenly Father's progressive guidance, I have come to realize that He is also the God that the 1.2 billion Chinese people have been hoping to see, and that He is the true master in the five thousand years of ancient Chinese history. God also gives life to my accumulative knowledge in culture, history, philosophy, literature and politics (so you see, to give up the world is not to abandon all we have learned), with which I begin to understand that His salvation, though originating from Israelites, really spreads everywhere between the heavens and the earth, in China and abroad. Jesus, being the Saint of Israel as He is, has long been established before the earth was formed as the Lord of all. The prolonged Chinese historic culture contains numerous wonderful testimonies of the Holy Father, the Holy Son and the Holy Spirit. It is also full of general revelation of God.
Once when I was taking a class of Pauline Epistles, a quotation of Lao Zi suddenly came to me: "The foolishness of heaven is wisdom; the wisdom of man is foolishness." This saying exactly echoes Paul's criticism of the teachers of the laws. I went home and opened the Book of Laozi once again. In light of the Spirit I was able to interpret a lot of profound meanings that I hadn't realized before. I was extremely joyful. I knew this had to come from God. So I immediately decided to translate and interpret the book as my graduation thesis. First things first, I had to go through all of the annotations and interpretations from numerous scholars in the past two thousand years. I had to go back to Beijing. But I was still one of the most wanted after the June 4th Movement. How could I go back there? To my great surprise, when I knelt down to pray, Heavenly Father told me: Go. A few months later, I legally appeared in a number of bookstores in Beijing. Under the "protection" of several officers from the Public Safety Bureau, I was able to obtain a sizable collection of related books and I brought them all back to Mississippi. Then came another problem: It was almost impossible for me to complete the thesis in English. I knelt down again for hours. When the new semester began, there came Dr. Wen, the first Chinese professor in this American seminary. I was allowed to complete my thesis in Chinese under Dr. Wen's advice. After I graduated, Heavenly Father dispatched me to Rev. Edwin Su who was a man of integrity and generosity. I was able to complete the work of Laozi vs. the Bible. In June 1997, the book was published in China as well as overseas. How wonderful!
The book discusses the wonderful similarities between Laozi's Tao and God, between Laozi's Saint and Jesus, and between Laozi's Taoism and spiritual cultivation. I discovered that the book of Laozi was in ancient China a testimony and a hint of God's universal salvation. (See the book itself and an article in the 27th issue of Overseas Campus)
In fact God reveals to me far more than just Laozi: the entire Chinese history is within the hands of God. He reveals in the Bible that the Chinese are among the descendants of Noah. If this is true, then our ancestors must have heard about the Creation, the Garden of Eden, the Flood, the Ark or the sacrifices. One thing has been proved today: some of the ancient Chinese pictographic characters provide plenty of evidence to support Biblical accounts and spiritual implications. I believe there are many more of this kind of evidence which God will reveal to us under the Spiritual light. With the prosperity and wide spread of the Good News in China, today is the day of God's revelation; today is the day of salvation. And the Heavenly Father alone makes the dates!
God requires all the children of China to repent. The book The Repentance of China is almost finished and there is a plan to make the book into a TV documentary series. The book is about the repentant voice of the souls of the nation. Chinese people had the old tradition of respecting Heavens, following the Way and fearing God. That was the pious age of Confucius. Starting from The Spring and Autumn Period, the Chinese rebelled against God and fell into humanism, in which they worshipped man as opposed to God, resulting in a self-destructive, iron-curtained society. Living in sins and bitterness, the Chinese people saw no God; they did not repent; they had no savior. Today, prosperity is not all; democracy is not all. Don't we need to come back to God so that our souls will be born again in repentance?
I find I have long fallen into the hands of the Heavenly Father. It is He that long ago gave me a thirsty heart for knowledge and truth. He granted me simplicity in my over ten years of life in the countryside; He granted me courage in my over ten years of life in the army. He made me be knowledgeable about human wisdom and historic culture; He made my life closely tied to the life of the Chinese people so that I was able to taste the blood and tears of the nation… He chose me when I was still in mother's womb; He trained me in the storms, and He ordained me in the land flowing with milk and honey. For a long time I've never belonged to myself. Nor have I had any choice, although I didn't realize this till now.
Dear brothers and sisters, I believe you, too, are part God's unique plan. So go and find out soon!