How I Came To Know Christ and Who I Am Today: An Interview with Timothy Lee
22 Aug 2021
By Liew Hong Wei
Everytime we hear a story of how God is working in and through someone, we can’t help but give thanks. We see God’s work in not just the obvious but also in the most unexpected. Tim’s story is one of many worth celebrating, and so recently, we sat down with him to hear how God changed his life. This is his story.
Hong Wei (HW): Hi Tim, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
Tim: So I was born in Korea but raised in the Philippines. I was infant baptised and attended a Korean church during my time in the Philippines. My whole family was involved in church life one way or another, and as a child I considered myself a pious person, but as I grew older, I became pretty much a nominal Christian. By the time I was a university student, I didn’t like to socialise, so instead I pursued my interests in English literature and film as much as I could; and in a way, they consumed me. Consequently, church life took a backseat because of this. By the time I became a working adult, I attended all the regular events/gatherings in the church, but I did not join or hang out with people in church. I preferred to come home (as church was about a 20-30 minute walk away) or spend time alone reading books in a quiet Starbucks café, or come home to watch movies on cable TV or surf the Internet, which was a novelty at the time.
I worked 3 years in the Philippines, before I moved to Perth for further studies. After visiting several Korean churches there, I eventually decided to settle down in a Presbyterian Church, where I was introduced to Reformed Theology. The pastor preached exegetically through books of the bible. He loved the Puritans and held to a Reformed understanding of Christianity, and introduced me to the concept of Christ-centered preaching.
Tim on projection duty at his church in Perth (2006)
However, I did not know the gospel with clarity until I was in Singapore. What really happened by God’s grace was that I, for a season, was deeply conscious of my sinful desires and was very disturbed about it. One day, I was surfing the Internet in my room when I suddenly decided to google several Reformed pastors upon remembering the one time when one of the Korean overseas students I met in Perth mentioned that he listens to John Piper’s sermons on his MP3 player. I watched and listened to sermons and clips from I’ll Be Honest and it was after going through several of those videos when clear preaching on sin and the gospel cut straight to my heart and convicted me. It was clear to me that in choosing sin over Jesus each time, I did not love Him. Because I did not love Jesus, I wasn’t a Christian. At that moment of realization, I felt a sharp pain in me and all of a sudden, it was like I saw a trapdoor open from under me. Instantly, I felt vertigo and I felt as though I was falling down into the abyss. As I was falling, I shouted “Lord, save me.” Then a great feeling of sweet and unspeakable peace enveloped me into safety and I knew I was saved. For a time, tears would fall out when I read the Bible (I was following the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan), as I was deeply moved. It was as though I was given insight into the heart of God. When I read the Psalms, my heart would burn with love for God’s word. I also experienced a blessedness of a reduced desire to sin, and I started to devour online resources from Ligonier Ministries and conference talks from T4G. From then on, I was keenly aware that I had become a different person.
HW: Praise the Lord for His mercy and grace to you! We are thankful that He has saved you. What happened next and how did you end up in CERC?
Tim: I was still living in Singapore at that time. I was also looking for someone to marry and I eventually found a Malaysian I was interested in, so I regularly visited KL to spend time with her. During my visits to KL, I fell in love with the somewhat laid-back culture in KL, and entertained the idea of eventually settling down in KL. Because of my exposure to the Reformed faith during my time in Perth, I was looking for a Reformed church where I could possibly settle in.
After googling “reformed churches in Malaysia”, I came across CERC’s website. As I listened to the sermons online, I found Pr Robin’s sermons very interesting, in particular, the ones on Zechariah. I liked how Pr Robin would cite a chapter of the Bible to explicate a certain theological point and was quite intrigued by how he expected his audience to know the Bible so well. At the time, there usually were Q&A sessions after the sermon, and I found those discussions very interesting as well. Through those sessions, I could see that it wasn’t just Pr Robin, but the whole church was steeped in Scripture, and seeing that was very exciting for me.
I would usually head back to Singapore on Saturday afternoon, but because I wanted to know more about the church, I decided to visit the church for one Sunday. Though the lady I was seeing was based in KL and was not too familiar with the Sunway area, she kindly agreed to take me to CERC and attend a Sunday gathering there. It was that Sunday when I first met Joy Gan (Pr Robin’s wife). And since then, I would meet Joy Gan whenever she and the CERC fundraising team came down to Singapore for fundraising. That was around the time when I also started joining Gospel Growth Fellowship conferences.
HW: You’ve been a member for almost 4 years now. What made you finally decide to become a member in CERC?
Tim: Initially I was slightly hesitant in committing, as I believed I could contribute better if I contributed in Singaporean dollars. Over time, knowing people from CERC challenged me to stop wasting my life and start living for God. Gradually, I felt convicted and envious at how blessed people in CERC were. They were lovely and I wanted to be like them.
Tim (left) in a Combined Growth Group skit at CERC (2015)
When I did finally decide to join CERC’s membership course, I soon got to see what the church is really about – a Christ-centred, God-glorifying ministry – it’s all for the purpose of building up and growing the church for the glory of God. A part of church membership is also keeping each other accountable. That was a big incentive for me to become a member, as I knew how much of a sinner I once was, and that I definitely needed accountability. And I saw the value in how CERC actually cares about keeping each other accountable. At the end of the course in my membership interview with Pastor Robin, it became clear to me that there is no dichotomy in serving the church and being a Christian. The church will always need more people to do the important work that needs to be done – this is all part of building up the church for God’s glory.
HW: That is certainly true that there is always work to be done for the building up of God’s church, but it isn’t easy either! Could you share with us how it has been like for you as a member in CERC thus far?
Tim: Well, I remember once during my time as a membership candidate, I had an issue with a Head of Department (HOD) which involved equipment that was malfunctioning. The machine didn’t work as expected and I had to walk up and down the stairs repeatedly over a period of time. Of course, that was tiring for me, so I attempted to address this issue with the HOD, but he did not settle this issue in a timely manner (not because he didn’t want to, but it just wasn’t an easy issue to settle quickly). It took too long to resolve this issue, and it made me resentful, to the point that I had gossiped about this whole incident. It took awhile, but I gradually realized I wasn’t acting like a Christian in my resentfulness and my gossiping about this fellow brother in Christ. He was my brother, my HOD, and also a Growth Group leader who was taking care of his fellow Growth Group members by teaching them Scripture and shepherding them weekly. In doing the work he assigned to me, I would be helping and supporting him in Word ministry, but instead, I was making things harder for him and even worse, gossiping behind his back even though he was always kind and friendly to me.
There were several other similar episodes. In another department for instance, I was corrected by people younger than myself, as I did not perform my task adequately. I felt anger, which I realised was a sinful part of myself that refused to be corrected by someone younger than me, even though they had done it out of love for the church, and myself.
I realised that it was not loving to the church if I acted this way. I was entrusted to do a task, and instead of being the person my leader/HOD could rely on, I made his job of leading the department, which is already a difficult task, even more difficult. I was ultimately harming the church this way in my selfish and prideful way of thinking. To be honest, when I realised this, I did not like who I was becoming. I could see my sin as I indulged in anger and gossip.
The fact of the matter is: church ministry is difficult, and it requires sacrifice. I know that all of us are sinners – myself, my HOD, my fellow brothers and sisters in the church. But through these incidents, I’ve learnt that God can use an imperfect HOD to show that I was truly a sinner and acted in a stressful situation in an ungodly manner, and it showed me my lack of humility, selflessness, and self-control as well. Looking back, I’m grateful to God for this sanctifying experience in church and it’s a good reminder to reflect upon my sin and repent. In the end, God uses this beautiful tapestry called “the church” to do His work, even if the church is imperfect. It’s only by God’s sovereign work of His providence that we are able to keep persevering in doing His work.
HW: That’s very encouraging Tim! Thanks for sharing that. Before we wrap up, what is one thing you would like to say to encourage young Christians in the church?
Tim: Time is short. So make the most of your time and your energy. Work hard in serving God’s church. Together with that, trust God in prayer when you reach your limits and persevere to the end.