John Alexander—Cerritos, California, USA
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I testify.
It brings me great joy to testify of God's amazing grace on my journey of faith. My story does not contain any momentous miracles, but this is not a question of whether God could perform these in my life. Rather, God knew a better way for me. I experienced His enduring love, which, to me, is miracle enough.
EARLY EXPERIENCES AS A CHRISTIAN
From the beginning, I was baptized into the Catholic faith and attended Catholic school. However, our family's faith seemed to be based on tradition, passed on from my grandparents, rather than having a personal relationship with God where we looked to God daily. I went to a public high school and did not pursue my faith. I would only attend Catholic mass on holidays or when we planned to eat out afterward. I did not see the point of making an effort because I already believed in God and thought I was a good person. I felt my faith was good enough even though I valued many things in life more than God.
By the end of high school, I had started attending mainstream Christian churches, which motivated me to build a relationship with God. I started looking to God whenever I was sad or struggling. Going to those churches always made me feel better about myself. After high school, I was drafted to play minor-league baseball. Touring with my team, I ended up attending churches all over the country. My faith helped me overcome family issues and struggles in my baseball career. I did not differentiate between denominations—I would attend one church on Saturday night and another on Sunday morning. I would also participate in Catholic services. Little did I know that each church has a different set of beliefs. Back then, I did not understand what doctrine was and never thought of questioning each church’s beliefs. I would stay if they had a good message and music band. But still, going to church was not a top priority. I would only go to church if I had had a bad week, was going through a difficult time, or had nothing else "better" to do.
The older I got, the more satisfied I felt with life. My baseball career ended, so I decided to go to college. I was coasting through life—working and going to school—but I had no idea I was slowly dying a spiritual death. I had so much pride and based my self-worth on my academic and social status. However, I started becoming obsessed and fearful of germs. I was unconcerned about sin because I believed God loved me and would forgive me. The Bible felt like a textbook; I could not understand its deeper meanings. I gravitated towards reading daily Christian devotionals and did not pray—I thought God had already predestined my life, so what was the point? For a short time, I believed Christians should not eat pork, and I even denied the existence of hell. I only knew one dimension of God, which was love, because I was living in the darkness of the world. I look back and realize that my understanding of God was based on how I wanted to perceive Him. My idea of God was created by my own wants, logic, and opinions. Moreover, my beliefs would change as time went on, influenced by the words of others. I had a wavering faith that was easily swayed. Yet, I never looked to the Bible for answers because that would have been too much effort.
COMING TO THE TRUE CHURCH
In the spring of 2017, I met Kelly, who told me she was a Christian too. Meeting a Christian who cared more about her faith than I did was rare—I was the most "Christian" out of everyone I knew. Kelly shared about the True Jesus Church (TJC), and I was curious about seeing this church she cared so deeply about.
During my first Sabbath service, I discovered this church sings hymns. Previously, music worship was a big part of my faith. I enjoyed attending churches with loud praise bands because the music stirred my emotions; I would use these strong emotions as motivation. On this occasion, I could not join in singing the hymns because I did not know how to read music. But the simplicity of the lyrics deeply touched me.
Even though I intended to continue with my other church, I never returned after that first service at the TJC. It was not that I accepted everything about the TJC that first Sabbath, but rather, I felt a deep urge inside me to keep coming back.
I was eager to study and learn why TJC was so different from all the other churches I had attended. I could also see a future with Kelly, so I knew if I wanted to be with her, I needed to find out if God was in this church. I had my doubts, but Kelly never pressured me to believe. She would answer any questions I had and simply supported me throughout.
Understanding the Sabbath
The Sabbath day was a concept I found difficult to accept. Every church I had ever known or heard of worships on Sunday. Even Chick-Fil-A, a well-known US chicken shop chain founded by a Christian, closes on Sundays. How could everyone be getting this wrong?
I learned that the Jews observe the Sabbath, and the Catholics observe on Sunday, which they call the "Lord's Day." So, I concluded that even the Catholic Church recognizes that the Sabbath is on Saturday; they choose to worship on Sunday based on their own reasoning. No one refutes any of the other Ten Commandments, so why should we skip the Fourth Commandment? When I read Genesis 2:2, I am encouraged that God rested as an example for us to follow:
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
What I appreciate about the TJC is that we research history and question human tradition to ensure we follow the truth of the Bible, not man's thinking.
Letting Go of Ego and Pride
Kelly explained the Holy Spirit to me before I attended church for the first time. However, I was apprehensive. My only knowledge of speaking in tongues was that it happened inside cults and "weird" churches. I quickly realized the TJC was the farthest thing from any of those institutions. When members spoke in tongues, they were fully aware of what was happening. They could stop at any time. No one was falling backward or losing control. Even knowing all of this, it took me a few months to muster the courage to pray and ask God for the Holy Spirit.
This delay had a lot to do with my pride, ego, and wanting to maintain control over my life. I had built up walls to protect myself mentally. I did not want to think of myself as a fool or someone who would be laughed at by people of this world. At the time, this was what mattered most to me. I believed in science and trusted in my own abilities. As time passed, I realized that even though science appears absolute, it is not. It changes when new studies are conducted and new information is discovered. In this light, I could now accept the Bible as absolute truth.
I had to surrender my prideful ego—the part that wanted to know it all. The walls I had built to protect me kept God out. Just as it says in 1 Corinthians 3:18–19:
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness."
My prayers gradually became longer and longer. I was not used to lengthy prayers because I grew up praying for less than a minute or two in words of understanding. These extended prayers made me feel so close to God—a closeness I had never experienced. My past experiences were very surface-level compared to this. After a year of coming to the TJC, I was ready to commit and trust that God's Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, was real. I wrote this in my journal, adding, "No turning back," and signed it at the bottom.
THE JOURNEY OF BELIEF AND BREAKING BARRIERS
I do not change very quickly, but when I decide to change, I fully commit. I remain skeptical up until I am not. This is the approach I took with our church doctrines. I looked at the doctrines skeptically but studied to find the truth. I appreciate that the TJC members do not blindly follow and accept the pastors' words. They pursue the truth of our basic beliefs. Attending the young adult and basic beliefs classes at Baldwin Park TJC helped me understand our doctrines more deeply. There was no specific moment when I fully believed; it was a slow, methodical process of coming to believe through seminars, Bible reading, and prayer. This is by God's grace because He knows I do not believe things so easily or quickly. I enjoyed studying church history because I could see how, historically, church doctrines were changed by church and world leaders. I realized God's truth is absolute; man cannot change God's instructions. What gives me great confidence in the TJC is that our doctrines align with what the Bible says, and not the declarations of a single person.
Reconciling Doubts, Simply Trusting God
In the summer of 2018, I felt ready to give my life to God and be baptized. I would also attend the National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS) and ask Kelly to marry me that summer. However, Satan was working against me. My overthinking had gotten extreme. I started doubting God's existence and the concept of eternity. So, the NYTS came at the perfect moment. The thought that I could not let God down, since He had blessed me with this opportunity, kept me going during this time.
During the NYTS, a pastor shared with me that faith is like a tree. You cannot force the branches to grow faster. It takes time for faith to grow and develop. Just like everything else, it is a journey and a process. I struggled through every emotion during this seminar—from anxiety to joy to doubt to fear and to a spiritual depth I had not experienced before. I was edified through fellowship with the brothers and sisters and received a lot of intercessions and encouragement. It was truly touching. I enjoyed digging deep into God's word during the classes. In one, we discussed Psalm 84:11–12:
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!
These verses perfectly summarized what I needed at that time. I did not receive the Holy Spirit at this seminar, but in my heart, I knew He had a better time.
Around this time, a member encouraged me to use my doubts as motivation to draw closer to God. She also explained that humans exist within time and space, so we cannot fully comprehend eternity. If man could fully comprehend God, then what kind of God would that make Him? I realized it was not about having all my questions answered. I used to seek Bible verses to prove things to myself, but I now use the Bible to support my faith. Praying, singing hymns, listening to sermons, and attending NYTS allowed me to conclude that having simple faith and trusting in the Lord was all I needed. I had instinctively kept my struggles to myself because of shame, and the fear of judgment and appearing weak. However, it helped to talk about them and bring them to light. I could hear other perspectives, and in turn, the brothers and sisters could pray for me.
Thank God, I received the true water baptism in the fall of 2018. During my baptism, I was overwhelmed with so much emotion that it was difficult to express my feelings. I broke down and wept as I entered the water. I was moved by God's love and how arduous the journey had been to get to that point—the internal struggles and walls I had to break down to accept God wholeheartedly. I felt profound peace and cleanliness—my sins had been truly washed away.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
My next goal was to receive the Holy Spirit; the more I learned, the more deeply I believed. Just as Jeremiah 29:13 says:
And you will seek Me and find Me,
When you search for Me with all your heart.
What helped me believe in the Holy Spirit was our basic beliefs. I would ask myself, Why don't other churches do the things the TJC does when they make so much sense and are so clearly stated in the Bible? The answer to this question is the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we cannot fully understand the Bible (Jn 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor 2:10–11). The promised Holy Spirit is written and spoken of by Jesus Christ, the prophets, and the apostles throughout the Bible.
In April 2019, I received God's promised Spirit. It had been almost a year and a half since I sincerely started praying for the Holy Spirit. I had not been praying much because I was sick and had a sore throat. But that night, I wanted to kneel and pray for a particular person and the situation they were going through. All of a sudden, I felt a strong feeling of motivation, and my tongue started vibrating. I was in disbelief. Afterward, I called Kelly, who said it sounded like I had received the Holy Spirit!
However, I was not so easily convinced. I spent the next couple of weeks doubting and testing if I had indeed received the Holy Spirit or was vibrating my tongue on my own. But thank God, a pastor confirmed it, and I slowly began to believe more and more, becoming filled with the Holy Spirit.
I now see that the Holy Spirit would not overpower me in an out-of-control way. Receiving the Spirit is about surrendering, letting go, and letting His living water flow freely. Even during that period of uncertainty, I felt peace and contentment to not lust after the world. I distinctly remember this feeling and change. This encourages me to believe that this is God's true Spirit because even though I doubted, I still experienced a clear difference in myself.
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:5)
MOTIVATED BY GOD'S LOVE
On reflection, I was encouraged early on by the love of the brothers and sisters. Before coming to the TJC, I would not participate in church activities or talk to anyone at my previous churches. I would show up, worship, and leave. Members of the TJC would approach me and share their testimonies; we would eat together and clean together. I was so touched by the shared sense of family. The Sabbath day is a full day of rest, where before, I would worship God for just one hour and go home.
The TJC is the only church that motivated me to change my life. Other churches would proclaim what we should do as a slogan, but as much as I tried or had good intentions, I could not follow through. I had used God's love as a crutch; now, it motivates me to improve. I am continually encouraged by this verse:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Mt 7:21)
Let us all continue this race of faith together as one family. I thank God for all the brothers and sisters who continue to labor, pray for, and support me on this journey. I thank God for His patience and enduring love. As Jeremiah says:
The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying:
"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindess I have drawn you." (Jer 31:3)
May the glory, honor, and praise be to our heavenly Father. Amen!