We are called to be a godly people who think, feel and act in harmony with biblical principles in all aspects of personal and social life. For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things that will produce Christlike purity, health and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognising cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit. It also means that because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures. Since alcoholic beverages, tobacco and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them as well. Instead, we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy and goodness. (Gen 7:2; Exod 20:15; Lev 11:1-47; Ps 106:3; Rom 12:1, 2; 1 Cor 6:19, 20; 10:31; 2 Cor 6:14-7:1; 10:5; Eph 5:1-21; Phil 2:4; 4:8; 1 Tim 2:9, 10; Titus 2:11, 12; 1 Peter 3:1-4; 1 John 2:6; 3 John 2.)
At 28 I gave my heart to Christ; 14 years on I can honestly say I don’t recognise myself. I know without a shadow of a doubt that no-one could ever pay me enough to go back to the person I once was. Am I perfect now? Far from it. But I am confident that my God will continue to work in and through me to refine and smooth out the rough edges until the day of His return.
In my early years, my church attendance was sporadic. My mother was raised Adventist but for a while stopped attending. However, we started attending more regularly when I was about 5 or 6. I grew up in a strict Samoan Adventist home in South Auckland, NZ, in the ’70s-’90s. The strictness of the Adventist home was fairly typical but in my experience the Sadventists in this time period took it a step too far.
I resented what I viewed as the restrictive nature of not only our ethnic culture but also our Church culture. I wanted to be FREE from everything that weighed me down. I started to rebel and my poor mother and grandmother watched, cried and prayed for my life. I, on the other-hand, marvelled at the way I could do as I pleased while my siblings still toed the line. Don’t get me wrong: I was disciplined. But it got to the stage where I would do what I wanted and took the discipline because I was happy that I had indulged in the activities I wanted to. I thought this was true freedom and happiness.
Going to school was a holiday for me. English was my favourite subject. However, I loathed the predictable “write what you did during the holidays” exercise. Truth be told we didn’t go anywhere. My siblings and I had the same holiday routine. We engaged in what my mother referred to as “character building” activities. These included weeding, washing the outside of the house, scrubbing the concrete steps, cleaning the house, washing windows, mopping floors, wiping down the insides of cupboards—the list of chores was endless. Therefore, my stories excluded reality but rather painted a picture of childhood bliss, which included frequenting theme parks, numerous international destinations, junk food galore and the latest movies . . . none of it was ever challenged by the teacher. (We lived in a low socio-economic area and we couldn’t afford the school bus fare let alone the cost of a plane ticket.) I found that I liked to embellish my monotonous life. It became a part of who I was. I didn’t have to lie. I had convinced myself that my fictitious life trumped my real one. I had convinced myself that my lies didn’t really bother me and they would not hurt anyone else. I never thought anything of it until the day I met Christ.
When I gave my life to Christ one of the many things I was convicted of purging from my life was lying. I recall lying to the assistant principal. I happily told the big fib and bounced out of his office. The realisation that I had told a lie came crashing down when I got home. I remember how awful I felt—which at that stage was a foreign feeling for me. I felt in my heart that I had to go back and confess my lie. I couldn’t eat or sleep, wrestling with the idea of the confession. I wanted to tell the truth but I was worried about being humiliated and disgraced. The next morning, I marched into his office and confessed—it is all a blur but what I remember distinctly is a feeling of overwhelming peace and calm, which I absolutely welcomed.
A few weeks later I found myself in a similar predicament, except this time I had lied to the school chaplain. Again, I felt the promptings to confess and again I wrestled with them for a few days. Peace was restored when I obeyed. A month or so later I was prompted to ask my Year 11 Bible class for forgiveness because I had told them a story—a truthful story mind you, but I neglected to tell them that I was not the true heroine. When I owned up to my class many of them questioned why I had confessed because they would never have known, which was true. But God knew and so did I.
"I realised that I was not the only one God was refining."
Good news is, as time progressed, telling the truth became easier and almost automatic. I was grocery shopping and I noticed the cashier swipe a bowl I had purchased, unaware that there were two bowls stuck together. When I alerted her to the second bowl she was surprised and thankful that someone could be so honest—if she only knew!
Honestly, all this confessing left me quite exhausted and I began to question God because I felt like He was expecting too much, too soon from me. I also wondered whether He was working on anyone else with the same intensity that I thought He was with me.
A year later I received an unexpected phone call from a family member. This person sounded uncharacteristically guarded and I wondered why they had called me. This person had called me to ask for forgiveness for lying to me. I am sorry, but I couldn’t contain myself. I responded in joyous laughter. I realised that I was not the only one God was refining. Another call from a Church member confirmed it. He called to confess a lie he had told me the previous day. I praise God that I was able to respond with the same grace that God and the people I had confessed to had shown me.
Believe me, lying was not the only part of my life God was working on at the time. God wanted and still wants me to be a better version of myself.
I truly do not recognise myself and look forward to the person He will have me be in the future. God was not joking when He said that in Him we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). There were elements of my old life God stripped away at the beginning of my journey once and for all, like alcohol. I have not touched a drop in 14 years. Then there’s the lying that took a bit longer. Then there’s the conviction to exercise, eat well and have a consistent devotional life, which are things I will always need God’s help with because they are not ideals I gravitate towards naturally. They have been habits I have had to develop over the course of many years until these actions became a daily necessity and joy.
At the beginning of last year, I decided to purchase a wireless speaker. I went to our local Big W store and saw the price of the speaker brand I wanted, which exceeded $300 and this frugal girl wanted none of that! I purchased one for $85. However, I had to return it as it did not work as well as the original brand I wanted. I returned the product and took the original speaker to the help desk. To my surprise, after scanning the more expensive speaker, the attendant informed me that she now owed me $34. Maths has never been a strong point of mine but even I knew this was a gross miscalculation. I was supposed to be paying at least $200-plus to cover the second product. I stood there for a while debating whether to tell the truth. A trip to the store: $20. A wireless speaker: $300. Walking out of the store in obedience and peace: PRICELESS.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Angie Gibson worships at South Kempsey Aboriginal Church and works at Kempsey
Adventist School, NSW.