It is my prayer that this is an honest reflection of my life and the undeserved grace that God has let me share in. I was born in Tasmania, Australia – 1974 and grew up in a church-going family. From about the age of 3 years I began attending church weekly with my parents and my twin brother – and later my two younger brothers. I went to a Christian school throughout primary and high school and was in weekly Wednesday night Bible instruction lessons and youth club. It is fair to say that over several years I had a lot of exposure to church, Christian life and the Bible.
At school I did well in all areas of study and also enjoyed music and sports. Even as a young child I was quite serious. At times I found it difficult to relate to or be friends with other children of my own age. Often my friends were several years older than I was or I would be happy playing with younger children. My youngest brother died in an accident when we were on a family walk. He was nearly four. I was around nine. This was a big blow for our family. I remember standing at the funeral knowing that "God cares" – yet there was a deep sense of loss and confusion.
As I went through life, there were times when I was very annoyed at the lack of seriousness of others’ lives. Especially in the later teenage years I despised people who did not take the same attitudes to issues that I had. Seeing my peers more carefree perspectives on life made me often judge them. I remember often going to bed so angry with people about such things that I would not be able to get to sleep – my blood would be boiling. Particularly in Christian lifestyle matters I would be very judgmental and quick to condemn others. I knew "I was not perfect either". This was sufficient repentance for me. At youth club discussions, church meetings and even in general life I would be very quick to speak and voice my strong opinions – because I felt that others needed to hear my "superior morals". Also within my family I often was involved in fierce arguments and debates.
At the end of grade 10 (when I was 16 years old) I got a part time job working in an office that provided a secretarial service and business consultancy. During 2 years of college and 3 years of University (in which I studied business) I continued and progressed in this job. My life was very busy: a mix of full-time study, a demanding part-time job and also being involved in various committees for school, church, sport, music, sign-language and others activities. I felt proud that I was able to achieve all this.
It is easier for me to explain this in retrospect. Towards the end of my University degree (when I was about 21 years old) there were times when my conscience was probed by a nagging thought. Was my life dictated by my obsession of "being right and keeping active"? Or did I actually trust in God and his grace for my present and future life? These questions were further seared in my mind through the fresh reading and reflection of God’s word, studying other helpful Christian books and meeting Christians whose lives challenged me.
After completing University I spent a year in Europe in 1996. There, through the sovereign Lord’s grace, I was brought into involvement with true gospel based ministry through the London City Mission and Christian camps in Hungary and Romania. These experiences were new to me. For many years "Jesus as Saviour" was a theory in my head – but never a reality in my life. How humbling it was to admit I am in the same need of Jesus for my life as any staggering and anguished alcoholic has for his or her life. And how difficult, but necessary it was for me to recognise that I have the same need of redemption through Christ as a person whose culture and background is so different than mine. Sin is universal.
Bible texts such as Romans 7 began to really hit home: "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" For years I had been hiding behind my own hypocritical morals and pious lifestyle. I was very proud at being able to achieve so much in my own strength and wisdom. So much a Pharisee. I had not brought my sin and sins before the holy God to really be dealt with in the only way – through Jesus death and God’s mercy. God brought me to Him as my forgiving Father.
Soon after returning to Tasmania I began to work with a local Christian charity organisation – the Launceston City Mission. I held a position there for around 16 months till I received an invitation to work with a Christian mission project in Romania. I made the difficult but prayerful decision to go to Europe to support the work of Romania's Good Shepherd ("Bonus Pastor") Foundation. Since mid 1998 I have been in Europe based in London. I work 2 days per week with the London City Mission and 3 or 4 days per week for Romania. I go to Romania each summer for a few months. I thank God that He allows me to serve Him – even though He can do better without me. What a merciful Father!
There is still the daily tendency and reality to be a hypocrite and be a self-justifying Pharisee. Especially working and living within Christian environments, the pull of pride is so strong. Please ask God for me to put aside my efforts of achieving things myself. Pray that the Holy Spirit would convict me of sin (John 16:8) and bring me daily to the same cross of Christ that is the hope for the whole world. 1 Corinthians 1:18 "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
Paul Jansen – written 25 April 2001