Signs of Christmas: John Mateos Ong

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go. Outwardly that is… if we limit the representation of Christ’s birth to pretty Christmas decor.  From another perspective, there are also less overt but no less powerful marks of Christ’s coming  when we see proof like a captive freed, a blind man see, a life transformed.

All of the above happened in the life of John Mateos Ong, once a rebel, habitual/ serial womanizer who broke a lot of hearts where he went. The addiction and blindness that owned him, he was able to escape from. He credits Jesus for his life transformation and now he is paying it forward to transform lives of children and their families as he stands as Senior Shepherd of Revelation Church.

What was your life like before you came to know the Lord? In Grade School – I was really a good boy… tried to help everyone I saw, went to mass everyday faithfully.  I was a leader and teacher at heart.  I studied in Xavier and everyday played with the squatters beside our house.  Whatever I learned in school, I shared with them. One day, I accidentally pushed my classmate which caused his mouth to bleed. My teachers and parents got mad and threatened me that I would go to jail. I felt that every good thing I did was useless. It was like I was pursuing nothing. If God were real, why did He not protect me? I stopped going to church. I used the extra time to get into trouble. My classmates saw me as the tough one; their admiration toughened my unbelief.

My father also left our family when I was 11.  I told myself, “There must be No God!” and remained an atheist until after College.

img_2804

In High School, I had barkadas; I was the life of the party.  I got kicked out every year and womanized left and right.  I started a business selling punk fashion accessories and then another one in College, organizing events.

I felt like I was successful in everything I placed my hands on. Without fear of God, that led me deeper into the worldly life.  All the more I felt that I didn’t need God. I was the god of myself.

Can you tell me about your successes?  At 18, I worked with a radio company and from my second month, I already met my monthly quotas. When they tried to regularize me after six months, I quit.

In College, I was leader of our school political party. I became radical. I saw injustice and hopelessness in society and joined Bayan, a leftist movement, and distributed letters to supporters of the National Democratic Front.  I took courses and someday dreamt that I could go to the mountains and participate in the armed struggle.

I managed a band too [Orient Pearl]; I wrote the melody and co-wrote the lyrics of a hit song entitled Pagsubok in an album that hit triple Platinum record (120,000+ albums sold).  Our band became really popular during the 90’s and we went on tour around the Philippines; that further contributed to my womanizing.  I got married in 1996 to someone from another band but our marriage only lasted a year.  I started womanizing again.

img_2964
Ptr. John as member of Orient Pearl. Photo credit: Dominique James

In 2003, I became a professional photographer. I started a photograhy company (Imagine Nation) which became part of the Top 5 Wedding Suppliers of 2011. In a year, I shot 165 weddings and trained hundreds of photographers.

What were the turning point(s) for your life to change? In 2000, I met Monique.  At first, it wasn’t a serious relationship. But when it became serious, she caught me cheating three times…   first, after she gave birth to our first child, her friend caught me at an MTV party flirting with a girl; second, she confronted me to verify if I had a relationship with my subordinate in the office and I admitted; third, she saw a scandalous video of me and a girl friend. She couldn’t take it anymore and was going to end our relationship but she challenged me that if I received Jesus in my heart, she would come back.  I saw her life in comparison to mine.  Despite me leaving them (at that time, with two kids), she seemed happier and more complete.

I wanted my relationship with her to work. I knew that my womanizing hurt others.  I wanted to change.  But I couldn’t stop myself… when I saw a beautiful girl, it was like my body was on autopilot. Over and over.

I thought I was the god of myself and I was truly free because I had the freedom to do what I wanted. But how can you say you’re free when you’re actually a slave to sin? How can you say you are in control when you can’t control yourself?  I realized that after all the success in all my pursuits, I wasn’t as great as I thought I was.  I was hopeless. I was just an addict. A slave. I’m not in control. I’m not God.  I gave up on myself.

That’s when I said, “God, I need You here in my life. Show me You’re real. Ikaw na and bahala.”  I started attending church and bible studies.  They had three-point lessons. I thought, “Meron palang ganito (There’s such a thing as this)? This is just like attending a seminar. Oh there are things to apply…”

How did you reach a point where following Jesus weighed greater than  your desires and the life you were used to? At first I was afraid of what God would ask me to do or give up but I just gave him a little at a time. When there was something to obey, I did just that one thing only. Then when there was another thing to obey, I would give it a try. As I gave God little bit by little bit of my life, He showed himself faithful until I realized it was okay to give Him everything.  When people talk about the “full life” of a Christian, it was hard to grasp or believe.  But during the moments when I knew I couldn’t go on and I gave my situation to the Lord, His peace was really there… not due to the absence of problems because as what Jesus said, there will still be trials. The peace was more of being at rest because I knew that there is someone bigger than myself who is holding me together.

What happened next?   I agreed to join an accountability group under Roli Sabado. I attended Bible studies left and right,  then I surrendered my life to Christ.

How did your life change? My behavior changed.
– I stopped womanizing.  I stopped drinking (it was one of the things that predisposed me to womanizing)
– I stopped my bad words which I used to utter whenever I would get surprised.
– The Holy Spirit would not make me sleep when I sin.
– What mattered most before was money and my happiness.  That changed to being used by God and bringing people to Him.
– I used to disregard my kids.  I began to love being with them.
– Seeking God’s will and being aligned to it is what my life is about now.

How long did it take for the changes to happen? It was step-by-step. I think everyone goes to church with their own inhibitions and conditions. We are works-in-progress. First, I agreed to go to church but I slept through it. Later, my awake-time at church was longer. Then I joined the Bible study accountability group but I would not lead. Or I wouldn’t be a  pastor…  maybe over a period of two years.

Why do you credit the life change to Jesus and not anything else? When Jesus wasn’t in the picture yet, my life’s main focus was getting high on position, power, wealth, fame. When I encountered Jesus and learned more through His Word, all those things became secondary because my primary focus was Jesus. With following Him comes the desire to build my character, become a better person, better husband, better father. If not for Jesus, my outlook would have still been the same as before of pleasing myself. My life was like a circus. An empty one. In my old life, having women gave me the feeling of being accepted and having worth… which was wrong.

That is telling about the effectivity of womanizing to deliver if after the first dozen, you still did not feel very accepted and worthy. You gained a greater satisfaction with Jesus as your new life focus?  I wouldn’t say that I got greater satisfaction. I would instead say, “I am complete.” If I lost something like my business or a loved one— yes, I will grieve but now I understand that I am complete not because of people or things. I am complete in Christ. When the concept of eternity is clear to you, then you know that your life is just for a season, for a specific purpose. When that purpose is done, it’s time for you to go.  Same as with everybody else.  So regardless of age, the question is “Why am I here?” As long as you’re working towards that purpose, you’re complete. It doesn’t matter if you experience poverty or plenty, you’re complete. If you’re mistaken with goals, you will continue to feel  incomplete.

How did you reach that understanding? My impression of God was just second- or third-hand knowledge. The more I got to know the Bible for myself, the more God became personal and real to me. I can really hold on to Him and rely on Him to keep changing me for the better. I realized that the world as I knew it is just a speck compared to eternity.  This life is not all there is. It’s just a test to see if we would be faithful on the major things that really matter like…where will I go after this life?

Becoming more aware of God’s presence helps you to remember that what is done “in secret” is fully known by a holy God. Wherever you go, He’s there.  He sees. Since I gained fear of God, even when I just think of doing something no-good, I remember He even knows my thoughts. So that stops me.

Was it smooth-sailing after you surrendered your life to Christ? No way!!! I still get lazy, I still struggle and I still get tempted. Romans 7: Battle of Spirit and flesh. That’s why we should not ever put our guards down.

What measures do you take to avoid slipping back to your old life? During the time when we are most confident that we won’t fall into temptation is actually our weakest and most vulnerable to stumbling. Sin is a process, and the best time to stop is before it begins. I follow some guidelines:

  • Identify the circumstances that make you vulnerable. Is it going out for drinks? Is it traveling alone? Getting into a private area with a person of the opposite gender? Asking personal questions or answering personal questions with that person?
  • Avoid those circumstances.
  • Talk to God. Ask for wisdom and eyes to see the way out of those circumstances.
  • Divert attention to something else. Fast.
  • Join a growth group with a godly mentor who will help you to live out the godly life.
  • Have an accountability partner (of same gender) that you would be willing to be totally authentic with. In potential situations where temptations are likely, pray beforehand and ask your accountability to cover you in prayer.

I remember Pastor Joby’s lesson on how to avoid sin…something like… “The time to decide not to sin is way before the temptation comes. Otherwise, if you wait until temptation is present, it might be like stopping a plane that’s ready for takeoff from flying.:” Can you give some tips for couples dealing with brokenness from infidelity?

For Men: There will come a time when you will look back and ask “What has my life been all about?”  and realize “I still have time to make myself count.” but you have to seek God’s will.  If you don’t have Jesus yet, then there is an Abundant.Life. waiting to be discovered and the only way there is through JESUS.  From a guy who’s had it all — money, fame, women— friend, my advice is “Nothing in this world will compare to having Jesus.” The verse ” For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” is true.

For Wives:
* Do not nag.  If it’s true your husband has someone else, he may have seen something in her that he didn’t see in you.  Nagging will make you look worse in his eyes. Be the better woman.  Read Proverbs 31!!!  Make yourself [godly] beautiful and bring the romance back!
* Even with all the latest gadgets and technology, You can’t guard your husband 24/7. But God can. Get on God’s good side.

For both husbands and wives:
*Nothing is impossible with God.

*Don’t give up on each other.
*People can’t change people.  Only God can.  So cry it out to Him.
*Changes done through human will are temporary (as temporary as our states of emotion or mind). Man is by nature sinful.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to finish well.

What is your life verse?  Galatains 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and [a]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me… because I need to remind myself that the old John is dead.

What is your life like now? In 2009, Monique and I decided to get married.  We both came from broken families and saw marriage problems when no one teaches the how-to’s and what-if’s.  Before we got married, our mentors, Edric and Joy (Tanchi) Mendoza from CCF, discipled us on marriage matters.  The whole day, they did all the talking, giving us a primer on what we should know about God’s way to a better marriage. That retreat was so helpful and it highlighted the importance of how the family is the basic growth group.  CCF asked Edric to spearhead the church’s Family Ministry with that primer as framework for the “Before I Do” marriage seminars.  Monique and I started helping to organize and then speak at those seminars.  It takes place twice a year now and in almost all of CCF’s satellite churches.

img_2960img_2972

Ptr. John Monique family
“Our family is a representation of Christ’s body. We all come from one Father but we are all different. Each has different gifts with his own stories but these stories put together show how faithful God has been in each of our lives.” Ptr. John Ong

Later, God impressed upon Monique to plant a church. When she told me about it, I told her to ask God to tell me straight since I’m going to be the pastor (but in reality, I just didn’t want to do it). In 2011, after attending the Hillsong Conference in Sydney, I got confirmation to plant a church. We started Revelation Church.

Because of my burden for children to know the Lord early in life, we ministered to the kids (4-12 years) in an urban center in  Sampaloc, Manila.  They used to be very rowdy with a curse word every ten minutes; most of them did not attend to personal hygiene because they do not have facilities at home. But when the volunteers would come they would say how well behaved the kids are and how they memorize bible verses. The kids started to bring in their parents so now we have a full church with about two hundred people coming in every week.  On Sundays, we get our feeding from CCF in the morning and conduct the service at Revelation for our afternoon service.

I realized that the different things I was doing (Master’s degree in Marketing, photography and videography, music, songwriting, involvement in Worship team and Family Ministry, events, growing in personal relationship with Jesus and knowledge of the Word, even firsthand experience to overcome addiction and going back to the sheepfold) were different aspects of the back end of a church. Nothing is wasted.

I am in awe at how God works through everything.  When you put up something like a church, you will realize the word “Only Jesus” because I don’t know how I was able to do something like that.  You can’t buy people to attend your church… you can’t manipulate them into giving themselves into something that isn’t real or something you’re faking.   So I know this is all Jesus. It is a faith walk for us.

You are now a full-time pastor? My calling is to be a pastor. I am the “Senior Shepherd” at Revelation. I am fully committed to God’s work. We still do events management which brings food to the table but we have specialized in corporate and government events, minimizing social events for only those we can’t say no to.

img_2963
Ptr. John Ong trains gives photographers a free two-year training. Part of the requirement for eligibility is that the participant undergoes the Purpose Driven Life series of bible studies because Ptr. John believes that if photography is not one’s calling, he will burn out.

Do you and Monique counsel couples? Yes, when we have time.

How can people reach you? They can reach us or find out more about us through our blog, anounceoffaith.com.

img_2961

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s