By Jun P. Espina | Last updated on February 18th, 2020 at 11:01 am
□ The Ransom
A member of the Jehovah’s Witness—a medical doctor by profession—visited me for his group’s “gospel.” Before he arrived, I studied the book “Confronting the Cults.” Its thesis states that the Bible truths about sin could tongue-tie the religious cult’s best debaters. And it worked for me. I noticed he didn’t understand God’s hatred for sin. Our salvation from God’s wrath on account of our sinful heart must be our crushing obsession. For He commanded us to love Him more than ourselves. (cf. Mark 12:20) But we cannot do that. Thus, we are transgressing His law; we are disobeying and sinning against Him and breaking His heart daily. Wrote John: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4, KJV) So Christ came and died to ransom us from the power and slavery of sin, and to save us from sin’s death penalty in hell. No other plan available for us to inherit everlasting life but to trust in Christ’s claims. We have heard thousands of false teachers pointing out the path to live forever. But only one Teacher among all of them proved man’s immortality by rising from the dead. He is Jesus Christ—the resurrected Savior and Son of the living God—He told the truth about our eternal life. Do not rest, therefore, until God’s Spirit assures you of your own life beyond the grave by faith in Jesus, our risen Lord!
If you don’t care about your soul’s condition and future, remember that God cares for you. Christ, who is God the Son, condescended (or became Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” — Matthew 1:23.) to wash away your sins by His own blood on the cross. Paul calls it a demonstration of God’s “own love toward us.” He wrote in Romans 5:8 this mind-blowing truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) God loves you even if you neither love nor enjoy His friendship and provisions for your continued existence like His giving you the rain, the sun, the air (your own breath) for free.
The apostle Peter has another depiction of Christ’s love toward us all. He touched man’s sin issue with God and Christ’s solution to propitiate or appease this God-man animosity. Christ, Peter argued, bore our sins “for by His wounds you were healed.” It is the other version of Paul’s description of God’s love which loop around the truth that “Christ died for us.” “He Himself,” wrote the apostle Peter, “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Our deliverance from God’s judgment against sin in hell involves the death of God the Son. Peter said that through Christ’s sacrifices “we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” He talked about divine forgiveness and the possibility of a righteous life because of Christ’s death on the cross. It is how our sinful soul got its cleansing and total forgiveness through Christ. The apostle John penned the bottom line of this teaching: “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7b)
□ Of God’s Holiness
If we just recognize God’s holiness versus our sinfulness, our tragic urgency would only roll around our redemption from sin and the wrath of God. All our ambitions, goals, luxuries, self-gratifications, the quest for wealth or higher learning and all the thrills in them that have occupied our hearts for long years would flee like meaningless chaffs as we chase and grab the assurance of our salvation and deathlessness. “More than that,” wrote the apostle Paul, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:8) Christ is Everything. Paul aimed to “gain Christ” since everything he had means nothing compared with his knowledge of Jesus. He washed away my sins through His blood. My future thus, as a forgiven sinner, is assured and sealed by His Spirit in my soul. (cf. Eph. 1:3) My knowledge of Christ’s everlasting life for me is just bigger in value, force and magnitude than the value of the entire world. I will live forever in God’s City. This truth billows in my soul—I can’t thank my Lord Jesus enough for saving me.
All we need is our soul’s life in heaven. True, it is worth reiterating given the value of our soul’s eternal existence after our temporary residence on this planet. It is Christ’s core message: To give us eternal salvation and complete forgiveness through faith in the Gospel. Christ died as a propitiation to free Paul, Magdalene, Thomas, and all of us who trust in Him from the bondage of sin and the judgment in hell. He is our only Savior. The Father in heaven will neither save nor give any of us eternal existence in His city outside of Jesus. Our Lord is the Way to the Father since He is our Savior. The Bible teaches no other way except that Jesus saves our guilty souls from God’s righteous judgment, therefore we must believe and trust Him if we want to live in heaven. “Believe in the Lord Jesus,” taught the apostle Paul, “and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
Who is Jesus and How He Saved My Soul
Christ’s life was so different. Someone said He had a solitary life of being unschooled, having exposure only to Mary, the peasant, and Joseph, the carpenter and with no formal training for greatness. Yet, He regenerated His born-again followers—He changed the world!
□ Jesus, the Humble Savior
If I were God Incarnate like Jesus, I would probably choose the life of the wealthy and famous. But we find Christ living in utter simplicity. He didn’t own a house or even a pair of leather shoes. Instead, He borrowed His donkey, His cross, and even His tomb! He taught the way to everlasting life by faith and not wealth accumulation or becoming famous.
Let us raise this question for an illustration: “Lord Jesus, what’s Your point—why, You are GOD the Son—You own everything?” “Well,” He may answer, “in My Father’s house are many mansions. And faith that I DIED TO SAVE YOU is the entrance fee in that place. For by GRACE are ye saved through FAITH.” (Eph. 2:8)
Faith, therefore, is the only investment in this life that matters—and that this epitome of trust and confidence must revolve around Christ and His Word. Concerning our soul’s salvation from hell, God requires faith in Jesus Christ alone as Savior and Lord! Do you want Jesus to save you from sin, hell, and God’s wrath? Then believe in Him like trusting you still have another new day tomorrow.
□ The “U-turn” Faith
I sought to explain faith in layman’s term during my stint since dry and echoed theology always sends people in the pew to a church nap. Try to quote Hebrews 11:1 where it defines faith as the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I tried it and no one cared. So I invented a fable to explain faith, and it was about a certain police officer. I told my audience there was a police officer who warned the transport drivers that the next bridge is not passable for the moment. The one driver ignored the advice and proceeded, while the other one made a U-turn because he trusted the word of the law enforcer. That is faith! You cannot just say I believe without repentance of sin and a change of mind toward Jesus. Second, you cannot claim faith without trusting Christ’s Word, the Holy Bible. The driver who returned home listened and believed in the bridge-is-broken advisory. If you don’t trust in your bank, for another example, you would not deposit your money, right? How is it you declared faith in Christ without a commitment to His lordship of your borrowed life? Did you submit to water baptism by immersion? Do you trust Christ one hundred one percent more than your combined resources, connections and other sources of strength in facing and solving your everyday needs and problems? Do you have a working relationship with the risen Jesus? Do you have a prayer life? Can you say, “I love You, Lord Jesus, for You died to give me eternal life”? If so you are a believer. If not, then you are unsaved—a mere Christian sympathizer. And woe to you, for the Bible said you will go to hell—even if you’re so active in the church like no other!
The Complicated Life Outside of Christ
We have many plans on how to spend our days on earth. At age 60, we just have 21,900 days of life. That’s how brief life is in this domain. We need to live minus the vices and cobwebs. Life is short, and death is coming. Bill Gates’s Microsoft cannot help him save his soul from God’s wrath on account of sin. For what profit is it to a man if he GAINS (all land titles are his!) the whole world (owns all banks), and loses his own soul? (cf. Matt 16:26) How we love to spend all our years for our glorification on earth? Where is our life with God whom we will meet face to face after death?
□ The Spiritual Trap We are Ignorant About
Multitudes of people around us don’t understand the pressure of ensuring their eternity with God. It’s all Greek to them. They don’t believe in God’s promised immortality. It happened during the Flood—the crowd rejected God’s salvation! Folks mocked at us; our relatives and friends laughed at us in the back of their minds because we received God’s message of deathlessness in Jesus Christ. The devil blinded our majority with the pleasure and treasure of this life. Satan’s teachings don’t get as far as the life beyond our last breath on earth. This life is his only offer. When the devil tempted Christ, for example, he used the value of the bread, the worth of pride, and the lust of owning the kingdoms of the world which he considered his own. No discussion on things beyond this world. Satan cannot offer something he does not own like God’s immortality in heaven. All he is doing is to twist the Word of God like what he did to Eve. Satanic scriptures offer nothing but the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. They promised beautiful women after death as a reward for fanaticism. This darkness that have fallen on the consciousness and hearts of the unbelievers have veiled them like the domain of a complete satanic fraud had entrapped them. Can you imagine the Muslim extremists beheading the Christians in the name of their god? Can you believe your loved ones despising you because you are a born-again Christian? “You will be hated by all because of My name. . .. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (Matt. 10:22; John 15:18) Our Lord describe this massive unbelief as “great darkness.” “If then the light that is in you is darkness,” taught our Lord Jesus, “how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:23) I was in this great darkness before. I used to cover my ears when someone preached a sermon. One free Christian Newsletter from the U.S. reached me (before the Internet era) without my subscribing it. I wrote back and insulted the writer. My spiritual trap was perspicuous. The apostle Paul calls my rejection of Jesus as a foolish heart that was darkened. (cf. Rom. 1:20-21) By God’s grace, I got saved. Hell could have been my portion had I not met Christ in my heart by faith. Now I know how the true salvation and forgiveness of the soul through Christ works. I take pity on those blindfolded souls who will share the population of hell, instead of spending eternity with God forever. Therefore, your vast and imposing interest as of the moment if you are still unsaved is the urgency to come to Christ by faith and to ask Him to forgive you and give you eternal life.
Faith in Christ—the Difference Maker
□ The Unbelievers can Never See What We Saw
The apostle Paul wrote that faith in Christ is a difference maker. Observe 1 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Only the born-again Christians know this difference or distinction. For the non-Christians, it is meaningless. From birth to death, the unbelievers can never see what we saw. They recognize our newness in attitude and values, but they don’t care the Source of our Second Birth who is Christ’s Spirit. The mystery of unbelief is just veiled and hooded and without light in those it affected. Judas, for example, could not see Christ’s divinity despite all the pieces of evidence before him. Prophesied John: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.” (Rev. 9:20-21) The magnitude of the horrors and sufferings inflicted upon the people through the wrath of God during the Great Tribulation could not persuade the ungodly to believe and trust Jesus. The Chapter Nine of Revelation tells about the plagues that resemble the ferocity of the modern warfare like the warplanes’ power to drop bombs with higher destructive capabilities and weapons of mass destruction. In verses three to five, the Word of God explains about the smoke (smoke from a bomb?) and the locusts that came out of the smoke and have the sting of a scorpion. “And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man.” (v. 5) Then in verse 9, another allusion to the lethal modern warfare—the horses that have power in their mouths and tails. “For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.” But, John said, the people did not repent. It is how a deceived person will respond to God’s Spirit’s wooing whether in the outline of afflictions or gracious blessings. Even a thousand years of Bible study under Christ’s millennial presence, the people will still continue to look for Satan and follow him after his release from the bottomless pit. (cf. Rev. 20:3) Unbelief knows no cutoff point. The rundown of Judas’ life of mistrust in Christ and Mary Magdalene’s contrary conviction only compresses into one conclusion that faith in Jesus is undoubtedly a difference maker.
□ The Most Agonizing Tragedy in Life
I am always amazed of the power of our Christian faith. The Apostles and the Church’s fathers, for example, died a martyr’s death to defend the name of Jesus. Note Hebrews 11:36-38:
God recorded their poverty and pains and ill-treatment in the hands of the unbelievers. But their faith in Christ remained steadfast since nothing can move them away from their beloved Lord. I used to call this closeness with God the Son as the miracle of salvation. The infidels do not have what we have; they don’t know our experience with the risen Jesus. I faced dozens of peaks and valleys as an old man, but Christ never leave me like I lost my Good Shepherd. (cf. John 10:11) Faith is a dominant force in life for good or evil. The ISIS or Islamist radicalism, for instance, is faith-triggered, but we saw on TV how demonic the advocates of this persuasion could go given the absence of truth in their teachings. Faith in Christ as the Word and Son of God is just so far as the distance of the east from the west. God said in Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The Christian faith rolls around the soul’s forgiveness from sin against our Almighty Creator which all other faith systems the world over neither recognize nor understand. Faith in Christ is just so biblical, unique, and special that the real Christian treasures it like treasuring the only passport to enter God’s city.
I appeal to my reader to rethink about Christ Jesus and the Gospel. After the invention of the Internet, the most agonizing tragedy in life is the death without Jesus Christ by your side. The recipe for man’s salvation is mushrooming on the Web like all those things made available for free. We have free software, free eBooks, free Bible, free counselling, you name it—you can google all these free good things from your device. The biblical teaching to get saved is one of them. How come you are unsaved given the overload of teachings on how to get to heaven? The head caption of this article is “Saved by Faith in Christ.” It is the gist of all the scriptural doctrines on salvation that you may encounter as you scrub the Web. The Gospel said that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay off our sins according to the Scriptures. And to raise this teaching high above all others, Christ resurrected to confirm His promised eternal life for His born-again followers. You may ask, “What is born again?” I have a post on this topic in this site. But to simplify things, I would just say (again), “Saved by Faith in Christ.”
□ The Conversion of Lydia, the Businesswoman
I want to bring the story about the first Christian convert in Europe during the ministry of the apostle Paul. Her name was Lydia. Wrote Luke:
Lydia attended Paul’s Bible study session at the riverside. Before Lydia’s conversion, Luke noted that she was “a worshiper of God, was listening.” Do you want to enter heaven and live there forever? If so, search God in your heart. If you have a thirst for the truth, you will listen as what Lydia did. Billions of people don’t understand the salvation process since God’s Spirit won’t give the gem of eternal life to the rebels. Christ said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) In Paul’s “Sermon on Mars Hill,” he said after commenting on God’s ownership of everything, “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) God gave us life, to follow Paul’s doctrine, so we will seek our Creator. In Luke’s narrative in the book of Acts, “the Lord opened her [Lydia’s] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” after saying that Lydia was a worshiper of God and was listening. Lydia got saved by faith in Jesus for “the things spoken by Paul” were all about Jesus as the apostle and ambassador of Christ. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20) Note that after she realized and accepted the truth (and after her baptism in that account), Lydia offered to serve God. It means her good works just followed her second-birth experience. (See: Eph. 2:8-10)
□ The Principles of Grace and Faith in Lydia’s Salvation
Grace is God’s unmerited favor or undeserved kindness. Lydia’s interest in spiritual things as a worshiper of the God she did not know who was a profile of grace. In John 1:9, the apostle John wrote about Christ’s light that enlightens our sin-darkened souls. He said, “There was the true Light [Christ] which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” Lydia received and responded to our Lord’s enlightenment as she attended and listened to Paul’s sermon. The Holy Spirit drew Lydia to listen to God’s Word through Paul’s preaching. (See: John 6:44) Then “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” She responded to Paul’s message by believing and accepting Christ’s lordship into her heart. Lydia’s conversion started with God’s grace of giving her the needed enlightenment and ended with her response of receiving Paul’s teaching as the truth. The interplay of the principles of grace and faith gets so visible when you consider the truth that God won’t ram down our throat His grace. Faith is required for grace to save the sinful soul. In Paul’s notable riverside Bible study, many were enlightened but only Lydia got saved as recorded in Acts since she listened and responded to Paul’s exhortation by believing and accepting Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord.
The irresistible-grace teaching of the hyper-Calvinist preachers is worthy of our time here because they would insist that Lydia exercised faith in Christ since God’s grace upon her was inexorable, overpowering, and cannot be rejected. The Bible, however, does not teach that faith in Christ is something hammered by God into our hearts. Grace can be resisted according to Christ Himself. Note Matthew 23:37:
Look into the above-quoted Scripture. Christ wants to gather all like a hen that “gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Lydia could have been unwilling. But she believed—she was willing! How about the message of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, before he died? He said in Acts 7:51: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” Stephen even elevated the doctrine to a new level. People, he said, did not just reject God’s grace, but even resisted the Holy Spirit! We have the human responsibility therefore, to believe, and Lydia did just that. Now this verse makes sense:
□ The Wise Man’s Reply
Let us end this message by a wise reply on the question: “Do you want to be saved?” In John 3:16, we read Christ’s saying, “whoever believes in Him [Jesus] shall not perish, but have eternal life.” A certain young guy asked a wise man whether the small bird kept by the former in his hand is alive or not. The wise man said, “if I would say it’s alive you would choke it in your hand behind your back to kill it. But if I would say it’s dead, then you would say it’s alive and I am not a wise man. Therefore,” he continued, “the answer to your question is just in your hand.” May I ask again: Do you desperately desire the complete forgiveness and salvation of your soul? If so, believe in Jesus Christ and trust His Word, the Holy Bible. Remember that your mother or pastor or even God Himself does not believe for you. You must believe and give your life to our only Lord and Savior. It is how to get saved by faith in Christ Jesus!
One Solitary Life*
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never has a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college.
He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of these things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.
He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
When he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress.
All the armies that ever marched, all the names that even sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.
* Note: The above was copied from a Hymn Book. The wording is slightly different from those versions published on the Internet.