1 March 2015

Abe, Ben and Carl

(Gospel e-Letter - March 2015)

Last month’s gospel e-letter (Who's going to heaven?) was intended to stimulate discussion on the all-important subject of salvation. Three characters, Abe, Ben and Carl, represent millions of Christians worldwide. Here they are again:

  • All three believe in the Lord Jesus and the principal truths of the Christian faith, including the doctrines listed in the Apostle’s Creed; they also believe the promises of salvation written in the Bible.
  • Abe and Ben are baptised, attend church and pray regularly. Both of them are zealous for good works, and try to avoid sin, though they admit that sometimes they fail. Abe is motivated by love and gratitude to God for his grace and salvation. Ben also thanks God for his goodness, and additionally, he is also motivated to do good works to merit more graces and eternal life.
  • Carl prayed to receive Christ as Saviour. He is not baptised, does not attend church regularly and has not yet submitted to Christ as Lord. His life has not changed since he was born again. He trusts in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Carl is convinced that salvation is by faith alone. 

Abe is a true Christian. He believes in Christ and upholds biblical truth; he also manifests the fruits of the Spirit. His life abounds in good works out of gratitude to God. Even his struggle against sin is evidence of his new heart.

Ben is a devout Catholic. In many ways he is like Abe. The crucial difference is the motive for his good works. He is attempting to merit grace, and that casts doubt on whether he is completely trusting in Christ alone for salvation. He insists of paying, in part, for the free gift of eternal life procured by Christ. He performs works of penance to make satisfaction for his sins, effectively denying that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. But what about his good life? Isn’t that evidence that he is truly saved? No, not necessarily. The apostle Paul was a very religious and moral person before his conversion. He could say that he was blameless in his keeping of the law. Not until he threw away all confidence in himself, his works and his merits, that he was justified by faith in Christ.

Carl is Christian in name only. His faith is dead and so is he. There is no hard evidence of a renewed heart. Did he receive Christ when he prayed? Was he really born again? No! No-matter what he says. His life – which is still the same as it was before – contradict his claims. Somebody may have told him that he may accept Christ as Saviour and then receive him as Lord later on. That is a lie. Christ is Lord of every one of his people; the redeemed are bought with his blood, they do not belong to themselves, they are the purchased possession of the Lord. It is a contradiction to say that Christ is your Saviour but not your Lord. His sinful disregard to Christ’s authority is the sure evidence that Carl is still the slave to sin.

Abe is on his way to heaven, and the Lord will keep him safe until he arrives at the Father’s home. The Lord Jesus may also bring Ben and Carl to salvation.

Ben needs to understand that grace is an unmerited favour, it cannot be earned by our works. Maybe one day he will receive the gift of salvation with empty hands and a grateful heart. He needs to trust completely in Christ alone.

Carl needs to learn that the grace that brings salvation also trains the saved to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. God’s purpose in salvation is not just forgiveness and a place in heaven, but also freedom from the power and pollution of sin, to live for the glory of God.

Lord willing we will be meeting our three friends in the coming months to evaluate their spiritual condition in the light of God’s Word. We do well, every one of us, to seriously think and pray about our own relationship with the Lord.

1 February 2015

Who’s Going To Heaven?

(Gospel e-Letter - February 2015)

What do you think about the following three professing Christians? Let us call them Abe, Ben and Carl. Who is in a saving relationship with the Lord? Who is on the road to heaven?
  • All three believe in the Lord Jesus and the principal truths of the Christian faith, including the doctrines listed in the Apostle’s Creed; they also believe the promises of salvation written in the Bible.
  • Abe and Ben are baptised, attend church and pray regularly. Both of them are zealous for good works, and try to avoid sin, though they admit that sometimes they fail. Abe is motivated by love and gratitude to God for his grace and salvation. Ben also thanks God for his goodness, and additionally, he is also motivated to do good works to merit more graces and eternal life.
  • Carl prayed to receive Christ as Saviour. He is not baptised, does not attend church regularly and has not yet submitted to Christ as Lord. His life has not changed since he was born again. He trusts in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Carl is convinced that salvation is by faith alone. 
What do you think about Abe, Ben and Carl: who (one or more) is on the way to heaven?

Poll results (during February 2015):



1 January 2015

New every morning

(Gospel e-Letter - January 2015)

At the end of the year and the beginning of another we wish each other health, prosperity and a happy New Year. Many of us also take a good look at ourselves, identify areas that need to change, and make plans and resolutions to improve our lives.

The new year gives us hope of renewal. But in itself time alone cannot carry the weight of our hopes. The year may be new, but we and the world we’re living in isn’t getting any newer. If anything we’re getting a year older.

No, our hope is not found in the new year, in ourselves or in our own strength. Where then may we find a genuine hope that will not disappoint us? The Scripture invites us to look unto the eternal and unchangeable God, who sustains and renews us by his grace.

    The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness.
    “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
        “therefore I will hope in him.”
                                     Lamentations 3:22-24.

The Lord is an eternal spring of living water, daily refreshing our soul with his love and mercy. Just like the sun rises every morning, so the Lord renews his goodness to his people and fill our heart with joy. It is no wonder that the prophet confesses the Lord as his portion and his hope.

Therefore at the beginning of the new year, and in every day of our lives, let us trust and hope in the Lord. Then we can face tomorrow with courage and confidence. We do not know the future, but we know the Lord, which is much better. We know that he is good to his people, he keeps his promises, he will never leave or forsake us, and he will bring us safely home.

1 December 2014

The Two Advents of Christ

(Gospel e-Letter - December 2014)

There is a close link between the first and second advents of Christ. We may consider the glorious return of the Lord at the end of the age as the fitting conclusion to his redemptive work two thousand years ago.

Jesus said that a grain of wheat will remain alone unless it falls to the ground and dies, but if it dies it will produce a plentiful harvest. That is the reason why the eternal Son of God became a man and gave his life on the cross. He died to produce much fruit – the fruit are all the people he redeemed to himself. At his return the Lord will reap the fruit of his labours and will gather all his people in his Father’s house.

“Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).

So at his first coming Christ offered his body and blood as a sin sacrifice to relieve many from the burden and guilt of their sins. He will not bear any sins when he comes again because he has already done so previously. The Lord will come to save his people from the punishment of hell and to take them with him to enjoy God in heaven.

We do well to ask about the personal impact of the two advents of the Lord. Am I redeemed by the blood of Christ? Will he save me on the last day? Am I among those who are “waiting for him”? The Scriptures clearly answers such questions by identifying the genuine disciples of Christ.

“We wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:13, 14).

The redeemed consider Jesus as their God, and thus they worship and adore him. They also count him as their only Saviour, entrusting him alone with the salvation of their soul. Finally they manifest the work of Christ in their life by personal holiness, purity and fervent love.

What will the great day of Christ’s appearing mean to you? I hope and pray that it would be the joyful meeting with your Saviour.