1 August 2016

The hour of our death

We don’t know when, but a time will come when we have to depart from this world. At that hour nothing but one thing is essential.

It will not matter how much wealth and possessions we had accumulated. We will leave all behind us. We must let go of everything - even our loved ones. With tears and sorrow we have to say our final goodbyes. Not even our health will matter anymore. Our bodies will crumble and fall.

Only one thing matters: our soul! For in the momentous hour our spirit will leave to meet our Maker. That hours marks the beginning of eternal bliss or everlasting woe.

Our eternal destiny depends solely on our relationship to God during this life. We must make a fundamental choice. Either we trust in God completely or we do not trust him at all. We cannot entrust our souls to anyone else. He alone is worthy of our wholehearted trust, confidence, obedience and adoration. He alone sent his beloved Son to reconcile us to himself, to forgive us all our sins, and to bring us to himself in glory.

The righteous live by faith in God. There is no other way to live. There righteous die by faith. They trust the Lord to take them home. At the hour of his death, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, called upon the name of his Saviour, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He is now in heaven enjoying the sweet fellowship with his faithful Redeemer in whom he had trusted.

Do you entrust your soul to Christ now? Whose name will you call in that final hour?

(Gospel e-Letter - August 2016)

29 June 2016

God my Saviour

Mary trusted in God for salvation, just as she happily confessed in the Magnificat, “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:48).

When our first father Adam sinned, the entire human race fell with him into sin. Together with David, we can all confess, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Similarly, the Apostle Paul taught that Adam’s sin had repercussions on all humanity: “one trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18). In Christian theology this is called “original sin.”

During church history it was debated whether Mary was tainted by original sin. Many Christians still believe that all people, including Mary, are conceived in sin. In the nineteenth century the Roman Catholic Church defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, namely that Mary was preserved from all stain of sin from the first moment of conception.

Even though there is disagreement on the time when Mary was redeemed, whether at conception or later on in her life, there is agreement within Christendom, including the Roman Catholic Church, that Mary was in fact redeemed by the grace of God and the merits of Jesus Christ (see Catechism, 491).

Mary needed redemption and so do we. Mary’s Saviour is also the Saviour of all who have recourse to God for mercy. Mary did not look to herself, to what she could do, to her own merits, or to some other creature. Mary trusted wholeheartedly in God for salvation.

We ought to do the same. Let us forget ourselves. Let us forget other creatures. Let us look up to heaven and entrust our souls to God. True, we have sinned, and we merit God’s wrath and judgement. Yet the same God sent his beloved Son Jesus, immaculately conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, to give his life as a ransom for many - for his mother and for all those who like Mary trust in God to liberate them from sin.

Then we will also experience the same joy and gratitude that Mary expressed by the words, “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”

(Gospel e-Letter - July 2016)

1 June 2016

My soul magnifies the Lord

Mary is blessed among women. She received the unique privilege of becoming the mother of the Messiah. No other woman in history has ever or can ever receive such an honour.

Yet when she opened her mouth, at the visitation of her relative Elizabeth, Mary did not speak about her own greatness and glory. The opening words of the Magnificat, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” reveal the passion and devotion of her heart to God.

She was marvelled at how God looked upon her, his servant, in her lowliness. Along with the great privilege, God also adorned Mary with a humble spirit. Her spiritual vision remained clear and unobscured by pride. She is lowly, God is exalted; she is a servant, God is the Lord over all. Her desire was the exultation of God’s holy name for the great things he had done for her.

This does not mean that we cannot admire Mary’s beautiful virtues, especially her humility, faith and obedience to her calling. In so doing we will not detract in the least from the glory of God. When I praise a work of art, I do not show any disrespect to the artist! On the contrary, I honour the artist by admiring his work. In the same way, Mary is God’s masterpiece, and when we joyfully call her blessed, we honour God who made her.

Mary’s beauty shines most brilliantly in the intention of her heart. Her sole desire was to glorify the Lord. We begin to know and understand Mary when we see her as our model and turn our eyes to heaven to magnify the Lord, just like she did.

Yet we will not follow in Mary’s steps unless we taste and see for ourselves that the Lord is good. We must first realise our own lowliness and nothingness, and experience the grace of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. We must first receive the wonderful privilege of becoming servants of the blessed and sovereign Lord. Then, and only then, we would exalt the name of God for the great things he had done for us. The redeemed alone can honestly and joyfully sing, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord!’

(Gospel e-Letter - June 2016)

1 May 2016

Well Done!

Without exception every person will appear before the judgement seat of God. The Lord will divide humanity into two groups: the wheat and the tares; the sheep and the goats; the saved and the lost. Jesus solemnly warns that some professing Christians will be revealed as hypocrites when their evil works are exposed, and they will be lost.

What about genuine Christians who sincerely believe in Jesus Christ, trusting him for salvation, who hate sin and strive to please God? Why should they give an account of their lives to God? Is it to determine whether they had made it to heaven or not?

No! Christians do not have to wait until Judgement Day to know whether they have eternal life or not. They already have eternal life. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God," writes the apostle John, "that you may know (present knowledge) that you have (present possession) eternal life" (1 John 5:13).

Isn't that amazing? Believers can know by God's Word that they possess eternal life. They can know now, even during their life on earth. Eternal life is the gift of God (Romans 6:23) that he gives to his children from the moment they believe in his Son.

Christians do not stand before God so that it would be decided whether they are justified (declared just) or condemned (declared guilty). The Bible assures believers that they are already justified: "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). "Having been justified" - something that has already happened. God has already declared every believer "justified" on the basis of what Christ has done for them.

They are not judged for their sins at that time because their sins have already been paid for by Christ on the cross. That is why Jesus can reassure his people that they already have eternal life and that they "shall not come into judgement" (John 5:24).

So why stand before the judgement seat of Christ at all? The Bible teaches that they will be rewarded for their good works during their lifetime. Christ "will reward each according to his works" (Matthew 16:27). He promises, "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done" (Revelation 22:12).

Christians do not dread the Day of the Lord. It is their graduation day rather than an arraignment before a criminal court. They make it their aim to please their Lord and eagerly await his return. It is not an appointment with an angry judge but with their beloved Spouse.

(Gospel e-Letter - May 2016)

1 April 2016

Jesus is Risen!

The apostles are credible witnesses. They weren’t gullible fools who accepted whatever came their way. They were completely assured about the resurrection only after Jesus gave them many convincing proofs. They saw him, touched him, ate with him and talked with him on many different occasions. They could not resist the evidence.

From Pentecost onwards, when the Holy Spirit came on them, they started preaching Jesus as risen from the dead. Though the religious leaders threatened them, mistreated and threw them in prison, the apostles and early disciples all continued to proclaim the message of which they were so certain. “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Their testimony is recorded for all generations in the Holy Bible. As we read it, we must reach a decision. Truth does not change even though we don’t believe, but our eternal destiny, in heaven or hell, depends on what we do with the gospel of truth.

Since Jesus rose from the dead, as Scripture affirms, then we have hope that we too, who will one day yield to death, will also be raised to life by God Almighty. Life is not absurd. There is an eternal destiny, either good or bad, awaiting each and every one of us.

If you die unforgiven, sin will be a burden that you will have to carry beyond the grave to your condemnation and eternal punishment, with those who defied or ignored their Creator, and did not believe in the name of his unique Son.

On the other hand, those who trust in Christ are forgiven, beloved by God the Father. Though they are harassed by life’s troubles, the disciples of the risen Christ find a sure hope in his resurrection; by this hope they are able to face physical death. In the midst of their trials and suffering, Christians look up to heaven, where their Lord is, who went before them to prepare a place for them. The grave is not the last word for them. When the King of kings returns he will call his subjects by raising them to incorruptible and everlasting life, completely redeemed in soul and body. They will thus meet the Father. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).

Their pilgrimage to the Father would then come to a close. The joy of the children of God, crowned with eternal glory, will be theirs forever.

(Gospel e-Letter - April 2016)