October 30, 1976

Let me ask you a question. “Where were you on October 30, 1976?” If you’re like me, you probably can  remember where you were and what you were doing on those important milestone dates in life: your children’s births, the deaths of loved ones, major historical events such as such as Nov. 22, 1963 and 9/11 and maybe a few others. But October 30, 1976? What is so noteworthy about that date?

Well that day is the most significant date in my life: it is the day I became born again. I was 24 years old. I had been raised as a Roman Catholic but in college I became agnostic. It was the seventies, time to do your own thing. So I did. Yet after a few years I fell into a state of deep depression and anxiety. I turned to the Lord for help. I called out to Him in prayer. I read the Bible, Christian books and listened to Christian radio and TV preachers.

I became convinced that I had to repent and believe that Jesus is Lord and savior to be saved. But, in the light of my Catholic upbringing which was deeply ingrained in me, that sounded too easy. After all I was a sinner. God could not love me as I was. I had to do something to make God accept me, not just repent and believe. I did not know that grace is a gift. I thought I had to earn it. I thought I had to earn God’s love and acceptance.

And so I was left in a state of despair for several months wondering what exactly I had to do to obtain God’s favor. I felt that I was tottering at the brink of the bottomless pit of Hell, ready to fall in and be lost forever. What was worse, I had heard the gospel and would remember for all eternity that I could have had the joys of heaven.

On the evening of October 30, 1976 I discovered the truth. As I was reading a book called Satan is Alive and Well On Planet Earth, the author, Hal Lindsey, revealed that Satan deceived many people into thinking exactly what I was thinking, that God did not love me because I was a sinner. Lindsey cited 2 Scriptures that dispelled that deception: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV). Salvation is the gift of God: it cannot be earned but given freely!

Then Lindsey quoted Romans: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11 ESV).

God showed His love for me in that Christ had died for me while I was yet a sinner. I was justified by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, not by anything I could do. In fact, there was nothing I could do to be saved. Jesus had done it all. He was giving it to me! All I had to do was accept it. At the moment I read those words I felt all my guilt and despair vanish. I knew I was accepted by the Lord because He said so in His word.

For 39 years later I have served the Lord in times of plenty, suffering, doubt and joy. I hold fast to His promise of salvation by faith in Christ alone despite what suffering I endure or the evil I see. He is true and faithful to His word, always. Thank you Lord Jesus for loving me


To Share the Gospel.

“Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:7, ESV)

In this chapter of the Revelation to John we see, among other things, a vision of a flying angel who exhorts people everywhere to heed the message of the gospel, to believe in Jesus and worship Him alone. The reason is that the Lord’s judgement on unbelievers, on unrepentant sinners is about to commence. The success that the wicked enjoy in life is fleeting and temporary, but their punishment, eternal suffering, is quite horrible. They will suffer God’s wrath and be separated from Him for all eternity while the redeemed enjoy eternal blessings. The realization of this eternal fate can drive many from their lives of immorality and materialism to the Lord for it shows them that the Lord is serious about sin and that He is able and willing to do all it takes to destroy it.

We Christians have a responsibility to warn sinners of the danger they face, not to gloat over their misfortune. As we warn we must give comfort and hope to those who are overwhelmed by their sin and guilt. We must tell them of the mercy of God: He is always willing to forgive any and transform individuals. That is the message of the gospel of grace that drove me and millions of other believers into the loving hands of Jesus Christ: love not fear; mercy not judgment; the blood of Christ, not my works. There is hope for this sinful world in Christ alone! And we ought to let everyone know it.

Not By Works!

“Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
(Romans 3:27-28, ESV)
Paul maintains that no human being can earn God’s favor by doing good deeds. There is no advantage in keeping the law or living a moral life but neither can we continue to sin without restraint, because God, by nature, is holy and hates sin. And yet every human being is by nature a sinner in need of God’s help and grace, including those who claim they follow the Law or those who claim Baptism into the Church. Even these fall short of perfection. Not only do they fail to obey every detail of the Law, they often obey for the wrong reasons. Most who obey do so to earn favor with God or as a means of saving themselves. Either way they are in rebellion against the Lord.

As Martin Luther discovered, God in Christ Jesus has rectified this situation. The Lord justifies us, that is, declares and makes us righteous, enables us to live lives of goodness and charity. He does not excuse or ignore sin, nor does He merely forgive it. He atones for it because it is a serious matter to Him for it merits His wrath. Yet in love, He has taken the necessary steps to make us right with Him by offering up His Son Jesus as our propitiation, our sin offering. In these verses Paul makes it abundantly clear that the work of salvation is all God’s work, and we human beings add nothing to this, not even the faith to accept it. Even that comes from God as He enables us to see our sinful depravity and our hopeless state. Then, as we stand on the edge of the abyss of despair, he reaches out to us with His assurance of mercy and grace.

Persevere in the Promises of God.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13, ESV)

Like the Prophet Amos, the writer of Hebrews presents a warning to his audience, composed primarily of Christians who had converted from Judaism. They held Moses and their ancestors whom he had led out of Egypt in high esteem. The writer reminds them that, despite the fact that the Lord had blessed His Chosen People with great blessings, spectacular miracles and mighty acts of deliverance from their enemies they still chose to rebel against him. They lacked faith in Him and so perished in the wilderness, never having entered the land the Lord had promised.
The reason the writer brings this up is that many in the audience were being tempted to go back to following the Mosaic Law. They thought this might make life easier since they were enduring persecution from both the Romans and the Jews. The problem was that following the Law meant they were rejecting the sacrifice of Christ to trust in the Law and works for salvation. There is great danger here for those who went back to the Law would be guilty of hardening their hearts against God as did the ancient Israelites. They would suffer the same loss of the promise.
Those who persevere in the faith of Christ do not they earn their salvation by their perseverance, suffering, or good works. Rather their salvation is demonstrated by their perseverance and by deeds of faithfulness and righteousness for such are produced only by the power of the Lord. He works through the Holy Spirit and through the church as well, so we need the body of Christ, our fellow believers, to encourage us in our struggles and to hold us accountable for our actions. Together we choose daily to walk in obedience to the Lord and to believe that He is able to do all He has promised. This does not mean we are perfect nor that we never fall, but we press on by the power of Christ in the midst of chaotic times.

To Inherit Eternal Life.

“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:17-22, ESV)

Change is a fact of life. But we like to control the changes that affect our lives. If we are dissatisfied with our world, our personal lives, we seek changes that help us and make things better, but shun those things that we fear will harm us. This is the case with the rich young man. He knew he had to change but he came to seek it on his terms. Notice how enthusiastic he was as he ran up to Jesus and knelt before him. Perhaps he ran because he had waited to the last minute to approach Jesus. Maybe he waited wondering how it would look to his neighbors and family. How would it look for someone of his high social status to admit that his life was not happy? How would it look for him to approach Jesus for advice? He would lose face. People would think less of him. Yet he was so dissatisfied with the current state of his life, with his relationship with God that he had to act boldly and take the risk.
Jesus challenged the man. Why does he call Jesus good? Does he believe that Jesus is God, that He is the Messiah? From the Lord’s reply we can tell that he did not. The man called Jesus good because he thought that a good person was someone who kept the law and did good deeds. Many of us think the same way. The actions of a human being usually determine if we can call that person good. That is what this young man thought but humans are not by nature good. Only God is. He imparts His goodness to us through Jesus. Jesus was implying here that he is God, he is the author and the fulfillment of the law. It was not a question of what that man or any man could do to inherit eternal life, but of what Jesus was going to do: this is a matter of God’s grace.

Helping the poor.

“Helping the poor and oppressed.
“Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”
(Amos 5:15, ESV)
Yahweh used Amos to warn Israel about the tragedy that would soon befall the people as contrasted with their present life of ease. The Lord enumerated their specific covenant violations among which was their misuse of the legal system and the Mosaic Law to exploit and defraud the poor and needy. They were taking bribes and showing favoritism that deprived many of justice. In addition, they engaged in lying, cheating and theft of property. Amos let them know quite openly that they did not know God or appreciate His power. He called on them to seek justice and mercy for the poor or face the consequences.
These words of Amos serve to remind all Christians that the Lord desires we also seek justice for those who are poor, oppressed and cannot defend themselves. This means that we as individual believers should seek racial and ethnic harmony and not deprive any human being of justice and fair treatment. The church should show respect for all human beings regardless of race, gender or ethnic origin or even their particular sin or sins. This does not mean that the church must condone, ignore or redefine sin, because it cannot. The church is to be a place where all may find God’s love and mercy. Love confronts sin but also grants forgiveness for those who confess.

Devotion to the Lord.

“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?'” (Mark 10:17, ESV)

In the previous verses of Mark 10, Jesus calls on us to trust in Him completely as little children do their parents. Now Mark shows us with an example of a man who trusts in his wealth rather than in Jesus. The rich young ruler came to Jesus desiring to know what thing he needed to do to take hold of eternal life. He seemed self-confident, pretty sure of himself, of his talents and abilities, his social position and his wealth. He keeps the law, but is not satisfied. Something is missing. Perhaps he had grown weary of doing religious deeds. He wanted to know the one thing that he must do to guarantee salvation.
But Jesus told Him, the way to insure eternal life is to give up his treasures and follow Him. This the young man was not willing to do and so he went away in deep sadness. This does not that wealth and possession are wrong in themselves. Using them to define and glorify ourselves, trusting in and depending on them rather than on the one who gives them is. Wealth can become a god we look to meet our needs. Of course anything we make more important or value more than Jesus is a god. We might not say it, but our actions and attitudes show that we value things or people more than we value Jesus. Jesus wants us to trust him to put Him first and He will take care of our needs.