Letters to a young missionary

No 4

In this letter l want to talk about the forgiveness of sins. There is little doubt that the Gospel of God is the message that God is willing to forgive men of their sins.

Christ himself gave us the greatest example in forgiving those who crucified him. Of course he was not forgiving them just to give us an example, he was forgiving them because he loved them. It is one thing to forgive people who cause us a minor inconvenience but these men were crucifying him and they were half drunk while they were doing it.
Luke 23v34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Secondly we must remember that forgiveness is the prerogative of those to whom the offence is committed. If men injure us – then we are to forgive them, but when men sin against God – only God can forgive them. When Christ declared the lame man, who was let down through the roof, forgiven, the religious leaders who had gathered to listen to Christ were right in thinking that only God can forgive sins. Forgiveness of sins against God can only be forgiven from God.
Matthew 9v2 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? 22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? 23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. 25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

Next we observe that forgiveness of sins for Israel was dependant on the attitude of forgiveness that the forgiven person has toward those who offend him. This was Israel’s responsibility under the Mosaic Law. This is explained in a number of places in scripture.
Mark 11v25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Of course Christians who are forgiven are to forgive, but for Israel forgiveness was entirely bound up in the forgiveness that they have in their heart toward others.

The responsibility of Israel under law is explained in…
Luke 6v36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

This is pure law. Only those who are merciful receive mercy and only those who don’t judge will not be judged. Christ says do not condemn then you will not be condemned by God. God responds to men in the manner in which they act toward others. When a man under law is forgiving, God forgives him.

This comes out in the prayer which Christ gave to his Apostles, which is based on a very old Jewish prayer, The Kaddish.
Luke 11v4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.

Having said all this, the position the christian finds himself in is very different indeed. Forgiveness for the christian is total and is NOT conditioned on a forgiving heart, rather it is freely given and is based on the grace of God. The Christian is never under the law and finds God gracious to the unforgiving.
Col 2v13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

The christian finds himself in a unique position, in contrast to the Jew, he is forgiven of ALL trespasses, both past, present and future.

When Paul gives his testimony to King Agrippa, he says that forgiveness comes to the christian entirely on the basis of faith in Christ. He describes the heavenly vision and his commission as…
Acts 26v18 To open their eyes, [and] to turn [them] from darkness to light, and [from] the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Writing to the christians at Ephesus he says that forgiveness of sins is based on the blood that Christ shed on the cross…
Ephesians 1v 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Christians are forgiven of all their sins, yet they still sin. So what does their sin do? Does it make them unsaved? NO never. When a christian sins his fellowship with God is broken, yet he remains eternally united to Christ. So what must he do when it becomes apparent that he has sinned? John tells us in his first letter that the christian is to confess his sins and believe that that sin is forgiven and covered by the blood of Christ. Only then does he experience a restoration to full fellowship with Christ. The key to restoration is not to pray for forgiveness (he has that already) but to confess his sins - making an open confession, holding nothing back.
John 1v9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


Thoughts to a young missionary

No 3

Last time we thought about what Conversion is. This time l would like to talk about how a person enters into Conversion, in other words, we will answer the question – How can a person be saved?

If we did a pole of people in the street as to how people become converted or as might be more commonly understood how people became Christians. We would find that most people would think that salvation is received on the basis of some act done on the behalf of the sinner.

Myth 1. Some people think that they become converted by infant baptism. There is absolutely no indication in the Bible that this is what Christ taught. Nobody is converted by a religious rite and especially not on the behalf of another person.

Myth 2. Some people think that a person becomes a christian by deciding to change their ways and dedicate themselves to God and promise to live a good life – to the best of their ability.

Myth 3. Some people think that a person who dedicates themselves to helping others and giving to charity and being a kind and helpful person to other people will secure the favour of God and that they effectively become christians by following Christ’s example, in that, he went about doing good.

Myth 4. Some people think that they become christians by learning to understand the Bible and praying and going to church.

Myth 5. Some people think the secret of real conversion is found in a change of mind that leads to a major transformation of life from sin to holiness.

Myth 6. Some people think that they are christians because they have prayed the ‘sinners prayer’ and that because they were sincere they are saved if they prayed the prayer right.

If you have believed any of these myths – bear with me, as l explain what the real Gospel is.

Paul described his Gospel like this… Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. 1 Cor 15v 3-4

Let me make the Good news of God very clear

The simple Gospel is that, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ and that he died on the cross and was buried and that God has raised him from the dead.

Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ. It is only by faith and nothing else. There may be many things that lead up to faith and there will be many things that will follow, it but it is only faith that saves. As the reformers said, – Sola Fide ‘faith alone’.

Let me quote the very words of Christ himself.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that, whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3v16

Here we have just 25 words. The first twelve words describe what God does and the second 25 words describe what sinners do in response. (and Christ is in the centre of it all).

What has God done?

God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son. God has done everything for salvation. There is nothing for man to do whatsoever to provide salvation. Salvation is of the Lord! So what has God done? He loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son to die upon the cross for our sins. This was the message of the angel to Joseph. You shall call him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Salvation is what God has provided for us.

So if that is Gods part, and he has done everything in providing a full and free salvation then, what is our part? What so we have to do to become a christian? What do we have to do to have eternal life?

The second part of John 3v16 says it so well… whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

So what is believing?

Is it a religious rite such as baptism? NO
Is it being sorry for your sins and resolving to live a better life? definitely not!
Is it turning over a new leaf and living by the golden rule? NO
Is it something to learn and study? NO
Is it understanding something? NO
Is it trying to life a holy life? NO
Is it saying a sinners prayer? NO

In our last passage we said that salvation is…

Justification, Adoption, Redemption, Cleansing

No criminal can give himself a pardon. No child can adopt himself into a family. No slave can free himself and not defiled sinner can make himself clean in Gods sight.

So what is Faith?

Faith is believing, that what Christ did on the cross, he did for you. It’s not knowing about what Christ has done – its knowing that Christ really did do it for you and depending on what Christ has done for you. God never asks us to pray for something to be saved, he tells us to believe something. And those who believe that Christ died, was buried and rose again for them ARE saved.

Once may years ago a very simple man, who did not appear to understand much said this – ‘Jesus Christ died for sinners and I’m a sinner, so Jesus Christ died for me’. Nobody can improve on that – That’s logic and that’s faith.

As Paul said … The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me’.

So what about you?

Are you relying on what you have done? Or are you relying on what Christ has done for you?
Are you relying on your best efforts?
Are you relying on the religious rite that the church performed on you?
Are you relying on the very best efforts that you have made to clean up your life?

If that is so then you need to be saved. And you need to understand that it not about what you have done its all about what Christ has done.

You may ask what can you do? Nothing, except to take God at his word and to believe that Christ really did die for you.

And when you believe that Christ died for you, you are saved

Next time we will talk about forgiveness of sins.

Thoughts to a young missionary

No 2

Last time i talked about what is conversion, in fact to be more precise I talked about what conversion is not. This time l want to think about what is conversion.

Conversion is what God does in the life of the sinner turning them from wickedness to holiness, turning them from the flesh to the spirit and from death to life. It is not a change of mind only or even a change of purpose, rather it is a change brought about by God the Holy Spirit in which the sinner is brought into a new living relationship with God. He becomes united to Christ eternally and finds that all his sins are forgiven.

This salvation is not based on us trying to do good. In fact it is based on what Christ has done and is actually an act of God. ‘Salvation is of the Lord’.

Salvation is described in the Bible in a least four different ways.

1. Justification
2. Adoption
3. Redemption
4. Cleansing

So what do these four things mean? Lets look at each one.

1. Justification

This first word comes from the Law court. The criminal is brought into the dock and declared to be not guilty – He is condemned and only awaits judgment. This is the position that men find themselves in today. Christ himself said that men are already under the condemnation of God because they do not to believe in him. (John 3v18-19) However into the court room Christ appears and addresses the court declaring that he has been to the cross and suffered all the punishment for the accused crimes. The judge agrees that the penalty has been paid, yet the accused has not received a pardon yet. So Christ speaks to the accused and says ‘I love you and l have suffered for your sin will you accept me as your Saviour and believe that what l have done l have done for you’? The accused falls down in broken heartedness and says, ‘Yes, l really do believe that Jesus die for me’. On the basis of this simple statement of faith the judge calls for order and makes an astounding declaration that the accused is now publically declared to be – not guilty. This is justification. This new standing before the judge is not because the sinner is determined to keep his promise to live a better life or even an honest sorrow at the exceeding sinfulness of his sin and an honest intention to turn from his crimes, rather it is an act of the judge based upon the work of Christ and comes to the sinner only on his willingness to accept the offered pardon.
Now we move out of the court room into the home of the Father.

2. Adoption

In the home of the Father we notice that He rises from his seat to attend to a knock on the door. There he finds an orphan, who stands in all his rags and in a very dirty state, pleading for a piece of bread. The Father takes the child’s hand and brings him into his home, instructs his house-keeper to give the child a much needed bath and a new set of clean clothes. Finally he brings the child into his room and sets food before him and shows him a bedroom which he may call his own. The child is of course overjoyed and bewildered by the Fathers care, but then the Father calls the child down to his study because he has something to tell him. The child is apprehensive thinking that all this kindness must surely come to an end. The Father explains how much he loves him and says from now on l want you adopt you as my own son and to become a full heir to all my inheritance. When the child enquires of the Fathers love, the Father explains that he sent his only Son to pay for the crimes of the orphan – The Fathers Son died for the crimes of the orphan and now the Father calls the orphan to be his son and heir. We leave the scene with the Father embracing the child. We now move to an entirely new disturbing scene, we enter to slave market.

3. Redemption

In the slave market we find slaves lined up waiting for a cruel master who will take the victims away to a life of hard labour and tyranny. A kindly man steps forward he seems to be out of place, yet he comes with money and comes to buy a slave. The slave is chosen and taken away by his new master and when he comes out of the slave market the master stops the slave and says, ‘l have something to tell you’. He says, ‘l love you and want you to be free’. He takes the chain and breaks the shackle. Then he says, ‘l want you to be forever free you are not in any obligation to serve me you are free to go’. The slave turns and says, ‘Now that you have freed me, l want to be you life long servant – l am forever grateful for my liberty and l give you by life willingly forever’.
There is one more building to enter - this time its the temple of God.

4. Cleansing

In the temple we find God is worshipped and men come before the Lord to serve him, but outside there are many people who are banned. The banned are the sick, the lame and the unclean. However God has made provision for all men and the priest goes out among the people there he finds a poor unworthy, unclean, disabled and sick woman. What does he do? Does he say you are unworthy to enter into the temple (the woman knows that already) No he enters into the temple on her behalf and makes a sacrifice which renders the woman clean in Gods sight. She is now acceptable, she is welcome, she is now fit for the presence of God. She is ceremonially clean. What joy fills her heart. She enters the temple humble by irrepressible. She cannot keep from praising God and worshipping him.

This is what conversion is. It is forgiveness, acceptance, freedom and a state of fitness to enter the very presence of God.

Next time we might think about How a person can enter into this state of conversion.

Thoughts to a young missionary

No 1.

Today l thought l might share with you some of the mistakes that people make about conversion.

A. Conversion is not the taking onto ourselves of the profession of Christianity.

Being a christian is more than just bearing a name. Paul said that his Gospel did not come in words only but in power. The church at Sardis and Laodicea were christians in name but not in reality. They all had the Reputation of knowing Christ and they were very happy to be known as Christians yet strangely Christ himself did not recognise them.
Paul spoke of many that call themselves christians but who do not depart from iniquity – They profess that they know God but their lives deny Him. Christ himself spoke of preachers and miracle workers who name the name of Christ and do miracles in his name yet Christ will reject them in the end because they are not really known of Him. Mat 7v22-23.

B. Conversion is not putting on the badge of baptism.

Ananias and Sapphira and Simon Magnus were baptised as well as the rest yet they were found out to be far from born again. One would have thought that preachers so not need to preach faith in Christ but only Baptism and baptise people wherever they go to ensure them of a place in heaven. Christ did not need to die but only to teach us how to be baptised. We would not longer say ‘few there be that find it’ but ‘few there are that miss it’. Is it true to say that a man may get baptised yet remain a drunkard, blasphemer and adulterer and still enter heaven? God forbid. Conversion in not based upon an outward act such as baptism.

C. Conversion is not found in moral righteousness.

Christ pointed out that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees if we think that we might enter heaven. Paul describes himself as being a law abiding Jew and living in all good conscience before God yet still he was found to be a persecutor of the Church of Christ. In the present age God himself declares that ‘There is none righteous – no not one’. That they, ‘have all gone out of the way’ and that, ‘all have sinned before God’.

D. Conversion does not consist in an external obedience to rules.

Being a Christian is not obedience to the ten commandments – or even a list of ‘christian rules’. Clearly men might have an external form of godliness but have no inner reality. Nicodemus was a religious leader who was very particular as to how he lived before God and no-one could find fault in his life. Yet Christ could say to him that he needed to be born again. Some men give to charity others pray long prayers, yet they are unconverted. Some go to church five times a week and give themselves to the ministry of others. Some read the Bible and become experts in its teaching, but this is not conversion. There is no outward service that a hypocrite cannot mimic. Some people might even give up everything to feed the poor or even give their body to be burned, yet it is all nothing in the end. says Paul.

E. Conversion is not education.

None was more educated than Nicodemus and Paul before his conversion. Yet in all their knowledge they were found to be unconverted and in need of being born again. It is too common to mistake salvation for knowledge. God did not send his son into this world to make men clever, he sent him to take away the sins of the educated and give then forgiveness.

F. Conversion does not consist in a reformation or a promise to do better.

Conversion is not based on a human attempt to seek a better life. It is not turning over a new leaf. Not a new year resolution which is broken before the fourth day. Conversion is not repentance. The road to hell is full of men who are sorry for their sins and have often a failingly turned from their wicked ways but like a pig having been washed returns to wallow in the mire or the dog who returns to his own vomit.

So you might ask what is conversion? I will talk about this another day.