Friday, October 24, 2008

No Longer Hoping... by Dick Keogh (www.cherithgospel.org)

NO LONGER HOPING
(Taken from http://www.cherithgospel.org/)

‘If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God’

(1John. Ch.5 vs. 9 - 13)

The first time I read these verses I was amazed! Verse 13, in particular, struck me. It reads - ‘These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life’. The words - ‘That ye may know’ - really challenged me to examine my own heart to see if I had this assurance of eternal life that I read of in the Scriptures.

For many generations our family had been devout Roman Catholics. One of my ancestors had allowed her home to be used as a Chapel, where mass was said regularly. My parents were very involved in their Church. My mother was a great woman of prayer and regularly said Novenas and Rosaries. She devoted much of her time to the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary and many of the Saints. My father belonged to the Holy Family Confraternity, a men’s organisation which met once each week to worship Jesus, Mary and Joseph, known collectively as ‘The Holy Family’.

Our parents had a great influence on when we were children. I remember all of us kneeling down together in the evening time and saying the Rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I also accompanied my father to many of the Holy Family Confraternity meetings over the years.

My school days began at the local Convent, where the Nuns educated me. After receiving my First Communion I attended the Christian Brothers’ School. One of the boys in my class was a Protestant. Although we came from different backgrounds and traditions we were great friends. Both of us had one thing in common - we HOPED we would go to Heaven when we died.

I HOPED I would get to Heaven because of the fact that as an infant I had been baptised into the Roman Catholic Church. Each time I went to Confession the priest told me he had absolved me from my sins. The priest also told me I received the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ every time I swallowed the Holy Communion wafer. When I was twelve years old I received my Confirmation. The Archbishop anointed me with oil. I attended Mass and received the Sacraments regularly. As far as I was concerned I was a devout Roman Catholic and HOPED this would get me to Heaven.

My friend HOPED he would get to Heaven because of the fact that he had been baptised and enrolled as a member of the Protestant Church. He had learned the Catechism and attended Sunday - School. He had been Confirmed and was regularly attending the services in his Church. He considered himself to be a good Protestant and sincerely HOPED this would get him to Heaven.

I HOPED the Roman Catholic Church would work on my behalf and do all that was necessary to help get me to Heaven.

My friend HOPED the Protestant Church to which he belonged would make every effort to secure a place in Heaven for him. Both of us HOPED our respective Churches would be actively engaged in securing salvation for us.

After I left school I got a job with an undertaker. At the funerals I saw many heart - broken people crying at the graveside. They were HOPING the soul of their loved one, who was being buried, had gone to Heaven. At Roman Catholic funerals the priest would try to comfort the family. But he, too, was only HOPING the soul of the person who was being buried was gone to be with the Lord. The priest did not know. Neither did the family or any of the mourners.

Just in case the deceased had not done enough while he or she was alive, and had not worked hard enough to earn Salvation, the priests would say ‘Masses for the Dead’. They were HOPING this would help get the person to Heaven. The family and friends would buy Mass Cards and then pay the priests to say Masses for their loved one. They HOPED the Masses would help to get the dear departed one to Heaven. Masses would, in fact, be said for many years. The priests who said the Masses and the people who paid for them sincerely HOPED they would help to save the soul of their deceased friend.

Each year, in the month of November, the priests would send out to each home in their parish a list. People were encouraged to write the names of their deceased family members on this list, which would then be returned to the priests. On All Souls' Day, Masses were said for the repose of the souls of everybody mentioned on the lists.

I remember seeing my mother writing down the names of our deceased family members on the list. She then returned it to the priests, along with money to pay for the Masses for the Dead. She was HOPING that by doing this she could help to secure a place in Heaven for her loved ones. People could also go to the Chapel on All Souls’ Day and pray for the souls in Purgatory. They were HOPING their prayers would help get some of the ‘Holy Souls’ released from their sufferings in the ‘Fire of Purgation’. Everybody was HOPING that all of these efforts would work, but never knew if they did.

At Protestant funerals the Minister would try to comfort the broken - hearted mourners. Their hearts were breaking because they did not actually know if the soul of their loved one was gone to Heaven. The family members, along with the friends and neighbours, were HOPING all was well between the dear departed one and God. The Minister was also HOPING. But none of them actually knew.

I wondered what might happen at the time of my death. I could picture myself on my death – bed. I knew I would certainly be HOPING to go to Heaven. I would definitely be HOPING I would not go to Hell. What a fearful situation to be in when you are dying! How terrible it would be to be uncertain about where you are going! I really longed to know for certain that I would go to Heaven when I died.

Many years later I was still HOPING. At this stage I was married and had a family. If my children had asked me back then if I knew for certain I would go to Heaven when I died I would have had to say - “I HOPE so, but I don’t actually know.” I wished I did know!

In November 1975 I met a friend of mine who told me he definitely knew he would go to Heaven when he died. I had known this man for many years. For quite a while he had been HOPING that one day he would get to Heaven. But now he told me that he was NO LONGER HOPING. He said he actually KNEW that he was going to Heaven. I asked him to explain how he could have this assurance. He said he got it from reading and believing the Scriptures. He told me that in the Bible God had revealed His plan of Salvation. He then encouraged me to read the Scriptures for myself.

I read in John’s first Epistle, in Ch. 5 v 13 the following words - ‘These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life...’

I was amazed at the words – ‘that ye may KNOW’. This was just what I needed! I really needed to KNOW! There is such a great difference between HOPING for something, and knowing the reality. According to what I was reading in God’s Word it is actually possible to KNOW that you have eternal life.

But I wondered whom these things were written to? The verse reads - ‘These things have I written unto you that BELIEVE..’. You that believe WHAT, I asked?

The answer to my question was crystal clear. These things were written to those who believe what God said concerning His Son. Verse 11 reads – ‘And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son’. According to the Scriptures eternal life is in a PERSON (Jesus Christ) and His work on the sinner’s behalf. For the first time in my life I was confronted with the fact that eternal life is in a Person, and not in a Religion.

In the Gospel of John, in Ch. 14 v 6, I read – ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’. For many years I had believed that Religion was the way to eternal life. But now I could see that the Scriptures were not speaking about Religion but about a Relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I was reading in God’s Word about the importance of believing in, trusting in, and depending upon this Person. In John’s Gospel, in Ch. 3 v 16 I read –‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’.

I noticed in this verse the words - ‘God so loved the world’. But did that include ME, I wondered? Did God actually love me, as an individual? I knew I was a sinner and that my sin had to be paid for. In fact I read in the New Testament, in Romans Ch. 3 v 23 – ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’. I knew I was certainly included there! God’s Word was crystal clear. It very specifically stated that we are all sinners. But when I read Romans Ch. 5 v 8, I was really encouraged. It reads – ‘But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’. How my heart began to warm as I read those precious words.

Then I read in Peter’s first Epistle, in Ch. 2 v 24, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ - ‘Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree…’ In Galatians, Ch. 1 v 4, I read the following words, which relate to the Saviour - ‘Who gave himself for our sins…’

I had now read of God’s love for the WORLD and of how Christ had died for US. The fact that Jesus bore OUR sins and gave Himself for OUR sins was outlined very clearly in what I had read. But as far as I was concerned the important question was this - Did God love ME? It was fine to read of God’s love for the WORLD. But what about ME, as an individual?

My question was answered when I read the following words in Galatians Ch. 2 v 20 - ‘..The Son of God, who loved ME, and gave himself for ME’. This was just what I needed to know!

The Apostle Paul, who wrote the book of Galatians, knew that God loved the world. But he also knew that God loved him, as an individual. He knew that Christ had suffered and died for him on the cross at Calvary. He knew that Jesus became the sinner’s substitute and paid in full the penalty for the guilt of the sins of all who would repent and put their faith in Him. This was just what I needed to know, too! I realised I was a sinner and that my sin had to be dealt with. I longed to know if God loved ME so much that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for MY sin.

As I read over these verses again I could see that God DID love me. He demonstrated the extent of His love for me at the cross. It became very clear as I once again read Galatians Ch. 2 v 20 – ‘..The Son of God, who loved ME, and gave himself for ME’. I could see now that God loved me as an individual. He loved me so much that He sent His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on my behalf.

The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me, paid in full, as my substitute, all that was required so that my sin could be forgiven.

But why would God do this for a sinner like me? The answer was very clear in the Scriptures. It was because He LOVED me!

In the book of Titus, in Ch. 3 vs 4 – 5, I read these words – ‘But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us...’

I was really amazed when I read here of God’s plan of Salvation. We are not saved as a result of our own works, righteous acts or efforts. In fact, according to God’s Word, our own efforts or merits have nothing at all to do with our Salvation. God does not even take them into account.

The Scriptures very clearly outlined the fact that we are saved, not because of what WE have done, but because of what GOD has done on our behalf. It is because of His MERCY that He saved us. He has had mercy on the sinner. In these verses it mentions the fact that the kindness and love of God ‘appeared’. But where and when did the kindness and love of God appear? According to the Scriptures God’s love appeared, or was demonstrated publicly, at Calvary, as the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died upon the cross as a substitute for sinners. God’s Word made it clear that it did not matter what good works I did or what efforts I made to save myself. It did not matter which Church I belonged to. None of these things could ever save my soul. The message of the Bible was clear. Salvation was bestowed because of God’s mercy.

What a great challenge this was to me! For many years I had been HOPING I could earn or merit Salvation by being religious, depending upon the Church, and doing my best. But I had reckoned I would never know until after I died if the Church had done enough for me or if I had done enough myself to secure my Salvation.

Now, for the first time in my life, I was confronted with what God said in His Word. It was clear that the Church, regardless of which one I belonged to, could never save me. It was also very clear that my good works and best efforts could not earn or merit Salvation for me. But in the Scriptures I read the GOOD NEWS - The Lord Jesus Christ did enough, through His death on the cross, to save me.

In the book of Titus, in Ch. 2 v 11, I read - ‘For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men’.

Here was the great difference between man’s way of Salvation and God’s. Man’s way of Salvation was as follows - Belong to a particular Church; Do your best; Work your way to Heaven. But what was the end result of this? Both my Protestant friend and I knew only too well the end result! You were left HOPING you would get to Heaven, and HOPING you would not go to Hell. Not only would we be HOPING from day to day but also, when it came to our time to die we would have nothing to hold on to. We would have no assurance. Our respective Churches could give us no assurance. We could get no assurance of Salvation from our Priests and Ministers for they, too, were only HOPING they would get to Heaven one day.

But God’s plan of Salvation was so different to this. Titus Ch. 2 v. 11 reads – ‘For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men’. This verse speaks of the Grace of God, which is God’s unmerited favour to the sinner. The verse makes it very clear that Salvation is by Grace. It means that God reaches down to the helpless sinner, revealing to him the fact that He loves him so much that He sent His Son to the cross on his behalf. Jesus took the sinner’s place by becoming his substitute and paying the penalty for sin he should have paid. Christ suffered Hell on the cross so that the sinner need not go to Hell.

The words of Romans Ch. 3 v 24 summed it all up. They read - ‘Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’. God’s Word says we are justified ‘FREELY’. This means Salvation was given freely by God to sinful man. The sinner is not required to work for it or to earn it. Salvation is God’s GIFT to the sinner. God could give this free gift to the sinner because of the fact that his sins have already been paid for, by Jesus. I could now see that Salvation was God’s FREE GIFT to ME!

By faith I reached out to God, saying, “Lord, I know I am a sinner and that I deserve to go to Hell. I know that there is nothing the Church can do for my Salvation. I also realise there is absolutely nothing I can do to merit a place in Heaven. Throughout my lifetime I have been HOPING that I could be saved as a result of a combination of the Church’s work on my behalf and my own good works. I thank you for showing me that this is not possible. Thank you for showing me in the Scriptures that Salvation is a gift, which you freely give to the sinner. I am so grateful that you not only loved the world, but you loved ME enough to send your Son to die as my substitute and pay the penalty for the guilt of my sins. Thank you, Lord!”

Now I am no longer depending upon religion or good works to get me to Heaven. I have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and I am depending upon Him to save me. He is – ‘The Son of God, who loved ME, and gave Himself for ME’. I have repented of my sins, and have been forgiven.

Today, when I read the words of John’s first Epistle, in Ch. 5 v 13, I know what they mean. They read – ‘These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life...’ I am trusting Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I am depending, for my salvation, upon Him alone, and on the work He did on my behalf as He suffered and died upon the cross at Calvary. Because of this I have God’s promise of eternal life.

I am NO LONGER HOPING, but now I KNOW that I will be in Heaven some day. This assurance is not based upon whether a person is a Roman Catholic or a Protestant. It is based upon the fact that - ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’. (John Ch. 3 v 16)

INVITATION

Dear friend, perhaps you have been ‘doing your best’ for many years? Maybe you have spent a long time HOPING that membership of a particular Church can get you to Heaven? But today you are still only HOPING. You have no assurance that all is well between you and God. You may be sincerely HOPING that as a result of your prayers and religious exercises you will earn salvation? But you do not KNOW!

Instead of looking to religion or looking to your own good works to save you, why not look to the Lord, who said - ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else’. (Isaiah Ch. 45 v 22)

The Lord invites you to come to Him right NOW! ‘Come NOW, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’. (Isaiah. Ch. 1 v 18)

Acknowledging the fact that you are a sinner, turn to Him right NOW in sincere Repentance, asking Him to forgive you and trusting Him to save you. Then you will be able to say – “I am NO LONGER HOPING. Now I KNOW I am going to Heaven, because I am depending upon ‘The Son of God, who loved ME, and gave Himself for ME’.”

http://www.cherithgospel.org/