Archive for November, 2009

Is Salvation a Free Gift?

The words FREE GIFT attract the attention of most of us. Marketers especially like to use these words in upper case to draw people’s attention to what they are pitching. But is a gift really FREE?

A gift is free for the person who receives it but not for the person who gives it. The giver always pays a price – unless of course you ‘forwarded’ the gift that you got on your birthday but didn’t like! In that case, neither you nor your poor [ 😦 ] friend will pay anything. ‘Forwarding’ such a gift is so easy – much like forwarding an SMS joke when you have subscribed to a free SMS pack with your cell phone service provider.
The gift of salvation that Jesus Christ promises to give us, comes at a very hefty price. But that price has already been paid by him on the Cross at Calvary. [Read this post to learn more] We simply need to open our hearts and lives to him, in order to receive that gift. So there is no dollar value attached to it – no rituals to carry out, no mantras to be chanted, no sacrifice we need to offer. Salvation is a gift of grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8) Jesus paid the price. The moment we open our hearts, we start gaining from the value of the sacrifice.

Price vs. Value
Jesus’ work on the Cross was the price he paid for our sins. The salvation we get when we receive him, is the value of this sacrifice. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12)
In the next post, we will take the birthday gift analogy a bit further, to explain the urgency (time-sensitivity) of the need to claim this FREE GIFT of salvation. So stay logged-in!

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Substitutionary Death: Jesus for Jesus

In the post “What is Death?“, we saw the difference between physical death and spiritual death. If we are to avoid spiritual death, someone must die on our behalf – to pay the price for our sins; so that we are released from the bondage to sin. That ‘someone’ was Jesus – he died in our place!

Jesus’ dying on the Cross in our place is termed “substitutionary death.” One man dying for another man’s folly. And all this out of grace and mercy – just so that we could walk away free! “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Jesus for Jesus – Man for Man

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, the multitude demanded that Jesus Christ be crucified and a prisoner by the name of Jesus Barabbas (Barabbas means ‘son of the father’) be released. As per the custom in those days, one prisoner would be released at the Passover feast. So Pilate ordered Jesus Barabbas – the “notorious prisoner” – to be released.

The Jesus who was a sinner was let off while the innocent Jesus (Christ) was sacrificed at Passover. In a sense, we too are in Barabbas’ position – we have offended God. But God, in His mercy and grace, anointed Jesus to die not only in place of Barabbas, but also in place of you and me. Jesus for Jesus – Man for Man!

Let us, then, offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God by praising Him and thanking Him for the way of salvation He has worked out for us in Christ Jesus:

“Praise the LORD,
For His mercy endures forever.” (2 Chr. 20:21; Ps. 106:1; Ps. 136)

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What is Death?

What is the meaning of ‘death’? In one of our Sunday services, the guest speaker Bro. Rajkumar Ramchandran explained the meaning of death:

Death is separation. Physical death occurs when the spirit gets separated from the body. Spiritual death occurs when the spirit gets separated from God – its Creator. While physical death merely brings to an end your journey on planet Earth, spiritual death begins the spirit’s eternity in hell. Here’s how…

“Grave” Sins
The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) So when you die a sinner, i.e. without your sins washed away (forgiven), there is no reason why God should allow your spirit to enter Heaven, into His presence. The only other place is hell, far, far separated from God, from where you can never return – neither to Earth nor to God, who created your spirit. This is how you are separated from God – forever! That is why I choose to call sins as ‘grave” – they actually ensure that your body is deposited into the grave and your spirit burns forever in hell. So what is the way out?

Jesus Forgives Sins
God knew that we will sin, having inherited Adam’s and Eve’s genes. He loves us so much that He wants us to come back to Him after physical death. That’s why He worked out a simple plan of salvation. Salvation is free, my friend! Unfortunately, sometimes great scholars fail to fathom God’s love for us and His simple plan of salvation. So if you aren’t a born-again child of God, you need to learn about this plan, now – before you log-in to check your emails! Read this post

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Covenant vs. Contract vs. Agreement – Part 2

In Part 1 of this two-post series, we saw the meaning of an agreement, a contract and a covenant. Now let us look at a few similarities and differences between them.

SIMILARITIES

  • All three are, at their most basic level, agreements of some kind
  • They are entered into for the benefit of at least one of the parties (obvious)
  • An agreement often has terms and conditions, just like a contract and a covenant (though not always)
  • Violating the conditions of a contract and a covenant can have legal implications – only, in the case of the Biblical covenant with God, the implications are primarily spiritual in nature.

DIFFERENCES

  • A simple agreement that has no evidence backing it, will not stand in the court of law. A contract is written and will stand in court. E.g. a couple in love who simply ‘agree’ to live as partners cannot become a husband and wife unless they have a marriage certificate.
  • In a (Biblical) covenant, at least one of the parties is sure to fulfil the conditions. But in a simple agreement or a business contract, all parties are vulnerable to violating the terms. Or they may opt out of the contract by fulfilling certain conditions. God, however, will never back out!

So what’s this discussion got to do with God and the Bible?

A lot! The entire Bible is a series of incidents where God, having made a covenant with man, shows His longsuffering nature before striking judgment. Seeing that we have a sin nature, He also works out a plan for us to obtain His pardon though we do not deserve it. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The Law of Moses was a covenant. Man broke it. God warned them to repent. Many did – many did not. Those who did not, faced the wrath of God.

The new covenant through Jesus Christ makes it far simpler for us. God promises to fulfil His commitment despite our failures. We only need to believe and receive His grace to obey His commands. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12)

If you want to know more about how you can obtain forgiveness of sins and God’s grace, read the Good News here.

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Covenant vs. Contract vs. Agreement – Part 1

How is a covenant different from an agreement and a contract? Do they have anything in common? Let us look at what each of these 3 terms means:

  1. Agreement: When two or more parties agree upon something, it is called an agreement. It can be oral or written.It can be expressed or implied. In the olden days (and even today in certain situations/places), a “gentleman’s word” was an agreement. E.g. when your house walls gave way, your neighbour or relative would give you shelter. This happened in January 2001 in a massive earthquake in India. This implied agreement is a gentleman’s unspoken word. Despite not knowing Jesus, they kept his commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:39)
  2. Contract: I belong to India. In college, I was taught that according to the Indian Contract Act, 1872, “A contract is an agreement enforceable at law.” This would be pretty much the same the world over. To be valid, it must be expressed in writing. It would also have its Terms and Conditions (T & C). Violating the T & C could lead to legal action.
  3. Covenant: A covenant is much superior to an agreement or a contract. It is a promise. E.g. the Law of Moses with the Ten Commandments. Or God’s promise to save all humans who repent of their sins and turn to Him through belief in His Son Jesus Christ: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

In Part 2 of this series, we will look at the similarities and differences a covenant, a contract and an agreement. We’ll also see how a covenant is much superior to an agreement and a contract.

Stay tuned.

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