Scandal! Biggest Cover-up Unveiled At Last!

By Dr. P. Sellappan


We have heard about many cover-up jobs in history. But one beats them all—it involves an astronomical amount and implicates three top guns and millions of others. It is a scandalous story and you surely don’t want to miss it!

The Story.

There was a rich man (master) who had an accountant (manager) to take care of all his properties (assets). An accusation was brought against him that he was tampering with the accounts and wasting his master’s assets. The master summoned him to give an account of what he had done and then fired him from his job. Surprisingly, the accountant didn’t plead for mercy, nor did he appeal to be reinstated. He simply accepted the sack.

Being the shrewd accountant that he was, he quickly hatched up a plan. The plan was: he would meet his master’s customers one by one and offer to slash the amounts they owed their master before handing over the books. It was an attractive offer because they could not pay their debts. The accountant saw their plight, so he took pity on them because they were heavily in debt. He called them one by one and slashed their debts, risking his own life and job. He also had an ulterior motive. He reasoned: “If I slash their debts, they will remember my kindness, and take me into their homes when I am sacked from my job.”

Surprisingly, his master didn’t get angry or condemn him for what he had done. In fact, he praised him for acting shrewdly. You can read this fascinating parable—story—in Luke 16:1–13.


The Interpretation.

Let’s start by identifying the characters in the story. The rich man is the Father-figure; the shrewd accountant is His Son Jesus; we, the entire human race, are the debtors; and those who brought the accusation are the religious authorities—the olden-day and modern-day Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes.

Adam and Eve and the entire human race fell—sinned—and earned the death penalty which they could never pay even in a million years (or in an endless cycle of rebirths). God the Father sent His Son Jesus to settle their sins—debts. Jesus came secretly, taking the form of a human being and went around forgiving people—tax collectors, publicans, prostitutes and all sinners. The religious authorities who were strict law-keepers were upset with Jesus because He was forgiving people indiscriminately. They accused Him of undermining their efforts to uphold and promote the law. After all, they were the custodians of the law. They believed that law-breakers should be punished and not allowed to go scot-free. Jesus’ actions provoked them because He was forgiving sinners freely instead of meting out judgments. The authorities questioned Jesus as to who had given Him the authority to forgive people. (Matthew 9:1–8) Jesus claimed that He was the Son of God and therefore had authority to forgive people. They were infuriated and accused Him of playing God and misappropriating God’s name and power (assets). They wanted Him dead, so they brought all sorts of false accusations against Him which finally led to His death on the cross. He was fired—crucified—to pay the penalty of their (and all of humanity’s) sins.

Jesus was killed but He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. Since then He has been busy knocking on the doors of peoples’ hearts hoping they would receive Him into their lives (homes) for the kindness that He had shown them (slashing their debts). (Revelation 3:20).

All the master’s customers were hardcore debtors (Romans 3:10) —spiritually dead — who could never, in a million years, settle their bills. They dare not face their creditor (God) because of fear of punishment. And they certainly didn’t want to be labelled ‘bankrupts’ and ‘debtors’.

Isn’t this how we sometimes feel about our sinful condition? We dare not approach God because of fear of punishment even though God is extremely gracious and merciful. He personally took the initiative to send His Son Jesus to settle all our debts—irrespective of the amount. Jesus was fired—crucified—on the cross to take away our sin, our shame and our guilt. He became ‘unjust’ so we might be justified. He has come to set us free from the clutches of sin and death so that we can approach God’s throne of grace boldly and confidently. He has wiped out all our sins (debts) once and for all in and through His death and resurrection. Not only has He obliterated our debts, he has also filled our accounts with huge credits. He became sin for us—wiping our spiritual slate clean. And He became righteousness for us—filling our spiritual accounts to the brim. All we need to do is to put our trust in Jesus. In God’s eyes, we are debt-free. He doesn’t see our debts because they have been wiped clean. So we don’t have to be terrified or hide from God. We can start sharing our lives with Him and get to know Him personally. He wants us to enter into an intimate relationship with Him.

There is one more thing to take note of. The parable should not be taken literally in totality. For example, it might give the impression that Jesus has only forgiven some of our sins. But that is not true since other scriptures make it clear that He has forgiven all our sins. (Psalm 103:3, 11–12, Colossians 2:13, 1 John 1:9) This includes our past, present and future sins.

The Books.

The Chief Accountant Jesus has already died to all record-keeping. He has thrown away the accounts books and closed His accounting business for good. (Hebrews 7:11–18). You don’t have to keep track of your debits and credits. You don’t have to keep track of your bad deeds and good deeds (which are suspect anyway). Nor should you keep track of other peoples’ failures and shortcomings. God has declared forever that He will not use the law books to judge us. Why? Because all that the law books do is to pronounce us guilty and send us to hell. Grace is the only game in town—the Grace that enters everyone’s name in the Book of Life. This is the only book God will look at—and, thankfully, He has written all our names in that precious book. (Revelation 20:12–15).

You Can Participate.

The rest of the verses in the parable, Luke 16:9–13, is a call to action. Jesus is calling us to participate in His glorious “cover-up” ministry. St. Paul writes “Love covers a multitude of sins.”(1 Peter 4:8). Jesus became poor so that we might become rich, He became sin so that we might become righteous, He died and rose from the grave so that we might die and rise with Him.

Jesus has already settled all our sins with His precious blood. We have been given a spiritual bailout. Now He is asking us to go and tell others so that they too can get bailouts. God wants us to proclaim the Good News—telling people that their sins have all been forgiven forever. He wants us to use our resources—money, time, gifts and talents —to go and tell people everywhere that God in Christ has already forgiven their sins, accepted and reconciled them, and raised and seated them in the heavenly realm as His own beloved children. (Ephesians 2:1–10). He has done all this in and through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Everyone who trusts Jesus has already passed from darkness to light and from death to life. This is what the “cover-up” ministry is all about.

Is there a reward for participating in Jesus’ “cover-up” ministry? You bet! The money you spend to share the Gospel will come back to you manifold. How? Many—perhaps thousands—may come to know God through your kind generosity. They too will know who Jesus is and accept Him as their personal Saviour. And you will have many more friends—brothers and sisters—in your eternal home with God.

While the people of this world are shrewd in accumulating wealth for themselves, God is asking us to be shrewd by sharing our wealth to make friends who will be with us for all eternity. Make no mistake. We live in an uncertain world. Our money may leave us when financial tsunamis strike us, or we may leave our money when death calls us to the ‘other world’. There is no security whatsoever in our money or in our life. Our only security is Jesus. So God asks us to be wise stewards—even unjust stewards—so we can have many brothers and sisters in our eternal home just like what Jesus did in this scandalous story.

The Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—the three top guns have been planning this cover-up job for a long time. They have been working relentlessly and secretly to cover the entire humanity’s sin (which could pile up to the third heaven) and include them in His glorious life as His own beloved children. This is the biggest scandal of all time—and this is precisely what God’s grace is all about.

Now that your debts have been totally wiped out, would you like to help in covering up other peoples’ debts by participating in Jesus’ “cover-up” ministry?

Reference
Robert F. Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, William Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002

Spiritual Heart Attack

By Wong Teck Kong.

When a person responds to God’s grace of salvation, God will grant the person the spirit of repentance to accept Christ as his or her personal saviour. The Holy Spirit will dwell in the person and the process of transformation of the Christian can begin. The Christian’s attitudes and values in life should change over time to become more and more in line with God’s. The Bible likens this to the replacement of the old stony heart with a new fleshly one. (Ezekiel 18:3, 11:19).

The unconverted life is represented by the cold hard heart while life in Christ is symbolised by the soft and tender heart. Just as a physical heart can suffer from a heart attack, so too can a spiritual heart. There are many scriptural references where Christians are warned against hardening their spiritual hearts. (Hebrews 3:8, 15; 4:7) Even Christ once directly asked His disciples whether their hearts were hardened! (Ephesians 4:14) A hardened spiritual heart is a prime candidate for a spiritual heart attack.

Most doctors agree that three common factors among others that can determine whether a person will get a heart attack or not are diet, physical activity and stress or lifestyle. If we continuously eat unhealthy food, do not exercise and lead a stressful life, our chances of having a ‘myocardial infarction’ eventually is very real. Similarly, the analogy can also be applied to the spiritual life.

Our spiritual food must be centred on the word of God. Personal Bible study ought to be a staple diet. Reading inspiring writings and listening to sound sermons should be part of our spiritual calorie intake. All these will ensure that we are spiritually nourished. On the other hand to replace the Bible as our ‘main course’ in our spiritual meals is a dangerous step down the slippery slope. For some Christians, the only spiritual food they have is outside of the Bible—materials sourced from humans that may be false or doctrinally incorrect. This is akin to taking spiritual junk food.

Spiritual Heart Attack, Plain Truth, Plain Truth Online, Christian Lifestyle
The moment we lose our focus on Christ, we become receptive to all sorts of ideas that Satan or the world can throw at us. We lose our stability because we have lost our anchor. We become easily swayed and influenced, prime candidates for a spiritual heart attack. (James 1:22).

A sedentary lifestyle with no exercise significantly increases the risk of a cardiac arrest. Due to the nature of our careers, there is little physical activity in most jobs and most occupations are desk-bound. This lack of manual work in the workplace is one of the contributory causes in the rise of heart attacks in modern societies.

In the spiritual realm, we too need to do our spiritual exercises. God has given each one of us spiritual gifts which we must make use of. If not, we are like the lazy servant who hid his talent. Christians are to be doers, not just hearers. (James 2:20) The apostle James even said that faith without deeds is useless. Remember we have a commission to carry out and to be about our Father’s business. The point is that to avoid a spiritual heart attack, we cannot be armchair Christians.

A life full of stress or a lifestyle that is stress inducing greatly increases the chances of vascular diseases. Work pressure, financial stress, lack of sleep and rest, job insecurity, unhappy marriages, broken homes—all these factors and many others can take their toll on our lives. Life in the 21st century, especially city life, is not always very pleasant. Due to economic realities not many of us can break away from such conditions. If we do not know how to handle stress, we may not be able to handle our hearts!

What type of spiritual lifestyle do we live? Are we stressed up over what other Christians think of us? Do we worry over our salvation? Have doubts about God? Do we live transparently enough that non-Christians can see God in us? Most importantly, are our lifestyles in line with what God says in the Bible? Or are our primary cares and concerns still on worldly matters like most people? The answers to the above questions will determine the condition of our spiritual heart.

What actually causes a heart attack? Technically a heart attack occurs when there is not enough oxygen being carried to the heart to do its work. The lack of oxygen may be due to insufficient blood reaching the heart organ. Usually the reason for the inadequate blood flow is because of blockages in the coronary arteries that narrow the amount of blood that can be pumped to the heart. The main culprit of this blockage is plaques which build up over time in the blood vessels.

In our spiritual lives, plaques are like our hidden and unrepented sins. The presence of plaques does not immediately cause a heart attack. It is its accumulation over time to a certain extent that triggers a heart attack. Similarly, to sin unknowingly or to stumble due to human weakness or momentary misjudgement is understandable. However, to continue sinning by doing something that we know is wrong may well be setting the stage for a spiritual heart attack. To purposely refuse to repent when shown that we are wrong, to continuously harbour bitterness towards others, to dwell on evil thoughts and schemes and to nurture wrong attitudes all the time—these are some of the spiritual plaques we must avoid. To help avoid some of these we should always ask God to help us search our hearts like King David did to get rid of all his plaques—sins hidden from his understanding. (Psalm 19:12)

In conclusion, what is the best way to prevent a spiritual heart attack? The answer is given by the very own words of Jesus: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’ ” (Luke 10:27).Ø

Where Your Treasure Is

By Joseph Tkach.

An elderly man bought a lottery ticket and gave it to his wife for safekeeping. When the winning numbers were announced, she was the first to know that he had won ten million dollars. But she decided not to tell him immediately since he had a bad heart and she feared he might just drop dead from the shock of winning.

Consequently, she asked her pastor to break the news gently to her husband. When the pastor met him, he engaged him in small talk for a while and as gently as possible, asked: “What would you do if you were ever to win 10 million dollars?”

Without hesitation the man replied, “I’d give half to the Church!” Whereupon, the pastor dropped dead.

While I would love to win the lottery, I have yet to ever buy a ticket … so, I don’t expect to win. I have read that the love of money can cripple and diminish and destroy people more effectively than any form of illness.

We have seen this portrayed in stories and in movies. The classic movie, Treasures of the Sierra Madre, starring Humphey Bogart, was one of those. The characters in the story came to value the gold they mined more than each other.

Not just once, but repeatedly in the Gospels, Jesus tells us that preoccupation with money can destroy our ability to enter into and rejoice in the new life He is offering us.

I am reminded of the story of the multi-millionaire who was visiting a small church where he first became a Christian. He was invited to give a testimony on his faith experience. So the rich man spoke of when he was a little boy in the church, and how he had earned his first dollar. It was a silver dollar, and he had decided to keep it forever. But a visiting missionary came to church that day and preached about the urgent needs to proclaim the gospel in other poor places in the world. Consequently, when the offering basket was passed around, he said that a great struggle took place inside him. As a result of his wanting to worship God with his whole heart and soul, he put his treasured silver dollar in the offering basket. And he concluded by saying that he was convinced the reason he had become a multimillionaire is that when he was a boy, he gave God everything he possessed.

As he paused for effect, the congregation was spellbound by his tremendous testimony, until an elderly lady in the back stood up and said, “Brother, I dare you to do it again!”

Actually, of course, God expects us to take care of our families and pay our bills, but our donations are an integral part of our worship. And just like our prayer, we must be ready to do it again and again and again. Life consists not in how much we get, but in how we use what we are given. ❏

A Covenant of Forgiveness

By James R. Henderson.

How do you forgive someone and go on with your life? It is not easy, is it?

Some cultures have customs of forgiveness. For example, the Masai in Tanzania perform an osotua, a word meaning “covenant”.

In his inspirational book, Christianity Rediscovered, Vincent Donovan relates how osotua works. If a sin has occurred between families within a community, it can be disastrous to the unity of the nomadic clan. It may threaten why they came together in the first place.

It is imperative that both the offending and offended parties be brought back together in an act of forgiveness. So the community prepares a meal, and both families must bring food. The offended must accept and eat the food prepared by the offender, and vice versa. The food is called “holy food”.

The idea is that when the food is eaten, forgiveness comes, and a new osotua begins.

Startling, isn’t it? What a simple idea. Have you shared holy food with someone you don’t like or whom you have offended? What about Communion? As you take Communion together, can a new covenant of forgiveness begin between you and someone whom you’ve offended or who has offended you? Or will you continue to carry the same resentment from holy meal to holy meal?

Donovan notes of the Masai custom, “A new testament of forgiveness is brought about by an exchange of holy food. What can one say?”

What a blessing when in our Lord and Saviour we can say the same. ❏

Duty of Care

By Dennis P. Gordon.

Although he does not realise it, the outstanding British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough inspired this article. It was something he said in an interview earlier this year.

He spoke of “the influence of the Bible’s book of Genesis, which says the Lord God said ‘go forth and multiply’ to Adam and Eve and ‘the natural world is there for you to dominate, you have dominion of the animals and plants of the world.’ That basic notion—that the world is there for us, and if it doesn’t serve our purposes it’s dispensable—has produced the devastation of vast areas. We have assumed that we can build a house on it, dig it up, put tarmac over it; that’s OK because it’s there for us.” The interview was printed in the 19 February issue of Nature, the most prestigious scientific magazine in the United Kingdom.

The viewpoint that Sir David was paraphrasing was based on a highly influential paper published in Science, the U.S. equivalent of Nature, by UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) historian Lynn White in March 1967. Titled “The historical roots of our ecologic crisis”, White asserted that “Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt” for environmental damage since the Middle Ages.

Blame Christianity.

In his paper, White admitted that human beings have affected nature in the communities where they lived throughout history. In many hunter-gatherer societies, the damage may have been relatively mild, but even pre-industrial human beings significantly altered the environment through the use of fire and even caused the extinction of large animals, as on Mediterranean islands, the Great Plains of America and in New Zealand.

But White’s focus was on the European West. He noted how modern science and technology originated in the West, and he linked that development, in part, to the Judeo-Christian victory over paganism—that is, since God is Creator, nature should not be worshipped and does not need to be feared. White referred to Genesis when he wrote, “Man named all the animals, thus establishing his dominance over them. God planned all of this explicitly for man’s benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man’s purposes. And, although man’s body is made of clay, he is not simply part of nature; he is made in God’s image.”

White noted that in ancient times, every tree, spring, stream and hill had its guardian spirit. Before anyone cut a tree, mined a mountain or dammed a brook, it was important to make the spirit happy. However, “by destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.” People no longer cared about the environmental results of what they did, and this attitude toward nature has continued, argued White. Therefore, “We shall continue to have a worsening ecological crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.”

In the decades since the publication of the Science paper, hundreds of books and articles used White’s ideas as a focal point. His ideas can be seen in the popular press, in a very diverse range of periodicals such as
Time, Horizon, The New York Times, The Boy Scout Handbook and The Sierra Club Bulletin. Eventually, American writer Wendell Berry observed that people assume that Christianity is to blame, and it is powerless to do anything about the problem: “The culpability of Christianity in the destruction of the natural world, and uselessness of Christianity in any effort to correct that destruction, are now established clichés of the conservation movement.”

Was White Right?

Since 1967, there have been numerous rebuttals of his controversial thesis. The most obvious is that ecological abuses have been done by almost every civilization in history, not just Christian ones. Humans never needed the book of Genesis to justify ruining their environment. Moreover, such a reading of Genesis seriously misinterprets what the book means.

The 1611 Authorised Version of the Bible that generations of Christians grew up with translates the grossly misunderstood verses of Genesis 1:26–28 like this: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

To understand this passage, we must read it in two ways—exegetically and christologically. That is, what does it mean in context, and how are we to understand it in light of the incarnation of God in Christ? Contextually, “dominion” represents the right to rule, in this case a transferred right, given to men and women. They bear the image of God, and must therefore rule on behalf of God. They do not rule in their own right—they must reflect the attitude that God has toward His creation.

And what is that? Verse 31: “And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” His creation pleases Him—and He still owns it.

Look After It—it Is Good.

God plainly declares: “all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5); “all the land is mine”, (Leviticus 25:23); “every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills … for the world is mine and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 50:10–12).

That means the redwoods of California do not belong to the government of California, the Amazonian rainforest does not belong to Brazil, and the oceans and fishes do not belong to the coastal nations and fishers of the world. They are all God’s, and He likes them, and He cares about them.

This explains the command of Genesis 2:15: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it”—to improve it and maintain it. This is a stewardship role, and the principle extends beyond the Garden to the rest of creation.

Dominion does not mean domination—it means royal servanthood, which was the way of life shown to us by Jesus. Although we humans have failed miserably to conform to the image of God, Jesus, the only true Imago Dei, was a perfect success.

To the disciples He explained: “Kings like to throw their weight around… It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.” (Luke 22:25–26,The Message).

This approach to ruling people—an expression of the command to love fellow human beings as ourselves—applies to the nonhuman creation as well. We are to help the creation, not abuse it by throwing our weight around. Though we may farm and use animals to supply our food, for example, we must not treat them cruelly or cause them unnecessary stress (see Proverbs 12:10: “A righteous man cares for the needs of hisanimal.”)

On a larger scale, we should consider the health of our entire environment, and follow the example of the Father in keeping track of animal populations (Matthew 10:29); and ensuring their survival. Plant-eating and meat-eating animals depend on their Creator (Psalm 104:14,21); and so do the birds. (Matthew 6:26).

In one command, the Bible gives an excellent ecological principle: “If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you.” (Deuteronomy 22:6–7).

The law against harming a mother bird is not some quirky idea inserted by an eccentric bird lover. The idea is that the mother bird will then have a chance to have more baby birds. In that way the people will not destroy the source of life, but will be living in the land in a way that can be sustained for centuries. Humans are to live on earth in a way that can be sustained. We should not destroy so much habitat that various animals can no longer survive and reproduce.

This passage from Deuteronomy makes plain that sustainable environmental management is important for our own well-being—we need the “goods and services” our environment provides, too! As Time magazine recently pointed out, we are in danger of being the last generation to see some major species alive.

Rooted In Our Beliefs.

Lynn White was right about one thing—our attitudes toward nature are rooted in our religious beliefs: “What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny—that is, by religion.”

Why is there an ecological crisis? At heart, the problem is sin.

It is helpful to notice the differences between Genesis 1 and 2. Whereas the Bible’s first chapter proclaims the one true God of Israel as the powerful Creator of everything that is, Genesis 2 is more pastoral and relational. This chapter focuses on relationships at three levels, with God, fellow humans, and the rest of creation. Then Genesis 3 shows how all of those relationships were fractured, with “thorns and thistles” being a poetic expression of the environmental results of a flawed relationship with God. God intended humanity and nature to be in harmony, but sin has disrupted the relationship.

Human sin is part of the wider context of spiritual opposition to God. Happily, the environmental distress experienced by creation was resolved by the death and crucifixion of Jesus, but the age to come has not yet fully arrived. So, for now, the creation “waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:19–21). But do we understand the implications of our current status?

The fact is, we Christians are already the children of God, and although the age to come is still in the future, we are privileged to participate in it as we live and share the gospel. Since Christians are part of God’s solution for the planet, we should be setting an example of “creation care.” Thankfully, many Christian biologists, writers, pastors and churches have been and are taking this responsibility seriously. Denominational statements expressing a theology of the environment have been issued within Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Evangelicalism. Do an Internet search on “creation care” and you will see how active Christian environmental concern now is.

But What About The “End Times”?

Some wonder, why bother with the environment? Doesn’t the book of Revelation predict that it’s all going to go up in smoke anyway? And if so, aren’t our conservation efforts pointless? Some Christians seem to think so. A Baptist church in Boise, Idaho, prints and distributes a bumper sticker that says “Forget ‘Save the Earth’— What about your soul? The earth is going to burn — What about you?”

Revelation is a special kind of literature—apocalyptic—that uses highly symbolic, exaggerated language to communicate a theological message. The whole point of the book is that God will bring to an end the sinful, destructive ways of humanity that have polluted all of the Edenic relationships God established in Genesis 2. Let us not overlook the warning in Revelation 11:18: “the time has come… for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Contrary to some popular ideas, God is not planning to destroy the earth after whisking the faithful out of harm’s way. Far from destroying the earth, God says He will transform it. It will literally be a heavenly earth In small but positive ways, we can participate in that transformation in advance in the good things we do now and in the years ahead to be faithful stewards and take care of the world that God has created and assigned us to maintain. A balanced, responsible care for the creation that has been entrusted to us is not a waste of time. It is an important step in the right direction. when “God dwells with man” (Revelation 21:3).

God Within

Stefanie Tai

By: Stefanie Tai.

During my teenage years, I often wondered about how and why the universe and the world came into being. Why do we have to exist only to die later on? I earnestly sought to know the purpose of it all. Knowledge gained from reading books on such matters convinced me for a while, only to find myself falling deeper into the purposelessness of life.

I soon came across a Christian magazine. I was drawn to this God-Father, whom I read of, who lovingly created the universe and human beings, to share His life with us. As simple as that! And there was His Son, Jesus, who came as a human being to die for our sins and He could save people from death. Cool! Just the Saviour needed to give me life in my dreary existence. Furthermore, I was especially awestruck by the Holy Spirit of this Father and Son, who could empower me to do bold heroic things, in spite of myself.

As soon as I was baptised, I waited eagerly for the Holy Spirit instantly to wipe out the lifeless ‘old me’ and renew me with dynamic Christ-like living. Well, it didn’t happen as I had imagined. Before knowing how to appropriate God’s power in my life, I had to know Him better. And to learn to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, I had to be familiar with His words in the Bible.

Learning to be led by the Holy Spirit

A fight with a close friend one day presented me with a vital lesson on how the Holy Spirit would operate in my life. My friend hurled abusive words at me over a trivial matter. My injured pride developed into anger and resentment and I retaliated with equally nasty words. This heated exchange of words went on for a while.

Though prayers to God were a babble of angry words that made no sense, I kept at it. Without the faintest idea of what to look for in my Bible, I opened it and it fell to the page with the verse in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers”. I was taken aback! My anger was still smouldering when Galatians 5:16 came to mind: “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Then John 6:63 where Jesus said: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” I quickly referred to those scriptures in the Bible for affirmation.

Thoughts flashed by: “Is God, through His Holy Spirit in me, trying to get my attention? It couldn’t be a coincidence that the Bible fell open to the passage about making peace. I’ve just had a fight! And those other clear scriptures spoke about living by the Spirit.

I was troubled. I had no intention of making peace. It was my friend who had started the fight. And her unprovoked hurtful remarks broke my heart into pieces. I tossed to and fro questioning which way to go. My desire to win at all costs versus the desire to make peace waged an intense battle inside me, till I was powerless to think rationally. I was also very concerned that if my friend spurned my efforts to restore peace, I would lose face!”

I had to make a conscious and deliberate choice—to be yielded to the promptings of the Spirit or to my wounded self. My anger had not subsided when I acted upon the Spirit’s conviction that saving a broken relationship is better than saving face.

The moment I co-operated with the Spirit to stop me from being a jerk and dishonouring His name, I encountered an experience too wonderful for words. One moment I was raging and trembling with uncontrolled anger and the next, I was settled with an amazing sense of calmness and peace that literally brought chills to my bones! I was thankful to the Spirit for being the Comforter and Helper that He is described to be in John 14 and 16. He soothed my anger and comforted my troubled soul.

Memorizing or remembering key Bible verses is never in vain. In moments of intense need, the Spirit revealed and reminded me of God’s words and guided me to live wisely as Christ would have lived. The Spirit is all these and more as He enabled me to accomplish what I could never do without His power, love and sound mind in me, as expressed in 2 Timothy 1:7. If I had chosen to ignore the Spirit, I would have denied Him and myself this amazing transforming power from working mightily in my life.

No Instant Transformation

God does forgive our past sins instantly when we receive Christ as our Saviour. But He doesn’t make us become like Christ instantaneously (as I had thought). The working of God’s Spirit in developing the character of Christ in us is an ongoing process, and this will continue for the rest of our lives. While the Spirit is present in us, we are not always living consciously under His influence. We need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Word of God powerfully to help us live God’s purpose in our lives. ❏

You Just Never Know

By John Halford

Do you remember that line from the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? “I shot an arrow in the air, It fell to earth I know not where.”

I was reminded of this a few days ago. The editor sent me some statistics from this magazine’s web site (http://wcg-klang.net/). Apparently it is possible to not only how many ‘hits’ we have each day, but where they come from. This makes interesting reading.

As you’d expect, most come from Malaysia and Singapore, and quite a lot from the USA. But there are a surprising number of people checking our web site from literally all around the world. Just looking at the list, I see we had visitors from Romania, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and France. There were also quite a lot from the Ivory Coast, a French speaking country in Africa.

We tend to think of our circulation (and thus our impact) in terms of the ‘real’ magazine—the one you are holding now. That circulation, now 20,000 is basically limited to Malaysia and Singapore, our primary audience. But because we put a full-text version on line, our readership goes far beyond our immediate region. So these words may be read on a screen almost anywhere in the world. (Why not write or email and let us know—ptasia@ myjaring.net).

Our writers should find this exciting. You just never know how and where something you have written may be the instrument that changes someone’s life. It might not be a great piece of prose. It may not even be the main point of the article. Sometimes it is just a word of a phrase that sets off a train of thought, or locks disjointed pieces of information into a coherent message, and bring about a “Eureka” moment in someone’s understanding.

I have been writing and editing material for Christian magazines for over thirty years. I am often asked by aspiring writers, ‘what is the secret of a successful article?’ My answer is ‘Don’t try too hard.’ We get many manuscripts from new authors, hopeful of breaking into Christian writing. These first-time manuscripts often are all-encompassing extravaganzas about the greatness of God’s love, or the depth of Jesus’ suffering, or the depravity of sin or the glorious promises of grace—and sometimes all of the above!

I understand—spiritual insights do tend to come in tsunamis, and when they do, creative people want to share them with the world. Trouble is, your great insight, so irresistibly clear to you, just washes over most people and makes no impact. So I usually write back and say, “Now you have got that out of your system, send me a morsel that our readers can digest.”

You Just Never Know

You Just Never Know


Let me offer hopeful writers a simple formula: show or tell people something they don’t know, about something they are interested in, in a way they can understand. That is actually good advice not only for writers, but the Christian life in general. You just never know how something you do or say will be the catalyst that makes the difference.

Professor Rodney Stark of Baylor University has done some remarkable research on the development of Christianity in the Roman Empire. He has showed that the faith grew, not in response to elaborate campaigns, dramatic miracles or powerful evangelism. Those might sometimes have been instrumental in getting attention. But it was the steady, consistent, generosity and spirit of service of those early believers that made an impact. They didn’t do it to “get members.” They took seriously Jesus’ command to be “salt and light.” (Matthew 5:13-16). In the often harsh, dog-eat-dog environment of the Roman Empire, they showed their friends and neighbours a better way to live.

Most of you reading this will never see your written work in print. But if you yourself are “the genuine article,” you can be “published” every day—by living the life of love Jesus commanded. (John 13:34). You’d be surprised how often a small act of kindness or a word of encouragement will be noticed and remembered. And for someone, somewhere, sometime, it may make all the difference. ❏

A Gift Hard to Refuse

dr-p-sellappanby Dr. P. Sellappan

Many receive gifts on special occasions such as birthdays, weddings and religious festivals. Some receive gifts (awards) for jobs done well, for example students excelling in their studies, employees contributing significantly to their companies’ growth, volunteers spending time and energy unselfishly caring for the needy. Depending on the giver, the gifts can be simple and inexpensive such as certificates or souvenirs or expensive like diamond rings.

God also gives us gifts. He gives us air, rain and sunshine, and flora and fauna for us to live, use and enjoy. He gives us minds to explore and discover or invent things. He gives us families, friends and communities for us to enjoy. To cap it all, He gives us the most precious gift of all—His one and only Son Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) There is no gift that can ever match this. Why is it so?

Raises our status and invites us to a relationship.

Receiving Jesus Christ into our lives instantly changes our status from mere nobodies to people of great worth. We are raised to the status “children of God.” (John 1:12–13) This applies to all people irrespective of race, colour, age, gender, language, financial or social status. It even includes those who have messed up their lives (who haven’t?) such as murderers, thieves, sex offenders and drug abusers. Receiving Jesus puts us into a relationship with God where we call God our “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:14–16), Jesus Christ as our Elder Brother and Friend (John 5:15) and Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Counsellor.(John 14:25–26). The status gives us respect, recognition and worth. It should cause us to see God in a totally different perspective—as a God of immense love and goodness.

We cannot enter into any deep, meaningful relationship with physical gifts or objects. But through Jesus we can enter into an intimate, personal relationship with God. (1 John 3:2,
Romans 8:16). We can pray to God and receive answers. We can share with Him our joys and happiness as well as our trials and sorrows. Only Jesus understands all our weaknesses, temptations and struggles because He has experienced that Himself.(Hebrews 2:18). He totally surrendered to God and secured victory for us. (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Forgives, reconciles and satisfies our deepest needs When we receive Jesus as our personal Saviour, God forgives all our sins and reconciles us to Himself. We are set free, so we don’t have to carry the heavy burden that sin brings9—shame, guilt, failure, worry and hopelessness. More than that, Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us so we appear holy before God.(Philippians 3:7). This puts us in right standing with God11 and we can freely commune with Him.

Physical gifts can only give us temporary pleasures. They cannot satisfy our deepest human needs such as comfort, contentment, security and friendship. But when we receive Jesus, God gives us His Holy Spirit, who produces spiritual fruits like love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faith and hope. Unlike money and things, these fruits of the Hoy Spirit satisfy our deepest spiritual needs.

Giver and Gift is God.

In the case of physical gifts, the giver is a person and the gift is an object. But in the case of God’s gift, both the Giver and Gift is God Himself. (John 1:1). God the Father is the Giver and God the Son is the Gift. The Gift comes from heaven, not from some man-made production line. That should move us to appreciate God’s immense love for us.

Unworthy recipients.

We receive physical gifts in recognition of our status, good behaviour or performance. But God gives us gifts not because we are worthy but because of His own kindness, goodness and mercy.(Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2: 1–5, Titus 2: 11–15). That reflects God’s unconditional love for us. He loved us first before we started to love Him.(1 John 4:19). That should move us to reciprocate His love.

What is the most precious gift?

What is the most precious gift?

Unfading, unique and costly.

Physical gifts have a temporary shelf life—they fade with time. But Jesus is eternal—He doesn’t fade with time. His power and strength remains undiminished with time because He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8).

“The gifts we receive from people usually don’t cost that much. But God’s gift is very costly. God sacrificed His one and only Son to make this gift possible.”

God’s gift is unique—Jesus is God’s one and only Son.16 He has no other son to give. God gives us Jesus so that we might receive forgiveness and eternal life from God. There is no other way by which we human beings can be saved. Jesus is the one and only way to salvation.(Acts 4:12).

The gifts we receive from people usually don’t cost that much. But God’s gift is very costly. God sacrificed His one and only Son to make this gift possible. Jesus emptied Himself of His divine rights and privileges and took the form of a human being. He came as a servant to save us. He shed His blood and died for us so we can have salvation.

To have, to share and to inherit.

When we pass physical gifts to others, they are gone forever unless they are returned to us. But when we share Jesus with others, we don’t lose Him. The sharing also doesn’t diminish His strength, power and wisdom. His full power and strength is available to all who believe.

When we receive Jesus, we not only receive eternal life but also inherit everything that God owns which includes the vast universe. (Romans 8:17). We become co-heirs with Jesus. The scripture tells us that the whole creation is eagerly waiting for the sons of God—us—to be born into His kingdom. (Romans 8:23).

Transforms and gives eternal life.

Physical gifts have no power to transform our hearts and minds or our attitudes and behaviour. But Jesus promises to give us power that can transform us to become better human beings. (Ezekiel 36:26, Hebrews 8:10). God’s Spirit will motivate us to share, forgive and reconcile. The Spirit will help us to be kind, gentle and patient. Even hardcore criminals, drug abusers, cheats and prostitutes can change. The Spirit can empower us to bear good fruits of love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, self-control and faithfulness. (Romans 1:16, Galatians 5:22–23). In short, God can transform us to become more and more like Jesus (albeit little by little).

Physical gifts cannot give us eternal or abundant life. But when we accept Jesus we receive them.(John 10:10). They are available now. At death, He raises us to immortal life free from pain, suffering, tears, sorrow and death. (Revelation 21:3–4).

Personal and universal.

God’s gift is personal as well as universal. (Acts 3:19–20, 2 Peter 3:9). Each of us must receive Jesus personally. We must confess our sins and accept Him as our personal Saviour and invite Him into our lives. Others cannot substitute for us. Jesus is also available to everyone, not just to a select or privileged group of people. But each person must receive Him personally.

Recap.

God is very gracious and generous. He gives us physical blessings such as food and clothing as well as family and friends to enjoy. He also gives us spiritual blessings like forgiveness, reconciliation and adoption as His children so that we can enter into an intimate spiritual relationship with Him. Physical blessings are temporal whereas spiritual blessings are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18). While physical blessings are important, spiritual blessings are far more important. They give us lasting peace, joy, happiness, friendship and fun. God’s gift in the Person of Jesus Christ gives us both physical and spiritual blessings. Why not go for it? Surely you don’t want to miss such a precious and wonderful gift! ❏

Did the Jews kill Jesus?

joseph-tkachby Joseph Tkach

Part of the controversy surrounding the movie The Passion of the Christ is whether the film is anti-Semitic. Does it blame the Jews for the death of Jesus? Here’s a related question: Whether or not the film blames the Jews, are they to blame?

I can understand why Jews might be concerned about it. Christians have often persecuted Jews for being Christ-killers. This goes far beyond name-calling it has included economic penalties, violence and even murder, in the name of taking revenge for the death of Jesus.

Many Jews were killed in the Crusades, and much more recently, millions were killed in 20th century Europe and the Nazis were not the only ones who persecuted Jews. The Nazis can hardly be called Christian, but the attitude that fuelled their hatred was nurtured by centuries of anti-Jewish teaching in the European churches.

Many Christians have been troubled by the Jews persistent rejection of the Christian message. Historically, perhaps due to some insecurity in their own beliefs, some have wanted to use force to achieve social conformity. Some people apparently felt that the easiest way to get rid of the problem was to kill the Jews, especially those who refused to accept Christianity (but sometimes even Christian Jews were persecuted).

I am ashamed of what some people have done, supposedly in the name of Christ. But I do not want to let my shame distort my view of what actually happened. So let s talk about it: Is Mel Gibson s movie anti-Semitic, did the Jews kill Jesus, and what attitude should Christians have toward the Jewish people?

Comments on the movie.

I was privileged to see an early screening of the movie, when Mission America invited numerous
denominational leaders to view a preliminary version in December. So I was able to have my own impression as I saw the controversy aired in the news media. The controversy has certainly given the film a huge amount of free publicity, and this may cause some non-Christians to see it, although the majority of the viewers seem to be committed Christians already.

Mel Gibson met with the Mission America group to answer questions, and he commented on the accusations of anti-Semitism, saying in effect that the problem that people have with the film is not really with the film it is with the Gospels, for the film simply portrays what the Gospels report (there is little controversy about the non-biblical parts that Gibson added to the film, such as the story line for Mary Magdalene, Pilate’s wife and Simon of Cyrene).

I must agree with Gibson on that point the film did not create a problem, but simply portrayed (in a visually stunning and memorable way) the story contained in the Gospels. Because of Gibson’s theology, it dwells on the scourging longer than the Gospels do, but what it portrays was historically probable. (Catholics tend to focus more on the suffering and crucifixion, and Protestants more on the resurrection, but both are included in the story.)

If anything, I think that the film, as compared to the Gospel accounts, decreased the role of the Jews. Whereas the Gospels repeatedly refer to the Jews , the Pharisees , the Sadducees , etc., the film deleted most of those references as unnecessary. (In the recent film on The Gospel of John, these repeated references were retained, since that film was committed to including all the NIV text.)

In Gibson s film, the group of people who arrested Jesus, who interrogated Him and asked Pilate to crucify Him, are barely identified as Jews. (The only person explicitly called a Jew is Simon of Cyrene.) If a person did not know the story already, he or she might even wonder who those people in the elaborate costumes were. The blame must also fall on Pilate, who as governor had the responsibility to prevent such miscarriages of justice but did not have the courage to do so.

Gibson even removed from his film the line from Matthew 27:25, where the crowd of Jewish people said, Let His blood be on us and on our children! This verse in particular has been used numerous times to justify anti-Semitism, so Gibson was willing to remove its English subtitle (it was retained in Aramaic), since it was not necessary for the story line.

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

What do the Gospels portray?

Do the Gospels themselves blame the Jews for the death of Jesus? Yes, and no.

Historically, yes, Jews were there, and they wanted Jesus, Himself a Jew, dead. Jesus was seen as a threat to national security, a popular teacher who might provoke a rebellion against Rome and cause many to be killed. John 11:47–50 gives this reason for the crucifixion, and it makes good historical sense. So certain Jewish leaders arranged for a rigged trial and demanded that Pilate execute Jesus.

John repeatedly calls these people the Jews , but that is simply his shorthand for the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus. They were official representatives of the Jewish people. Josephus uses the word in a similar way to refer to certain powerful leaders, not the entire ethnic group, not all, or even most, Jews. John does not mean to blame all Jews everywhere for what some few of them did in Jerusalem.

John was quite aware that influential supporters of Jesus such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were Jews, that the disciples were Jews, and that many Jews looked on Jesus favourably even without being totally committed to Him. John clearly points out, Salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22) The Gospels are plain that Roman leaders, particularly Pilate, authorised and carried out the actual crucifixion. They had the responsibility of preventing innocent people from being hurt, and yet they knowingly caused an innocent man to be tortured and killed. They must share the blame. Both religion and state were involved.

Jews and Gentiles alike are guilty indeed, all people are just as guilty. Jesus came for the very purpose of being killed by His own people. Had He not, none of us would have a Savior. What happened was God’s design, according to God s purpose, for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles alike. What sense does it make to blame or hate anyone for doing the very thing that God intended be done so that He might demonstrate once and for all His boundless love for humanity?

If we had been there, if we had been the high priest or his supporters, we would have done the same thing. The Jewish and Roman leaders were acting not just as representatives of two ethnic groups, but as representatives of all humanity. We all needed the death and resurrection of Jesus, and every ethnic group has been involved in equally unjust killings and murder of innocent people. God does not hate the Jews or the Romans He loves them just as He loves all humanity, which is why He came to us humans as our sacrificial Lamb.

The Jewish crowd did accept responsibility for the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:25), but there is no reason for us to accept the validity of their claim. They never had the authority to condemn their own children, and we must not act as if they did. Let us remember that Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34) and that statement applies to the Jews just as much as it does to the Romans (in Gibson’s film, even the thief on the cross recognizes that). The message of Christ is not one of blame or revenge it is one of forgiveness and redemption.

God’s attitude toward the Jews

God selected the nation of Israel to be His people. He adopted them as His child (or to use another metaphor, His bride) and promised to be their God (which implies that He would protect, provide for and guide them). He made a covenant with them, solemnizing His promises to them. But the people repeatedly broke the covenant, and God even divorced the northern tribes, calling them not my people. They had become like Gentiles to Him. And God knew they would from the beginning.(Deuteronomy 31:20)

But God would not change; His love and His faithfulness to His word for them will never diminish (Romans 11). God continued to love His chosen people even after they were exiled to Babylon. In His love He called a remnant back to Judea. From that remnant would come the Messiah, the Christ, who would redeem His people and the whole world.

“The Jews are not
Christ-killers any more
than we all are. We
have all been enemies
of God.”

When the new covenant came, the old covenant ended in the fulfillment of the promise of God with His people. But God’s love for Israel will never come to an end. (Romans 11:1) God is faithful even when people are not. In His faithfulness to Israel, God demonstrates His faithfulness to all humanity (Romans 1:26).

We must make a distinction between the Jewish religion and the Jewish people. The Bible says that the Jewish religion is ineffective so far as salvation is concerned, but God loves the Jewish people. The fact that the old covenant is obsolete does not make the Jews worse than everyone else; rather, they should be treated the same as all people are, sinners saved by God’s grace.

Christians should love the Jews and want them to be saved, just as Paul did. (Romans 10:1) Our desire for the Jewish people is that they become Christians, not that they cease being Jewish. Although the Israeli Supreme Court may see a contradiction between those two terms, we do not. Like all people, Jews are to be won through love, through kindness, not persecution.

Salvation is from the Jews, but it is not from Judaism. Salvation is from Jesus, the Son, a Jew whom God sent to Jews for the sake of Jews and Gentiles alike. The Jews are not Christ killers any more than we all are. We have all been enemies of God.

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs (Romans 11:28). Religiously, they are off track, but God loves them anyway, and in His unending love He will draw them back to Himself.

The extent of His love

I pray that no one uses Gibson s film to justify anti-Jewish attitudes. That would be a distortion of the film, a distortion of the Gospels, and an un- Christian thing to do. The film makes it clear that Jesus knew what He was getting into (He had probably seen other people beaten and crucified), and yet He did it anyway, because He loved us. If you see the film, I ask that you remember it not for the graphic blood and violence, for its dealing with evil s attack on God, but for the reminder of Jesus love for us.

Simon of Cyrene was different he did not know what he was getting into when he walked into Jerusalem that day. Mark 15:21 calls him the father of Alexander and Rufus two men who were known to Mark’s readers, probably because they had become Christians. Simon himself is likely to have become a Christian, and thus he carried the cross of Christ in a spiritual sense as well.

Perhaps we are all a little like Simon. Did you know what you were getting into? Are you willing to carry the cross of Christ? That’s something worth thinking about. ❏

When will Jesus return? Will you be prepared?

paul-hailai by Paul Hailey.
The man on television predicted the year, the month and the day when Jesus will return. He based his claim primarily on calendars made centuries ago that expire on the date he mentioned. This man is a prestigious Bible scholar who quotes scripture accurately, and is knowledgeable about world events. So, could his prediction be correct?

Other well-meaning people claim the Bible was written in a “secret” code that reveals future events and when they will occur. Could these people be correct?

We would like to know when He will return, wouldn’t we? And if you are like me, you would like to be prepared for His coming. After all, His arrival will be the most meaningful event in human history.

But rather than put our confidence in man’s speculation about when He will return, let’s listen to what Jesus Himself said about when He will return.

What Jesus said.

Shortly before Jesus’ death, His disciples asked Him when He would return. He told them, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36). That statement seems to eliminate human prediction, don’t you think? Jesus Himself didn’t know the time!

Later, after His resurrection, His disciples asked Him if He was going immediately to set up His kingdom. He responded, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” (Acts 1:7).

That should be clear enough! Nobody knows when He will return. God’s timetable is not revealed by ancient calendars or hidden codes in the Bible.

God didn’t tell us that it is not for us to know the date, and then reveal the date in mysterious ways to a privileged few.

Don’t be fooled. Jesus warned His followers to beware of false Christs and prophets who would mislead people in the latter days. “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ Or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There He is, out in the desert!’ do not go out; or, ‘Here He is, in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.” (Matthew 24:23–26). Yes, don’t be fooled, even by charismatic, miracle-working, Bible-quoting preachers. They do not have any special insight.

When Will Jesus Return? Will You Be Prepared?

When Will Jesus Return? Will You Be Prepared?


The Apostle Paul gave a similar warning to the congregation in Thessalonica. Apparently some Christians were speculating about Jesus’ return, with some misguided people announcing that He had already returned. Paul advised the Thessalonians to not be alarmed or deceived by reports that Christ had already come. (2 Thessalonians 2:1–2).

When He comes, we will know it. Everyone will see Him coming. (Revelation 1:7). “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:27). His coming will be accompanied by frightening disturbances in the heavens, and the sound of a
mighty trumpet. (Matthew 24:29–31).

“Jesus said He would
come at a time when
most people will not be
expecting Him, like a
thief in the night.”

A warning I used to be concerned about being “prepared” for His coming. Since there wouldn’t be much warning, I wasn‘t sure how to prepare—perhaps by putting on my best clothes, combing my hair, confessing my recent sins and praying myself into a good attitude. But now I understand that our state of mind during our last moments of life doesn’t determine our eternal destiny.

But Jesus did caution against becoming careless and neglectful in our Christian life. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34). Jesus said He would come at a time when most people will not be expecting Him, like a thief in the night. He left a warning, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (Matthew 24:42–44).

So here’s the key to being prepared for His coming — be careful and keep watch. We do that when we remain careful and watchful to live as He would have us live.

Jesus makes us ready.

We need to remember that Jesus is the One who prepares us for eternity. We are His workmanship.(Ephesians 2:10).

We don’t get ready to meet the Lord by making last minute personal preparations. Instead, we will always be ready if we entrust our daily lives to His care. “And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28). The admonitions to “continue in Him” and to “watch” encourage us to maintain our relationship with Jesus and to not let ourselves fall into a sinful lifestyle. He is the One who makes us ready. Our role is to stay close to Him by praying, studying the Bible, meeting other Christians, showing love to all, and yielding to those inner promptings that He puts into our minds.

If we stay close to the Lord we don’t have to be concerned about when He will return. Perhaps He will return during our lifetime. Or it may be later when we are tucked away in our graves. Regardless of when He comes He will have made us ready.

Like the patriarch Job we may go through some painful difficulties. But through it all we can remain confident that God is preparing us for eternity. Job expressed it this way, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth, And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25–27).

May we have that same assurance that no matter when the Lord returns He will have made us ready. And that is more important than knowing exactly when He will return.