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- By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast - Ephesians 2:8,9.
I was brought up in a Catholic home. I heard the Evangelical message for the first time when I was 14 years old. To the question, 'What must I do to be saved?' the reply came, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.' Evangelicals actually teach that a person is saved through faith in Christ alone, and not on account of their good works.
To my mind this teaching was clearly wrong and dangerous. Wrong, because St James says that faith without works is dead. And dangerous because it seems to encourage careless living since a person is not saved by works.
I became interested in studying the Bible for myself. To my surprise I found that James' concern is to distinguish between true faith and its counterfeit. 'What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?' (James 2:14). Such 'faith' is worthless; it cannot save anyone. True faith is recognized by the fruit it produces.
The central question was this: 'Is a person saved by true faith alone? Or is he saved by faith plus the merit of his good works?' The answer of the Bible was clear and surprising:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Saved through faith...not of works! It's amazing: the same Bible that emphasizes holy living and good works, also states that salvation is not based on personal works. The Christian does not depend on his 'goodness' or his efforts, but trusts completely in another person, in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Bible says that we are saved 'not of works', it is referring to our efforts. Certainly it does not imply that salvation is an easy task. In fact the work of salvation is so great that no-one could perform it except God himself by his Son. It was necessary for the eternal Son of God to humble himself, become a human being and die on the cross. 'Christ redeemed (freed) us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"' (Galatians 3:13). I began to understand that the payment for my sin was the precious blood he shed and not my work and penance. Certainly that's why God wants me to believe in him.
One question remained: Why should I perform good works at all? Immediately after stating that we are saved 'not by works', the apostle Paul writes that we are saved 'for good works.' Therefore good works are the result, not the cause, of salvation.
Today I'm an Evangelical Christian and I'm sure of heaven. This is not presumption for I'm not depending on myself and my deeds anymore; I trust in Jesus Christ, knowing that his death on the cross is the sufficient payment for the penalty of all my sins. My sole desire is to live worthy of the One who loved me and gave himself for me.
I am concerned for Catholics (and others) whose life is overrun by sin and yet they feel that it would be fine at the end. The Bible warns them that their faith is dead and useless to save them from Hell. On the other hand, I'm also concerned for those devout Catholics who are afraid of God's judgment, and do their best to merit his forgiveness and grace. They claim to believe in Jesus, but they really do not because they are relying on their own personal goodness and righteousness.
I want to share with you the same Good News I heard in my youth because it is the message of the Bible. If you want to be saved, believe on the Lord Jesus and stop trusting in yourself. Stop clinging to your religion and with empty hands receive the free gift of salvation. And then, for the rest of your life, do good works out of gratitude to our gracious and loving Father.
- I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes - Romans 1:16
Dear friend, the Bible says that it is appointed for us to die once, and after this the judgment. Soon your brief life will be over. Yet death is not the end, for you must stand before the judgment seat of God. One of two destinies awaits you, either everlasting punishment in Hell or everlasting life and joy in Heaven.
Many people ignore this truth because they are preoccupied with their business and entertainments. Others think they are 'good enough' and therefore have nothing to worry about, while others feel that God will not send anyone to Hell because he is a loving God.
All these futile excuses will be useless when you stand before the Judge of the world. Are you prepared for that day? Are you ready? It all depends on whether you believe or reject the true Gospel of Christ.
The true Gospel and the counterfeit
The apostle Paul was evidently in great distress and anguish when he penned his letter to the Galatians. The glory of God and the salvation of man were at stake. False teachers had followed him and distorted the gospel he had preached. They did not directly deny faith in Christ or the grace of God. They simply added the rite of circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law as the basis for their acceptance with God. However, the apostle Paul considered their teaching 'another gospel.' He writes:
'I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel; which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed' (Galatians 1:6-8).
If the apostle Paul deemed that the addition of the works of the law (which are good in themselves) to faith invalidates the gospel, what is the biblical judgment on the gospel of the Roman Catholic church? The 'gospel' of Rome is faith plus works, grace plus merit, Christ plus the church, baptismal regeneration, penance, masses, the rosary, indulgences, Mary, the pains of Purgatory, and so on. The apostle warns those who, in addition to faith in the Lord, seek to be justified by ritual or works, that they are alienated from Christ, and that He could be of no avail to them (cf. Galatians 5:2-4).
Repent and Believe the Gospel
We appeal to you, our dear Catholic friends, and implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. Reckon yourself an unworthy sinner and a rebel against the Sovereign God. Plead guilty before the Judge of the Earth, admit that you deserve the everlasting fire of Hell and that nothing you can do can ever pay for your sins.
Yet do not despair, look to the God of all grace and mercy. Stop trusting in yourself, your works and your merit. Salvation is of the Lord; redemption is His work; and all the glory belongs to Him alone. Do not rely on a church, Mary, the saints, a human priest, the sacrifice of the mass, or in an imaginary purgatory.
Rather, trust wholly in Christ alone, the Son of God, who is the only mediator, the only high priest, who gave himself as an all-sufficient sacrifice for the payment of the sins of his own people. To those who believe in Christ, the Bible says: 'In Him we have redemption (freedom) through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace' (Ephesians 1:7).
May the Lord be merciful and grant you the grace of repentance to turn away from the distorted 'gospel' of Roman Catholicism. May God grant you the gift of faith, to rest in Christ, his Son, and serve him all the days of your life while we anticipate His return to take us home.
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