Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Aneede Sunday, Salvation
Volume 6 No. 328 January 29, 2016
 
II. Featured Articles on Salvation

Inspiration for Today
He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.

Ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory. -- My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. -- Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.

I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. -- They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. -- They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. -- My people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD.

PSA. 107:9. I Pet. 2:3. Psa. 63:1,2. Psa. 84:2. Phi. 1:23. Psa. 17:15. Rev. 7:16,17. Psa. 36:8. Jer. 31:14.

Source: Daily Light on the Daily Path

Almost Home

by Stephen Davey

Scripture: Philippians 3:20-21

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. - Philippians 3:20-21

If Jesus Christ really is immortal, infinite God and His words are completely trustworthy, then our future is eternally secure in Him. It's guaranteed forever.

Whether you have little faith or great faith; are a mature disciple or an immature one; have been a Christian for years or have just recently received Christ - you are on your way to heaven. Your hope is secure in Christ.

Is it any wonder that around 125 AD, the Greek scholar Aristides marveled at the enormous hope Christians had, even in death? He wrote: "When a member of the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God. They escort the body to burial with songs and thanksgiving, as if he were setting out from one place to another place nearby."

Do you have this hope in God that these early Christians had? Their faith was real, active - touching every part of their lives, even the most sorrowful moments - even at death.

Don Wyrtzen so beautifully wrote this truth into his song, "Finally Home":

Just think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven;
Of holding a hand and finding it God's;
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial;
Of waking up in glory . . . and finding it home!

This is wonderful poetry but an even greater reminder - heaven is not some figment of your imagination; it is real, and far beyond your wildest dreams!

Do you have unanswered questions, fears, or doubts about eternity? If so, be encouraged. The truth is, we all do. But there will come a day when all our questions will have answers, and all our fears will be put to rest - not to mention that all our tears will be wiped away!

It will not happen here. It will happen there . . . when we are finally home. But until we reach that glorious land, remember that Jesus Christ is completely trustworthy and faithful, regardless of what you see happening around you. He will stay true to His Word.

You can bet your life . . . and your death on it!

Prayer Point:

Thank the Lord for holding you firmly in His hands. Thank Him that your security isn't based on your strength or commitment, but on Him. Praise Him that He will never violate that commitment nor fail in His strong promise to take you home!

Extra Refreshment: Read the description of your future home in Revelation 21

Source: A Wisdom Retreat

On the Beauty of God's Plan of Salvation

by Pope Benedict XVI

Summary:

We begin by reflecting on the grandeur of God's plan for our salvation. The great hymn which begins Paul's Letter to the Ephesians praises the merciful love with which God "chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4) to become His adopted sons and daughters. God's plan is to unite all things in Christ, bringing all creation to fullness in Him (v. 10). He has made this plan known to us through an economy of revelation which culminates in the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. God's self-revelation in Christ corresponds to our deepest human hopes and aspirations, and it invites us to respond by offering God the obedience of faith. As our free assent of mind and will to divine revelation, faith calls us to conversion and brings a new way of seeing the reality of our lives and the world around us. During this Advent, may we contemplate ever more fully the beauty of God's loving plan, and strive to be living signs of His saving presence in our world.

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"Gods Self-Revelation in Christ Corresponds to Our Deepest Human Hopes and Aspirations"

At the beginning of his letter to the Christians of Ephesus (cf. 1:3-14), the apostle Paul raises a prayer of blessing to God, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the prayer we just heard, that helps us enter into living the time of Advent, in the context of the Year of Faith. The theme of this hymn of praise is God's plan for man, defined in terms full of joy, wonder and gratitude, as a "plan of kindness" (see v. 9), mercy and love.

Why does the Apostle raise to God, from the depths of his heart, this blessing? Because he looks at His work in the history of salvation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, and contemplates how Heavenly Father has chosen us before the foundation of the world, to be His sons, in His Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 8:14f; Gal 4:4f.). We therefore exist from all eternity in the mind of God, in a great plan that the Father has kept to Himself and has decided to implement and reveal "in the fullness of time" (cf. Eph 1:10).

St. Paul helps us to understand, then, how all creation and, in particular, man and woman are not the result of chance, but are part of a loving plan of God's eternal mind, who with the creative and redemptive power of his Word creates the world. This first statement reminds us that our vocation is not simply to exist in the world, to be inserted within history, nor is it merely to be a creature of God; it is something greater: it is being chosen by God, even before the creation of the world, in His Son, Jesus Christ. In him we exist, so to speak, from always. God contemplates us in Christ, as adopted children. God's "plan of kindness", which is also qualified by the Apostle as a "plan of love" (Eph 1:5), is called "the mystery" of the divine will (cf. v. 9), hidden and now revealed in the Person and work of Christ. The divine initiative precedes any human response: it is a free gift of His love that surrounds us and transforms us.

But what is the ultimate goal of this mysterious plan? What is the center of God's will? St. Paul tells us it is to "bring everything together under Christ, as head" (cf. 10). In this expression we find one of the central formulations of the New Testament that allows us to understand God's plan of salvation, His plan of love for all humanity, a formulation that St. Irenaeus of Lyons set as the core of his Christology: "to recapitulate" all of reality in Christ. Some of you will remember the formula used by Pope St. Pius X to consecrate the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: "Instaurare omnia in Christo", which refers to this Pauline expression, and which also the motto of this holy Pontiff. The Apostle, however, speaks more specifically of recapitulating the universe in Christ, and this means that in the great scheme of creation and history, Christ stands as the center of the entire world's journey, the cornerstone of everything, attracting the whole of reality to Himself, overcoming dispersion and limits and leading all to the fullness desired by God (cf. Eph 1:23).

This "plan of kindness" did not remain, so to speak, in the silence of God, in the heights His heaven; rather, He made it known by entering into a relationship with man, to whom He has not revealed merely something, but Himself. He has not simply communicated a set of truths, but has communicated Himself to us, to the point of becoming incarnate. The Second Vatican Council in its dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum says: "In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself - and not something about Himself - and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will, by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature" (no. 2). God not only says something, but He communicates Himself, draws us into the divine nature in such a way that we become involved in it, divinized.

God reveals His great plan of love, entering into relation with man, approaching him to the point of becoming man. "The invisible God," continues Dei Verbum, "out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (cf. Ex 33:11, Jn 15:14-15) and lives among them (cf. Bar 3:38) so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself"(ibid.). Man, using only his intelligence and his abilities, could not have arrived at so luminous a revelation of the love of God; it is God who has opened His heavens and lowered Himself to guide man into the abyss of His love.

As St. Paul writes to the Christians of Corinth: "What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualize; all that God has prepared for those who love Him. To us, though, God has given revelation through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:9-10). And St. John Chrysostom, in a famous page of his commentary on the beginning of the Letter to the Ephesians, invites us to enjoy the beauty of God's "plan of kindness" revealed in Christ, with these words: "What do you lack? You have become immortal, you have become free, you have become a son, you have become righteous, you have become a brother, you have become a joint heir, with Christ you reign, with Christ you are glorified. Everything is given to us, and - as it is written - 'can we not expect that with Him He will freely give us all His gifts?' (Rom 8:32). Your first fruits (cf. 1 Cor 15:20.23) are adored by angels [...]: what do you lack? "(PG 62, 11).

This communion in Christ through the Holy Spirit, offered by God to all men with the light of Revelation, is not something that would overlap with our humanity, but is the fulfillment of the deepest human longings, of the desire for the infinite and for fullness that dwells in the depths of the human being, and opens him to a happiness not temporary and limited, but eternal. St. Bonaventure, referring to God who reveals Himself and speaks to us through Scripture to lead us to Him, says: "Sacred Scripture is [...] the book in which the words of eternal life are written so that we might not only believe, but also possess eternal life, where we will see, we will love and all our wishes will be realized"(Breviloquium, Prol., Opera Omnia V, 201f). Blessed Pope John Paul II stated, moreover, that "Revelation has set within history a point of reference which cannot be ignored if the mystery of human life is to be known. Yet this knowledge refers back constantly to the mystery of God which the human mind cannot exhaust but can only receive and embrace in faith."(Encyclical Fides et Ratio, 14).

In this perspective, what, then, is the act of faith? It is man's response to the revelation of God, who makes Himself known, who manifests His plan of kindness for humanity. It is, to use an expression of St. Augustine, to let oneself be grasped by the Truth that is God, a Truth that is Love. This is why St. Paul emphasizes that to God, who has revealed His mystery, we owe "the obedience of faith" (Rom 16:26; cf. 1:5, 2 Cor 10: 5-6), the attitude by which "man - in the words of the Second Vatican Council - commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals" (Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 5). All this leads to a fundamental change in the way of dealing with all of reality; it involves a true "conversion", a "change of mentality" because the God who has revealed Himself in Christ, and has made known His design of love, takes hold of us, draws us to Himself, becomes the sense that sustains life, the rock on which it can find stability. In the Old Testament, we find a compact expression concerning the faith, that God entrusts to the prophet Isaiah to communicate to Ahaz, king of Judah. God says: "Unless you believe" - that is, if you do not remain faithful to God - "you will not stand firm" (Is 7:9b). There is therefore a link between standing firm and understanding, which expresses how faith is to welcome God's vision of reality into one's life, letting God guide us through His Word and Sacraments to understand what we must do, what path we must follow. How to live! At the same time, however, it is understanding according to God, according to His will, seeing with His own eyes, that makes life stable, that allows us to "stand", not to fall.

Dear friends, Advent, the liturgical season that prepares us for Christmas, places before us the luminous mystery of the coming of the Son of God, before the great "plan of kindness" with which He wants to draw us to Himself, to make us live in full communion of joy and peace with Him. Advent invites us once again, in the midst of many difficulties, to renew the certainty that God is present: He came into the world, becoming a man like us, to bring to fulfillment His plan of love. And God asks us, too, to become a sign of His action in the world. Through our faith, our hope, our love, He wants to enter into the world again, to make His light shine again in our night.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

What is salvation?

by Matt Slick

Salvation is being saved from the righteous judgment of God upon the sinner.

A lot of people think that salvation means being saved from yourself or the devil. But that is not accurate. All who have sinned against God are under the judgment of God. This judgment is known as damnation where God condemns to eternal Hell all those who have offended Him by breaking His Law.

This does not mean that God is unfair. It shows that God is holy. God must punish the sinner. But, He has provided a way of escape so that people will not face His righteous judgment. This means that God is both holy and loving. He must manifest each quality equally. So, being saved from the wrath of God is called salvation.

Salvation is found in Jesus and only in Jesus, who is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14) and who died for our sins and rose from the dead. 1 Cor. 15:1-4 says . . .

"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,"

This is how salvation works: All of us have sinned against God and deserve judgment. But Jesus never sinned (1 Pet. 2:22). He lived the Law of God perfectly. In this, He has a perfectly righteous standing before God. When the corrupt Jewish leaders forced Rome's hand into crucifying Jesus, God used this crucifixion as the means to place the sins of the world upon Jesus (1 Pet. 2:24, 1 John 2:2). This is when Jesus became sin on our behalf. 2 Cor. 5:21 says,

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

The crucifixion became the place where Jesus bore our sins in His body and suffered in our place. "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed," (Isaiah 53:5). Remember, no sinner could please God perfectly, and no sinner could offer a perfect sacrifice to God. Only God in flesh, Jesus, could do that.

So, since there is nothing we can do that is righteous before God (Isaiah 64:6 says our righteous deeds are filthy rags), then we cannot please an infinitely holy and righteous God by anything we do. But, Jesus who is perfectly righteous before God the Father, died in our place. What we could not do, He did.

If you want to escape the righteous judgment of God, then you need to trust in the sacrifice of God. You need to be made right before God, by God. This righteousness of Christ is given to you if you accept Him, trust in Him, and believe in what Jesus did. This is why the Bible says that we are saved by grace through faith. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God," (Eph. 2:8).

When you trust in what Christ has done on the cross and in no works of your own (since they aren't good enough anyway), then the righteousness of Christ is given to you--even as your sins were "given" to Jesus. It's like a trade. He gets your sin. You get His righteousness.

Once you have trusted in what Christ has done, then you possess eternal life, and you will never face the judgment of God.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand," (John 10:27-28).

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

Five Birthmarks of the Christian: How to be Certain of Your Salvation

by Dr. David Jeremiah

While the entire Bible stresses certainty and assurance, there's one section of Scripture that stakes out this theme as its central focus - the letter of 1 John.

As we carefully read through 1 John, we notice a five-fold argument for the assurance of salvation - five of the birthmarks of the Christian.

The Birthmark of Confession

The first is the birthmark of confession, described in 1 John 5:1: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Before you can have assurance of salvation, you have to believe and be saved. You have to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Some people assume they are saved because they grew up in a Christian culture, or they have gone to church all their lives, or they have been baptized, or they have tried to live a good life. Yet they've never distinctly and personally confessed Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

The Bible teaches that we are sinners, separated from God by a sinful nature. We can never earn, buy, or climb our way into heaven. By our own efforts or goodness, we can never be saved. That's why God became a man who lived a wholly righteous life, died on the cross, shed His blood for us, and rose from the dead. He paid our penalty, took our judgment upon Himself, and He offers us the opportunity to be born again.

The Birthmark of Change

If the first birthmark is our confession of Christ as our Savior and Lord, the second is a changed life, as we see in 1 John 2:29: "Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him." When Jesus truly saves us, it makes a difference in how we think, act, speak, and conduct ourselves. The Bible says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As we begin learning to practice righteousness, our habits change. We will not be sinlessly perfect while we're on this planet; but if we're Christians, we need to behave like Christians. If we say we're saved but nothing has changed about us, something is wrong. We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works, and the Gospel is a transforming agent in our lives.

The Birthmark of Compassion

Those who are truly saved also bear the birthmark of compassion. How can you know that you are a Christian? By what you believe, by how you live, and by whom you love. Love is a recurring theme in 1 John, and the apostle leaves no doubt about how it permeates the lives of true Christians. "Beloved," he wrote, "let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. . . . We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 4:7; 3:14).

Do you love your brothers and sisters in the family of God? Those who are truly saved are those who enjoy and bless the household of faith, the family of God.

The Birthmark of Conflict

A fourth sign of being truly saved is conflict. According to 1 John 5:4, "Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." The word overcome implies a struggle. We're faced with an adversary whom we must overcome. Our adversary is identified in 1 John 2:14 as the wicked one: "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one." John went on in the next verses to say: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. . . . For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 John 2:15-17).

When you're genuinely born of God, you'll be growing to be an overcomer as you deal with the temptations around you - the world, the flesh, and the devil. You may not be victorious over every temptation every time, but you'll make progress in gaining more victories and losing less battles as you grow stronger in Christ and in the power of the abiding Word of God.

The Birthmark of Conduct

That leads to the final point I want to make: We can see evidence for the validity of salvation in our desire to conduct ourselves in a way that pleases God. According to 1 John 3:9, "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God."

If we're not careful, we might interpret this verse to teach that anyone who is born of God never sins. That would conflict with other passages in the Bible that describe us as fallible and often failing.

In 1 John 3:9, the word for sin is a present active infinitive and it describes a continuous action. John is not saying that whoever sins once is not born of God. That would disqualify all of us. It would certainly disqualify me. But John is saying, in effect, "Whoever keeps on willfully sinning, violating God's law with stubborn disregard and ongoing wickedness, cannot have assurance of salvation."

If we are truly saved, we will grieve over our sins, confess them, and seek God's grace to do better.

His grace is inexhaustible and His salvation is irreversible. Make sure you have confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and then trust Him with your eternal future. He will never leave you or forsake you. His Word was given that you might know Jesus Christ as your Savior and that you might know that you have eternal life.

You can have assurance of salvation today.

Article excerpted and edited with permission from Dr. David Jeremiah's book, Ten Questions Christians are Asking.

Source: Live It

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