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REPENTANCE AND BELIEF
We have studied the love of God for us through the death of his son. Hopefully, we have gained an understanding of the extent of God’s love. We cannot see its length and depth if we only observe things from outward appearances and measure things from the outside. So, I would like to ask you stop your spiritual journey here, to let your soul calm down and to think about your true position before God before you journey on.
On the way to search for freedom in the Promised Land, we use a little boat named Ego. Relying on our own ability, we put on the sail Good Work to start our journey. Now, we are in the dark, lonely inside the boat. The wave Materialism smashes the sides of the boat, causing us to lose our goals in life. Inside the boat, the food Philosophy has dried up, and the water Religious Rituals has become bitter. Moreover, underneath the boat, the crack Immorality is getting larger and larger, threatening to break the boat into two. On top of all this, according to the forecast station Bible, the storm Punishment is approaching, threatening to throw us all into the deep sea Hell that is waiting for us.
Suddenly we hear a voice. Looking up, we see a frigate Church. From its control center, the Cross, the captain Jesus throws the lifesaver Salvation to us. We hear the crewmembers Christians calling us. We rub our eyes, thinking that we are dreaming. Should we believe, we ask ourselves. Is it true, that we can be saved in such a miraculous way?
Do you agree that this is your current situation? Do you feel that life is empty, without meaning, cruising toward death? Do you hear the sweet calling of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”106? If your answer is “No,” then I ask you to momentarily stop reading this book, to look into your heart one more time, and make sure that you haven’t hurried your response. On the other hand, if you feel that the word of God has truly spoken to your heart and mind, then thank God, we can continue our spiritual journey.
Recall the example of the judge having a son who committed murder. After the judge paid the fine for his son, a guard came to tell the son, now sitting in jail, “I have a good news for you. Your father has paid the fine for you. Now you are free. You may leave the jail.” The son can believe this news and walk out of jail, or disbelieve and continue to be there although the jail door is wide open. These are the two reactions that we can understand. However, imagine the following scenario. After hearing the guard, the son nods, saying, “I thank my father, he really loves me,” and then continues to sit inside the dark cell. Contradictory? Comedy? Unfortunately, that was also the reaction of many to the good news of salvation. They said that they believed, but their lives never changed.
That is the difference between those who are saved and those who will be punished. The saved ones believed and grasped the lifesaver of salvation; the unsaved ones may say that they believe, but they remain in the boat Ego.
You can think and study more about the good news of salvation, but please do not think that knowledge alone is sufficient. You could have a Ph.D. in Theology, memorize the entire Bible, be ordained as a pastor or bishop, but if your life has never been changed, then you should not look forward to the day that Jesus comes back to judge the world. He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”107
So what does God want us to do to be saved? Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”108 Changing is a big event, a watershed in your life. It implies two types of action that always go together: repentance and belief. Repentance means giving up; belief means taking up. Repentance means turning your back away from sin; belief means turning towards God.
Repentance is more positive than regret. Repentance touches the mind, the heart, and the soul of a person. A person who repents recognizes that he was sinful, sincerely regrets, is prepared to compensate for the damage he caused, and more importantly, promises not to commit the same infraction again. Is there anything that you have done that you know has displeased God? This may be a jealousy, a way of entertainment, a means of obtaining money, a habit, or even a way of worship. Are you still in love with that wretched boat so much that you do not want to grasp the lifesaver? Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”109
Repentance is giving up that broken boat Ego, and belief is grasping that lifesaver Salvation. If we do not grasp this lifesaver, we cannot leave this boat. Without abandoning the boat, it is useless to grasp this lifesaver.
Of the two, belief is the more common word, yet its meaning is more vague. To many people, repentance is an action while belief is only a mental activity. But this is not the meaning used in the Bible. According to the Bible, believing in something is to accept that it is the truth. More importantly, believing means putting trust in this truth.
I hope that, through the Bible, by the witnesses of your Christian friends, and by this booklet, you have understood the good news of salvation. I also hope that you agree that this good news is reasonable. I now want to make clear that this is not enough. The apostle James said, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.”110 The demons agree that there is God, but do not trust in him, and surely will be punished appropriately.
Suppose that, after you die, you come to the gate of Heaven and the angels ask you, “Why should I let you enter you into Heaven?” How would you answer? Do you trust on the Word of Jesus? “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”111 Would you answer without hesitation, “Because Jesus has died for me!” or would you mumble, “Because I lived a moral life”?
If you consider the above definition of belief still somewhat vague, let me give you a few tests so that you know your standing before Jesus: Can you trust Him in this world? If you doubt that He will take care of you in this life, then you cannot trust that He will grant you eternal life later.
We all want to have financial security, and we all want to save money for rainy days. However, we may go too far, making us slaves to money. If you still work very hard to earn money, ignoring your family and God, then obviously you have not put your trust in God. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”112
Or if you allow a certain misfortune ruin your life, then probably, you have not really trusted in God. Do you have loved ones stuck in Vietnam? He will keep them safe and comfort them. Have you just lost your spouse? He will take care of you more than that person. And if that person has already believed in Christ, then your prolonged sadness shows that you do not believe that you will meet that person again in Heaven.
If you are still single and feel lonely, do you want to marry someone whom you know would displease God? This demonstrates that you do not trust that God will lead you to a suitable life partner.
Repentance and belief are the two things necessary for salvation. However, if you feel that this is hard to do, then do not be discouraged. Saying, “I apologize, for I did not treat you well,” may seem to be easy, but in reality it demands a lot of effort from the person who says it. To return to God, we need to give up all our self-love, pride, and accept that we are powerless. Pride and selfishness is the very source of our sin.
On the sinking boat Ego, I saw the lifesaver Salvation in front of me. I believed that this was the truth and wholeheartedly wanted to grasp it. Unfortunately, I could not do this. For too long, lacking spiritual food from God, I survived solely on human philosophy. On the outside, I seemed to be well fed, but on the inside, I was powerless to do anything, even to stretch my hands to take hold of the lifesaver Salvation.
What could I do? Suddenly I remembered the thing that most Vietnamese refugees do on the high seas when they see a ship from afar: YELL! Nobody paid attention to any rules of communication. Everyone just yelled, trying to overcome the noise of the ocean. Yes, I can call on Jesus, I can ask him to give me strength to come back to him.
You do not need to know the formula for prayer. You do not need to know how other people call upon God. All you need to do now is to put down this book, find a quiet place, let your soul calm down, and then softly, sincerely, speak to God saying something like this:
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I agree that I have sinned against you and others for too long. I sincerely repent for those sins. Please help me to give them up.
I accept that you are the Son of God, coming to the world to die for me. I thank you. Now, I open my heart to invite you to come in. Please be my Lord, helping me to live the rest of my life so that I can serve and glorify your name. Amen.
If you have done this, I congratulate you and welcome you into the extended family of those who are saved. Jesus promised, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”113
From the old boat, you called upon him. Being the source of life, the faithful, he kept his word and gave you the Holy Spirit to nourish your soul so that you can repent and believe. If I do not have the privilege of meeting you in this world, I am sure that we will meet some day in Heaven.
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