Monday, February 18, 2013

chapter 5 saved?

Without anyone knowing about it, all on his own, ten year old Enrique went to mass the first Friday of every month for nine consecutive months. He believed in God. He had a feeling something was wrong with what he was taught in the Catholic Church but at the same time, he was drawn to the Church because he thought there was where he would find God. It was a time of deep spiritual oppression and he was desperate to be relieved of it. Every night when he got into bed, it seemed like the Devil was offering him a deal. And every morning he would think, “What should I do today?” He knew he could not live by his understanding of the golden rule. He couldn’t be a goody-two-shoes. He didn’t want to be a goody-two-shoes. But he could not believe he was so bad that he wasn’t actually a good kid. He saw a lot of other kids who were worse than him. At least he showed respect to those in authority, unlike some of his American classmates who would be defiant and verbally disrespectful to their teachers.

Bigotry and prejudice were openly displayed against Cubans in Enrique’s neighborhood and sometimes at his school. Some Cubans rejected their culture to fully embrace Americanism. They were known as ‘Un cubano arrepentido,’ (a repentant Cuban). Enrique responded defiantly by embracing his Cuban identity all the more.

After Enrique's experience with Kennedy's assassination and his confusion and uncertainty about ever making it to heaven, he wondered if there was any use in even trying. As a teenager, Enrique lost heart on trying to achieve respect and success as an American. He gave up even trying to live righteously in the way prescribed by the Catholic Church. “I just want to have fun,” he thought to himself.

His parents were making every sacrifice for the survival and support of their children. This meant they were away at work, and the daily job of child training was pretty much left to his grandmother. But Enrique was a big, good looking teenager. He was confident and gregarious. He was a smooth talker, and got by in school by cheating and getting girlfriends to do his homework for him. He loved to joke and party. At age 12 he gambled and he started drinking. He soon learned where to find the physical pleasures he desired, but he stayed away from the drug crowd. They were too closely associated with the hippies. Hippies were against Vietnam, which to Enrique meant they were not against communism and the Castro regime. He also was still concerned about the influence he might have on his two younger brothers.

When Enrique was 15, a neighbor moved in next door. He was a 21 year old white American student attending Florida Bible College. Enrique had never seen anyone so clean cut. But Enrique liked him. This neighbor was friendly and athletic and they played street ball together. He had been recently converted to Christ. When he heard how Enrique talked and he saw the kids he hung around with, he knew Enrique was someone who needed to be reached with the saving gospel of Christ. One afternoon he shared it with him.
He asked Enrique, “How many sins did Adam have to commit for God to cast him out of the Garden of Eden?” Enrique knew the answer, it was just one sin. Then he asked Enrique, “Do you think it would have mattered if for the next 900 plus years of his life Adam never sinned again, do you think God would have let him back into the Garden?” Enrique didn’t think so. “He shouldn’t have sinned in the first place,” Enrique said. “God told Adam what would happen.” The neighbor explained to Enrique that God knew that we couldn't save ourselves. God knew that if we were going to be saved then He would have to do it Himself. He did this by sending His Son to die for our sins, for only by death of a sinless one could the penalty for our sins be paid.

It made sense to Enrique. He knew everyone was a sinner. He knew he couldn't save himself.

The neighbor he asked Enrique, “If Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all your sins, then how many sins do you have to pay for?”

“None,” said Enrique.

“That’s right. It’s a gift. It’s absolutely free. And it is yours to receive simply by believing!”

Enrique had never heard such reasoning before. It was different than all that he had ever been taught and beyond anything he had ever imagined. He had always believed in God and that Jesus was His Son. Now he heard there was nothing he needed to do, for Jesus did it all. Securing his own salvation was not up to him, it was all God’s initiative. It made sense to Enrique.

Regardless of the good or bad influence of the Catholic Church, the Lord used it to teach Enrique certain essential truths:
1. God was the Creator
2. There was judgment to come for sins
3. There is one God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
4. The Bible is God’s Word and thus it is the truth

Imagine witnessing to a typical secular person or to a Moslem and telling him, "The Bible says that Jesus is the eternal Son of God." That person would look at you with bewilderment and amusement. “Now why is it that I am suppose to care about what the Bible says?” he would say to you.

So when the neighbor opened up the Bible Enrique, he believed what it said. Though he had never read the Bible and had hardly even seen a Bible, he did know he could accept that what the Bible said was from God. He had learned that in his catechism classes.

His neighbor read to him John 3:16 and explained that the only condition for salvation was to believe. Then he read Ephesians 2:8 & 9: “It’s never by works. Salvation has nothing to do with what we can do to deserve it or earn it. It’s because of what Jesus Christ did when He died for our sins.” 

Enrique thought, “I've always believed in Jesus Christ. And I believe in sin and God's judgment for sin." So he said, "I believe that. I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins.”

His neighbor exclaimed, “Then God’s Word says you’re saved.”

“I am?” said Enrique in surprise.

His neighbor read 1 John 5: 9 - 11: “...Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar because he has not believed in the testimony that God gave concerning His Son...”

“I believe,” said Enrique. “I would never call God a liar.”

“Then you’re saved!” pronounced his neighbor.

Enrique was overjoyed. “This is tremendous,” Enrique thought. “I can go on living exactly the way I want to live and I can stop worrying about guilt and about judgment. Since Jesus paid for all my sins, I’m going to heaven. I don't have to worry about hell.” To him it was like a credit card that one can use and use, but the bill never comes due. It had all been paid for.

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