by Tom Brennen
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‘And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son’ (1 John 5:11).
‘Mr Tom, did I translate correctly that you say that our salvation has nothing to do with how much we do for our church?’
When I served as a missionary in the Middle East, I taught at a Bible college. It was a great privilege to stand before many people who were hungry to know more about God’s word so that they could share the teachings with their people in their language.
While I learnt enough Arabic to get by on the streets, I needed a translator when I gave lectures and workshops to ensure people understood me. I had a couple of great translators, but Solomon was my favourite.
Solomon was not one to smile much. He was earnest and took his job of translating me correctly with great care and diligence. He would translate for me hour after hour, very calmly, very consistently and with patience when I would get excited and forget to pause for the translation from English to Arabic.
The vast majority of my students felt that Jesus’ sacrifice was not valid if they did not tithe enough, if their children did not behave well enough, if they didn’t wear the right clothes to church, or if they weren’t a pastor, deacon or leader.
One evening, I was teaching a subject of the gospel according to John and John’s letters, a theme of which is new life, living abundantly and not being bound to rules based on righteousness.
Solomon must have finally had enough that night when he asked me the question I opened this devotion with. I had told the class on many occasions about the freedom of the gospel and that it is by faith we are saved. We are to rejoice and live our lives in this freedom. We do engage in the church community and do good works in serving our neighbour as an outworking of this but not to get salvation.
Solomon paused, smiled deeply, and turned back to the class. I knew that the Spirit had done his work and ensured that Solomon knew what this abundant life in Christ meant now and into eternity. The weight had been lifted.
Let us never take the profound impact of the gospel in our lives and the lives of others for granted.
Lord, we praise you for the depth and breadth of the cultures, languages and customs of our Christian sisters and brother across your world. May you protect your gospel so that others can hear it in full truth and power. Amen.