A post-modern lamentation
I have felt myself lost, I am feeling with an empty heart;
It may not be real, for I consider myself so smart;
In the midst of so much information, I cannot set my goal;
It's hard to feel a direction when I have an empty soul.
Where should I go, it looks like I am blind;
I have studied so much, yet feel I am losing my mind;
This world has so many attractions, how can I feel discontent?
Even in the vigor of my youth, I cannot find enough strength.
This emptiness in my soul for spending all in my labor;
Has created separation between me and my fellow neighbor;
Is there any answer here, or perhaps one coming from above?
If there is something I need to know is, what it means to love.
Is there any greater counsel I’ve ignored, anything I left that make me so flawed?
Maybe it is something I have never considered, maybe it is something related to God.
What have I despised? What have I despised....
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
’The second is this:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, emphasis added).
1. Before forgiveness
1.1 What is the truth?
1.2 The conscience reveals the truth
1.4 Conscious or not, the price of evil is death
1.3 Sin and state of sin
1.5 It is not about good deeds
1.6 We need to die
1.7 We need the Spirit
2. We were forgiven
2.1 We were, we are
2.2 We were weak
2.3 We were enemies
2.4 We were controlled by the flesh
2.5 We were disobedient and foolish
2.6 We were deserved of God’s wrath
2.7 We were dead
2.8 We were strangers
2.9 We were sinners
3. After been born again, are we still sinners?
3.1 The subject matter at hand
3.2 Changing the mind
3.3 We need to manage the seeds
3.4 We need to manage the time
4. A NEW MAN
4.1 Called to be holy
4.2 Called to do good
4.3 Whoever does not gather, scatters
4.4 Many were called – few will be chosen
5. Glorification is coming
5.1 Preserve your memory
5.2 Keep believing – What does it mean to believe
5.3 Obedience and trust
First and foremost, I thank God, who called me to write this book. His Holy Spirit gave me essential insights about every topic. Jesus is and will remain my great inspiration. His life is what brought me here. Because he lives, I also live (John 14:19).
God is my greatest teacher. I learned most of my English - I would say around 90% - by reading the Bible, praying, and helping in Church activities before coming to America.
Julie, I could not have found any other person to better proofread this book than you. Thank you for believing in this project, your work was invaluable. God put you on my path in an unpredictable way.
Special thanks to my beloved wife Barbara. She has indirectly helped me in many different ways. Her patience with me is fundamental. At first my daily readings and writings were strange to her, but now has become something so commonplace that whenever she finds me in an idle activity, she asks me why I am not doing one of those two. I love you, Barbara; you make my gray view of this world more colorful.
The thief beside Jesus
There is a spectacular scene, which is one of my favorites, during one of the most significant events in history. It is undeniably the greatest depiction of mercy and, consequently, opportunity for mankind. The picture is this, Jesus crucified with two mean, both thieves, also crucified on each side of him. They were criminals. They had nothing to do with morality and good habits. Undoubtedly, since crucifixion was exclusively used to punish the worst kind of criminals, they were truly evil, receiving the due reward for their deeds.
Who could desire something good for these two men? The Bible does not specify, but I believe that no one went to that place because of them. No one was interested in seeing those miserable thieves hung there. People gathered to see Jesus dying. Some hoped to see God delivering him. Others, scorning and laughing, were pleased to see the one who “claimed to be God” dying alone.
Despite all evil of men - like yours and mine - Jesus was there in silence, suffering the punishment of all sin, being obedient to his Father. When one of the thieves started mocking Jesus, the other one reacted differently, asking for mercy. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
The answer of Jesus to that thief touches my heart. He could have mentioned all the sins that man had committed before being there, hung on that rugged cross. He could have referenced the Ten Commandments, showing how far he walked from the living God. He could have done all of these things and would not have been wrong. He would just be telling the truth. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus was dying for people like that man. A terrible Sinner.
The answer of Jesus brought about hope, not only for that man but also for all generations to come. At the moment that man confessed his sins, saying, “we are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41), and recognized Jesus as the sinless Lamb of God, saying, “but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41), he was instantly justified. Following this, he recognized Jesus’ everlasting reign, saying “when you come into your Kingdom (Luke 23:42). Justification comes by faith. That man believed!
However, his earthly life came to an end right there. The question is, if he had survived and for some reason had been allowed to come down from the cross, would he have continued living the same life of the past? Would he not change after this life-changing encounter with Jesus?
The answer to the above question is to the book’s purpose.
Jesus called sinners, not to keep being sinners, but to be sons of God. In the Bible the demands of Jesus are clear. The act of continuously believing and constantly desiring transformation will bring us closer to him. Dr. M. E. Dodd declares, “The conversion represents only five percent of Christian life. The ninety-five percent is in the dependence of a life with Christ.” I am not saying that we can transform ourselves, but the willingness to be transformed comes from within us. We need to cooperate with God in this process of sanctification. It endures only for a while- our brief earthly life.
If we genuinely believe and do what he wants us to do, we will certainly hear the same affirmation that poor, yet so blessed man heard.
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise!” (Luke 23:43).
Some questions need to be urgently answered.
Every human being seeks meaning. To say the contrary is to despise the very conscience of an individual. Even without being taught, there is an intrinsic and profound thought within each one’s mind. Sooner or later, people will realize the necessity for God. However, even after an encounter with God, some questions will still permeate the mind.
I have constantly heard the following questions: “Since justification is by faith, only believing in Jesus is enough? However, what does it really mean to believe? Since it is not about deeds, it does not matter if our deeds are good or evil? Can I keep living in the same way after believing in Jesus?”
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1, emphasis added).
Absolute answers are often avoided in today’s culture. Relativism was once found only in some astute minds. It ended up being a fundamental teaching in the academic sphere, and now has become part of some Church’s teachings all over the world. As a result, understanding of human limits was lost. An affirmation that something cannot be true, even if it is categorically confirmed in the Bible, has become common.
One can put the Bible aside when trying to find meaningful answers to his or her existence. I believe this endeavor to be exhausting and pointless. Without acknowledging that the fundamental problem of human beings has a defined name and is present within each and every person, no lasting changes will take place.
The first chapters of this book will help the reader understand the reality of the present world and why there are irreversible problems, which have only one realistic and logical solution.
Working with youth for some years and daily surrounded by questioners, I could perceive how much misunderstanding exists about the new life offered by God. This book was written with the purpose of clarifying the truth about this new life. There are relevant changes when you accept it.
I am not saying that we will not make mistakes, nor that we cannot, when we make mistakes, be forgiven. My intention is to explain why and how we should set our mind in the truth, trying to reach the perfection God set for us. This perfection is indeed his own perfect image, the son, Jesus the Christ. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). It is not about how perfect we are here on this earth, it is about our intention, something invisible but alive within our hearts. “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10).
We are called to be sons and daughters of God. We are called to be holy. Are we willing to answer this calling, accepting the exigencies of Christ? It is about our response to God. It is about our willingness to accept the new life he bought for us on that cross.
The authentic godly life is something to be grasped by every new born Christian on this earth. Everyone, once coming to this earth, need to learn how to walk. A new life is a new walk - this time with Christ. This book explains that unquestionably, we will change. If we do not change, we have not been truly born again.
The fact is, we need to change!
One of the biggest problems is that some people do not know from what they have been saved, or even, what salvation means. As Thomas Watson, the esteemed preacher from the 17th century, said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet”1.
With a brief explanation about our life before forgiveness, the consciousness about the death and resurrection of ourselves (through Christ), the pages hereafter will contain a variety of Bible verses in the appropriate contexts. I hope and pray that God speaks to you through this book. He wants nothing more than a beloved holy family.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV, emphasis added).
1. Before forgiveness
1.1 What is the truth?
First of all, we need to be convinced about the necessity of changes within ourselves - which comprises our thoughts concerning life, desires, aspirations, perspectives, dreams and objectives - and the reality of the world in which we are living. In fact, all the problems that surround us are just evidence of the great misunderstanding of what it really means to be a human being. This misunderstanding is found within the mind of each and every person. Illustrating the real scenario of the present world and the consequence of a life without God is of fundamental importance, whether you are Christian or not. For the Christians, a reminder of what your life really is, relevantly different from those who are still looking for answers. For the non-Christian, it is an opportunity to understand the absolute reality of life.
Why do I need the truth? Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish theologian and philosopher, once said, “The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”1It is not merely a question of “who has the best answer in a conversation”. Discovering what is true is a matter of life or death.
Truth is required in every area of our lives. We do not want an airplane pilot to say anything but the truth. This principle applies to courts of justice, family members, doctors, and so forth and so on. No one likes to be deceived.
However, with regard to our lives, which involve morality, many are denying any possible absolute answer. Let me ask you to really consider a total commitment and openness of heart in the pursuit of truth. Either you are not a Christian and must consider this worldview as one of which your questions can be answered, or you are a Christian who requires reminding of certain things. Perhaps, even being a Christian, you have never heard about the real changes we must inevitably have on this new journey nor the danger of neglecting a Christ-centered life.
The definition of truth is, “that which corresponds to its object”2. Basically, truth “is what it is”. As it is found in the The Talmud, “If you add to the truth, you subtract from it.”3 Therefore, you are either a Christian or not. There is no partial conversion. You are either forgiven, a new creature, living according to God’s will or not. We must remain constantly mindful of truth in our daily life.
Truth, regardless of our response to it, will keep being the truth. It never changes. Like it or not, the truth is the truth. There is an obvious disconnect between how many Christians live and the truth as revealed in the Bible. I am concerned about these Christians as much as I am concerned about those who have not found an answer to their questions.
I agree that some know the truth in their minds. However, for having a disconnection with their hearts, they do not put it into practice. The American writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The greatest homage to truth is to use it.”4
I am convinced the truth is not only an abstract thing. It is much more. By searching the truth, you will not likely find something, but more likely, someone. C.S. Lewis, a former atheist and one of the greatest Christian writers ever, discovered, while looking for answers:
“I thought I had come to a place, I found out I had come to a person.”5
Am I living a genuine life?
Before directly addressing the problem of humankind, the new life offered by God, and how we should conduct our lives, let me challenge you with this illustration of our world today. This is the complaint of a “post-modern man” in the days in which we are living:
“We are used to living a life with a strong collision of priorities and duties, being so occupied that even the common act of stopping and thinking are despised. We still have a mind, we still have a heart, we are still living, but sometimes it seems as if all people around us are dead. Am I not dead?
It seems that we have set ourselves up like robots, or Androids (literally), programming all the activities we need to do, with the certainty those activities are the best way to get whatever we all are looking for in this short life. We are living in the era of information, however, we are not concerned about the simple lessons from the past years. Imagine of the past centuries. Whichever one, it really does not matter when it comes to the lessons of the emptiness of a life, spent with a huge amount of material treasures, but with nothing truly valuable. Treasures treasured up, not enjoyed, finite, destroyed with time, which took the central place of many hearts. We are burying ourselves under these goods.
We are so afraid of losing what we already have, yet we do not use what we already have. We are not even enjoying it.
We are not using our minds as much as we should, or the way we are supposed to.
We are not enjoying our family.
We are not enjoying the times of health and strength we still have.
We are not using the only chance we have to pursue eternal values; the dramatic consequence of the "here and now" generation.
We are not seeking the answers we have available, for being lost in the billions of pieces of information we claim to have. We brag about the knowledge gathered in the last 24-hour news, which cannot transform even the life of a dog, for the superficiality that is presented.
We are looking to happily live, yet we are found dead.
In losing the sense of eternity, we have lost the sense of meaning, the sense of purpose, the sense of life itself.
We are so afraid to lose things, that we are unknowingly giving our own life in order to keep these things safe.
We are changing life itself for what we have ambitiously defined as the ultimate goal, even if we cannot clearly define what this ultimate goal is.
We are terrified of losing what we have conquered, at the same time we are afraid not to conquer all the other things we still don't have.
For this reason, the fear has taken us and has dictated the rules.
A life based on fear.
A life based on the need of approval.
If some material things have not been conquered yet or partially lost, a life based on anger and disappointment.
A hopeless, purposeless, meaningless life.
The modern world. The new generation. The time of technology. A time of solutions. The lack of happiness. The increase of selfishness. The decrease of joy. The pride of men. The death of God.
I think God is not dead Himself. He is dead in our conscience. Since then, it seems life is no longer life.
What is life? Why are we so unhappy?
Words of a man... post-modern, proud, rich... unhappy. Why are we so unhappy?”
The above illustration is answered by a dialogue between this man and a wise one, who better understood what life is all about. This is my introductory way to bring you the superficial, yet real problem before entering into the essence of it. Here is the dialogue:
I run to my goal, I strive to reach
The hurdles I jump, the law I may breach
Get out of my way, no time to speak
What’s important is to make it, to become rich
I’ve given my health, I’ve given my strength
I’ve given my family, money I haven’t lent
I’ve given myself, money I haven’t spent
Life has just gone; I kept every single cent
It is not for love, it is not for life
It is not to help and to avoid strife
To share with others, to give a slice
To invest in my sons, to help the wife
Why, answer me, have I lost my sight?
Better to give than to beg in the street
The boastful man was utterly deceived
He begs no money, but begs to live
Spending his life to buy and to eat
He lived his days in constant greed
Now it is coming to an end with no place to seat
Condemned to work, imprisoned in his mind
The miserableness has just made him blind
The modern man: so rich, so proud, so refined
Forgot to remember, or perhaps to be reminded
That the fate of the rich man, is the same of mankind
What’s the answer, where’s the way
That bring us hope, which brightens our day
If there’s something, how much should I pay?
Above the sun, is there someone I could pray?
Look to the heavens, look above
Under the sun there’s nothing worth thinking of
Meaningless, meaningless, you made your choice
You covered your ears, did not hear the voice
Be wise, count your days, you cannot return
No way back, now teach the others how to discern
Your time has gone, your life you gave
Thinking to be a strong man, but indeed a slave
If I could return and start again
How different it would be, how much I would gain
Looking at my children, dancing under the rain
Laughing with my wife, while riding on a train
I want to feel the wind without any pain
Free from the system, breaking the chain
But now is too late, full of regret I am
God, please forgive me today. That is my prayer, sincerely, amen.
This is the portrait of many lives in our times. Nevertheless, the real problem goes beyond the superficiality some are living. The unhappiness and meaninglessness just point out a greater problem. This is not found in a place, but in people; people like you and I. Until we are conscious of the problem, we will not care about finding a solution. The problem with this new generation is the carelessness about life. This attitude alone is a great fault. As Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish writer, said, “The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.”6
We need to understand
Lack of knowledge is the only thing that can destroy someone. Within this context one of the most important things is understanding.
To understand is to get hold of the meaning of what we read or hear. It is, according to the priberam dictionary, “the faculty by which the spirit seizes ideas and understands them”.
We need to understand things in order to have the right attitude and make the right decisions. Life is made up of decisions and attitudes.
What differentiates one man from another is his attitudes (not necessarily what he speaks, but how he acts) and his choices, which has determined the place he has attained and occupies today.
The process of having an understanding about things is something so important that God has not even made it optional. Jesus once mentioned the first commandment instituted by God, highlighting its importance and the duty to put it into practice. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, emphasis added).