Christianity 201

October 23, 2018

Have You Really Repented?

by Russell Young

Have you repented? Do you repent when convicted of sin? Christ taught, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Lk 13: 3, 5) Repentance results from feeling sorrow, regret, or contrition for the injury done to God and should be accompanied by the believer’s intent not to repeat the wrong.

Voicing sorrow without feeling its presence is not repentance. Unfortunately, many are invited to “accept” Christ without ever appreciating the holiness of God or the fact that they have done anything to offend him. Their response to the evangelist is often based on the promise given that upon compliance to his or her call those responding will be assured of an eternal hope. Consequently, the hope is accepted without any contrition or recognition of personal unrighteousness.

God always requires repentance for the forgiveness of sins and the provision of an eternal hope. Acknowledgement is needed since without it the confessor remains in his or her own pride and wilfulness and lacks awareness to change ungodly practices. It is a mistake to think that God will overlook unrighteousness and those who teach such will one day be accountable to their holy Creator and God.

Paul wrote, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” (2 Cor 7:10─11) Has your sorrow brought alarm or concern? Are you eager to clear yourself? Are you earnest about righteous living? Godly sorrow and repentance produce the heart attitude that engenders the repentance that leads to salvation. Have you ever repented for the pain that you have brought to the heart of God (Gen 6: 6)? Do you repent when evil has once more grabbed your attention or has invaded your heart?

The holiness and sovereignty of God must never be forgotten. Failure to repent of acts that are hurtful to him displays blatant disregard for his being and majesty. The haughty and prideful attitude that rejects repentance will not be passed over. Many times the Israelites were commanded to repent of their evil ways and often times they were enslaved because of their failure to walk humbly before their God. The LORD’s chastisement through withholding blessings was frequently experienced because his chosen people had failed to acknowledge his authority through disobedience to his laws, decrees and regulations. When truth dawned, it was often followed by repentance as revealed through the wearing of sackcloth and covering with ashes, followed by prostration before their sovereign God.

Repentance was never intended to be a one-time event. The Lord admonished his Jewish listeners to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt 3:8; Lk 3:8 Italics added) and Paul described his ministry in the same manner. “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20 Italics added) His portrayal of what he was about seems quite different from that which is often attributed to him.

Failure to repent of on-going sin is arrogance and disregard for God’s holiness. The Lord condemned the church in Sardis as having “a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” He told them to “Remember what they have received and heard; obey it, and repent.” (Rev 3:1, 3) He condemned the church of Laodicea for its lukewarmness and commanded them to be earnest and repent. (Rev 3:19) He also commanded his disciples to wash one another’s feet—to cleanse them of the day’s sins—so that they may have a part with him. (Jn 13:8) John wrote, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.” (1 Jn 5:16) And, John wrote “If we confess our sins, he is just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9)

Repentance leads to restoration and when the need to repent is realized by many it may even lead to spiritual revival. God is sovereign and will punish those who disregard his holiness. Speaking through Isaiah the LORD said, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isa 66:2) Unfortunately, current presentations of God’s grace and mercy have brought God to the familial human level and have engendered the absence of sorrow, regret, or contrition for acts that are offensive to our holy and sovereign God.

Teaching about the need for repentance seems to be disappearing with the result that the hope of many will prove false. Repentance encourages the discontinuation of offensive practices and the conformation of believers to the likeness of Christ, which would make them an offering acceptable to God. (Rom 15:16) The Lord’s teaching should be taken to heart: “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41) In the end, all people will be subject to the judgment of the sovereign and holy God for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)

Repentance should be the response of a convicted heart, a heart that appreciates the nature of God and his place as sovereign of his creation, including humankind. It acknowledges hurt done to the One who is establishing his eternal kingdom and it recognizes the need for personal righteousness as accomplished through obedience (Heb 5:9) to their loving Savior and Lord. It comes from a humble and contrite spirit.


Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

November 9, 2016

You Have to Be Desiring Negative Consequences to Lie to Each Other

Ephesians 4.25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

26 “In your anger do not sin”[*]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

This is our eighth time sharing the thoughts of B. J. Rutledge pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, Texas. Click the somewhat provocative title below to read at source.

5 Reasons To Lie To Each Other

bj-rutledgeI am camping out in the book of Ephesians right now and it’s rich!  Here are a few thoughts from my reading yesterday and this morning.

If we’re not careful we become part of a big con game that’s played out week after week in church.  We lie to each other; we act like everything is ok when it’s not, or we won’t confront a problem we have with someone, but share it with others.  We’ve become pretty good at disengaging with portions of Scripture that don’t fit with how we feel or think at the time. Pastors can be guilty just like the people in the church can be guilty.

So here are 5 simple reasons to go ahead and lie to each other.

  1. We don’t really want to build community.

To grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ we have to connect relationally in a place that is safe; where we can be authentic and real.

Real community in a local church can’t be built without us taking the risk of getting rid of falsehoods and lies and begin to share with each other truthfully because we belong to one another. (Ephesians 4:25)

  1. Because we’re OK giving the devil an opportunity

In every relationship we’re going to be hurt or offended; whether intentionally or unintentionally. Expectations aren’t going to be met. People aren’t going to measure up, or they’re going to fail us in some way. An offense takes place and we get angry. That’s going to happen. But when we’re unwilling to go to the person who offended us we’ve put a match the hand of Satan.   If we take the offense to someone else, Satan lights the match and pours a little gas on it. (Ephesians 4:26-27) Because we’re members of one another (the same body of Christ) we’re to go to each other and work things out in the right spirit.   The principle Jesus shares in Matthew 18:15 would solve so many problems.

  1. Because we’re fine with the church being torn down.

When we talk badly about someone, and we usually don’t have the whole story unless we talk to that person – lies get involved because truth gets twisted.   When that happens, we steal from one another; we steal the reputation of the person(s) involved or even the reputation of the local church. Ephesians 4:28 says to stop stealing and start doing good. Listening to Tony Evans yesterday, he said we’re to quit stealing from one another and do all we can to build up the church. We’re to build up because we’re members of one another as Christ’s body the church.

  1. Because we don’t care if we grieve God’s heart.

Ephesians 4:29 is pretty clear that every word you say should build up others and build up the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:30 says when we violate this principle, we grieve the heart of God. The words you and I say should give grace to people and build up the body of Christ (the church).   Not only are we members of the same body, we have the same Father, and every parent I know wants people to treat their kids right. It grieves God’s heart when we talk about or treat His kids the wrong way.

  1. Because we really don’t care what God says.

Ephesians 4:30-32 is clear; we’re to put aside things that hurt others and do things that are kind. We’re to be tender-hearted and forgiving because that’s what we’ve experienced in Christ. Lying is a sin because it always hurts someone and violates the law of love that Jesus said was paramount in our lives.  The truth is; lying hurts the liar and the person(s) being lied about.

So what’s the solution? Submit your pride and opinions to God. Man up or Woman up and talk to people when you have an issue.   Don’t spread discontent or speak without thinking.

What Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 is a sobering truth; He said you and I will give an account for every careless word we speak.

Most of the time, problems we have are really spiritual issues; Ephesians 6:12 says our real fight is not with flesh and blood. Go to people you have a problem with and be mature; don’t give Satan an opportunity.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.


[*] Psalm 4:4 (see Septuagint)

October 23, 2016

Blaspheming the Spirit

by Russell Young

The Word of God offers a stark warning to believers.  “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk 3:28─29 NIV) Luke wrote: “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (12:10 NIV)

When the understanding of blasphemy is limited to voicing negative comments regarding the Holy Spirit it is easy for anyone to consider themselves free of guilt. God will not tolerate vilification of the Spirit whether through verbal assault or through failure to honor his right to rule in the confessor’s life.

Per Strong’s Greek Dictionary blasphemy means “vilification (especially against God): —blasphemy, evil speaking, railing.” In the above verses, the Lord taught that all who rail or speak evil against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. When the Lord uttered these words, he had been specifically addressing the speaking practices of people since he had just said, “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Lk 12:3 NIV)

The New Testament’s use of blasphemy was most commonly applied to Christ on occasions where he either made the claim that he was the Son of God or that he could forgive sins.  The Lord’s use rested in a person’s failure to honor the Holy Spirit, his Spirit (2 Cor 3:17, 18) by despising him verbally.

Blasphemy has applications other than vilification by word, however.  The Lord told Moses and the Israelites, “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the Lord, and that person must be cut off from the people.  Because he has despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.” (Numbers 15:30─31 NIV) The charge of blasphemy rests not only on vilifying through word but also by sinning defiantly.

Ezekiel was commanded to tell the house of Israel, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In this also you blasphemed me by forsaking me.” (Eze 20:27 NIV) “Sinning defiantly” and “forsaking God” are also forms of blasphemy. The writer of Hebrews addressed this matter.  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26─27 NIV) Vilifying, defying, deliberately sinning, and despising the word of God are forms of blasphemy and that includes not attending to the call of the Spirit.

Unless the Spirit’s ministry is not recognized and honored, he cannot accomplish his purpose in the lives of people. It is the Holy Spirit who brings about a person’s sanctification and salvation (2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3: 5─6) leading to that one’s resurrection. Those who defy his rule in their lives will be held accountable for their rebellion.  Those who have gained knowledge of the truth in a certain situation are required to act in compliance with their understanding. Teaching that allows freedom from obedience to the Spirit is deceptive and even blasphemous.  Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV)

Although It is easy to find comfort in the understanding that blasphemy is limited to vilifying words, such comfort is not so easy to come by when blasphemy is recognized as sinning “defiantly” or knowingly. Have you knowingly sinned?  It is not without reason that Paul cautioned the Philippians to “continue to work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil 2:12─13 NIV)

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a very serious matter and it is often masked by beliefs that promote inaccurate teachings about God’s mercy and grace, about his unconditional love, about the believer’s adoption as a son, and about the reality of his or her eternal security having been assured. Where these teachings prevail, not much thought has to be given to the need for obedience or to honoring the Spirit. Blaspheming the Spirit is done knowingly and intentionally, and comes from a defiant and rebellious heart but is not limited to evil words, it also includes denial of the Spirit’s right to the direct confessor’s life.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is in stores and available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

March 10, 2015

A Time to Mourn, A Time to Feast

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Today’s thoughts are from the unnamed writer at Justified And Sinner, based in California. Click the title below to read at source.

Time for Church? Time to Celebrate or be Reverent?

8  They gave an oral translation of God’s Law and explained it so that the people could understand it. 9  When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10  Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who don’t have enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don’t be sad. The joy that the LORD gives you will make you strong.” 11  The Levites went around calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12  So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them. Nehemiah 8:8-12 (TEV)

There are those that think church is a time for high reverence.  For everyone to sit calmly and sedately, to not make noise.  To somberly listen to the music, the sermon, play their part in the responsive readings and prayers.

And while I know we are to be in awe of God, I think the somberness of church can be taken too far.  This is especially true when God is at work. At work as He reconciles and restores His people. Seeing God at work, whether it happens when God’s people are gathered together, is an awesome thing. I am not saying being irreverent, but that our definition of reverence needs to be changed, changed to include the joy of God’s love, manifested in our lives.

As people hear God’s word, things happen.  This is why it is so critical that they are told, as they were in the passage above, in a way they can understand!  The Holy Spirit’s work is amazing, as the Spirit breath’s life into people.

You see it in this passage, as the crowd has to be told that this day, the one God has made, is not a time for weeping and mourning.  They heard the Law, they knew where they fell short, and hearing the law grieved them.  They had a heart that was no longer stone (see Exodus 36:25) but flesh, and was still broken, damaged by the sin.  Their hearts were broken because they realized how they had rebelled against God, how they had treated the special relationship He had created, where He would be their people, and He would care for them, love them, and protect Him, for He is their God.

Hearing that was painful.  So much, that the priests had to go around and assure them of God’s love, and teaching them not to mourn, not to cry, this is God’s day.  As they gather they are told that this is the day, He has set aside for us to rest, to be at peace, to know His love.

Not the day to mourn, not the day to dwell on the failures of our past, but the day to celebrate!  You are His people!  He has restored you! He is your God, you are His people, and nothing will separate you from Him.

The result is amazing!  They leave the gathering and go and feast together. Even the poorest of the poor are provided for, as they celebrate His love.

IF this was the pattern before the Crucifixion, before Jesus rose from the grave. How much should it be now?  For now we can explore the height, the depth, the width, the breadth of His love.   Now we can realize that He has brought us to life with Christ in our Baptism.

Church, a place for mourning and tears because of our sin?  Now, there are times and places for that, This is the time for a feast, for a celebration, to realize that the Lord is with us!

So make sure you don’t miss the celebration … and when you are there, celebrate!


Do you have a scripture passage or theme you’d like to see explored here? Use the “Submissions and Questions and Contact” page in the right margin to let us know.

 

January 26, 2015

When You Hit Bottom and Things are Great at the Same Time

Rock Bottom Remorse

NLT Ps. 51:3 For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.

I realized yesterday that I had hit bottom.

Let me qualify that a little, I realized that I had hit bottom in one specific area of my life.

You can actually be doing great in other areas, but have this one area where you struggle; where your responses are not always ideal; where your outlook or worldview is being shaped more by popular consensus or culture than by God’s Word.

Paraphrased, the first step of the classic “Twelve Step” program is, ‘We admitted we had a problem.’ It’s hard for people in ministry to do this. It’s especially hard for church leaders and pastors to admit such things. It’s really difficult when you’re a person that everyone looks up to and admires as a spiritually mature person to realize you see yourself as crashing in a particular area of life.

Instead, you start to believe your own press. You can buy into the image that people have of you. You can decide that nine-out-of-ten is good enough. You can rationalize that the ministry is still happening, people are still getting saved, money is still being raised, the teaching is still being distributed. You don’t admit weakness, that would be letting people down.

I can only imagine what it’s like when you’re the king, especially when your nation or state is somewhat theocratic in nature.  Like King David.

Psalm 51 is his particular prayer of confession. While I usually don’t use this translation, I want to quote from the second half of verse 3 and the first half of verse 4 in the KJV.

…my sin is ever before me.

David admits he can’t run and he can’t hide from the thing he has done, or the person he has become. It’s what he sees when looks in the mirror. He owns up to it. I believe that whatever sin we give into, no matter how private, no matter how secret; it will manifest itself at some point in some more open way. Bathsheba presented a tremendous opportunity — her husband was away at the time — but it wasn’t the first time David had looked at a woman. Or perhaps not even the first time David had hatched a scheme.

You don’t become an adulterer overnight. It happens when you have failed to pre-book your choices. It happens when you’ve never recognized your susceptibility. It happens when pride gives you spiritual over-confidence.

Then he says,

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned

Jerry Bridges says, “We never see sin aright unless we see it as against God.”

  • When you maligned your co-worker, you sinned not against them, but against God
  • When you cheated on that test, you sinned not against the school or the teacher, but against God
  • When you falsified that document, you sinned not against the organization or the government, but against God
  • When you flirted with the girl in the grocery store, you sinned not against them or against your wife, but against God

You get the pattern.

Some of the resolutions people made at the start of the year are long broken. If they carried with them moral or spiritual significance, it isn’t just a personal letdown, you don’t just fail yourself, but rather it’s sin against God.

…I did not commit adultery or cause a neighbor to be put in the front lines of a battle to be killed. But I really felt I hit bottom in one particular area. One some might even dismiss. However…

If it’s big enough to notice, it’s important enough to deal with.