Christianity 201

April 23, 2017

Unless You Repent

by Russell Young

Unless you repent you too will all perish.” (Lk 13:5 NIV) Jesus spoke these words while addressing the people of Jerusalem. The words sound very much like those that John the Baptist would have proclaimed. The need of God for repentance is very clear. Repentance requires a person to recognize an attitude or an act as being offensive to God, to seek forgiveness, and to discontinue its practice. Paul told King Agrippa, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove (perform repeatedly) their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20 NIV) Paul did not teach that a single act of repentance was acceptable, but that a person’s life practices were to change.

In truth, there is not much preaching today concerning the need for repentance. One is more apt to hear proclaim the need to invite Jesus into his or her heart, following which he will meet their need for eternal salvation and a blessed life. The call to repentance during the “camp meetings” of past years has been displaced by the overarching love of God. Rather than admonishing “believers” to walk circumspectly, to “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), to be humble before God, to honour and obey the Lord, believers are being told that they are to trust God because they are loved by him.

Repentance requires that the believer walk closely with his or her Lord so that his voice can be heard and his heart known. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice.” (Jn 10:27 NIV) He also said, “When [the Spirit] comes he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (Jn 16:8 NIV) It is easy to restrict the Lord’s teaching of repentance to those who are acknowledged as not knowing him, who have not “invited him into their heart,” but the world includes those who have made a confession of faith as well. Sin is sin, it is rebellion against God’s government and those who do not repent of their evil deeds will one day do so on their knees before him. Sin is to be acknowledged as the Spirit leads to its awareness; it is to be acknowledged and humbly confessed. “John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9 NIV) Repentance is not conveyed merely by the mouth but is demonstrated by the deeds that follow.

In spite of teaching that negates a walk of righteousness or of “walking in the light” (1 Jn 1:7 NIV), the Lord requires righteousness leading to holiness. (Rom 6:19) The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New. The God that punished sin in the Old is the same God who will punish it even at the end. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the 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) Christ’s admonition was that unless a person repents, they too will die. Do not be deceived!

Christ also revealed that “[The brothers] have overcome [their accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev 12:11 NIV) Overcoming Satan requires the word of their testimony as well as the blood of Christ. The testimony of their lives, their deeds, loudly proclaimed the word of God. (Note that he did not say, ‘the testimony of their word,’ but “the word of their testimony.”) The righteous manner in which the believer lives his or her life is important.

When asked if only a few people were going to be saved, Christ replied, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:24 NIV) Note that the Lord required an “effort” to enter his Kingdom. Some will not put forth the required “effort” an will be left outside. The effort requires a victorious walk using all that the Lord has provided, especially his indwelling presence as Spirit. “He who overcomes will inherit all of this (life in the New Jerusalem), and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7 NIV) Victory can only be accomplished by defeating those practices and by disposing of those attitudes that are offensive to God through repentance and the demonstration of that repentance through a person’s deeds. God’s love does not cover defiance and rebellion which is blasphemy of the Spirit. In the end the believer is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29) by walking as Jesus walked. (1 Jn 2:6)


Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

November 7, 2016

Salvation Has Come to This House

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

NRSV Luke 19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

zacchaeusWe last connected with Peter Enns here in February, but I wanted to run this very recent post by him for two reasons. First, I’m currently reading his book The Sin of Certainty which we will probably run an excerpt from very soon. Second, this resonated with me because of a fresh take on Zacchaeus by Gary Burge which we touched on briefly here a few years ago. Click the title below to read this on his blog, The Bible for Normal People. Dr. Enns is a professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern College.

Zacchaeus gets “saved” and so can the rest of us . . . every day

Many of us know the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector from Jericho (Luke 19:1-10). Many of us are also probably stricken with paralysis at the sound of the Zacchaeus song, which haunts the memory of any parent who has ever done time teaching children’s Sunday school or VBS. But I digress.

Not at all unlike another famous resident from Jericho, Rahab in the book of Joshua, Zacchaeus a “sinner” (v. 7) welcomes a visitor into his home with stunning, life-shifting results.

Without Jesus even needing to say a word, Zacchaeus commits to giving half his possessions to the poor and paying back fourfold anyone he has defrauded. And Jesus responds, “Today salvation has come to this house. . . . ”

Perhaps like me, you have wondered what Jesus means by “salvation”? Perhaps you were taught that right there that day Zacchaeus was “saved” by accepting Jesus into his heart and receiving assurance of going to heaven when he died.

But that’s not happening here. Zacchaeus’s salvation is his committing to a change in life—from greed and dishonesty to generosity and justice. He is repenting, in the true biblical sense of the Greek word metanoia—a change of heart that is evidenced in a change in how one lives.

And to this change in how one lives Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

Many of us might focus on the next life when we see the word salvation in this story. That’s how we were taught. But that misses the point.

Jesus’s declaration of salvation is tied to what Zacchaeus does with no mention of a final reward. The point is what is happening today.

Zacchaeus needed salvation, a change of life now. Don’t we all.

Zacchaeus was “saved” because he committed to changing his way of life, to bring it into conformity with the mercy and generosity of God—which is to say, Zacchaeus was becoming more truly human, an image-bearer of of God.

Salvation isn’t something that happens once to get your membership card to heaven— “once saved always saved,” as the saying goes. Salvation is something that keeps happening in our lives, needs to keep happening, as we work to conform our lives by God’s kind grace to reflect the life of Jesus.

Over the years I have learned to pray differently. Hardly a day now goes by when I do not ask for deliverance.

For a change in the tired patterns in my life.

For salvation.

That kind of prayer would have been unthinkable to me some years ago, but I have come to see what I was missing all those years.

The membership card I keep in my wallet for future consideration is of little use. I need salvation right now.

Deliver me, O Lord. Save me . . .

from broken relationships
from fear for my family
from the fear of what might be or might not be
from not knowing
from the need to know
from the need to be right
from this horrid and subtle self-centeredness
from looking down on any other human being
from feeling misunderstood and undervalued
from being defined by my past
from judging others by their past
from manipulating my neighbor with clever words
from feeling not enough
from what I cling to
from all my failings
from all my accomplishments

Not later. Not at some point in time. But now.

Right this minute.

I don’t want things to continue as they are.

Save me.

Zacchaeus finds salvation. And so can we. Every day.


[A beautiful song by Audrey Assad, “I Shall Not Want, captures this idea far better than I am able to in a blog post. Also, a major theme in N. T. Wright’s new book The Day the Revolution Began is the New Testament’s emphasis on salvation as very much now rather than simply later. And if you want to read some of my books, here you go: The Sin of Certainty (HarperOne, 2016), The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014), The Evolution of Adam (Baker, 2012), Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005/2015).]

 

 

 

March 18, 2016

God’s Idea of a Clean Room

Once again we’re paying a return visit to Mary Agrusa from the blog The Thought Just Occurred to Me. You’re encouraged to click the headline below to read this at source. Mary’s blog always presents a challenge choosing which item to run. If you like C201, you’ll like the devotions there.

Dust Bunnies, Creepy Crawlies and the Holy of Holies

“But only the High Priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood which He offered for Himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” Hebrews 9:7

A study of the tabernacle and later temples provides not only detailed descriptions of the structures but also a comprehensive list of those who served there and their official functions. One position is conspicuously absent – a janitor for the Holy of Holies.

Moving through the wilderness necessitated the assembly and dis-assembly of the tabernacle on a periodic basis. At that time the Holy of Holies got a much needed airing out. Dust bunnies and creepy crawlies got the boot.

Solomon built the first permanent temple which lasted about 400 years. The second temple built by Ezra and later enlarged and embellished by Herod stood for 586 years. The most notable difference between these two magnificent structures was the absence of the Ark of the Covenant in the second building. The Ark disappeared sometime around the Babylonian invasion and subsequent destruction of Solomon’s masterpiece. The Ark, the visible, tangible manifestation of the presence of God was gone.

The Holy of Holies was an enclosed room. Once a year the High Priest entered with incense and blood. Upon completion of His assigned duties he left. The room wasn’t entered into again until the same time the following year.

In almost 1000 years of combined existence in the two temples, the Holy of Holies was never cleaned. My house has a basement that until recently was rarely visited. It takes no time for dust to build up and unwanted visitors to arrive there. By the time either temple was demolished the Holy of Holies would have accumulated hundreds of years of stale incense smell and dried blood. Add to that a thick coating of dust, cobwebs and all types of critters. Surprisingly, God didn’t seem to mind. He didn’t appoint an anointed custodian to regularly sanitize and freshen up His room. There’s a lesson to learn from this.

In the same way that God dwelt in the innermost part of the tabernacle/temple, He chooses to reside in the innermost part of man, the heart. He seems more interested in being invited in and permitted to live there than on the heart’s initial condition. He’ll take any heart in any state of disrepair and disorder.

No one was allowed to clean up God’s room (mother’s don’t tell your kids this). Similarly, no one can adequately clean up oneself and through self effort make them self acceptable to God. To those of us who aren’t clean freaks, we knew we liked Him!

God’s idea of a clean environment rubs our religious spirit the wrong way. The maturation process of sonship does bring essential and necessary changes to our lives. We all have dust bunnies and creepy crawlies but they don’t send God packing and heading for the exit. If we allow Him, He’ll set up a housekeeping schedule on His terms and develop us into a great place to live.

How about you? When you made Jesus your Lord, how messy was your life? What did God overlook when He accepted your invitation to set up His abode in you? What works better- a rigorous self-improvement program or having Him isolate the grime and together working with you to remove it? His concept of an ideal environment can look very different from ours. Since it is His house, why not let Him do things His way?

State of the Heart

February 5, 2016

A Life of Peace Overflowing out of an Experience of the Grace of God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 (Phil 1:2 NIV)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7b)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 (2 Cor. 1:2)

(are you sensing a pattern here?)

Today we pay a return visit to Alex Koo who writes on Christian living, theology, culture, and books; and also speaks, teaches, and performs at various events. Click the title below to read this at source.

Searching for Shalom

In almost all of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he begins with the greeting: Grace to you and peace from God. It is dangerously easy to quickly skim over these two words without stopping to be arrested by the weight of this new Gospel reality. Grace and peace.

The reformer Martin Luther described this phrase as the heart of all Christianity; all of Christianity is a life of peace overflowing out of a genuine experience of the grace of God. Do you know this peace?

sunsetHow would you define peace? I posed this question to our young adult ministry. Some answered rightly that peace was a ceasefire, an absence of conflict. Others added that peace was being able to truly rest. But it’s infinitely more than that.

Yes, “grace and peace” was a typical traditional greeting offered in antiquity, but I’m convinced when Paul pens this, he’s also describing the new reality of the Christian. See, when he says peace, he means shalom. When he carefully writes the blessing of peace, he is also directing our hearts to the explosive reality that in Christ, there is shalom. And every single person reading this is longing for shalom. Pay attention to how Christian philosopher Cornelius Plantinga explains this concept of shalom:

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight … a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights in. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

Let me put it this way: we were made for shalom. Shalom is the reality of how God intended all things to be. Shalom is the experience when every arena of life functions in the way God designed it to be. Shalom is wholeness. It is fulfillment. Satisfaction. Shalom is when you take all the individual pieces of a watch, fashion them carefully together, and it starts to tick.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, what was Adam’s God-given purpose? When we ask a typical evangelical today, our instinctive, church-like response is: “Share the Gospel” or “Make disciples.” Or perhaps some of us give the more sophisticated answer of “Glorify God” or “Love God”, but when asked how that looks like, the answer usually still boils down to “Share the Gospel” or “Make disciples”.

That wasn’t Adam’s purpose.

Why would it be? Adam’s purpose was indeed to glorify God, but there was no need yet to share the Gospel. Why? Because everything was as God intended it to be. There was shalom. I usually explain this concept of shalom in the form of four dimensions. For Adam, he experienced shalom:

  1. Upward. Adam and Eve enjoyed an upward shalom with their unhindered, pleasurable, freeing relationship with God Himself as He walked and dwelled among them.
  2. Outward. Adam and Eve enjoyed the trusting, loving companionship and friendship with each other.
  3. Inward. They lived with a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, purpose, and meaning.
  4. Downward. Finally (and the most unfamiliar to most Christians), they also experienced a downward shalom and rightness with their relationship with creation. This means that they fulfilled their role as cultivators and stewards of the earth over their possessions, over the animals, over technology, over their work.

But ever since the fall of our spiritual parents Adam and Eve, shalom has been shattered. Everything changed when sin entered the picture. Pastor Timothy Keller says:

Human beings are so integral to the fabric of things that when human beings turned from God, the entire warp and woof of the world unraveled …We have lost God’s shalom — physically, spiritually, socially, psychologically, culturally. Things now fall apart.

In each of the four dimensions, shalom has vanished, leaving only a broken shadow of what used to be and what God had intended.

  1. Upward. Now, humanity’s relationship with God has been severed. We belittle and mock God by worshiping other things. We don’t love God as we ought and we run from Him because of our sin and shame.
  2. Outward. Horizontal relationships are now characterized by jealousy, hostility, fear, gossip, lack of trust, betrayal, manipulation, oppression.
  3. Inward. We all live with a broken sense of purpose. We are paralyzed by guilt and shame, if we’re honest — or we buy into an illusion of self-sufficiency and pride, and attempt to recreate purpose for ourselves apart from God.
  4. Downward. Our responsibility to manage God’s creation is out of alignment. We now look to our vocations for identity. We look to hobbies, technology, the arts, the sciences, to give us hope and significance. We look to created things to give us what only the Creator can.

All of this brokenness, in each dimension, all play out in our daily lives. It plays itself out when we gossip about others (outward brokenness) to feel significant and validated (inward brokenness). We refuse to worship God (upward brokenness) and instead look to creation — video games, hobbies, careers, academics — for purpose (downward brokenness). All these dimensions are connected. Shalom has vanished. Yet, in every one of our hungry souls, we all long for shalom. That’s why Saint Augustine writes, “our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

The Gospel is God’s plan of restoring all things to shalom. Including you and me.

This is the Gospel: God looked down in love, and for His glory and the joy of His people, embarked on a mission to reconcile all things back to shalom. Every dimension. And in the fullness of time, God sent His son Jesus Christ, to live a life of perfect shalom and died for our sin, as our substitute. Now, if we confess our sin, our idolatry, our rebellion … if we put our faith in the work of Christ, we will be saved. We will be reconciled back to the Father. But not only that, as we begin to believe the Gospel truly, we begin to be reconciled to shalom in all areas — upward with our Father, outward with others, inward with our souls, and downward with creation. When we believe and receive the grace of God for our sin, then we begin to experience peace or shalom, in the here and now, until He comes again to restore all things.

And because of this, we say with the apostle:

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Have you been reconciled to the shalom God is extending to you in the Gospel? Have you been reconciled to God Himself? Believe in Christ and be saved!

Grace and peace.

January 1, 2016

Baptism of Repentance

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , ,

NIV Luke 3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar… 2 …the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

NIV Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We start the year introducing a new author,

Repentance

“I’m sorry.”

I think I’ve said those words at least a few dozen times to family and friends just within the last week. And, I’ve meant them. And I was told “I forgive you.” But often times, while hearing “I forgive you” is much needed and comforting, it’s sometimes a difficult phrase to believe – especially when we know we’ve hurt someone else. How can we be forgiven by simply saying “I screwed up. I’m sorry.”?

We often feel as if we need to do something more than just say those words and mean them. We feel we need to make up for our mistakes. This is even true when we ask for forgiveness from God. We’re told we’re forgiven. And yet, that forgiveness is often difficult for us to believe in, or to hope for. All we did was simply repent.

And yet, that is the key. Repentance. When we repent – when we say that we are sorry, and truly mean it – we are not simply saying “oops, I screwed up” and then go about our lives making the same mistake without a second thought. We are instead changing – we are recognizing that our behavior or action was wrong, and that we should not do it again. Repentance changes us on the inside.

This of course isn’t to say that we won’t repeat the same mistake. And sometimes repeat it several times. But it does mean that we recognize our error and are trying to change that within ourselves, with the help of God. It means we are asking God not only to forgive us, but to help us change that behavior.

In the Gospel of Luke, we’re told that John is preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This is the baptism we have all received. Through this baptism, we understand that we are forgiven for our sins, both past and future. We’re given hope through this baptism of repentance. And this hope is not only for us, but for our world.

This gospel reading continues on by quoting from Isaiah

“Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.”

This text paints a pretty picture in my mind, and yet it is so much more than just a winding road going over hills and valleys. It is so much more fantastic than that.

Through repentance and forgiveness – through us, with God’s help, changing our hearts and actions – we are given the hope that the proud will be humbled and the broken will be lifted up. The winding, crooked, rough ways of our world will be made straight and right.


C201Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Authors chosen for inclusion here represent a variety of doctrinal viewpoints and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Be sure to click through and read more of their material, not just the single item posted here.  Your suggestions for articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

February 4, 2015

Repent!

by C201 regular columnist Clarke Dixon.  Click title to read at source.

Enjoying a Repentance Sandwich

repentanceWhat do many people think of when they hear the word “repent”? Perhaps they will immediately think of an angry hell-fire and damnation preacher. Or perhaps someone with a sandwich board that says “REPENT THE END IS NEAR!” Or perhaps they will associate repentance with the requirement of giving up “fun.” It seems that even in Christian circles the word has fallen on hard times with people equating the need for repentance with “not being good enough,” and therefore with poor self-esteem. So repentance is out, self-help and acceptance is in.

But hold on, are we missing something? Despite the negative reactions to it, let us consider repentance more deeply:

Repentance is central to Christianity. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the Gospels and he is very efficient with his words. The first thing we hear about Jesus’ preaching is:

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14-15 NRSV)

Mark here is not telling us about Jesus’ first sermon, but the content of all his preaching. His entire teaching ministry is devoted to declaring the nearness of the Kingdom of God and the call to repent and be a part of it. We should also note here also that immediately following this Jesus calls Peter and Andrew with those famous words ““Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (Mark 1:17 NRSV). We are meant to see that a kingdom declaration and a call to repentance will be central to the task of fishing for people, and therefore a central task of the Church.

Repentance is intimately connected with Good News. Look what is said immediately before and after the call to repentance and you will see a repentance sandwich. Before it is the “good news of God,” which can mean both good news from God, and good news about God. Following it is the good news mentioned again. Despite the negative reactions to repentance in our time and day, with Jesus it is intimately connected with very positive good news.

Repentance is a blessing because life in God’s Kingdom is better than life in any other kingdom. Our passage begins with a statement that almost seems out of place: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” Remembering that Mark is super efficient in his use of words, is there any reason for him to give us the detail about John’s arrest here? Yes, the arrest of a righteous God-focused man such as John does not happen in the coming Kingdom of God. It happens in Herod’s kingdom, it happens in Caesar’s kingdom, it happens all the time across our world. But such injustice does not happen in the Kingdom of God. It is a contrast. Life is better in the Kingdom of God where people like Herod repent of all injustice.

Well meaning souls sometimes carry sandwich boards that read “repent the end is near.” Jesus was going around saying something more like “repent the Kingdom is near.” Repentance is a turning away from the sin that churns out bad news reports one after another in our lives and in our world, to Christ and His Kingdom and the good news of salvation from sin.

The blessings of repentance reaches further than the repentant sinner. If Herod had repented, John’s life would have been spared, he would have been let go, restored to his loved ones and work. What a blessing repentance would have been. What a blessing when Kingdom things happen, when injustice is righted. Herod’s salvation, Herod’s repentance would have had a great impact on all who were impacted by Herod, not to mention all who were impacted by John. The blessings would move out like a wave from a drop.

Your salvation, your repentance affects more than just you. Yes, our salvation is about “getting to heaven”, but it is also about heaven coming to us. And this happens in little bits and pieces, it happens as yeast infecting the dough as Jesus teaches in a parable about the Kingdom. It happens though little changes and big changes in your life. It is not dependent on someone setting up a Christian nation somewhere. It is dependent on you being a Christ following Kingdom living person everywhere you are. It is dependent on your blessing others through your repentance, your reorientation to God. Imagine the difference repentance can make in the trouble spots of your life and family. Imagine the difference repentance would make to the trouble spots of the world.

Repentance can be enjoyed anytime. Some people see repentance as akin to taking out an insurance policy. “I have done what I need to do, I am good with God, and I might pull it out of the file to look at it once a year. Typically Christmas.” I only look at my insurance policies once a year. But I look at food all the time; at least three times a day, sometimes three times an hour. Repentance is more like that; it is a blessing we can enjoy every day, a continual reorientation of our lives to God and His Kingdom. A life without repentance is like a life without food: blessings are missed, wellness flees.

Repentance is a blessing because eternal life with God is a blessing. The book of Acts tells us that on the Day of Pentecost Peter preached a sermon to thousands of people who were enthralled with what was happening. At the conclusion of the sermon the people ask “Brothers, what should we do?” (Acts 2:37 NRSV) Peter responds with:

38 Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him (Acts 2:38-39 NRSV)

Repentance here is a turning away from sin and turning toward God who has already turned to us in love and grace with the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. Repentance is that door to relationship, that act of acceptance of God’s offer. Putting one’s faith in Jesus without repentance would be like getting engaged to a person one has no intention of dating while still romantically involved with another. Such an engagement would seem hollow and hypocritical to say the least. Despite the negativity around repentance, it is a door to a relationship with God, one that lasts into eternity. What a blessing.


The people of Calvary Baptist in Cobourg, Ontario called Clarke to be their pastor in 2012 and in so doing rescued him from city life. Sermons from Calvary Baptist are available through “ChurchCloud” or as a podcast on iTunes.

July 30, 2014

Repentance is not an Option

I know that many of you often use the internet to search out Biblical themes. Sometimes the answers you get are perplexing. You don’t know the source of the articles and unless you have extensive background in the faith, it’s easy to get sidetracked if your discernment filters aren’t turned up high!

One thing I sometimes do is to use the Yahoo or Google image searches. For example, yesterday’s piece was about repentance and I needed an image to go alongside the article. I found many that were interesting and that in turn led me to another article on the same topic that I want to share today. Alfred Shannon, Jr. is a member of the Church of Christ. He writes, “I preach, and teach the Gospel of Christ, and I adhere to the principle of speaking where the bible speaks, and remaining silent where the bible is silent.” That’s good advice!

His very popular website is called Biblical Proof. To read today’s article at source — always encouraged — click the title below:

Repentance is not an Option—It’s a Commandment of God!

repentance 2How often do preachers teach the gospel of Christ when someone desires to be baptized. This is a glorious occasion no doubt, but in our zeal to baptize, have we forgotten a missing step? Seriously, when was the last time you heard a preacher call for repentance before one is to be baptized into Christ? It’s something many preachers are taking for granted before one is to be baptized into Christ.

I actually heard a preacher say, “I never instruct any potential convert to repent. They can repent after they have been baptized.” Shocking doctrine coming from a gospel preacher. Shocking because without repentance, we have no remission of sins. Sins can’t be washed away if they haven’t first been repented of. Repentance: it’s not optional, but a requirement before our sins can be removed.

Though its elementary in the first principles of the oracles of God, let us reexamine this too often missing step of salvation.

What is Repentance?

Repentance fully defined is a change of will or mind. This change is preceded by godly sorrow, and followed by a transformation of life. Repentance has been called our proverbial U-Turn from sin to righteousness. We see this definition of the word taught in many instances in the Bible.

Repentance Illustrated

Jesus defined repentance for us as He said,

“A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself, and went” (Matt. 21:28, 29).

The young man at first refused to go work in the vineyard in compliance with the command of his father, but later he repented and went. What did he do? He changed his mind about his will toward his father’s command. As a result of his change of mind, his action also changed, but the change of action was not the repentance, but it was the product of the changed will.

Why Refuse Repentance?

The Bible plainly teaches, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:15); and “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Why do so many refuse to be baptized for the remission of sins? I believe that the answer lies in their refusal to repent. A refusal to repent of their past and present practice of sin is a rejection of God’s simple counsel. The problem is not that the gospel is difficult to understand, but that they do not desire to repent (i.e. change) and live the life God has commanded.

A local musician was baptized long ago by my dad when I was only 13 years old. He was asked if he believed Jesus was the Christ, and upon his confession he was baptized. Six months later he was seen in a tavern drinking whiskey, and playing his music to a crowd filled with drunks and half naked women. When confronted the next Sunday about his actions he said with boldness, “I was never asked or commanded to repent of my sins. I was only asked if I believed Jesus was the Christ, and I said yes, and I was baptized. If I had been told I had to forsake my sins I would have never been baptized!”

Sadly, this is not uncommon, but more common than not. We have forgotten to teach repentance, and command such before we baptize anyone into Christ. The scriptures instruct us that remission of sins requires two things, and not just one, and that being repentance and baptism. Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19

Conclusion:

Brethren, we need to preach, and teach repentance before one is baptized. To do less is not teaching the full gospel of Christ. Repentance is not something that can be assumed. If we don’t teach it, and command it, how can those hearing the gospel ever turn from their sins? Is it any wonder why so many are baptized, and continue in their sinful lifestyles.

If you are not a Christian, and you have faith in Jesus Christ, repentance for you will result in your being immersed for the remission of your sins. Christians who subsequently sin must likewise repent, and pray to God for His forgiveness. (Acts 2:37-38,41; 8:22; Rev. 2:10).

If you didn’t repent before you were baptized, who can proclaim scripturally that your baptism is right before God? There’s only two who actually know if you repented or not. God knows, and so do you. After-all, repentance is not an option, but a commandment of God.

I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Lk 13:3

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30

January 11, 2014

What Genuine Repentance Looks Like

Turn aroundRyan Huguley is the founding and lead pastor of Redemption Bible Church in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Click the title to read this at source, you’ll find a number of good articles, including a recently-completed series on doing family devotions.

3 Essential Marks of Genuine Repentance

To hear the entire message, click here.

We’ve all experienced times of confusion – times when we thought we understood something we in reality did not. The problem with confusion is that it has consequences. Some confusion, in fact, can have life-long, fatal, even eternal consequences. Repentance is one of those issues.

From beginning to end, the Bible heralds genuine repentance as foundational to both salvation and spiritual growth. The truth is, there is no salvation or spiritual growth apart from repentance.

But even though it’s one of the most talked-about issues in our faith, repentance is also one of the most misunderstood. As a result, much of what we deem repentance may not be. So, we need to be crystal clear about what it is and what it isn’t.

Here’s the question: How certain are you that you both understand and practice Biblical repentance? 

Two words are used for “repentance” in both the Old and the New Testaments. When translated, these words describe a three-fold change that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 7: 11.

“For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”

From this passage, we can see three essential marks of genuine repentance. Without all three of these, we have not genuinely repented:

1. A Change of Mind – I think differently about my sin.

“For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you…”

Repentance starts with seeing our sin for what it is: an offense against the heart of God, treason against the King we were created to serve, rebellion against a perfect, heavenly Father. Until we think the way God thinks about our sin, we won’t feel the way God feels about it. No matter how small we think our sin is, it is never insignificant.

2. A Change of Heart – I feel differently toward my sin.

“What indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment!”

Godly grief produced strong emotions in the Christians at Corinth. Their hearts were broken and they hated their sin. Genuine repentance will result in sorrow and heartbroken remorse over the hurt we’ve caused God as a result of our sin.

3. A Change of Direction – I act differently in regard to my sin.

“What eagerness to clear yourselves . . .”

When they repented, the Corinthians committed to making restitution. Unlike gift giving, when it comes to repentance, it’s not the thought that counts, but the action taken against it. Repentance that doesn’t result in a radical redirection of our lives is not Biblical repentance.

God had done a deep work in the Christians at Corinth that produced an external change. They did not achieve repentance on their own and neither can we, because repentance is not a work of the will but a gift of grace.

Repentance is a gift of God made possible through the perfect work of Jesus. We can’t earn it, work up to it, or cause it in our own hearts. We can only lean heavily on the grace of God and ask Him to grant us repentance.

If we recognize our sin for what it is, experience remorse for how it grieves God, and allow God to redirect our lives, we have genuinely repented. We can then have deep assurance that we are walking with Him and we can be certain of our salvation.

(Adapted by Diane Rivers from sermon entitled, “How to Be Certain You’re Saved”)

December 28, 2012

Continue to Come as a Child

Oswald ChambersIn our generation the most enduring devotional resource has been My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Many years ago a bookseller named James Reiman undertook to rewrite the entire book in more modern language, so that the type of sentence construction employed all those years ago wouldn’t be a barrier to people getting to the depth and riches of the material.

A year ago we ran a few Oswald Chambers Quotations, and  you can read a short biography of him here,  and also at Wikipedia.  It’s worth noting that Chambers never “wrote” My Utmost, rather, after his death his wife, who was a stenographer, transcribed notes from his talks.

The sample devotionals below are from the website utmost.org  and are the  readings for yesterday and today. Click the calendar page on the site for the permanent links to each.

Where the Battle is Won and Lost

’If you will return, O Israel,’ says the Lord . . . —Jeremiah 4:1

Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. However long it takes, I must wrestle with it alone before God, and I must resolve to go through the hell of renunciation or rejection before Him. Nothing has any power over someone who has fought the battle before God and won there.

I should never say, “I will wait until I get into difficult circumstances and then I’ll put God to the test.” Trying to do that will not work. I must first get the issue settled between God and myself in the secret places of my soul, where no one else can interfere. Then I can go ahead, knowing with certainty that the battle is won. Lose it there, and calamity, disaster, and defeat before the world are as sure as the laws of God. The reason the battle is lost is that I fight it first in the external world. Get alone with God, do battle before Him, and settle the matter once and for all.

In dealing with other people, our stance should always be to drive them toward making a decision of their will. That is how surrendering to God begins. Not often, but every once in a while, God brings us to a major turning point— a great crossroads in our life. From that point we either go toward a more and more slow, lazy, and useless Christian life, or we become more and more on fire, giving our utmost for His highest— our best for His glory.


Continuous Conversion

. . . unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven —Matthew 18:3

These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. Just because we have responded properly in the past is no guarantee that we will do so again. The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. No matter what our situation is, the Spirit of God remains unchanged and His salvation unaltered. But we must “put on the new man . . .” (Ephesians 4:24). God holds us accountable every time we refuse to convert ourselves, and He sees our refusal as willful disobedience. Our natural life must not rule— God must rule in us.

To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.

December 4, 2011

Out of My Bondage… Jesus I Come

A beautiful old hymn set to a different tune; this was often the closing song of the evening service in the church where I grew up; sometimes we’d sing it if we’d run out of verses for Just as I Am, extending the altar call long enough to give one more person time to walk to the front…

  1. Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
      Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!
    Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
    Out of my sickness into Thy health,
    Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
    Out of my sin and into Thyself,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
  2. Out of my shameful failure and loss,
      Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!
    Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
    Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
    Out of life’s storm and into Thy calm,
    Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
  3. Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
      Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!
    Into Thy blessed will to abide,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
    Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
    Out of despair into raptures above,
    Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
  4. Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
      Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!
    Into the joy and pleasure, Thine own,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
    Out of the depths of ruin untold,
    Into the flock Thy love doth enfold,
    Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!