Tag Archives: repentance

November 23; Be Sanctified

I Thessalonians 2:17-5:28; II Thessalonians 1

What does it mean to live a holy life? Paul tells us it is God’s will that we be sanctified in order to please God. Then Paul tells us what that looks like:

that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. (I Thessalonians 4:3b-6a)

So is holy living, or sanctification, restricted to sexual behavior? Remember, Jesus told us that we commit adultery when we lust. It doesn’t have to involve bodily contact. Sin comes in all shapes and sizes.

Trying in our own strength to do what Paul is telling us to do only leads to failure. We can’t muster up courage, or find strength inside us to defeat the power of sin. It’s impossible. A sinner can’t sanctify a sinner, so I can’t sanctify me.

But the Holy Spirit can! When we humble ourselves and accept the gift of God’s grace, the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus, when we place our faith in God, the Holy Spirit is given to us. Then we can avoid sexual immorality because the Holy Spirit gives us His strength and His desires. We can control ourselves in holy and honorable ways because the Spirit in us is holy and honorable.

Paul tells us it is the work of the Holy Spirit to grow believers, or to sanctify believers. But he also says it is possible to “put out the Spirit’s fire.” Then he tells us to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (5:19-20)

Then Paul prays: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (5:23-24)

Does that thrill your heart? Yes we have responsibility in our walk with the Lord. But the good news is that the Spirit within us gives us wisdom, and the ability to hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. The Spirit within us gives us exactly what we need to be sanctified.

He is faithful. And He will do it!

 

November 15; Even the Gentiles

Acts 9:32-11:15

I am so thankful for the Jews. They were the ones through whom God chose to bring salvation to the world. God had stuck with them even when they disobeyed, protected them even when they put themselves in danger. They didn’t deserve His kindness, but God knew that He would come to earth through a Jewish woman. And in spite of the Jews who rebelled, Jesus was indeed born of Mary.

It’s no wonder the Jews felt Jesus was exclusively their’s. For centuries they knew they were chosen, set apart, and they felt superior to anyone not Jewish (known as Gentiles). The Holy Spirit had come to the Jews there in Jerusalem. Salvation through Jesus was their’s.

So Peter’s vision and subsequent encounter with Cornelius, a Gentile centurion, was met with criticism. “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (11:3)

What were you thinking, Peter?

But I love that when Peter explained his vision, shared what happened when the Holy Spirit was given to non-Jewish believers just as it had been give to them, the once horrified Jews “had no further objections.” Then this:

(they) praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (11:18)

Yes. Yes He did. Even Gentiles. Even me!

 

 

October 28; Perfectly Centered

Mark 11:27-12:17; Matthew 21:23-22:22; Luke 20:1-26

Jesus is the Cornerstone, the One on whom the Church is built. There is so much in just that one statement!

My sister was at a Bible study recently where the pastor, filling in for the regular teacher, shared that he and his teenage son had recently built a retaining wall together. Dad showed son step by step what needed to be done.

They put the first stone down and the dad showed the boy how to read the level. When the bubble in the level was perfectly centered, they were ready to move on to the next stone. After wiggling and tapping the second stone until the level was perfectly centered when resting on both the first and second stones, they were ready for stone #3. The bubble needed to be perfectly centered when on it and the already level second stone before they could lay a fourth stone, and so on and so on and so on.

Eventually the dad put the boy in charge of the level, and the wall went up. With each stone, the dad would ask, “Is it level?” When the boy could assure Dad it was, they went on to the next stone. They worked together for quite some time. But around the third layer, the dad realized something was wrong. He measured and found the wall was already several inches off.

How could that happen? The boy assured his dad the bubble was always in the center for every stone. “Show me,” Dad said.

Have you ever used a level? That bubble changes position when the difference on the surface in imperceptible. Is it in the center if it touches the left line, but doesn’t go over it? Is it in the center if it favors the right line a fraction of an inch? The boy found out that mostly centered is not centered.

Being perfectly centered is an exact spot, not an area. The father and son had to remove all the stones, until they got back to the cornerstone, in order to build their wall.

Are you with me? How many infinitesimal deviations has the Church made away from the Cornerstone over the last 2,000 years? What will it take to get back to the Cornerstone? Is there damage we need to correct?

I can think of so many examples. But one has come to the forefront. And that is what I believe to be more than an infinitesimal shift from our Cornerstone. The Church seems to have decided to make the Gospel a bit more palatable, a bit easier to swallow. You never hear a “hellfire and brimstone” sermon any more. Why? Because that kind of preaching puts people off.

There are churches that refuse to use the word “sin” because it offends. We want people to see Jesus as love, to make worship of Him emotional and entertaining. But is that what you see when you go back to the Cornerstone?

Listen to what Jesus said about the Cornerstone: He who falls on the stone will be broken, but the one on whom it falls will be crushed. (Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18)

A person, face to face with the awfulness of his sin, should be broken! Repentance isn’t comfortable or pleasant. It’s like throwing yourself onto a boulder. It hurts. It breaks our old self into pieces.

But Jesus warns, waiting until that Stone falls results in a final crushing from which there is no recovery.

Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church, but He is also the Cornerstone of my life. When I put the level of His Holy Word on my life – is it perfectly centered? Or am I off just a tiny little bit?

I want to be perfectly centered. I want to use God’s Word as my level, and line myself up with the Cornerstone according to Scripture. I’m not looking for a comfortable relationship with Jesus. I want to be broken when I deviate from His Holiness. I want conviction to tap me into position. Because if I allow that level just a bit of leeway, it’s not going to correct itself down the road.

Because almost centered is not perfectly centered.

 

 

September 30; Baptized With The Spirit

Matthew 2:1-23, 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 2:41-52, 3:1-20; John 1:1-18

John baptized with water for repentance. But he was always quick to say One greater than he would come after him and baptize with the Holy Spirit.

The thing about saying baptism saves, or repeating a prayer saves is that it gives people a false sense of security. The Jews thought they had an in because they were circumcised. But the Bible clearly teaches nothing we do can save us. Not surgery, not a dip in the pool, and not even saying a prayer can save anyone.

What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Many people point to the dramatic initial coming of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the book of Acts, and say that receiving the Holy Spirit is accompanied by euphoric babble. (which is not at all what we see in Acts) There are many examples in the New Testament of quiet humility in response to God’s grace.

I was appalled when I Googled “receive the Holy Spirit,” and found dozens of books written on the topic: “How To Receive the Holy Spirit.” As if there is something we can do to force God’s hand, or demand that He give us the gift. Friend, put those books down.

Salvation comes when we repent of sin, turn from sin, and ask God to forgive us. The Holy Spirit is given to us the moment we accept Jesus as the Savior. You can’t separate the Trinity. Paul in I Corinthians 12, Romans 8, and Ephesians 1 makes it clear that if a person doesn’t possess the Spirit, he doesn’t belong to Christ; that when we believed we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. There is no indication that a person is saved, then receives the Spirit after jumping through some hoops.

I’ve always bristled when anyone talked about “true” Christianity, or people who are “really saved.” I found that to be judgmental. After all, how can we know a person’s heart?

Well, I am beginning to realize my non-judgmental take on salvation is not Biblical. God through His Word, is showing me I not only can, but I need to recognize what is true and what is false in my own life, and in the lives of those around me. John said to the crowd, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8a) It wasn’t a suggestion.

How often did Jesus call people out for being hypocritical? How many verses can you find where Paul insists that the way we live is a direct result of our relationship with God? James went as far as to say, “faith without works is dead.”

If we receive the Holy Spirit when we repent of sin and accept God’s gift of grace through the blood of Jesus, then God Himself lives in us. Our lives have to look different than they did before that happened. They have to.

Being baptized with the Holy Spirit produces fruit. Galatians 5:22-23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.

Notice Paul says “fruit” not “fruits.” All these things listed above are a direct result of having the Spirit in us, being baptized with the Holy Spirit. All of them.

So, am I saying if a person is kind or patient, but isn’t gentle and self controlled he’s not filled with the Spirit, and therefore not a Christian?

I’m not saying that. But I’m beginning to think God is.

September 26; It’s Sin

Nehemiah 13; Joel 1-2

Sometimes when we read God’s Word we tend to think, “this account was written to people long ago,” or “this one is about things in the future,” and we neglect to realize God is able to speak to us concerning our lives in 2019 through every word He inspired men to write in Scripture.

I have to confess I was reading Joel this morning trying to put the prophet’s words into either the past category, or the future category. It was a bit frustrating. Now, I’m not saying Joel wasn’t speaking about historical events, or events that had not yet happened when the prophet allowed God to use his pen to write His words. But my prayer every day is that God would speak to me, too, through His Word about my walk with Him. And He always answers that prayer.

So I started to read it again, and in verse 2 God seemed to ask me, “Has anything like this happened to you?”

“Like what?” I thought. “Locusts?” God prompted me to think again.

Verse 4 stood out as a picture of devastation. One bad thing happened, then another, and another. Has anything like that ever happened to me? Have I felt at a loss with nowhere to turn, crushed by life’s hardships?

Yes. Who hasn’t at one time or another? “Then read on,” God seemed to say. “Wake up and weep, you sinner. Sin has invaded your life.”

“Now wait a minute,” I argued. “I’ve repented of sin. You promised to forgive me. I am wearing Jesus’ righteousness. What sin are you talking about?”

As I continued to read I saw that sin has invaded God’s creation. At prayer meeting last night, someone prayed that God would shatter the teeth of Satan, and here in verse 6 God reenforces that idea by saying the enemy, sin, has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It is sin that has destroyed what God created as good. It is sin that brings the heartache and loss. Sometimes we experience the consequences for our own sin, but sometimes we are hurt as a result of living in a fallen, sinful world. It’s my sin, your sin, the sins of the world.

God seems to be saying, “Wake up! Call sin sin. Identify the enemy. Don’t pretend it isn’t there.”

“So,” I think, “Social reform isn’t the answer? Tolerance isn’t going to bring peace?”

“Exactly,” He seemed to say. “Sin has taken the joy of mankind.”

“So, what is the answer, Lord? Where do we find that joy again?”

I read words like mourn, grieve, despair, wail. And I ask myself if I am truly broken over sin in the world, and in my own life. Am I truly grieving the state of hearts that are dried up, withered, ruined because of sin?

Then in verse 13 God says, “Come.” He asks us to fast and pray, go to church and cry out to God. To turn to Him to come and heal our land, which is really the lives of people in our families, and communities, and the world.

“Heal our parched and worthless lives God, when we turn to You according to Your Word,” I pray. “To you, O Lord, I call, for sin has devoured our hearts, sin has burned up all the good You created. We, Your creation, pant for you. You alone are the answer.”

It’s not about luck, or Karma, or positive thinking, or tolerance. It’s sin that is the problem, and the repenting of sin that is the answer. It is sin that causes all the bad, and only through the blood of Jesus can there be any hope of anything good.

We have got to stop playing around with sin. It is the enemy. It is the cause of all the bad that happens in this world. And God, through Jesus, has destroyed sin’s hold over us. We just need to turn to Him according to His Word.

So today, God has brought some personal sins to mind, and I have repented. I want my heart to be fed and nourished by the living water that is Jesus. And God has challenged me to stand up for what I know is true according to His Word. I don’t want to take lightly the very thing that is destroying the people I love and the world God created.

It’s not God that is causing bad things to happen. It’s sin. It’s not God that is to blame for hardship and loss. It’s sin. My sin. And yours. What are we going to do about that?

 

August 1; When Is Enough Enough?

Jeremiah 7:1-8:3, 11:1-17, 15:10-21, 22:18-23

It bothers me when I hear God tell Jeremiah to quit praying for the Jews. I mean I get it. For hundreds of years God spoke to them, begged them, disciplined them, ignored them, and even blessed them in order to get them to obey Him. But even when they turned to Him for a time, they always went back to their stupid idols and living life the way they wanted to.

I mean, I get that God was done with them. But it bothers me.

In Bible study the other night our teacher pointed out that its’s not just that the Jews sinned, repented, and sinned again. It was that each time they went back to sin, their sins became a bit more vile, a bit more blatant and bold. The people were on a downward spiral, and God was done with them. After all, how low can a people go before God washes His hands of them?

Fast forward to 2019.

I received a prayer request recently from a church I used to attend, concerning a sister church in another state. I don’t know all the details, but the request was for a young youth pastor who, because he didn’t address a boy in his Sunday School class by the feminine name the boy had chosen for himself because he identified as female, is in serious trouble. The community is up in arms, picketing the church and causing a media frenzy.

Did I mention the child is Ten. Years. Old?

Christian, we need to pray for this man and his church, that they will stay strong, obedient to God and His Word during this time. It won’t be easy for them. Let’s pray for this situation, and for other churches facing, or who will face the same persecution – including your church.

Do you know who the Recabites were? They were a family who obeyed with unwavering loyalty. Their granddad had told them he didn’t want anyone in his family to ever drink wine, build houses, or plant vineyards. And this family obeyed. For generations!

God, in Jeremiah 22 said, if they can obey a grandfather like that, why can’t God’s people obey Him?

Really, why can’t we?

If you know me at all, you know I am not going to leave this study with a “we.” I don’t believe God is just talking about disobedient nations, families, or even churches. God wants me to hear Him say He expects obedience of me. And that isn’t a suggestion.

What makes me sad, and a bit fearful, is hearing God tell Jeremiah He can be done with the Jews, knowing He’s saying the same thing to me about me. My disobedience is not a little thing at all. And He wants me to know there may be a time when He’ll think enough is enough.

I may complain when I face consequences for sin. But as long as God is disciplining me I know He’s trying to get my attention. I may be uncomfortable when under conviction of the Holy Spirit, and wish God would leave me alone. But if I don’t feel conviction, that might mean God has washed His hands of me. And I really don’t want Him to leave me alone. Not really.

I want to remember that playing the repetitive Old Testament Jewish game of obedience, disobedience, repentance, is a downward spiral. With each act of sin I get further and further away from my Heavenly Father. I don’t ever want Him to think enough is enough.

Let me say I am not going to stop praying for myself, my loved ones, my church, my country, and the world because I still believe God is faithful and just to forgive every sin confessed. I’m going to pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to do His work in my heart, and yours, and will place a heavy hand of conviction on each of us. I will continue to pray that God’s people will obey Him with all our hearts.

And I’ll keep praying until the day I meet Him face to face.

July 20; Wake up! I Mean It!

Isaiah 51-55

I will confess I am not usually a morning person. I’m better now than I was as an adolescent, but I still stay in bed until the very last minute every chance I get. My parents had the challenge of getting five girls up and ready to catch the bus every morning during the school year. I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that was not fun.

Our dad finally had had enough. “Time to get up, girls.” “Get up, girls.” “You’ll be late for school, girls.” “Get out of that bed RIGHT NOW.” And we would turn over and go right back to sleep.

So one day we heard, “Either get out of that bed right now, or I am going to pour water on your head.” And I turned a deaf ear, rolled over and went back to sleep. I’m pretty sure I was in a deep sleep the first time I got drenched with cold water. Let’s just say I got out of bed.

And, after that when Dad told us it was time to get up, all he had to do was turn the faucet on in the kitchen, and our feet hit the floor! “I’m up!” We learned that when he said, “Wake up,” he meant it.

I remembered that today as I read God saying, “Awake! Awake!” in Isaiah 51:9, then again in verse 17, and a third time in 52:1. It sounded rather urgent, so I decided to look at what else God was demanding of His children (just in case He had a glass full of water at the ready).

The first thing was, “Listen to me,” (51:1 and 4). Like a mom who takes her child’s face in her hands and is face to face with that little one. “Listen to me,” God says. “What I have to say is important.”

Then He says in 51:7, “Hear me.” And both here and in the verses above God is telling us His righteousness is unchanging, His salvation is forever. Just listening to the words is not enough. God wants us to take it in, to understand it, to pay attention.

When He tells us to “Awake,” He also tells us to get dressed. Clothe ourselves with strength. And in verse 2 of chapter 52 He tells us to free ourselves from the chains on our necks. Wake up… and get moving.

52:7 says we are to “Depart, depart, go out from there!” There is an urgency here for us to leave sin behind, to come out from among it and be pure.

In 54:1 He says, “Sing.” Burst into song, shout for joy. And in verse 4 He tells us, “Do not be afraid.” God is true to His Word. That is reason to rejoice, and put aside any fear.

I love that, in 55:1 God bids us to “Come.” Think about it. The Creator God wants you and me with Him so that He can bless us.

And lastly, He invites us to “Seek the Lord” (verse 6). Call on Him. Turn to Him and He will have mercy on us.

Friend, that is the Gospel in a nutshell. God has given us His Word. He has repeated the Truth over and over, given example after example, and tells us to pay attention. Listen! Hear!

Wake up! It’s time. It’s time to repent, to depart from Satan, to come out from the presence of sin and be separate. Because when we do, He gives us reason to sing. Our sins are forgiven, our hearts are clean.

And we need not fear. God is greater, more powerful, more loving than we can imagine. And He WANTS us to come to Him. He gives food for the hungry and water for the thirsty. We have reason for joy.

Then, as a sinner saved by grace, we can continually seek Him, read His word, pray, grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus, and be blessed.

In the middle of these chapters is the beautiful description of Jesus. (chapter 53) Jesus, the center of God’s plan to adopt each of us into His family. Jesus is the Gospel, the good news!

Listen. Hear. Awake. Depart. Sing. Fear not. Come. Seek.

I pray you are awake. God means it.