Tag Archives: repentance

(Psalms 49-52) Going Through The Motions

The psalms are full of reminders that God isn’t interested in our “just going through the motions” kind of worship. He often asks the Jews, who were given the sacrificial system by God Himself, if they thought He actually needed those animals. He owns ALL the animals in the world, so why would they think He placed some special value on one of His own animals burning on an altar? The sacrificial system was never about the animal, except as a picture of Jesus. That sacrificed animal was about sin, about the sinner’s heart condition before Holy God.

Warren Wiersbe in his “Be Worshipful” commentary on the psalms said this in reference to 50:14-15):

“What the Lord wanted from His people was thanksgiving from their hearts, obedience to His Word, prayer, and a desire to honor Him in everything. But the Lord doesn’t want ritualism or formalism. He wants our worship to come from the heart.” (David C Cook publisher; 2009; page 182)

I can hear all the contemporary worship proponents shouting WOOHOO! Told ya!

But haven’t we simply replaced tradition with a new tradition? We may have stopped worshiping with hymnals in front of us, but now we worship with screens in front of us. Where hands and heads used to be bowed in worship, we’ve replaced that with hands and heads lifted.

We’re told to smile, look joyful, move our bodies, be free (but they usually don’t mean you are free to worship with your head bowed and hands folded). We are no less concerned about ritualism, we have just changed how ritualism looks.

I believe that is no less offering God a “going through the motions” kind of worship than before. And I believe that is still worship that God rejects.

“Surely you desire integrity in the inner self…purify me…wash me…turn your face away from my sin…create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me...”(51:6-10)

“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit…” (vs 17)

Stop focusing on how people look when they worship. Stop organizing worship around what people like. We have got to focus on worshiping God with clean hearts, not upraised hands. We need to worship God in purity and not worry about whether people are clapping their hands or not.

You can have a rocking worship service, and still just be going through the motions.

The worship God accepts is only that which comes from people who have dealt with their sin problem first, who approach God in His holiness through the blood of Jesus. Clean hearts. Purified. Washed.

Anything else is ritual and formalism and simply going through the motions.

(Nehemiah 4-8) The Joy Of The Lord

As I read about the worship service in the square in front of one of the gates in the newly repaired wall around Jerusalem, a couple of things occurred to me.

One is that worship was expressed in two ways – with the raising of hands, as well as the kneeling of people with their faces to the ground. I believe there is a place for both in our worship of God still today.

The other thing that spoke to me is how the people reacted when Ezra read Scripture, and when God’s Word was explained. When they understood what was read, they grieved. Their reaction to the Truth was an honest look at their failure to obey it. And it broke them.

Ezra and Nehemiah encouraged the people with, “Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (8:10b)

It wasn’t that their grief was wrong. But there is a time to recognize sin and repent of it, and there is a time to get up off our knees and allow God to strengthen us to worship and serve Him with joy.

Just being sorry for our sins isn’t enough What you do with that grief is just as important.

When you are faced with your own sin, I pray it breaks your heart; that you realize what your sin does to our precious Father; that you fall on your knees and ask Him to forgive you. Just don’t stay there in your sorrow.

Accept what Jesus offers – complete forgiveness – then get up and allow His joy to fill and strengthen you. Worship Him with gladness. Serve Him, obey Him, submit to Him with joy.

Because the joy of the Lord is YOUR strength.

(I Samuel 8-12) Gotta Let It Go

God had made Saul King of Israel. Yet when we next see Saul he’s out plowing his field like any other day. Wouldn’t you think God would want him doing king-stuff? It seems Saul was caught between his old comfortable life, and the unknown life for which God had anointed him.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of our past. Most of us liked it there. It was familiar, predictable, perhaps exciting. It was “us.” But when we meet God and accept His will for our lives, He asks us to turn, to leave behind the old and put on the new.

It can be uncomfortable and scary. But if we are to be the people God wants us to be, we’ve got to let go of the people we were. Sometimes it means leaving home in a physical way, leaving former friendships, overcoming old habits.

Saul could not be king hanging onto a plow. We can’t be the people God wants us to be hanging onto our pasts, either. We’ve got to let it go, leave it behind, and step toward the blessings of life according to God.

(Judges 14-16) Struggles With Sin

Samson led a violent, self-centered life. Even though he had been a Nazarite from birth, his actions were far from godly. Yet God blessed this man with superhuman strength. God used Samson to punish the Philistines for their rejection of Him. Samson ended up dying with the enemy.

So, where is he today? Heaven or hell? I wonder the same thing about Ravi. Can a person who does great things in the name of God, yet live an overtly sinful life, hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when they face a Holy God? Or do they hear God say, “I never knew you?”

I ask myself the same question about all of us who profess Jesus as our Savior, yet struggle with sin. Does one unconfessed sin get a free pass when we face our Judge? What about two sins not confessed? Ten? What is the limit if we die before confessing every evil thought, every vulgar word, every act of disobedience?

I think of Paul, who admittedly struggled with sin (Romans 7), yet was mightily used by God and continues to be used by God 2,000 years later. Paul called himself the worst of sinners, a wretched man, and confessed that he had to “die daily” to self. Paul was not one and done in his walk with the Lord. He committed himself to the Lord every day.

We can’t NOT be human. Humans have a sin nature. So there will always be a struggle between the spirit and the flesh. Scripture goes so far as to tell us if we think we don’t sin, we make God out to be a liar. (I John 1:10).

The struggle is real. But so is the victory over sin. Paul talks a lot about our focus, our goal. If we fix our eyes on Jesus, if we draw near to God, if we flee temptation, “God has delivered us and will continue to deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:10) The closer I am to God, the faster I am convicted about sin, and the quicker I am to repent of it. It is a daily struggle, sometimes a minute to minute struggle. But, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:25).

I guess I’m understanding that if a person can live in sin, can hold on to a sin and refuse to repent of it, I have to question their relationship with God. A Holy God cannot have communion with unholiness. A person comfortable with sin cannot have a real relationship with God, neither in this life nor the next.

So, the answer to my question about how many sins get a free pass, the answer is zero. But because I in myself am incapable of living a sin-free life, I need to look to Jesus. I need to check my relationship with Him every day, confess any sin immediately, and put on His righteousness since I have none of my own. I cannot be comfortable entertaining sin in my life and expect to have a right relationship with my Holy God. It can’t happen.

I don’t know what Samson, or Ravi, or anyone else said to God before they died. I believe if they confessed their sin, God was faithful and just to forgive them, to cleanse them, and to ultimately welcome them into His Presence forever. If they died holding onto their sin, I believe they will have taken those sins with them into hell.

I pray that as you and I struggle with sin today, we will look to Jesus for the victory, that we will confess quickly and sincerely repent so that sin is not repeated. I pray that none of us will become comfortable in any sin, whether in thought or word or deed. And I pray that those around us will recognize the righteousness of Jesus we wear, humbly, thankfully, boldly.

Does Hell Exist? (Luke 12-13)

I don’t believe Jesus ever wasted a word. I think everything he said was carefully chosen because He knew His time on earth was short, and He had a lot to say. So, when Jesus spoke about hell, I am pretty sure he was serious.

But I will show you whom you should fear; Fear him who, after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5)

What does “throw you into hell” mean except “throw you into hell.” Yes, I know Jesus often spoke in parables. This was not one of them.

People who want to believe no such place exists would be wrong to believe that. No, it’s not some underground cave with a hot furnace burning, people chained to a wall and suffering from scorched skin. Hell is much worse than that.

Jesus in verse 13:28 tells us:

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Hell is not only the absence of God, it is the presence of agony, regret, hopelessness, aloneness, a burning desire that will never be met, despair, darkness more complete than you have ever known.

Think of the worst day of your life. What were you feeling? How badly did your heart hurt? How consuming was your grief? How heavy was your burden? How long did you weep uncontrollably before you were able to dry your eyes?

If you had to live that day over again every day for eternity, that would be bad enough. Add the absence of God to that. Add the realization that things will never get better, you will never get through this, that there is no light at the end of any tunnel, that you will never be able to stop weeping from the depths of your soul. Add to that the realization that God had revealed Himself to you over and over in this lifetime, that He died for you, that He created you to be with Him instead of in hell, but you rejected Him. You rejected Him, not the other way around. Add to your agony the fact that you did this to yourself, you chose this, and now it’s too late. There is no way out. Ever.

Hell is real. You might not like that idea. But Jesus said there is a place where people who reject God are thrown. If I were you I’d take His advice: fear the One who has the power to condemn you to an eternity in that very real, very awful place Jesus called hell. Fear Him, and accept this grace and mercy while you have the ability to choose. As real as hell is, Jesus went to the cross so no one has to go there. But you must choose the narrow door (13:22-28).

For those of you who understand this truth and have accepted God’s forgiveness, you are assured that your eternity will be the feast Jesus talks about in this passage. As awful as hell is, heaven will be the total opposite. But don’t be satisfied with the fact that you are home free because you are a Christian. Look around. There are people headed straight to hell. What are you doing about that?

Because hell is real.

Choose Me (Ezekiel 42-43)

He was so willing. God would have forgiven Israel for every evil thing they ever did or even thought. “Here I am,” He said. “Here is my throne and a place for the soles of my feet. I’m not going anywhere.” They just needed to turn from their sin, put away their idols, and He would live among them forever.

Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple… its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. (43:10b-11)

He was so willing. But they couldn’t do it. And neither can we.

Sometimes connecting with God’s heart breaks mine. This morning as I read these chapters I could hear His longing, and could almost feel His pain. “Choose me!” He pleads.

He’s done all the work. That altar and its regulations were fulfilled perfectly when God sacrificed Himself on the cross. “Just choose me,” He cries.

I pray that you have, at some point in your life, chosen God, that you have repented from sin, turned from your idols, and turned to the Savior. But I hope that isn’t the only time you’ve dealt with sin in your life.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin. He tells us He made a conscious decision to “die” every day, to put aside self and sin, and choose God. Every. Day. “To live is Christ,” he said.

Choosing God isn’t easy, and it’s not always fun. Choosing God comes with sacrifice, hardship, selflessness. Choosing God means getting out of our comfort zones, going to battle, loving people who don’t agree with us, and praying for them. Choosing God goes against everything we’ve come to believe is true; that we should be wealthy and healthy, that we deserve to be happy, that as “children of the king” we should live the high life.

Scripture tells us that Jesus knew the world would hate us for choosing Him, because they hated Him first.

But choosing God is the most amazingly wonderful choice you will ever make. Choosing God is choosing something better than anything this world offers. Better than money, or fame, or a home on Easy Street. Choosing God is choosing love and forgiveness, help and encouragement, purpose and fellowship, and eternity more wonderful than any of us can imagine.

“Choose me,” God is saying to you. “Choose me today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Choose me this hour, this minute. Choose me and I promise I will never leave you, I’ll plant the soles of my feet in your heart and bless you with Myself.”

I choose God today. I’m praying you’ll do the same.

God Is Revealed (Ezekiel 38-39)

God’s punishment for sin will always be evident in this world, because there will always be sin in the world until He comes again. Natural disasters will happen. Evil men will do evil things. There will be disease, and war, and heartache and suffering. There will continue to be times when God removes His protection, and even His children will suffer because of their sin.

But!

There will always, ALWAYS, be times of grace, of mercy, of victory when people humble themselves and repent of sin. God will always, ALWAYS bless those who obey Him.

Why? So that the world and everyone in it will recognize that God is Holy. God is Sovereign, God is who He says He IS and there is no other. This world is about God.

As I read His Word I understand that Truth. And here is the best part of that. God wants a relationship with me! God wants to protect and bless me as though I was His only child. Like a loving Father, He will discipline my rebellion, correct my self-centeredness, punish my disobedience. And like a loving Father, He will always, ALWAYS forgive me when I come to Him, humble myself, and repent.

May God be seen in me through every circumstance of life. May people recognize the Holy, Just, Fierce, and Forgiving God He is by watching Him work in my life. May I be a living example of His grace because:

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Everything that happens, the good and the bad, happen to point people to Jesus, to reveal God in all His holiness and goodness so that they will come to Him for forgiveness, and enjoy a relationship with the Sovereign, Holy God He is. I love to think that I may have a part in His plan, to reveal this wonderful God to a world that needs Him!

Is God the Enemy? (Lamentations 1:1-3:36)

What had been beautiful and blessed now stood in ruins. The people who had been protected by God were now in captivity. Those who had been respected were suddenly targets of scorn. How did things get so bad for the Old Testament Israelites? Listen to what the writer of Lamentations says:

The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading. (2:14)

In other words, the people had exchanged the Truth for a theology that didn’t require them to repent of sin. And they liked it.

But the consequences for disobedience were without mercy. In fact, the writer says this sad statement: “The Lord is like an enemy…” (2:5) Then he goes on to say things like God had laid waste His dwelling, destroyed His place of meeting, rejected His altar and abandoned His sanctuary. God had withdrawn from Israel.

It’s a sobering thought to think God is like an enemy when He is punishing sin. This patient, loving God who pursues each of us, woos us, throws out one sign after another to reveal Himself as the One True God, has a limit to His mercy. And His final judgment without mercy is worse than any of us can imagine.

The thing is, God wrote down all His requirements so that there would be no question about what is expected of us. Then He spelled out what His anger and judgment looks like so no one could say they didn’t know. But He also tells us in His Word that He Himself provided the way for us sinful people to go to Him, receive His mercy and forgiveness, and live not as an enemy, but as a beloved child now and forever.

If God is the enemy it is only because we have embraced our own “truth,” refused to deal with sin according to Scripture. We’ve listened to false prophets who tell us a relationship with God means health and wealth, that worship of God should be an experience, that Jesus isn’t God, that there are many ways to approach God, that a loving God doesn’t send anyone to hell.

And if God is the enemy, we are in serious trouble, my friend.

A Godly Leader (2 Kings 22-23, 2 Chronicles 34-35

A godly leader can turn things around. King Josiah was not afraid to stand up and read Scripture to the people. He didn’t send a priest to do it. He did it himself, and the hearts of the people were moved.

Josiah had been confronted with the truth of Scripture, and it broke him. He humbled himself before God, then went on to live the life of a man dedicated to God. But he wasn’t satisfied with a personal experience. He wanted his whole country in on the blessing. So he read them the same Scripture that had spoken to him. Lives were changed.

Oh, for a godly leader in America. I think we have a president who isn’t afraid to stand up to the masses. He says and does what he believes whether or not it is popular with any of us. But wouldn’t it be amazing if President Trump got up and read Scripture at his next press conference? What if his tweets were Bible verses? What if he started standing for right and Truth, and didn’t get into word wars with game players?

Never happen, you might say. But are you praying it will? God’s arm is not too short, nor is He too weak to break the heart of Donald Trump, to do a work in our president’s heart that would turn him into a godly leader.

Are you praying that Donald Trump will accept what Jesus died to give him, then follow the Lord in a pubic, zealous way like King Josiah did? I don’t care if you are a Republican or Democrat. Are you a Christian? Then you should be praying for our president. Remember, God is not going to answer a prayer not prayed, and if we want our country to turn around, we’d better be praying for a godly leader.

 

Convicted (Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122)

These psalms have a lot to say about the forgiveness of sin. David said that when he lived with his sin, God’s hand was heavy on him. He had no strength, he groaned all day. David’s experience (and my own) tells me that the force of God’s conviction affects every part of our lives.

But when David confessed his sin, God forgave him and surrounded him with songs of deliverance. Instead of feeling the guilt and shame of his sin, David could confidently say this:

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (32:1-2)

David knew that when he confessed his sin, his whole life was changed:

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. (51:7)

And, instead of  being weighed down by guilt, David could pray:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation. (51:12a)

David’s groaning turned to real joy when He asked and received God’s forgiveness. He knew God wasn’t interested in religion, or in David’s animal sacrifices any more than God is interested in our good deeds:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (51:16-17, emphasis mine)

This God who lays a heavy hand of conviction on us who sin, doesn’t make us miserable because He is mean or vengeful. Listen to David describe God:

You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (86:5)

David could say those things with confidence about God, even when the guilt of his sin caused him sleepless nights and agony. David knew…

In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. (86:7)

Are you being convicted by a sin you’ve not confessed? I would urge you to bow your head right now, and ask God to forgive you. Turn from that sin and toward our God who is abounding in love to those who call on Him. He will answer your prayer. Then, with David, you will be able to say:

For great is your love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave. (86:13)

Amen!