On Repentance

yellow stripes road Repent. It is just one word, often spoken in scripture as a command, but it has great power, if obeyed, to change the course of history. An overstatement? I don’t think so.

Imagine if dictatorial world leaders were to kneel before God and repent. Imagine if corrupt politicians in Democratic Republics across the globe were to humble themselves at once and repent. Imagine if every criminal, every liar, every adulterer, every thief, every drunkard, and every addict in every city and every home in the world were to obey this one word, humble themselves before God, submit to His will and repent.

What a change! What a revival of righteousness our world would enjoy. 106 occurrences of the word repent or repentance in the Bible and each one is commanding us to change our mind and turn from sin.

It’s a word we’ve forgotten and have fallen out of habit in proclaiming. We need to repent.

I want to give you 5 reasons for repentance:

1) The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand

Matthew 3:1-2 says, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is one of the most often repeated reasons in scripture that we’re encouraged to repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It’s here, working, and available to you! Something greater than anything on this Earth is accessible to you if you’ll repent of your sin, change your mind about God, and turn from your will to His will.

2) That your sins would be blotted out

Acts 3:19 says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…”

This forces us to face a few uncomfortable truths. We all have sin in our life that needs to be addressed and God is the judge who will one day address them.

You are a sinner and you need a savior. I am a sinner and I need a savior. If our sins aren’t dealt with and blotted out, they will be held against us when we are judged by God. The wages we earn from our sins will be death but the gift God gives us is eternal life. The only way to access that freedom from sin and it’s wages is through repentance!

3) God Loves You

Revelation 3:19 says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

Repent because God loves you. The conviction that we feel when sin is addressed is a sign that His Spirit is drawing you to repentance. When clearly understood, and powerfully felt, His love is a strong motivation for repentance.

Luke 15:10 says, “…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Heaven celebrates when we repent!

How could I continue to reject the self sacrificial and supernatural love that God has shown to me? You and I should repent of our sin, not only because God is our judge, but also because He is our advocate, our substitute, and our savior. We should repent because He loves us.

4) Because we should

Mark 6:12 says,”And they went out, and preached that men should repent.”

When Jesus sent His disciples out two by two to preach in the cities they went everywhere preaching that men should repent. Let’s face it, we need to change. That was the disciples sermon and it is still our sermon today.

We should repent. We should change our minds about God. We should completely turn from our sin. Our hearts are nasty and given to selfishness and evil. God is great, and worthy of our full devotion. Put simply, we should repent because we’re wrong and He’s right!

We need a change of mind. We need a change of heart. The way of the world just doesn’t work. It has consistently proven itself incapable of sufficiently dealing with the questions that consistently plague the soul of mankind. The disciples were right, men should repent.

5) To turn away God’s wrath

Luke 13:5, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

Romans 2:5-6, “But because of your hardness and [unrepentant] heart, you are storing up treasures of wrath against yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God will be revealed, and He “will render to every man according to his deeds.”

God is love but He is also a judge. He will justly and fairly judge all those who continue practicing sin without repentance. That judgment will include exclusion from Heaven and the eternal death of the soul. We must repent in order to turn away from us the wrath of God.

On the day of Pentecost, when the listening crowd asked Peter what they should do in response to the message he had just preached to them about Jesus and His substitutionary death on the cross, Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38).

If you want to be filled with the Spirit, if you know God loves you, if you want to turn away the wrath of God, if you want your sins to be blotted out, and you want to walk in the blessings and promises of the Kingdom of God then you need to repent!

Advertisements

Into The Light

IMG_4698

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (‭1 John‬ ‭1‬:‭7‬ KJV)

When my daughter was younger she often wanted to play hide and go seek. The only problem was, she played it backwards. She would put a blanket over her head and declare, “you can’t see me!”

She assumed that because she couldn’t see us we couldn’t see her.

I fear that sometimes we play hide and seek with God. We ignore His voice, disregard His laws, hide from His face, put a blanket over our heads and convince ourselves that because we can’t see Him means He can’t see us. But He can.

Hebrews 4:13 (MEV) tells us that “There is no creature that is not revealed in His sight, for all things are bare and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

No one and no thing is hidden from God. No matter how long you refuse to look at Him He is still able to see you.

We often hide from God because we either don’t want to submit to His Word or, like Adam and Eve did, because we’re ashamed of our sin. Adam and Eve created aprons of leaves to cover themselves but it was insufficient in God’s eyes. There’s nothing we can do to right ourselves in God’s eyes. The only way is to answer God’s call to step into the light and be honest before Him.

The promise of 1John 1:7 is that if we walk in the light, in honesty, confession, and integrity, we’ll not only enjoy fellowship with other believers but the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse us from all sin.

The Ark

Dorothy Church near Drumheller, AlbertaIt does not require advanced observational skills to know that our world is corrupt. The Psalmist tells us that the Lord “daily loads us with benefits” (Psa. 68:19). In that same prose the newspaper daily loads us with woes.

We are inundated by our media with the horrors of power in the hands of corrupt politicians, of passions and diversions that end in disaster, the corruption of love and intimacy and the devaluing of person-hood in the aged and unborn. Some of these realities, like the atrocities of convicted Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, are too disturbing to even approach.

Our world is fundamentally flawed. It seems no sooner does one evil dictator die that another takes his place. Scandal is followed by fallout and reaction which is often followed by even more scandal.

If the disease of the human condition wasn’t enough we also have to face the awful disasters that nature brings. So far, just in 2013, there has been devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma, a Nor’easter dump almost 23 inches of snow and ice on New England, dozens of earthquakes, wildfires in Colorado, flooding in Central Europe, and a meteor hit Chelyabinsk in Russia. Even the Earth, with its thorns and thistles, has been corrupted by the curse of sin (Gen. 3:17-18). The scriptures are true when they say that the Earth groans and waits for its redemption (Romans 8:18-23).

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if we could find a place of solace in ourselves but the awful truth is we are complicit as well. It’s one thing to shake our head at the demise of culture and the reckless, selfish behavior of others. It’s another thing altogether to look inside and realize the same decay is alive in me.

Many Christian movements have a tendency to hide in response to our culture. They insulate, hunker down and attempt to ignore the world and the culture around them in order to protect it’s decay from effecting all that they value. As a husband, parent and Pastor it is easy to understand the desire to run, hide and seclude everything and everyone you value. However, that is not always possible, nor is it necessarily a believer’s best or only response to the disease of our culture.

The Israelites, slaves in Egypt, were under the threat of Pharaoh. Fearing the swelling number of Israelites he ordered the midwives to kill all the boys born to the Hebrew mothers (Exodus 1-2). Fearing God, scriptures say, that the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh and let the baby boys live. Seeing that the midwives wouldn’t obey, “Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (Exodus 1:22 ESV)

So it came as a surprise to me when I read the next 3 verses. Jochebed, Moses mother, after hiding him for three months in their house, could hide him no longer. So she made a little ark and she put him in the river.

The river. The thing that was drowning all the others babies. The river was her problem. Why would she put him in the river?

The unfortunate reality is there is no avoiding the river. I would love to fully encase my children in bubble wrap, hide them in our house and shelter them from all the evil and pain in the world. I would very much enjoy the ability to prevent the families in our church from having to deal with divorce, death and disaster. But I can’t. I cannot keep them from the river. Everyone faces the river.

Thankfully, I am not totally powerless. I may not be able to keep them from the river but just like Jochebed I can put them in something that can keep them from the rivers effect. When it came time for Moses to face the river, Jochebed put Moses in an ark. So while others were drowning in the river Moses was drawn out of the river. Even his name, which means “drawn out”, testifies to the preserving power of the ark.

It was an ark that preserved Noah’s family during the great flood. It was an ark that preserved Moses in the river. It is still an ark that preserves the righteous today. You and I can place our families, friends and loved ones in the church! The church of Jesus Christ is an ark of safety (Heb. 11:7) that, though we cannot avoid the river, we can be preserved from the rivers effect.

The local church is the hope of the world. It preserves and declares and protects. It exists for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His followers.

Thank God for the church!

Born This Way

churchcemeteryIt seems as if the only thing the mainstream media and non-Christians know about Christianity is that we believe homosexuality is sin. It seems to be the first question always asked by an interviewer who has a moment with an Evangelical Pastor.

Pastor Rick Warren was interviewed on CNN recently by Piers Morgan and then again by a reporter from the Huffington Post concerning his new book and specifically his views on homosexuality. You can see the video here or scroll below.

 

 

The interviewer brings up a commonly asked question in regards to this issue. Why would God make someone with a desire that He would then call sin? The question posits a couple interesting theories. First, that God is the source of all of our desires and passions and second that possessing a desire alone is indicative of its legitimacy. The problem is, both conclusions are wrong.

An understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ instructs us in this regard. We are born into a fallen world with an active sin nature. It is natural to the hearts of all men and women to sin, that is, to violate the will, law and nature of God. Secondly, simply having a desire or passion speaks nothing to its legitimacy.

All sex outside of marriage is sin, whether its hetero or homo, and marriage can only be Biblically defined as between one man and one woman. The canard that, “Why would God create me with a passion He doesn’t want me to fulfill” is ludicrous. The fact that one has a desire they’re driven to gratify is immaterial to its acceptability.

Some men are born with inclinations to steal, lie, commit adultery, and all other sorts of evil. Why would God create them, driven to rape or cheat on our spouse let’s say, if He didn’t intend for them to fulfill it?

The Gospel tells us!

They’re right. We were all born this way. Born to sin, to lie, to steal, to pervert nature, to be unfaithful and to hate. We were born with a nature that would oppress and abuse if given the chance. Our natural inclinations and desires are inherently sinful and challenge God’s laws. We all, heterosexual & homosexual, need to be born again to get a new set of passions and desires, be filled with the Spirit and to align our natural passions with the Word of God.

Lady Gaga can sing, “I was born this way” all day long but it does not legitimate or excuse the presence of sin. We need to repent. We need to be born again. We need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Egypt, Guns and Sin

church doorsThis past week has been a depressing week to read the news. It’s been full of tragedy and heart break and has given us many reasons to mourn the condition, not only of society, but of the hearts of men.

First there is the clash of ideology, religion and violence in Egypt. One of the more troubling aspects coming out of Tahrir Square is the unmitigated assault on women. A select few news outlets have been reporting on the rape and abuse of women that is going unchecked in the wake of the violence surrounding the Egyptian protests and demonstrations in Tahrir Square. According to an NBC news article sex mobs have been targeting Egypts women and they have no fear of being caught or punished.

And then there is the Kansas City Chiefs tragedy. A linebacker for the Chiefs, Jovan Belcher, shot his girlfriend, and mother of their daughter, then drove to the Chiefs facility, spoke with his head coach, and then shot and killed himself. One news article stated that he kissed his daughter goodbye before he left their home to commit suicide.

Horrible, horrible displays of evil, selfishness and sin. They make us want to revolt against these actions and demand things like this never happen again. It’s what caused Bob Costas and Piers Morgan to make statements calling for severe gun control laws. We want to do something to ensure things like this never happen again. Bob Costas stated here, “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Bob Costas showed a lack of insight as to the real source of the tragedy. The cause was not guns but sin in the heart of a man. The gun was simply the tool he used to express the sin that was there. Many have believed through the years that if we can control tools we can control sin. It is simply not true. No amount of restrictions and laws can change the heart of man. If he wants to do something, he will find a way to do it. If not a gun then a knife, or a rope, or a car, or his own hands.

In Colossians 2:20-23 Paul asserts that strict laws and severe restrictions to “taste not, touch not, handle not” have no power to actually prevent sin because “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (vs. 23). In short, if it’s in a person’s heart to sin no amount of law and restrictions will prevent it. To get power over the compelling nature of sin you must change the heart.

Jovan Belcher, and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, didn’t need Bob Costas, Piers Morgan or Barack Obama to take the gun out of his hand to be alive today. He needed Jesus to take sin out of his heart.

Law itself has never been sufficient as a crime deterrent or a sin deterrent. Law abiding people don’t need laws. They possess a moral compass that inclines them to follow laws. Laws are for criminals who break laws anyway! I am not advocating for the abandonment of all laws. That would be anarchy. What I am saying is that laws have never stopped a crime or a sin from occurring. Despite the popularity of the TV program we do not have a system of law and order but one of crime and punishment.

As Author Dan Delzell said,

The Law leads a person to Christ by showing him that he is a lawbreaker. It’s similar to when a doctor shows a patient test results which point to a terminal illness. The Law brings us face to face with our sin….and the awful sickness in our soul….and we see just how far we fall short of God’s requirements. Without that insight from the Law, man is left feeling pretty good about where he stands with God. Man generally feels fairly satisfied about himself and his level of morality. Why shouldn’t he? It is in man’s nature to assume that he is righteous enough to gain God’s approval.
The truth is that we are all guilty, and exceedingly so. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The Law proves it. Before the Law leads a man to Christ, he tends to be deceived about his true spiritual condition. The Law cannot save his soul….it can only reveal his soul’s condition without Christ. So what is the solution to man’s problem? Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

If you really want to change society, and rid our cities of crime and sin, you need to change the inclinations in the hearts of men and women. The only way to do that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pride & Humility

The subject of pride and humility is one we cannot exhaust enough. It is the basic failure and success in the human heart. Pride is the source behind all sin. We either believe we know better than God or He doesn’t matter. That’s pride. The exalting of self above God or of having an inordinately high opinion of one’s own self worth or achievements. The message pride sends is that you’re not just fine, you’re great operating under your own auspices. The Gospel of Jesus Christ says that we are sinners and without Him we could not be saved.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle recently posted a blog entry about pride and humility that I wanted to share. It is a quick and insightful article that will give you some things to remember and think about.

You can read it here at his site or scroll below.

7 things you should know about pride and humility

The worst decisions in my life, the times my anger has gotten the best of me, and the instances of my greatest regret were all the result of my pride. Pride never helped anything. Pride never improved anything.

I’m not qualified to write about humility, but you’re not either. Therefore, as the chief hypocrite, I’ll take the liberty. Here are seven things about pride and humility that I’ve learned, mostly the hard way.

1. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble

The most haunting verse in Scripture is found in both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” If we insist on our way, our best, our fame, our glory, our best interest, the living God of the universe will work against us in direct opposition. Our pride puts us in this dreadful position.

2. Humility means knowing your place

Some of the earliest instances of the word “humble” refer to the position a person occupies. The Apostle Paul writes, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Rom. 12:3). Do you crave glory, recognition, reward, or attention that is beyond your present station?

3. Everyone is proud, just in different ways

You’re proud. They’re proud. I’m proud. But we’re all proud in different ways. It’s easy to point out pride in others while remaining oblivious to our own blind spots. Some of us think we deserve more money. Some of us think we deserve more respect. Some of us think we deserve more comfort. Before we judge and condemn other people for their pride, we need to ask, “How am I blind to my own?”

4. Humility is a direction, not a destination

None of us can say, “I used to be proud. Glad that’s over!” That would be proud. In his book Humility , C. J. Mahaney describes himself as “a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God.” The same could be said for all of us. As Christians, we venture in the direction of humility, by the grace of God. The question is not, “Have you arrived?” but rather, “Are you even trying?”

5. Pride is about my glory, humility is about God’s glory

Once the question of glory is settled, everything is settled. Resolve to give God the glory, and you’ll know the answer to the vast majority of the decisions in your life.

If you’re fighting with your spouse, what should you do? Whatever brings God the most glory. If you’re disobeying your parents, what should you do? Whatever brings God the most glory. If you’re disagreeing with leadership, how should you conduct yourself? In a manner that brings God the most glory. If you have aspirations, what should you pursue? Whatever brings God the most glory.

What you do, why you do it, how you do it, when you do it—humility considers every decision by asking, “Who gets the glory?”

6. Pride bends inward, but humility turns out to God and others

Martin Luther described sin as the self bending in on the self. Pride makes it all about “me.” That’s why at Mars Hill we love to say, “It’s all about Jesus.” Humility turns our affections and energies toward God’s glory and others’ good. We start to ask how we can help. We start thinking about ways we could serve or bless other people. We start to forget our own needs. Pride leads us to focus on ourselves. Humility leads us back out to God and others.

7. Pride births death, humility births life

Augustine, the great church father, likened pride to a mother who is pregnant with all other sins. In pride, Satan rebelled against God because he desired to be God. In pride, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they wanted to be like God. In pride, we reject God’s wisdom, will, and Word because we think we know better. All sin comes out of pride—and all virtue, all holiness, and all glory to God are birthed out of humility. Is your heart pregnant with pride, or is it pregnant with humility?

The bad news: we will lose the battle of pride vs. humility every day. The good news: we have perfect humility in Jesus. Unlike Satan, unlike Adam and Eve, and unlike us,

[Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6–11

Jesus was humble, and God glorifies him as a result. Likewise, if we repent of our pride and pursue humility in Jesus instead, by God’s grace we will be glorified with him as well. We war against our pride not by focusing on our humility—which is just another way of focusing on ourselves)—but rather, the humility of Jesus Christ.

My Brother’s Keeper

To have an understanding of who I am you need to know one thing. I have a big brother. Every individual with a big brother can testify to the truth of the proverb, “A friend loveth at all times but a brother is born for adversity.” (Pro. 17:17).

My big brother (who considered my time asleep as a personal challenge) was the reason I woke one morning with dried toothpaste clogging my ears. My big brother was the reason I woke with my mother’s “intimate apparel” on my head. Once, on a weekend road trip, my brother extracted some “items” from his nostrils and re-deposited his findings on me as I slept. My only hope of surviving my big brother’s creativity was sleep deprivation.

When I was around eleven years old I thought my big brother and his friends were the epitome of cool. One evening, as they were going out, I begged my big brother to let me go with them. He agreed on one condition. I had to ride in the trunk.

So I did. Over every railroad track and pothole they could find, I rode in the trunk.

The relationship, defined by adversity, which exists between brothers began at the beginning with Cain and Abel. The first recorded words God spoke to men after the fall were to Cain concerning his brother (Genesis 4:6-9). The first disagreement over styles and methods of worship were between brothers. The first death was Abel’s, at the hand of his brother.

I find it interesting that God would ask Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain’s response was, “How should I know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Cain obviously felt that Abel was not his problem. God thought different.

God asked of Cain his brother’s whereabouts and expected of him an answer. Furthermore, when Abel’s blood cried out from the ground, it was not Adam or Eve that God inquired of the tragedy. It was Cain that God expected to be accountable for the blood of his brother.

Could the truth of the matter be that I am my brother’s keeper?

Not in the sense that I am responsible for the decisions he makes but that God sees us as a body, a family, a community that leans on and lifts up one another. In a very real way I am my brother’s keeper.

Scripture instructs us to love (Rom.13:8), serve (Gal.5:13), honor (Rom.12:10), edify (Rom.14:19), bless (Gal.6:10), pray for (James5:16), prefer (Rom.12:10), encourage (1Thess.5:11), accept (Rom.15:7), greet (Rom.16:16), agree (1Cor.1:10), forgive (Eph.4:32), submit (Eph.5:21), admonish & encourage (Col.3:16), consider (Heb.10:24), offer hospitality (1Peter4:9), live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble (1Pet.3:8), fellowship (1John1:7), hold in high regard (1Thess.5:15), carry each other’s burdens (Gal.6:2), and to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Phil.2:3-5).

When I read this I’m inclined to believe that God intends for me to take my brother seriously. Especially when I consider that there isn’t one single verse in the New Testament that instructs us to pray for unbelievers. Not one. We’re told to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest. We’re told to direct our passion for the lost into prayers for our brothers in the Gospel.

But there are multiple dozens of scriptures that tell us to love one another, pray for one another, encourage, bless, edify, strengthen and prefer one another in Christ Jesus. To do good, “to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal.6:10, ESV).” It might just be that I am my brother’s keeper.

Romans 13:8-10, (ESV) instructs:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

If you really want to be spiritual and live like Jesus, then you must learn and practice love for your brothers and sisters in Christ.