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!

Don’t Judge Me

Jesus teaching 2One of the most often quoted, and frequently abused, passages in scripture is Matthew 7:1. You’ve probably had it declared to you on more than one occasion. It may be you’ve even employed it when you felt attacked by a particularly judgmental individual. In Matthew 7:1 Jesus says this, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

I’m afraid many folks read that and take solace in the fact that Jesus is apparently saying, despite your actions or their implications, no one has the right to criticize or object to your decisions or lifestyle. You can’t judge me. Jesus said so.

The problem is, that’s not what Jesus meant.

When some people say, “Don’t judge me” often what they really mean is, “Don’t point out, or encourage me to correct, my selfish and reckless behavior.” That is not however, what Jesus was endorsing.

It’s ironic to me that when a person declares, “you can’t judge me” they’re making a judgment call with that statement. They’re judging you as being judgmental.

Often, before trying to discern what a passage is saying it is helpful to determine what it is not saying.

In this passage Jesus is clearly not saying that if we simply remain silent, and never make a judgment call on anyone’s behavior or beliefs, then we can escape final judgment ourselves. John 12:48, 1Corinthians 4:1-21 & Romans 20:12 say that Jesus will judge the life of every man one day at His throne. So clearly He is not saying that we will escape judgment altogether.

Furthermore, if Matthew 7:1 is a total prohibition against making judgment calls then that would include both positive and negative critiques. Judging is not always negative but rather a term we use to describe defining or deciding. It simply means we are assigning meaning and motive to a given action. When we judge something we decide on its merits and benefits. It can be positive or negative.

Judges disqualify contestants from events and they also award trophies. To judge simply means to decide or discern. So if we cannot judge we cannot make negative or positive declarations. This of course cannot be what the text means because we are told in other passages to discern between good and evil, to set a difference between the holy and the profane and to judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24, 1Cor.6:2, Ezek. 22:23-28, Heb. 5:14, James 5:19-20). 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs Elders in the church to reprove, rebuke, and correct sin and error in the interest of provoking repentance and Godliness in the life of fellow believers.

So what did Jesus mean when He said, “Judge not”?

When Matthew 7:1-6 is read in its entirety, the meaning of the passage becomes clear:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Jesus was encouraging us to examine our own motives and to avoid hypocrisy before we attempt to deal with sin and errors in the lives of others. He was telling us to use mercy and to be understanding when faced with sin in someone’s life. What Jesus was condemning here was a self-righteous, hypocritical, judgmental attitude that many people take with others. We’re never holier than when we’re confronted with someone who sins differently than we do. Jesus is rebuking that attitude.

I also find it instructive that in the next few verses Jesus encourages the removal of sin from a friends life only after we have been cleansed ourselves and approach the situation with grace and humility.

He also says not to cast your pearls, or those things you value, before dogs or swine, or people who, with animal brutality, cannot understand the value of anything. How else could we determine who was a dog or a swine if we were not to make a judgment call?

David Smitherman sums up Matthew 7:1-6 well here:

Jesus is condeming the attitude that is manifested in trying to straighten out faults in another’s life without first seeking to remove those in mine; such is hypocrisy, vs. 5. Can we “judge” (make a determination) that someone has a “mote” (fault) and then seek to remove it? Certainly; the latter part of verse 5 says so. But to do so thinking “I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican,” Lk. 18:11; or that I am something when I am nothing, Gal. 6:3; or not “in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, let thou also be tempted,” Gal. 6:1, I am in violation of what Jesus is teaching. Let us not judge by appearance (Joshua 22:9-29) or on the basis of our subjective opinions (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8) or inconsistently (Rom. 2:1,21) but let us judge righteous judgement, Jo. 7:24.

In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives instruction on how to deal with sin in the life of a fellow believer. He does not say avoid it or ignore it. He gives us a way to address it without being harsh or judgmental.

In the words of Pastor Dan McKillop, We must be careful not to confuse judging with being judgmental. It is the obligation of the Christian to do one without being the other.

That being said, I am not arguing for folks to become proactive and seek out opportunities to judge others. I am simply offering what I believe to be an accurate exegesis of Matthew 7:1-6.

While I may have the Biblical authority to determine whether something is righteous or unrighteous, and declare it as such, I never have the right or power to pronounce final judgment on anyone’s heart or eternal soul. Jesus will be the final judge of every man and woman that has ever lived. He will judge “the small and the great” (Rev. 20:12) and His judgment will be a just and righteous judgment.

I pray we all step in to the forgiveness and grace that He has made available to us now so that we don’t have to be ashamed on that final judgment day.

The Enemy of Hunger

hunger“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”

John Piper in A Hunger for God

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.

Sin (Part 3 of 3)

“for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, KJV)

The Jews have a word they greet one another with, Shalom. We’ve all heard that Shalom means “peace” but it means even more than that. According to Strong’s Concordance Shalom means “peace, completeness, wholeness, health, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” Sin challenges shalom.

I find it comforting to know that the prophet Isaiah called Jesus, “Sar Shalom”. The prince of peace. Jesus is the only one that can clean out the toxin of sin and set us free from it’s control.

The Bible describes two types of people. The carnal man and the spiritual man. Another way to understand it is the man who has not yet been filled with the Spirit of God and the man who has been filled with His Spirit. The carnal man is dead and the spiritual man is alive. The carnal man serves sin and the spiritual man serves Christ.

Paul explains that the carnal man is only finally freed from sin when he dies. So the carnal man continues to sin, he needs to sin, so that sin can work its horror in his life, ruining everything, destroying the beauty and corrupting the sacred, until it finally brings death, freeing him from sin.

The spiritual man however, the Spirit filled believer, is dead in Christ. So he has been freed from sin while he yet lives. He can live free from the bondage of sin in this life! The Apostle Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

When Jesus died on the cross God accepted it as payment for the sins of every man. So now anyone who puts their faith in Jesus can be freed from sin. The Bible teaches that if we will repent of our sins and be baptized in Jesus name that He will fill us with His Spirit and we can be free from the power of sin in our lives.

The truth is we don’t have to be controlled by sin. If we will begin to believe in Jesus and live the life He teaches we can be free from sin. It doesn’t have to ruin anymore. We can be free form the law of sin and death and live in the liberty of a spiritual life.

Many people have offered solutions to sin throughout the ages. Some have said sin is not a real thing and if we just ignore it soon it will fade from societies consciousness. That hasn’t worked. Some have said that if you’re a good person that you can live a relatively happy life. That’s no comfort. I want to be free from sin. Some have said you can believe in God, or any other faith for that matter, they all lead to heaven, and you’ll be ok. That doesn’t make sense. Not all faiths agree. Some of them radically disagree. So how could they all be right?

The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the only way to be free from sin. There is no alternative to faith in Jesus Christ. His death on the cross provided the way for all our sins to be forgiven in the eyes of God and for His Spirit to live inside us, which gives us power over sin. Sin ruins everything, but the believer has, in the blood of Jesus Christ, an agent that can clean it out once and for all. Jesus is the solution for sin.

In chemistry there is a simple principle that like dissolves like. It refers to polar and non-polar compounds or solutions. If the structures are similar than one will dissolve the other. For instance, water is polar and oil is non-polar. So water does not dissolve oil. However, salt is polar so water dissolves salt. Like dissolves like. If you want to clean a mirror that’s crusted with hairspray, spray more hairspray on it. Like dissolves like.

Jesus had to become like us so that His blood could cleanse us. His sinless human blood dissolves the sin in our blood. He is the only way. His blood is the only solution for sin.

He has been vaccinated against the disease of sin. When you’re given a vaccine you receive a non-threatening dose of the disease itself which allows your bodies natural defenses to prepare to fight the real disease. When Jesus died on the cross He took on all the sin of the world and it did not defeat Him. So now His blood is the only blood with the power to fight sin.

The scriptures are clear that if we will confess our sins, not to a priest but to Jesus, and ask His forgiveness that “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV) Confession and forgiveness of sins goes together with repentance, which is a change of heart. We must decide to abandon sin and change the direction of our life. If we are baptized we can have an assurance that not only have our sins been forgiven, and we’ve repented of them, but we’ve had our sins “washed away” in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:12-16).

Sin is real and it separates us from God. When we’re distanced from God sin denies us the blessings and goodness that flow naturally from following God’s heart. Sin ruins everything, but Jesus death made a way to defeat the effect of sin. Jesus, and only Jesus, is the solution to sin.

Sin (Part 2 of 3)

Sin ruins everything. Everything. Everything sin touches it either ruins, cheapens, destroys, injures or corrupts. It is toxic. It’s a poison. It ruins everything. Unfortunately, we love it.

There’s something about sinful behavior that comes easy to us. It has been the inclination of man since Adam and Eve to challenge God’s law and God’s order. It’s our nature to sin. The Bible teaches that we inherited that sin nature from Adam and Eve. It’s as natural for a man to sin as it is to breathe. We sin with ease and with regularity. We sin without even thinking about it. We sin every day. We are slaves to sin.

The Apostle Paul helps us understand this nature to sin when he explains, in his letter to the believers in Rome, that we are slaves to sin. We work for sin and it’s wages is death. If sin is in our lives, even a little, we are not in control, sin is. When it is finished, it will not only ruin everything but it will bring death.

If you really want to develop some serious mental issues think about this. One of the most important elements for sustaining life on this planet is oxygen. Everything needs it. Trees need oxygen, animals need oxygen, the atmosphere contains oxygen, and of course, humans need oxygen. Water is a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen is vital for all life to continue. Yet the process by which everything on this planet decays is oxidation; exposure to oxygen.

The rust that destroys metal is oxidation. The brown spots that form on leaves as they die are the result of oxidation. When you bite that apple, breaking its protective skin, and let the oxygen in the air begin to react with it, it turns brown, mushy and decays as a result of oxidation. And then there’s us. We breathe it every day and our skin cells decay and fall off and replenish themselves in constant cycle because of the process of oxidation. Yet we cannot get enough of this precious oxygen. We need it, and it’s killing us and everything it touches!

How can we escape? That’s the same question Paul asks in Romans 7:24. I serve sin, yet I know it’s killing me and it’s ruining everything. We’re not sinners because we sin. We sin because we’re sinners.

The big problem with sin is that it’s hard to clean out once it begins to grow. The Bible often compares sin to yeast. Once a little bit gets in it becomes nearly impossible to ever clean it all out. Furthermore, it spreads and influences every aspect of your life. Sin ruins everything.

Not only is it hard to clean out, it’s hard to cover up. It has a way of leaking out of whatever you try to contain it in and exposing its presence to the world. It’s an acid. You can’t clean sins container and think it’s gone. The Pharisee’s tried. They washed the outside clean and white but inside they were still full of sin. Jesus said they were like a tomb that had been painted white. It looks nice on the outside but inside is dead men’s bones.

The problem is that sin doesn’t come from what’s on the outside but from what’s on the inside. The sin problem we have comes from within. Sin starts within our hearts.

Jesus told a story about a son that left home in search of his own life. He took his inheritance from his father and went into “a far country”. While in this far country the son spent his money on what Jesus called “riotous living”. Soon the day came when the money ran out and his friends were gone. He had nothing left and no one to give him anything. He was ruined.

The son, now broke, friendless and desperate, joined himself to a citizen in that far country. That man sent him into the fields to feed the swine. It was an insult for an observant Jew to be standing in the mud and filth of pigs. As he stood there, amongst the filth and the swine, Jesus said he almost ate the slop that the pigs were eating. He didn’t eat it, but he came so close.

That’s what sin does. It brings us to places we never thought we would go. It joins us to people we never wanted to walk with. It causes us to touch things we never thought we would handle. Sin will bring you closer to losing everything than you ever thought you would be. Sin ruins everything.

Sin is the cause of death, sorrow, pain and fear. We don’t have a drug problem in our cities, we have a sin problem. We don’t have an epidemic of divorce and broken families. We have an epidemic of sin.

Sin is the cause of violence, death and brokenness. Sin is what entices people to do stupid things in dangerous places with people they shouldn’t trust. Sin is the reason we’re easily addicted to chemicals that destroy our minds and our bodies. Sin is the reason people’s futures and ambitions are destroyed. Sin is what corrupts talent and potential. Sin cheapens love and ruins relationships.

Our problem is sin and sin ruins everything.