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!

A Good Reason To Humble Yourself

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (‭James‬ ‭4‬:‭10‬ ESV)

Being humble is much like being smart. If you have to tell people you are, you probably aren’t. It’s a quality much more often, and more easily, claimed than actually possessed.

The only one who could have sought glory or honor that would have been rightfully deserved came in humility. Jesus was God, manifest in the flesh, yet He came as a baby, born to young, poor parents, in a rural village, using a manger for a cradle.

Phillipians 2:5-11 says we should have the same mind as Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation and, humbled Himself to die on the cross. But because He humbled Himself, “God exalted Him”.

So often, in trying to lift our status or reputation in the eyes of others, we end up trapped by the sin of pride, which only serves to lower our reputation because of arrogance. Let God exalt you.

The Bible says God “resists the proud” but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). I’m confident I don’t want God resisting me. I want His grace. Therefore, knowing that God responds to humility, it is entirely necessary that I humble myself to receive His grace.

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.

Backsliding

It’s been called many things across pulpits; growing cold, lukewarm, being carnal, walking away from God, and worldliness among others. The common name is backsliding and you don’t hear much about it anymore. Though the concept might seem old fashioned it should still be a very real concern to honest Christians. We should be prayerfully examining our hearts daily to ensure we are humble, walking in submission to the Word of God and repentant.

Life sneaks up on you and before we know it we’ve developed habits and ideas that are altogether in opposition to Biblical Christianity. Scripture reminds us that it’s the “little foxes that spoil the vine” (Song of Solomon 2:15).

It’s easy to keep the big things out. Unfortunately, often it’s the build up of little things that eventually limits us spiritually and corrupts any potential harvest. We’ve got to work daily on getting the little things right.

Joe Thorn recently posted a blog entry concerning 25 marks of backsliding that I found interesting. Take a look at his list and prayerfully consider these items. You might take issue with some items on the list but it’s worth the read.

1. When prayer ceases to be a vital part of a professing Christian’s life, backsliding is present.

2. When the quest for biblical truth ceases and one grows content with the knowledge of eternal things already acquired, there can be no mistaking the presence of backsliding.

3. When the biblical knowledge possessed or acquired is treated as external fact and not applied inwardly, backsliding is present.

4. When earnest thoughts about eternal things cease to be regular and gripping, it should be like a warning light to the backslider.

5. When the services of the church lose their delights, a backslidden condition probably exists.

6. When pointed spiritual discussions are an embarrassment, that is certain evidence of backsliding.

7. When sports, recreation and entertainment are a large and necessary part of your lifestyle, you may assume backsliding is in force.

8. When sins of the body and of the mind can be indulged in without an uproar in your conscience your backslidden condition is certain.

9. When aspirations for Christlike holiness cease to be dominant in your life and thinking, backsliding is there.

10. When the acquisition of money and goods becomes a dominant part of your thinking, you have clear confirmation of backsliding.

11. When you can mouth religious songs and words without heart, be sure backsliding is present.

12. When you can hear the Lord’s name taken in vain, spiritual concerns mocked and eternal issues flippantly treated, and not be moved to indignation and action, you are backslidden.

13. When you can watch degrading movies and television and read morally debilitating literature, you can be sure you are backslidden.

14. When breaches of peace in the brotherhood are of no concern to you, that is proof of backsliding.

15. When the slightest excuse seems sufficient to keep you from spiritual duty and opportunity, you are backslidden.

16. When you become content with your lack of spiritual power and no longer seek repeated enduements of power from on high, you are backslidden.

17. When you pardon your own sin and sloth by saying the Lord understands and remembers that we are dust, you have revealed your backslidden condition.

18. When there is no music in your soul and no song in your heart, the silence testifies to your backsliding.

19. When you adjust happily to the worlds’ lifestyle, your own mirror will tell the truth of your backsliding.

20. When injustice and human misery exist around you and you do little or nothing to relieve the suffering, be sure you are backslidden.

21. When your church has fallen into spiritual declension and the Word of God is no longer preached there with power and you are still content, you are in a backslidden condition.

22. When the spiritual condition of the world declines around you and you cannot perceive it , that is testimony of your backslidden stance.

23. When you are willing to cheat your employer, backsliding is apparent.

24. When you find yourself rich in grace and mercy and marvel at your own godliness, then you have fallen far in your backsliding.

25. When your tears are dried up and the hard, cold spiritual facts of your existence cannot unleash them, see this as an awful testimony both of the hardness of your heart and the depth of your backsliding.

I would also caution, if you think backsliding as a subject is antiquated and unnecessary you might need to prayerfully examine your spirit. We’re all human and prone to error and sin. Acknowledging our inherent weaknesses and guarding ourselves against sin we know we’re capable of is not Puritanical but wise and should be driven, not by fear or guilt, but by a desire to please Jesus Christ.

Would you add or remove any items from this list? Comment below.

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.

Sin (Part 1 of 3)

I know some big words. Words like existentialism and idiosyncratic. I can both define the word “empirical” and use it in a sentence. I can even spell mayonnaise without using spellcheck (most of the time). I might be somewhat of a sesquipedalian. So I was surprised as I was scrolling through an edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary and came across some words I had never heard before.

Words like monomachy, mensal, lambrequin, fuligin, and cataphract. Words, so ancient and arcane, that no one even knows what they mean anymore. Many of these words are so obscure that they have been phased out of modern editions of dictionaries.

There is another word that is quickly becoming lost in modern languages. It is a word with ancient roots and rich in meaning. Unfortunately, it is rarely used by the modern speakers and writers and it is in danger of becoming undefinable by many. This word in danger of being lost is, sin.

Ask someone on the street today, “What is sin?” and you are likely to get a variety of answers. Some would say sin is anything that hurts someone else. Sin might be doing something that is illegal. Some suggest that there is no such thing as sin. Sin is simply an ideological relic of our religious past.

The truth is that sin is a real word with real meaning. We will never fully understand what it means to say, “Jesus died for your sin” unless we understand what sin really is.

Sin is called many things in the Bible. We’re given an array of words throughout scripture that give us an understanding of the nature of sin. It’s called rebellion, folly, madness, idolatry, foolishness, blindness, deafness, and death. Sin is a law at work in the hearts of men and women that challenges the law of God. The Bible is clear that sin is “the transgression of the law” (1John 3:4). Sin is, to put it simply, the act of violating God’s laws and God’s order.

Some sins are things we do, sins of commission, sins we commit. Other sins are things we don’t do and those are called sins of omission. If we lie to someone, that is a sin because it violates God’s law of truth. It is a sin of commission. If we fail to protect, or come to the rescue of someone who needs us, that is sin. That is a sin of omission, something we neglected to do.

Either way, if it’s something we did or something we failed to do, sin is that which violates God. Sin doesn’t just violate God’s law and His order. God’s order and His laws issue from His nature, from what He is. Sin violates the nature of God Himself. It is a rebellion against all that God is.

Sin is the word we use to describe anything that opposes the nature and order of God. That’s why God and sin cannot be in the same place. James reveals the truth that salt water and fresh water don’t come from the same source. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:11-12). Sin is at odds with the nature of God and the two will never blend. God brings righteousness, peace and joy. Sin corrupts, decays and destroys.

Sin ruins everything.

The ultimate problem that sin presents is that it separates us from God. It is our separation from God, caused by sin, that brings the trouble into our lives. Sin is what denies the blessings and promises that a righteous life brings to those who honor God and His order. Sin separated God from Adam and Eve in the garden and God has been seeking to rid us of sin ever since. He wants to restore that relationship we had with Him before sin started ruining everything.