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Except Ye Repent

Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all perish as well” (Luke 13:3 & 5). Repentance is a change in behavior which stems from a change in thinking. Repentance is so closely linked with forgiveness that the terms are used almost interchangeably in 2 Peter 3:9 and Luke 17:4.

Repentance is a prerequisite for forgiveness and acceptance to God. Repentance may be a continued struggle with a particular activity, but it is the real determination to act in accordance with God’s will. When we are truly struggling to conform to God’s will, that is repentance.

However, if we merely want forgiveness without the struggle of repentance, then forgiveness will not be granted. Jesus told us to forgive our brother 70 times 7 if they come asking, but it does understand that the offender is struggling to adjust the behavior (Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20). Luke 17:4 records the words of Jesus, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and come back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Repentance is necessary for the full restoration and enjoyment of relationship  (2 Corinthians 7:10; Acts 2:38; 3:19) . This does not mean that we must or can be sinless. This does not mean that we are not expected to struggle with the behavior (else why would the same person be forgiven 7 times in a day?). This does mean that a genuine change of heart must lead to a genuine attempted change in behavior before forgiveness can truly be had.

I remember an old song which asks the question of full repentance.

“Did you repent, fully repent of your past sins, friend,
When you confessed His name on high?
Did you believe, fully believe on His great name then,
Or was a doubt, treacherous doubt, lingering nigh?
Did you obey all of the way what He commanded,
Things in His word we’re told to do?
Did you confess, fully confess Jesus the Savior,
Did you repent, did you believe all the way through? “

Giving Our All

Paul wrote, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not for me only but also for all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-7).

Paul gave all he had because his life was hidden in Christ. Our lives are hidden in Christ. Our future is wrapped up in Christ. Jesus is our everything, and we should him everything.

Paul was content with the end of this life drawing near because he had confidence in his past. He said “I have fought” and “I have run”. Lets live today so we can look back on yesterday tomorrow with confidence.

Paul was excited about the future because he knew who held his future. He said ” there is laid up for me a crown if righteousness.”. He didn’t say “there might be” or “I hope there is.”. He said there is laid up for me. His confidence was in Christ and his faithfulness.

Let us be confident in our future just as we are confident in our past. When we trust Jesus entirely and serve him completely, when we give our all for the one who has given us all, then we can have that confidence. Lets serve the Lord. Serve him with gladness. Serve him with sincerity. Serve him with zeal. Serve him with all we have. Lets give him our all. He has given his all for us.

Ready to Go

I am so ready for Heaven. I hope you are too. Part of our daily experience tells us that we aren’t where we are supposed to be. We are “shocked” to learn that children are growing up and that we ourselves are growing older. These things are normal to life here on this earth. Why are we surprised? Perhaps it is because we are currently like a fish out of water gasping for “air.” God has placed eternity in our hearts and we are looking for that home to which we have never been.

Heaven is the divine throne room of God where he dwells with his angels (Matthew 22:30; 24:36; Revelation 5:13; Luke 2:15). This is the heaven which John saw in Revelation 4. This is where Jesus went (Luke 24:57; Acts 1:11). Jesus is presently there in his glorified body (Acts 2:34; 3:21; 7:56; Eph. 6:9; Heb. 8:1; 9:24; 1 Pet. 3:22). Jesus will descend from this Heaven when he claims his people to present to the Father (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7).

This new existence with God is described as “the New Heavens and New Earth.” We first run into this phrase in Isaiah 65:17-25 and Isaiah 66:22. The prophet gave us a glimpse of God making a new existence which is sampled in the church and then experienced fully after the Judgment Day. 2 Peter 3:10 described this event of destruction for us. Peter wrote, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved.” Because of this destruction of all that we have ever seen, “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

Good Christian, keep waiting. Keep looking for Jesus. Keep looking for our reward. He is coming.

What Are You Carrying?

We all make choices about what we are going to carry with us all day. I carry a pocket Bible, my wallet, my phone, usually a pocket knife, keys, pens, and maybe some loose change around just about every day. That is starting to sound like a lot. I can’t carry everything I would like to have with me all the time without going the “man bag” route. So decisions have to be made. When does the weight of a thing justify having to carry it around all day?

I also carry a lot on my mind–probably too much. You probably are carrying way too much too. We ultimately have to choose between carrying negative “stuff” or positive “stuff”. I don’t have much room for the negative “stuff” anymore. It just weighs too much. I’ve noticed that I often just dump all that negative “stuff” on unsuspecting people anyway. Funny thing is that they usually dump it back on me. Who wants to live that way?

Why would we want to carry the weight of broken relationships when we could put them down and regain friends to build us up? Why would we choose to carry a broken heart? Why would we choose to carry problems for years ago? Wouldn’t it be better to lay all that down?

The positive “stuff” doesn’t way anywhere near as much. In fact, positive “stuff’ is like helium and picks you up. When you are carrying all that good “stuff” around all day, people will help you with whatever. You can share your good stuff with them, and they will share some good stuff back with you. Doesn’t that sound better? You probably have someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time because you share bad “stuff” with them. Why? Don’t let that bad “stuff” kill you and rob you of your friendship.

Christian friend, there can’t be any room in your mind for bad “stuff” anymore. We know Jesus. Jesus knows us! We are saved! We get to be with Jesus forever! Carry the weight of glory with you.

Dignified Servants

We recognize the importance of dignity. Our President has come under fire for using Twitter so much and for the inexcusable language which he has used. It’s interesting that the culture itself doesn’t mind the language or excessive social media use, but it does expect the one who holds “the highest office in the land” to conduct himself in a more dignified way. If it is true of presidents, is not more true of us who preach the Gospel?

The act of preaching and the character of those filling pulpits should be known for a dignity or gravitas which is befitting the ministry of the Word. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be happy, joyful, and fun loving people. Being somber is not the same as thing as dignity. I believe people enjoyed being around Jesus. He wasn’t “all gloom and doom.” But that does not mean that we can demean the sacred service he has entrusted to our stewardship.

The one who spoke God’s message was once highly regarded. Sadly, this is now rarely the case. Much of the disrespect shown the pulpit and pulpit preachers is due to the wickedness of sin blinding our culture. But preachers we must also look at ourselves and see the ways in which we have made pulpit work a common thing rather than a sacred service.

Ephesians 4:1 records Paul’s exhortation to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” I know this is talking about the entirety of our Christian life, but does it not also speak to our ministry?  Are we not ambassadors of Christ?

If a dignitary from a foreign land came to visit your home, what would the expectations be? You would probably wear great clothes, clean your house, maybe even have something special prepared for the ambassador? What would you expect from the dignitary? Crass or common language would certainly not be in place as he made his official visit. The dignitary would be expected to reflect the honor of his position in his words, behavior, dress, and purpose. Why should we expect any less from the ambassadors of Christ?

I’m not saying that preachers deserve special treatment, that isn’t what this article is about. I am saying that the ministry deserves special treatment. To speak the word of God before the people of God is a tremendous privilege for which no man is worthy. Yet God chose to use us in that way for his glory. Let us be dignified as we carry out this most distinguished service.

Knowledge and Salvation

“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of doctrine to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness–Romans 6:17-18

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world–Galatians 4:8

Every record of conversion in the book of Acts records a period of teaching and baptism. Without an evangelist teaching, a sinner learning, and God creating a new creation in baptism there is no conversion.

Christianity is, therefore, a religion of knowledge. Without a knowledge of the Scriptures, “you do err.” The great commission demands people be “in the know.” Jesus described the process of one being taught, being baptized, and being taught further–Matthew 28:19-20.

There are intellectual prerequisite to becoming a Christian. “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” If we haven’t heard and understood something, then we cannot be saved.

Jesus said “except you believe I am he, you shall die in your sins.” This means I need to know who Jesus is. I need to have some understanding of the triune God. I need to know what sin is or else I will never understand what it means to be saved. Knowing who Christ is, I will hopefully set out to obey his gospel’s doctrine immediately (Romans 6:17-18).

That something we must know to be saved is the doctrine of the gospel–Jesus reigns as King and I must submit to him. That doctrine expects me to know about the triune God, though it be just an elementary knoweledge. It also expects me to understand how I have rebelled against God in sin. I have to understand that Jesus’ sacrifice makes atonement for my sin. I have to understand that Jesus commanded repentance and baptism. This is me making the determination to turn from sin to God. Baptism is when God adds me to his family and makes me a new creation.

There are unfathomable riches to be discovered in any doctrinal area. Each doctrine has been studied by the brightest minds of the last 2000 years. There is incredible nuance and detail involved in technical Bible study or systematic theology. This science of Bible doctrine was once heralded as the queen of the sciences. Now Biblical illiteracy and agnosticism reign together.

A degree in theology is not required for salvation, but a basic knowledge of God, sin, salvation, and dedication surely is expected. The Christian should grow in his Bibliology, Theology, hamrtiaology, Christology, Pneumatology, anthropology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology.

Doctrine is fundamental to Christianity. We are to teach others who will teach others–2 Timothy 2:2. We are to hold to doctrine–2 Thessalonians 2:15. We are to defend the doctrines of the faith–Jude 3. I hope to grow in knowledge every day. But indeoend totally upon his grace for any and every good. No amount of knowledge will ever make me right. But complete ignorance does make me wrong.

Do You Know?

The songs asks us “Do you know my Jesus? Do you know my friend?”. Do you know Jesus? We want you to know about Jesus. We want you to know about his existence before he took on flesh–John 1:1. We want you to know about the incarnation and his miraculous birth–Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21; John 1:14. We want you to know about perfect life–Luke 2:52. We want you to know about his death–Mark 15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53. We want you to know about his resurrection–1 Corinthians 15; Mark 16. We want youbtonknow about his sweet invitation–John 14:1-4 and his new opportunity for life–John 3:3-5.

We want you to know about Jesus, but we also want you to know Jesus. Wouldn’t it be sad to know all those things about him and never to truly know him. Paul said

Whatsoever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because if the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that cones from the law, but that which cones through faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming lime him in death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-10).

Paul knew about Jesus, but Paul also knew Jesus. Knowing Jesus made Paul sacrifice everything to know him better. Knowing Jesus empowered Paul to suffer so that he might suffer with Christ, for Christ, and enjoy the reward with Christ.

Paul knew about Jesus, and Paul knew Jesus. I pray that we can know the facts about Christ and that we can walk with him everyday so that he becomes our greatest companion in life, our greatest comfort in pain, and our certainty of eternity.

This is why we study and teach. This is why we pray for ourselves and for others. So that we may know about Jesus and so that we may know him.