132. Feeling Guilty? Is It Conviction By The Holy Spirit Or Condemnation By The Devil?

A friend remarked recently that the motivating factor in the incredible change in his life came through a deep conviction by the Holy Spirit. The experience  gave him a sense of his lost-ness and a feeling of guilt from deliberately living life without God. He also shared that when he first started going to church, a sense of guilt remained for some time. But it raises the question as to whether new believers (or sometimes more mature believers) are suffering from unnecessary guilt.

We need to remember that we live in a fallen world and that none of us are, or ever will be, perfect. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit of God whom we received at our conversion to Christ, is to convict us of our sin. Jesus said in John 16:8, And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. The word for “convict” here is  ελέγχω (elegchō). It has meanings in the New Testament such as these, to convict, expose, reprove, rebuke, show fault, to prove to be wrong. It is used in a similar sense in Jn 3:19-20, where it is said that light “exposes” darkness,  Jn 3:19  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.Exposed” here is our word (elegchō).

As many have discovered, the Holy Spirit exposes the sinfulness of sin to human hearts. However humans by and large have no great desire to change. That is why light is so threatening to many people. They believe that if they get close to the light, their sins might be exposed and they don’t want to be unmasked in that manner.  By contrast believers are not afraid of the light because they want to walk in the light, in ways that honour God.  They welcome the light that exposes any sin in their lives, so that they can repent of it and then can ask and receive God’s forgiveness and cleansing.

It raises the question however whether believers should have feelings of guilt? Of course they should if they are guilty in any way. But the Christian life is meant to be an ongoing growth in maturity and in holiness. The Holy Spirit can and does convict believers of their guilt when they transgress or step out of the will of God for them. In spite of our growing likeness to Christ, there will never be a time when we can go it alone. We will always need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to bring about that transformation. He shows us our faults (convicts us). But He also empowers us to overcome those faults by His grace, love and power.

Throughout my ministry I have come across many believers who were weighed down with guilt. Why? Because they had failed to recognise the difference between the ministry of the Holy Spirit in convicting us of sin and the strategy of the devil in seeking to make us feel guilty. I once put in a diagram to show the difference.

What is the difference between:-  Conviction by the Holy Spirit?  Condemnation by the accuser? (Reading across the columns from left to right). 

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin  so that we might repent of our guilt and sin So that we turn to God to ask for and receive God’s forgiveness The end result. So that we might walk in freedom from guilt by the grace of God
The Devil (as Diabolos the accuser) accuses us and condemns us of our sin so that we might feel guilt and remorse (but not repentance) So that he may entice us to turn away from God in our guilt, feeling worthless and useless and “dirty” The end result. So that we might be held captive in our “guilt” to the Devil.

It was quite amazing when I taught this truth in large seminars that so many attendees suddenly realised what was going on in their minds and in their lives.  Some of them later admitted that they had been having troubling thoughts. They were rejoicing in their salvation, but were often plagued with condemning thoughts. Sometimes this had led to thoughts of self-condemnation. Other times they had felt that they were too unworthy to keep on serving God. Many of these folk realised that there was a battle going on in their minds.

We need to remember that our thoughts come from various sources. The Bible teaches something that many of us have come to realise. That is, the Satan, the Devil (Diabolos)  is able to plant thoughts in our minds. He can do that in the realm of temptation as he sows tempting possibilities in our minds. But he is also known as the “accuser” which is the meaning of  the word “diabolos”. As the diagram above shows he accuses us so that we begin to feel condemned and guilty, so that we come more under his power. That is why we need to take stock of what is going on in our thinking.  We need to learn to recognise the origin of the thoughts that form in our minds. Are they from God, from Satan or just our own reflections? Is God trying to convict us of something in our lives that is not according to His will for us? As we respond to Him, we learn to walk in greater freedom. Or is it Satan having a go at us to lead us away from God.

Well, how do we discern what is going on in our minds? St Paul shows us the answer in 2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. It means not allowing our thoughts to get out of control. Rather we are to take every thought to Jesus to let Him rule on it so that we continue to live in obedience to Him. If we continue to dwell on our thoughts  we can begin to “own” them as the product of our minds, when in fact they may have been thoughts planted by Satan. The German reformer Martin Luther  saw the danger of dwelling on our thoughts. He said regarding temptation, “You can’t stop the birds flying over your heads, but you can stop them building nests in your hair.”  In other words, temptations are sure to come to all of us. It is inevitable in a fallen world where the Devil is opposed to God and to His children. But what we can and must do is to stop those tempting thoughts from taking root in our minds. Otherwise we give them power by feeding them by dwelling on those thoughts.

If you have a troubling thought in your mind you are able to do something about it. You don’t have to remain a “victim”of a diabolical attack. You can take the thought to Jesus for Him to deal with. You could pray a prayer like this one.

“Dear Lord Jesus. I thank You that You know everything about me. You know every thought I have. I confess that I have been focussing on this particular thought ….. . I want to obey you in all that I do. If this thought is from You then give me peace about it and the grace to act on it. If this thought is not from You, I ask that You break the power of that thought in my mind so that I don’t continue to focus on it. Please renew my mind so that You become the Lord of my mind. I ask this so that I might bring glory to your name in all I think, say and do. AMEN.” 

Blog No. 132.  Jim Holbeck. Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2013

Posted in Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

230. Summary of My Recent Articles on Repentance

It may be in some churches around the world that if the preacher began the sermon with the word “Repent!” there would be quite different reactions or responses to it.

There would be some who might think, “How rude. I’m just as good as everybody else here! Probably better!”

Or another person may think, “Great topic. This mob needs to hear this.”

Or another, “Gee, I hope Henry listens to this. He might be reminded to repay the money he owes me!”

Or another, “This could be a bit threatening. I’m out of here! Where’s the nearest exit?”

Perhaps a few might think, “I really need to listen to this. It seems to be important. Jesus began His preaching with that word. What does it really mean? Do I need to repent?”

It is probably true to say that repentance does not feature greatly in some preaching circles.  There may be an emphasis on asking Christ to come into one’s heart or giving one’s life to Him with no mention of the need to repent at all. However if John the Baptist and Jesus  both began their ministries with the message for their hearers to repent, then it must be important not to neglect it!

What I have done in the preceding articles is to give some biblical teaching on repentance. It is the first of the 3 R’s in the diagram I posted in blog No. 220 which aims to give an overview of the essential elements of the Christian life. In that article, I mentioned those elements as 3R’s [1. Repentance. 2. Renunciation. 3. Receiving Christ.] Then there were 3 S’s. [4. Submission to Christ as Lord.  5. Spirit filled continually especially looking at the Fruit and Gifts of the Spirit. 6. Sharing in fellowship and ministry.] (There is an audio of a sermon preached on this topic there as well.)

An understanding of all these elements is important in seeking to grow in Christian maturity. But another use of this material could be in praying with people or in counselling to ensure that every aspect of their Christian life is possible of being addressed.

 So here are the previous articles for your convenience. You just need to click on the link number to be taken to that article. [Or you can simply use the Index  on the right.]

 No.221. REPENTANCE. Everyone needs to repent of sin to have victory over it. But just what is sin?

No.222. REPENTANCE. The need to repent of sin. But what is sin? Gaining a little understanding of some New Testament words for sin.

No.223. Repentance. What is it? What it is not! What it is! The example of King David.

No.224. REPENTANCE. As seen in the ministries of John the Baptist and of Jesus.

No.225.REPENTANCE IN THE MINISTRY OF THE EARLY CHURCH. St Peter’s messages remain a challenge to us today!

No.226. REPENTANCE. Saul the Persecutor became Paul the Preacher of Repentance.

No.227. REPENTANCE. Lessons from the writer to the Hebrews. A Personal testimony of a transformed life.

No.228. REPENTANCE. The apostle John urges repentance for everyone in his epistles.

No.229. REPENTANCE. In the Book of Revelation. The message for today!

[NOTE] I hope to cover the other 5 elements in future articles. Unless the Lord comes before then and the articles will no longer be appropriate, for the time for people to repent will then be over!

Blog No.230. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Wednesday 16th August 2017.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Temptations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

229. Repentance in the Book of Revelation. The message for today!

If there is no mention of the word “repent” in the epistles of John, he certainly makes up for it in the Book of Revelation where it is mentioned 12 times! The book begins with these words, Rev 1:1 “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” It expresses a description of the revelation of the future that God gave to Jesus to share with John the apostle while he was exiled on the Island of Patmos. In later chapters John shares the messages with the angels of 7 churches so that the peoples in those places might take note and repent.

Revelation 2:4-5. The first reference to the word “repent” [NOTE 1] comes in the message given to the angel of the church in Ephesus to share with the believers in that church. Rev 2:4 “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” In this case what was it that the church in Ephesus needed to repent of? After an affirmation of the church for some good qualities John records the Lord’s criticism of them that they had lost their first love. They had fallen from where they had been before in their relationship with God. They were challenged to repent of their attitudes and behaviour and to produce the works they had performed before they fell.

Revelation 2:14-16. The second reference to “repent” is in the message to the church in Pergamum, Rev 2:16 “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.” Rev 2:14 “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” In Israelite history Balaam had seduced the Israelites to forgo their God-given laws and to become like the other nations. That meant becoming involved in forbidden activities such as eating food sacrificed to other deities and engaging in sexual immorality. Obviously, many in Pergamum had fallen to those sorts of temptations. They also failed to remove the false teachers who had influenced the church for evil.

 Revelation 2:20-22. The third reference was in the message to the church in Thyatira. Rev 2:20 “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.” It seems that there was a false teacher in the church who had the attributes of Queen Jezebel in the time of King Ahab. She obviously encouraged many in the church to eat food sacrificed to idols and to engage in sexual immorality. However in the mercy and providence of God He allowed her time to repent and to turn away from the evil she was promulgating. Judgment was inevitable,  Rev 2:22 “Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works.” She was guilty and would bear punishment for what she had done and also for failing to take notice of God given opportunities for her to repent. Likewise those whom she led astray would also be punished but there was still time for them to repent. That involved changing their minds about her false teaching and sinful behaviour and confessing them as evil in the sight of God. It meant also that they had to confess their own sin in repentance and seek the Lord’s forgiveness.

Revelation 3:1-6. In this reference to the church in Sardis they are accused of being dead and asleep. Rev 3:1  “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you”. The Lord is not influenced by reputations. He deals in realities. The church was reputed to be a live church but He saw it as being spiritually dead. He warned them that they needed to wake up and build on the good that still remained in the church.

 What was it that drew such criticism from the Lord? The works they had begun, they had failed to complete. There was a lack of commitment in the church and they were resting on their laurels. The way forward for the church was to repent of their failures and to live in accordance with the teaching they had received. If they did so they would join the few who had remained faithful in the church, described here as those “who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” 3:4. For those who did repent and turn back to Him to live victorious lives He promised eternal security, 5 “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Repentance was the key to forgiveness for the past and to guarantee blessing in the future.

Revelation 3:14-22.  The message to the church in Laodicea didn’t mince words. It was a challenge to them to turn back to God, yet it had words of encouragement in it as well. God saw them as lukewarm in their works, nauseous to Him and liable to be spat out, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Rev 3:15-16.

 They also saw themselves as being self-sufficient and not needing to rely on their God. He saw them differently, “You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” If they wanted to be rich then they needed to come to Him in repentance to receive the gold He offered. If they wanted to appear to be well clothed, they needed to clothe themselves with the garments He alone could provide, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen.” 3:18. [NOTE 2].  For their blindness, they needed to receive the salve from Him that alone could bring them sight, “salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” 3:18.

 Repentance on their part would be a response to the love of their God, as He reminds them, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Rev 3:19. He was motivated to help them do so. They just needed to open their lives to His presence and He would have fellowship with them, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Rev 3:20. Not only that but their repentance and openness to God will enable them to have victories where once there had been defeats, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Rev 3:21.

 In Revelation 9:20- 21 the picture is of a coming judgment. People had not repented of their various sins and judgment would fall on them. But it is interesting to see what sins they needed to repent of, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.” It is an extensive list and mentions the breaking of many of the commandments given to them in the Decalogue, the 10 Commandments. They hadn’t repented of what they had done. Nor had they given up the worship of various types of idols. Nor had they repented of their sins of murder, involvement in sorcery and in sexual immorality. They could and should have repented of all these things. They chose not to. For that they were accountable to God.

 Revelation 16:9-11. The final reference to repentance comes in Rev 16:9-11 where the Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath are poured out. In this passage, we read of people’s rebellion against God.

That rebellion is seen in the following. They “bore the mark of the beast and worshipped its image.” 16:2. They had “shed the blood of saints and prophets”. 16:6. They had cursed the name of God, “cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.They had “cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.” No repentance means no forgiveness!

It is amazing to realise as we look at all these verses in the book of Revelation, that humans find it so difficult to recognise their sinfulness and to repent of it.

It reminds us of the poignant words in Rom 10:21 where God expresses His concern even for His own people, “But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’” Disobedient and contrary people always need to repent. Even now!

Or we might think of the lament of Jesus as He spoke about Jerusalem because of their rejection of Him as their Messiah. Mat 23:37  and Luke 13:34, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” [NOTE 3]

Or how deeply Jesus was moved to tears as He drew near to Jerusalem and knew what the future entailed for the city because of the rejection of Him by its people, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:42-44.  How sad that so many inhabitants of Jerusalem would never have gotten around to repenting of their rejection of their Messiah! How many today have not yet repented of sin and turned in faith to God for His forgiveness!

——————————————————————————————————————————— [NOTE 1]  As we have seen in previous articles, the word for “repent” is [metanoéō; μετανοέω] meaning to change the mind and also to change one’s behaviour. One definition for repentance might be “a change of mind accompanied by a change in behaviour.”  It involves turning away from sin and turning to God.

[NOTE 2] There is here almost an echo of the words in Isa 61:10, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

[NOTE 3] The Authorised Version puts it so starkly, “and ye would not!”

Blog No.229.  Jim Holbeck. Posted on Wednesday 16th August 2017

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Temptations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

228. REPENTANCE. The apostle John urges repentance for everyone in his epistles

The word “repentance” does not seem to appear in John’s epistles. However there are connections. In the epistles he uses the word “confess” to make the same sort of plea to his readers to turn from their sin to God. It is the Greek word [homologéō,  ὁμολογέω]. It is composed of two main parts, [“homo” meaning “the same”] and [“logeo” meaning to “say” or to “speak”.]  Combined they mean to “say the same as” or to “agree with.” The word is used in 2 different ways in the epistles.

The first way it is used, is for people to confess or agree with the truths that God has made known. For example, in 1Jn 2:23 John declares this truth, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” It is confessing the Son to be the Son of God, a revealed truth to the disciples. Likewise in 1Jn 4:2 John affirms this truth, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” God had revealed that Jesus was the Son of God who had come to earth. When a person confessed that truth, they were agreeing with what God had revealed. To fail to confess Jesus had come in the flesh was the rejection of what God had revealed. It was contrary to God’s revelation. It was an expression of the spirit of anti-Christ, 1Jn 4:3 “and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” The same truth is seen in John’s second epistle, 2Jn 1:7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” In this sense, to “confess” the truth of the incarnation of Jesus was to agree with God’s revealed truth about Him.

 On the positive side, those who confessed that Jesus was the Son of God, were agreeing with God’s revelation to His people. They were on His side. It was a sign that they had been born again and were now indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. Thus they were able to confess that truth, 1Jn 4:15 “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

The second way the word is used, is found in just one verse in John’s epistles, but it is highly significant. We see the background in the previous verse, 1Jn 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Deception is terribly deceptive! One doesn’t know one is deceived until one comes out of that deception!  That’s the sad part, that many who have been deceived don’t know it, and may never know it! It’s only the light that reveals the darkness.  But one must be willing to let the light shine in!

We allow the light shine in by seeking to get right with God and by maintaining that closeness.  That means that we need to be honest with Him and to tell Him we have sinned and need to be forgiven, 1:9 “If we confess our sins [hamartía, ἁμαρτία] [NOTE 1 below]. John encourages us by telling us what happens when we do so sincerely, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Here the confession is not about confessing some truth concerning Jesus. Rather it confessing the truth about ourselves. It means recognising that some or many of our words or actions have not been in accord with God’s will or His laws. We decide to agree with His verdict on those actions or words and confess them, as He sees them, as sin. God is “faithful” to His promises regarding forgiveness for sin and “just’ because Jesus has secured forgiveness for us through His death and resurrection. God is “faithful and just” because justice has been done and His mercy has been extended to those who come to God in repentance and in faith in Jesus.

That truth is further brought out in verse 10, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us”. The word “sinned” is the verb version of “sin’ in verse 9. The meaning as we saw then was to “miss the mark”, to “err”, to “do wrong”. It would be a brave soul indeed [as well as a deceived one] to say that they had never sinned! But it takes courage to admit it. When one does admit it, blessings follow, especially the blessings of forgiveness and peace as we saw in Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin [hamartía, ἁμαρτία] is covered.” David added that when he didn’t declare his sin, he went through physical and emotional turmoil. Peace came when he actually confessed it to God, 32:5 “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity [hamartía, ἁμαρτία]; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” God covered over the sin that David had uncovered before Him and David had peace. [NOTE 2]

What else does John have to say about human sin [hamartia, ἁμαρτία] and the need for repentance in his epistles?  He further describes such sin in the following verses.

In 1 Jn 2:1-2, John expresses the purpose of his letter as an attempt to prevent them from sinning, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.” However he has an answer for those who do sin.  Jesus paid the price for human sin through His death on the cross and is their advocate before the Father when they acknowledge their sin before Him. “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” It seems that John is envisaging that those who recognise their sin should repent of it, confess it and claim forgiveness through what Jesus has done in His sacrificial death for sinners.

In 1 Jn 3:4-5, John declares that those who sin are law breakers and are guilty of lawlessness. The latter [anomia, ἀνομία] is one of the words we have seen being used for sin. “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. The good news according to John is that Jesus “appeared” or came to earth to take away sins by His sacrifice on the cross. 5 “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” The sinless One died for sinners and as Paul wrote in Eph 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Forgiveness is available, but only in Him.

1 Jn 3:8-9, John takes a tough stand regarding sin. He describes those guilty of ongoing sin as being under the control of the devil.  “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” But Jesus came to break the hold that the devil had over humans, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. He makes the claim that there can be victory over sin because they are indwelt by the Son and thus can have power over sin in their lives, 9 “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” They can be victorious over sin because they have been changed by the grace of God. As Peter wrote, they had become “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2Peter 1:4. They were to realise they were different and were to act accordingly.

In 1 Jn 5:16-17, John pens some difficult words, “If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death.” It seems that John has believers in mind. If they do happen to sin, all is not lost. They can repent and claim the forgiveness which is theirs in Christ. They live in the sphere of God’s grace and forgiveness because they have trusted in Christ and received Him as their Saviour.  But as John goes on to add, “There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.” While there has been much conjecture regarding the term “a sin that leads to death”, it seems that John has in mind those who are not living in the sphere of God’s grace and forgiveness. They have rejected Christ and have no desire to repent of their sins or to receive Him or to submit their lives to Him. Whilst they continue to live in rebellion against God’s purposes in Christ, they place themselves beyond the realm of redemption. That is spiritual death.

John finishes his epistle with encouraging truths for believers

There is victory over sin for the believer, 1Jn 5:18 “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” Jesus gives ongoing victory to believers.

Believers belong to the family of God and are “in Him” who is the true God.  1Jn 5:19 “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”  Being [and abiding] in Jesus means abiding in the truth and being willing and able [by the grace of God] to turn away from sin.

However John recognised the power of the evil one [NOTE 3] and ends his letter with a simple warning, 1Jn 5:21 “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” As the Cambridge Bible For Schools and Colleges put it so well, “From the idols; those with which Ephesus abounded: or again, from your idols; those which have been, or may become, a snare to you.”

The commentary helpfully continues,” This is the last of the contrasts of which the Epistle is so full. We have had light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hate, God and the world, Christ and Antichrist, life and death, doing righteousness and doing sin, the children of God and the children of the devil, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error, the believer untouched by the evil one and the world lying in the evil one; and now at the close we have what in that age was the ever present and pressing contrast between the true God and the idols.”  Believers touched by the power of God and indwelt by the Son had a choice. The choice of walking in darkness as they once had done or the choice of living lives of repentance, remaining in the light and thus being victorious over the evil one and over the allure of evil and of idols.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

NOTE 1.  This is one of the words for ‘sin’ that we looked at in Blog No. 222 which lists a number of the words used for ‘sin’ in the New Testament.

NOTE 2. It is interesting to see that the words which are used in this verse for the various types of sin, are also used frequently for “sin” in the New Testament. Psalm 32:5 “I acknowledged my sin [anomia, ανομιαν] to you, and I did not cover my iniquity [hamartía, ἁμαρτία]; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions [anomia, ανομιαν] to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity [asebeia, ασεβειαν] of my sin.

NOTE 3. Mention is made of the of the devil in 1 Jn 3:8, 10 and of the evil one in 1Jn 2:13, 14, 3:12, 5:18, 19.

Blog No.228.   Jim Holbeck. Posted Monday 14th August 2017

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

227. REPENTANCE. Lessons from the writer to the Hebrews. A Personal testimony of a transformed life

He staggered out of the room in which we had just previously had lunch together. He was ashen faced and trembling violently! During lunch he had asked me a question from Hebrews 6. I had given him some sort of answer, and then I went back to work in the main part of the laboratory. It was about 2 hours later that he staggered out of the lunch room. I had never seen him or anyone else like this before. He had always been the laid-back supercilious atheist frequently mocking my new-found faith in Jesus Christ. He had been shocked when I told him I was now going to church. But as we shared lunch breaks in the oil analysis room he had begun to ask questions about the Bible.  He even asked me if he could borrow a New Testament in modern language. So during our short lunch breaks I would be reading the Bible as a brand-new Christian while he, the well-known atheist sat there reading my little New Testament. Week after week.

But on this particular day something different happened during lunch. It was going to be life changing! For both of us! He asked a couple of questions which were fairly easy to answer. Then he asked me to explain these words from this translation of Hebrews 6:1-6, “So then let us once for all quit the elementary teaching about Christ and continue progressing toward maturity; let us stop relaying a foundation of repentance from works that mean only death, and of faith in God, 2 of teaching about ceremonial washings and the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and final judgment. 3 And we will progress, if God permits. 4 For it is impossible for those who have once for all been enlightened and have experienced the gift from heaven, who have been made sharers of the Holy Spirit 5 and have experienced how good God’s message is and the mighty powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen by the wayside — it is impossible, I say, to keep on restoring them to their first repentance, since they continue to crucify the Son of God to their detriment and hold Him up to contempt.”

A difficult passage to explain at any time! Especially when one was only a few months old in the faith oneself! I remember saying to him something like this, “Henry, [not his real name] I don’t think verse 4 applies to you because as an atheist you haven’t yet experienced being enlightened or the gift from heaven or received the Holy Spirit.” However, after I left the lunch room he kept on reading the passage until suddenly the Spirit of God came on him and he was deeply convicted of sin. That’s when he staggered out saying to me, “It all true isn’t it? It’s all true! What have I got to do?” What a shock it was to me to see him in such a disturbed state and to hear the fear-filled words he was uttering! I told him what I felt he should do. Next day I took him to my minister who led him to the Lord in prayer. It was an amazing change!

The following Sunday, this avowed atheist [who was always being sought after by the newspapers to give an atheistic view on various topics] picked up his little New Testament, and shocked his neighbours by walking a short distance to the local Anglican church. This he continued to do for the remainder of his life whilst becoming a lay reader helping in services, then a lay preacher preaching at services, then a member of the Diocesan Synod representing his parish and later a member of General Synod representing his diocese in the all-Australian Synod. Not a bad sort of change for a once avowed atheist!

On that day, I saw how powerfully the Spirit of God could convict even the most hardened sinner of their sin as they read His word! I saw how quickly the Lord could change someone from being an avowed atheist to being a committed believer! I saw true repentance in action, coupled with a new deep faith in Jesus Christ! I saw the outward evidence of a new birth taking place before my eyes!

Well what does the book of Hebrews have to say about repentance? There are only 3 references but they are all very significant. The first reference is in Heb 6:1 where the writer urges the readers to grow in maturity, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance [metanoia,  μετάνοια] from dead works and of faith toward God.”  As we have seen in previous articles, the preaching of the early church centred on those two basic elements, namely the need for people to repent and also the need for people to put their faith in Christ.  Those were essential elements but they were not the only elements of the Christian faith. Maturity came from finding out more of the unsearchable riches they possessed in Christ and how they might grow to fullness of life in Him.

The second passage is the one I mentioned above that had such an impact on my friend in the laboratory, Heb 6:4 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” We note in passing that the writer is not saying that it is impossible for such people to be restored “to salvation”. Rather it is “to repentance”.  As the passage in the version I gave him put it, “It is impossible, I say, to keep on restoring them to their first repentance.” People who deliberately sin after having been enlightened, become hardened and may never again experience the liberating effect of their initial repentance. The writer is issuing a warning for believers to always walk in the light and not be led astray from the truth in Jesus.

The final verse regarding repentance in Hebrews is Heb 12:17. The writer had been urging his readers to take hold of the grace of God and never to let bitterness come in which might defile the person and affect others as well. They should walk in holiness, getting all their Christian priorities right. There was no place for moral or personal sin. Esau is mentioned as an example of someone in a privileged position who got his priorities wrong by rejecting his birthright for a single meal when he was hungry. The writer then used that illustration to warn his readers, Heb 12:15 “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.” The lesson is drawn that when one rejects one’s privileges, one may never recover them, no matter how sorrowful one may feel, 12:17 “For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, [literally “no place for repentance”, metanoia, μετάνοια] though he sought it with tears.” Esau had despised his birthright [Genesis 25:34, …Thus Esau despised his birthright] and even a change of mind about his birthright and a new desire to recover it, could bring it back in spite of all his tears.

 These passages above give some indication as to the necessity of true repentance in the Christian life. As I recall my experience of what had happened to Henry in the laboratory almost 60 years ago I am reminded of what was preached in Acts 11 about repentance. Peter had been telling his fellow Jews what had happened as he shared the gospel with the Gentile Cornelius and his other Gentile friends. The Holy Spirit had come upon them and they repented and believed in Jesus. Peter remarked, Act 11:17 “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” After a silence his fellow Jews responded, Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Repentance was a gift given by God to Gentiles who were open to learn of Him.

Repentance was a gift given by God to my Gentile friend Henry as he sat there pondering that passage from Hebrews 6. He chose to do something about it by cooperating with the Spirit’s ministry in him by repenting of his sin and by committing his life completely to Jesus. He was glad he did! I too was glad he did, because it showed me as a brand-new Christian the immensity of God’s love and power to transform those whom we may think would never, ever repent and turn to God for forgiveness and life! If Henry could and did, then perhaps we need to bring before the Lord the person or people we have been thinking would never be interested!

Blog No.227. Jim Holbeck. Posted Sunday 30th July 2017

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

226. REPENTANCE. Saul the Persecutor became Paul the Preacher of Repentance

Paul preached about repentance

If repentance involves turning to God then Saul of Tarsus must have truly repented. He changed from being Saul, a persecutor of the church to being Paul, a preacher of the church. Late in his ministry he declared to King Agrippa that he had been fulfilling God’s role for him as a preacher, by preaching that his hearers should repent and turn to God, Acts 26:19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.[Note 1] He could preach that message because he had personally done the same thing many years before in obedience to God’s call on His life, Acts 9:1-6. His life as a messenger of God bore testimony to his commitment to turn from the evil he had been doing, especially in hunting down and imprisoning the people of God.

In his final address to the Ephesian elders he reflected on his ministry in Asia among them,  Acts 20:18  ‘And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19  serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20  how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21  testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”’ His message had been both to Jews and Gentiles and was twofold. It involved the need for them to turn from their sin to God in true repentance and also the need for them to trust in God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.

He recognised that John the Baptist had also been a messenger of God preparing the way for Jesus the coming Messiah by preaching that people should repent, Acts 13:24 “Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” And in Acts 19:4  “And Paul said, “John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” Paul acknowledged that John the Baptist had also preached the same twofold message, the need for repentance and the need to trust in the Messiah, the Christ.

Paul wrote about repentance

In his letter to the Romans, Paul warned his readers that they should not presume on God’s kindness. Their repentance had to be sincere. They could not go on living lives that had not changed. It was true that God had not judged them nor punished them for their sinful behaviour. However they were to understand that this was a sign of His love and mercy and patience, not of His acquiescence with what they were doing. Rom 2:3 “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?  4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed”. God’s patience with them was designed to encourage them to repent, not to lull them into a false sense of security!

A letter Paul had written to the church in Corinth had brought them grief. But their grief had been shallow. They had not allowed God to keep on changing them, 2Cor 7:8  “For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while”. His readers had become sad but their grief had become a godly grief and for that Paul was glad, 9 “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” He contrasted godly grief with worldly grief. Godly grief, inspired by God by His Holy Spirit, brought them to repentance leading to salvation. Worldly grief got them nowhere! It was a dead-end street!

In the same letter Paul expressed his concern that if he were to visit them in Corinth he might not be happy with what he would find, 2Cor 12:21 “I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.” This verse tells us a number of things about the nature of sin and the nature of repentance. It is worth noting that these 3 words [impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality] are linked together in Paul’s description of the “works of the flesh” in Gal 5:19-21, [Note 2] which are the characteristics of the sinful unregenerate human nature. These sins come naturally to unregenerate humans but they are not to feature in the life of the born again Christian believer. The Corinthian believers were no longer to engage in such sinful practices and had to repent before God for having done so.

What was required of all believers was especially to be shown forth in the lives of Christian leaders.  Paul lists their essential characteristics, 2Tim 2:24 “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.” If they were to exhibit such qualities then it would be possible that they would have a positive influence on those to whom they ministered, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” Leaders who were willing to live lives embodying repentance could influence their hearers to also repent and turn to God.

It is encouraging to those of us who seek to share the good news of Christ with others to realise that when God is at work by His Holy Spirit He can accomplish things in people’s lives that we might not have thought possible. For example, who would have thought that Saul of Tarsus would so radically change as he confronted the risen Christ on the Damascus road. Who would have thought that the leading persecutor of the church would become in a very short time the leading preacher of the church? It was hard for believers to understand. When Ananias was commanded by God to go and lay hands on Saul the persecutor, he initially objected, Act 9:13, “But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” However, he obeyed God and was able to lay hands on Saul calling him, “Brother Saul.”

It was surprising also to those who later heard him preaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Christ. This was their reaction to his preaching, Act 9:21 ‘And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”’ Acts 9:21. Paul had repented and turned to God. That was the difference! By the grace of God, he was no longer the same person!

Can such a thing happen in today’s world, that God can touch people in His power and radically transform them, so that their whole lives are changed for ever? The answer is “Yes!” and I hope to share an amazing transformation I witnessed, in my next article.

————————————————————————————————————————————

[Note 1] This verse contains the 3 major words regarding repentance in the New Testament. “Repent” is from metanoéō, μετανοέω.  “Turn to” is from epistréphō, ἐπιστρέφω. “Repentance” is the noun metanoia, μετάνοια.

[Note 2] The works of the flesh are described by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Blog No.226.  Jim Holbeck. Posted on Saturday 28th July 2017

 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

225.REPENTANCE IN THE MINISTRY OF THE EARLY CHURCH. St Peter’s messages remain a challenge to us today!

Peter preached repentance.  The early church began on the day of Pentecost with a challenging message by Peter the apostle. In a sermon designed not to ‘win friends and influence people’, he told them to change their ways! Not only that but they were to demonstrate that they were willing to change by going down into the river Jordan and allow him to baptise them! He told his hearers to repent! What a hide! That was no way to get new members for his cause! Peter would never get a gig as a speaker in a Church Growth conference today with that sort of approach! (More’s the pity!)

However he did level with them and told them that there would be a blessing for them if they responded to his message. If they did repent and demonstrated that choice in being baptised, then they would receive two great blessings, namely the forgiveness of their sins and also the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell them. Peter preached, Act 2:38 “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” As we noted in previous articles there are two main words used for “repent”. The one used in this verse is the Greek word [metanoéō, μετανοέω] meaning to change one’s mind and to change one’s behaviour. The other word we will meet is [epistréphō, ἐπιστρέφω] a derivative of [stréphō, στρέφω] meaning to turn.

Later Peter healed a lame man in Solomon’s portico. He explained the miracle and then challenged his hearers to repent and turn back to God.  Act 3:17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20  that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord …..”  (“repent” here is the usual word [metanoéō]. However that is followed by another word which also refers to repentance. It is “turn back” in verse 19.  It is the Greek word [epistréphō, ἐπιστρέφω] meaning to turn to or to convert.) In other words, he tells them to change their minds about their sins and to turn away from them to God. Once again there is the link between repentance, the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit who brings refreshment to those who receive Him.

The two words are linked again in Acts 26:20, where Paul addressed King Agrippa, Act 26:19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20  but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent [metanoéō] and turn to [epistréphō] God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance [the noun form metanoia, μετάνοια].” Here there is the added aspect of repentance, that people should change their minds about their sin, turn away from them to God and in addition show the reality of that change by living lives that reflected they were in the process of changing for the better.

 When Peter and the apostles were charged with preaching Jesus, after they had been forbidden to do so by the high priest and some Sadducees, they responded by preaching Jesus to them, Act 5:29 “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Repentance leading to forgiveness was a gift from God to those who obeyed Him and who had received His Holy Spirit.

On another occasion, Peter was faced with a man named Simon who was jealous for power. It was the power of distributing the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. He had seen Peter and John used by God in this way and he wanted to be able to do the same. Peter told him to repent in order that he might be forgiven. Acts 8:20  ‘But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”’ They were strong words but were calculated by Peter to make Simon realise what spiritual peril he had placed himself in due to his jealousy and covetousness. Simon had to change his mind and his attitude. He had to repent otherwise he would not be forgiven and would perish.

Peter had preached to some Gentiles. He recalled what had happened, in Acts 11:15-17, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” As he shared this in Jerusalem they were surprised. It now appeared to them that God had poured out His Spirit on Gentiles who believed. Then they praised God saying, Act 11:18 “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” They had to recognise that God was at work in the Gentiles who believed, by enabling those Gentiles to repent and respond in faith to Peter’s message.

Peter wrote about repentance.  Much later Peter wrote a letter in which he reminded his readers that God wanted all people to come to repentance,  2Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” That was God’s desire but people had to exercise their free-will and choose to turn to Him in repentance lest they perished. It is a similar concept to what we will see in Paul’s preaching while standing in the midst of the Areopagus in Acts 17:30, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Repentance is a gift from God but people need to respond to the gift by actually repenting before God.

There were times in my ministry as an ordained clergyman [which began in 1968] when some church leaders were not all that pleasant or considerate towards me and my family. I tried as much as possible to bring the Lord’s healing into those relationships but not always successfully. I began to think that if there ever was a revival, a deep movement of the Holy Spirit in Australia, some of those who hadn’t recognised their hardness might be convicted by the Holy Spirit and contact me saying, “Sorry Jim. I was pretty mean to you. Would you please forgive me?” Then I would know that God had brought a great revival, that He had been doing a deep work in them bringing them to repentance.  In truth, a couple of folk did do that. Others didn’t and have never apologised.

I learnt a couple of truths in the process. One was that it was necessary to look at one’s own life and make sure that one’s own life is  right in every respect before God. As I have written in previous articles, the prayer of openness in Psalm 139 was helpful in this, Psa 139:23 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” When He searches us and reveals the results of His search to us, it is humbling, cleansing, healing and strengthening!

The other truth was this. One had to learn to forgive immediately and hand the situations over to the Lord for Him to deal with, while one tried to love the offenders with God’s agape love. That meant seeking their best interests at all times in every way. In that way bitterness would not affect the family nor the people to whom one was ministering.

In brief, all of need to reflect on the early preaching of the church and consider again the words of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for the coming of Jesus, Mat 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  AND the words of Jesus as He began His ministry, Mat 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” AND the words of St Peter as he preached at Pentecost, Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” AND later, Acts 3:19 “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” 

Remembering this truth, unless we are willing to maintain a repentant heart towards the Lord, always being willing to be open to His scrutiny, our exhortation to others to repent will have little impact on them! Unfortunate, but true! Repentance has no short cuts! It involves everything about us, our relationship to God and our relationship to everyone else we know and meet!

Blog No.225.  Jim Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 27th July 2017

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

224. REPENTANCE. As seen in the ministries of John the Baptist and of Jesus

Many years ago a famous writer A.W.Tozer penned a book with the title, “Worship, The Missing Jewel Of The Evangelical Church.” It was a challenging book and led to changes being made in church services and in church life and personal lives in many churches around the world. Perhaps it might be time for another book with the title, “Repentance, The Missing Jewel Of The Christian Church.” Certainly, there is a loss of emphasis on repentance in many denominations and churches worldwide.  That is surprising when we consider the accounts of preaching in the New Testament.

It may be helpful to look at some of the major words used for repentance in the New Testament. The first word is the Greek word translated as “repent” [metanoéō, μετανοέω] with the associated noun “repentance” [metánoia, μετάνοια]. The basic meaning is seen in the components to the word. The “meta” is a preposition meaning “ with” or after”.  The “noia” is derived from “nous” meaning mind, reason or intellect. So “to repent” can mean to have an after-thought, or to change one’s mind. It can mean a change of mind accompanied by a change in direction, a change in behaviour.

The other word used in the New Testament that has some bearing on the meaning of repentance is the word [stréphō,  στρέφω meaning “to turn”] and its derivatives, especially [epistréphō,  ἐπιστρέφω].

 JOHN THE BAPTIST PREACHED REPENTANCE

A change in behaviour was obviously what was in the mind of John the Baptist as he began his preaching. His clarion call to the people of his day was this, Mat 3:2 Repent [metanoéō], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” How did his hearers respond?  Mat 3:5 “Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins”. Repentance involved confession of sin in order to be forgiven. Both Mark and Luke record that he preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3.

But that confession of sin had to be sincere. When some of the Jewish leaders of the day came to see what was happening he challenged their insincerity. Mat 3:7 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” John the Baptist was looking for a change in their behaviour. To rely on their status was insufficient. Mat 3:9 “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham”. An eventual time of judgment by the coming Messiah, Jesus, would see the recognition of good fruit [wheat] and the destruction of what was not good, [the chaff.] Mat 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

In many ways John the Baptist was preparing the way for the coming King but it must have been a shock to the religious leaders of the day that he expected them to repent and be baptised as well. Luke records these tragic words about those leaders who were not willing to repent, Luke 7:30  “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him”. Failure to repent = a rejection of the purpose of God! Repentance is obviously very important in the sight of God!

 JESUS PREACHED REPENTANCE

Jesus, after His temptations in the wilderness, began his ministry, Mat 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He too expected change in the behaviour of those who witnessed His miracles and heard His teaching. If they failed to repent then they were guilty in His sight,  Mat 11:20 “Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.” He emphasised their guilt by comparing them with those in the past who had not turned to God from their sin, but may have, had they been given the greater opportunities the present generation had been given, Mat 11:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Greater opportunities always bring with them, greater accountability

Jesus contrasted the positive response of the people of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah with the lack of response to His ministry from His hearers,  Luke 11:32 “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” He taught about the necessity of repentance in very strong terms, Luk 13:3 “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’ AND Luk 13:5 ‘No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

 True repentance on the part of one person can lead to rejoicing in heaven. As Jesus said, Luk 15:7 “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” AND Luk 15:10 “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” On the other hand His people were to believe those who came to them saying that they had repented of their sin against them, Luk 17:3 “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” It takes a lot for people to repent so any expression of repentance is to be taken seriously. Jesus’ ministry was directed, as He said, not to those who felt no need to repent but to those who admitted they were sinners, Luk 5:32  “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance .”

 During His ministry Jesus sent out His 12 apostles with a message of repentance, Mar 6:12 “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” The hearers were meant to respond to the message that God’s kingdom had come in Jesus. After His resurrection Jesus told His disciples what their message should be. He linked repentance with forgiveness of sins. They were to preach Christ as the One in whom forgiveness of sins could be obtained through repentance. Luke 24:45 “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” But did His disciples fulfil that commission? We will see in another article that they did! Before we do so we look at the other words we mentioned especially [strepho, στρέφω and epistréphō, ἐπιστρέφω both meaning to turn]

Other words associated with aspects of repentance

In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, Zechariah was told by an angel that Jesus would have a God-given role in bringing many Israelites to God, Luk 1:16  “And he will turn [epistréphō] many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17  and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn [epistréphō] the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” His ministry would “turn hearts“ and they would respond to God.

However not everyone’s heart would be turned to God through His ministry. Not all would repent. Some would have hardened hearts which would be resistant to His message, Mat 13:15 “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn [epistréphō], and I would heal them.” However in a similar passage in John 12:40 a different word is used. “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn [strepho] and I would heal them.” Their healing was dependent on their turning to God. They had a choice. They were accountable for their choices.

Jesus warned them later that entrance into the kingdom of God was also dependent on their humbling themselves and turning to Him, Mat 18:3 “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn [strepho] and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  The turning to God in these cases involved a decision on the part of the hearers to humbly respond to the message Jesus preached, an aspect of repentance. There needed to be an ongoing repentance in believers which meant that they would not turn back from God.

 Jesus warned Peter that Satan was trying to bring him down.  Peter would soon after deny Jesus but Jesus had prayed that his faith might not fail. He would turn again after those denials and become a strength to his fellow disciples, Luke 22:32  “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Turn is [epistréphō.] It would be a turning back to his role in strengthening his fellow disciples.  Which of course he did.

What all these passages are saying is that repentance is a choice we humans need to make. We need to change our minds about living our lives in our own way and turn to God to live our lives in His way. In doing so we  to receive His forgiveness for our sins and also the gift of His Spirit who can enable us and empower us to live life in God’s way. We will go on to examine what that involves for all of us, but it obviously means active involvement in our relationship with God and not passive detachment from Him or from His plan and purpose for us! More on that soon!

Blog No.224.  Jim Holbeck. Posted Monday 24th July 2017.

 

 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, TOPICS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment