What is repentance?
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth. – 2 Timothy 2:24,25
What caught my attention this morning in reading this passage was… “if God will perhaps grant them repentance.” Is it possible that we, on some level, are of a mindset that repentance is in some way an offering from us to God ? Could it be that we have it backwards? The Greek word used here is (didōmi) meaning “of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage.” God chooses to "grant us" repentance... of His own accord... for our advantage. In Exodus 33:19 God declares “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” And Jesus (the Way, the Truth, and the Life) said "no man comes to me unless the Father draws him." In the Sermon on the Mount, the first of the beatitudes is “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” To be poor is spirit is to become aware of one’s sinful state, to be aware of one’s inability to change that state, and to cry out for mercy. We live in a culture that says “you’re basically good.” But that is completely contrary to God’s word and it is contrary to the way of salvation. Until we become aware of our desperate need for God’s mercy, we cannot receive His mercy… and yet it is His mercy that causes us to become aware of our need.
The message God is increasingly stirring in my soul is a message of repentance. Just as John the Baptist preached “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand” and Jesus, coming out of the desert, being baptized by John, began his ministry with the same message. Jesus, the King of kings, was in their midst. He was to establish his kingdom from the ground up, beginning with his disciples. For those of us who are followers of Christ (Christians), we are born again… into his kingdom. And our message of hope, our message of salvation, is a message of God’s Kingdom. And his kingdom is, indeed, at hand. He is coming again to claim his own and to judge with wicked. Our message is, more than ever: Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. If we are truly followers of Christ, if he is Lord and King of our lives, we will preach this message. And it is in the hands of God as to whom he grants that repentance. Many will reject it. Many will become angry with us for declaring it. But God has an elect. He has a chosen people from all nations.
So, to my fellow followers of Christ, I encourage you to share the gospel of the good news. I encourage you to live, move, and have your being in Jesus. I encourage you to daily commit ALL your ways to him and he will direct your paths. Let your light so shine before men... some will hate you for it, but others will be drawn to it. We must warn those God puts in our path of the coming judgement and the chance here and now to cry out to God, that he might grant them repentance.
If you have never yielded your life to the Lordship of Jesus, you can do it today. Romans 10:9 tells us “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” My friends, Jesus is returning to judge the living and the dead.
Are you ready?
No one can come to me, except the Father who has sent me draw him.” – John 6:44
What is keeping you from Jesus? Are you afraid of what he’ll ask of you? Have you been turned off by those who claim to represent him, but act nothing like him? Or do you believe all that Jesus stuff is a bunch of nonsense? The fact is, the only way you’ll ever come to Jesus is if the Father draws you. So, what does that mean? The word “draw” is translated from the Greek “helkō” which means to take for oneself, to prefer, choose. In Exodus 33:19 God declared to Moses “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” And in John 15:16 Jesus said to his followers “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Do you see? No one comes to Jesus unless the Father “draws” him. And no one gets to the Father, except through Jesus. For Jesus said “I and the Father are ONE (Echad) and “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Whatever has kept you from Jesus, lay it aside. If you are feeling drawn to him, it is the Father’s doing. It means He has chosen you. And if you will come… if you will call on his name, he will do something amazing:
Listen to what he says: “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Furthermore, he says “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
As for me, I have surrendered my life to Jesus. I do so with absolute abandon and delight. He is Lord of my life and I trust him completely. What will keep me from Jesus? Absolutely nothing. And more importantly, nothing will keep him from me. He would lay aside heaven and descend into hell for me. He would suffer ridicule and shame and unimaginable pain for me. He would even die for me. I know this, because he did. And I also know he rose from the dead that he holds the keys of hell and death. He has all authority and he is coming again. He is coming to take me away. In fact, he’s been preparing a place for me. It’s going to be amazing.
Here’s some great news... He told me I could invite you too. Won’t you join us?
Change your mind...
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:2-8
Are you tired? Are you worn out from the rat race? Are you feeling overwhelmed with all you need to do?
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” – What a statement. What does this mean? Let this mind… “phroneō” in the Greek, meaning “to seek one's interest or advantage.” To seek the interest or advantage… not of yourself, but of others. In lowliness of mind – here “mind” is “tapeinophrosynē” meaning “humbleness of mind, humility.”
This, my dear bothers and sisters is the mind of Christ. It is his disposition and inclination. In Matthew 11:29 we read Jesus’ words… “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” God promises, if you will allow him to do this work in you, that you will “find rest for your soul.” Oh, my friends; my Savior – my Lord… He is gentle and lowly in heart. The King of kings and Lord of lords came to serve. To have His heart… To have His mind… this is what He desires for us. This is what pleases the Father. And this is what will bring rest to our soul.
As I was praying this morning, the Holy Spirit began to lead my thoughts towards needs and desires of people I know. Men I know who don’t feel appreciated by their wives, brothers and sisters who are going through financial difficulties, health problems, and emotional issues. Friends, family members, and neighbors who are spiritually dead - lost in sin and need their eyes, ears, and hearts to be opened to the truth of the gospel. As I began to pray… starting from a place of need for myself; I began to pray, not only for others needs, but for their desires. I began to pray that God would turn wives’ hearts towards their husbands and husbands’ hearts towards their wives, that he would heal their sicknesses, that He would meet their needs and give them the desires of their hearts... and most importantly, save those who are lost. It is a marvelous experience, to have the Holy Spirit speak through you - to the Father, on behalf of others. To feel a sense of their hurts, their needs, and their desires. And to be able to bring those to the Lord in prayer. It does something to you. It gives you a kinder heart… more compassionate, less condemning, and more gracious. And believe me, I need that. Left to my own devises, I can find fault with everyone and plenty of excuses for my own shortcomings. But that is not God’s heart. His heart is one of compassion, long suffering, kindness, mercy, and grace.
And so, I exhort you today to come to the Lord in prayer. Make your petitions known to him. Pour out your heart for yourself, your family, and your own needs. But allow the Holy Spirit time, give Him room; and He will begin to pour through you - prayers that are from God’s own heart. And in so doing, a thankful heart will emerge within you. As you experience God’s compassionate heart, you will find praises welling up inside of you. You will see, as you pray for others, how faithful, and loving, and merciful He is. And you will fall more in love with God… After all, that’s what this is all about. We were created to love God and be loved by Him. This whole thing… life, creation, all of it… it’s about love. For God, who is love, loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son… what an amazing love. May the Lord fill your heart with his love today and give you peace that passed human understanding… in the name of the Prince of Peace.
May it be so in Jesus’ name.
What are you listening to today?
Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. – Psalm 119:11
If we love God, we don’t want to sin against Him. Because we fear God, we don’t want to sin against Him. David, who wrote this Psalm, was certainly familiar with sin. Boy, he went all the way with it. Committing adultery and then killing the woman’s husband. And the Bible doesn’t cover any of it up for us – it’s all out there in the open. And yet, this horrific sinner is a towering figure in God’s kingdom. Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords – Son of God… is of the line of David. David knew about sin. But here is what we must not miss… He knew what it meant to have his heart broken over sin. He knew true repentance. He knew the power of God’s mercy and grace. He knew the power of forgiveness. David had a heart after God’s own heart. He loved God. And so, he says “Thy word have I hid in mine heart.” What does that mean? The word “word” here is from the Hebrew root word ('āmar) which means “to say, speak, utter.” The word “hid” is (ṣāp̄an) meaning “to treasure.” And the word “heart” is (lēḇ) referring to “the inclination, resolution, determination of will.” So, if we want to avoid sinning against God (because we love and fear Him), we will listen… you can’t hear his voice if you aren’t listening. And when He speaks, we will treasure what He says. We will “take it to heart.” And when God speaks into our life… our very inclination will change. Our resolution will be sure. And our determination will be unshaken.
What are you listening to today? Ask God to speak to you. His word does not return void. May He speak into your life today, and may you have ears to hear… that you may not sin against God.
A Father's love
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, `Abba.’” (Romans 8:15)
I recall one evening rocking my youngest daughter to sleep. She had been full of energy all day, running around and playing hard. As soon as I sat with her in the rocking chair, she laid her head on my chest and her arms dropped to her sides in a state of complete relaxation. She hummed softly as she drifted off to sleep. Long after she fell asleep, I continued to sit in that chair simply enjoying the moment with my sweet girl. It was, without a doubt, the highlight of my day. I have had the enormous blessing of many similar cherished moments with all of my children. It is those moments that speak to me more than any sermon, teaching, or book ever could of God’s real intention towards us. For those who accept his offer of adoption - He delights in us. We aren’t meant to serve Him as though He were a slave-driver or taskmaster. He is our Daddy who sets boundaries to keep us safe, disciplines us, comforts us, and ALWAYS loves us. I encourage you to spend some time with Him and rest in his love today.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)
What do you want?
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. - Psalm 37:4
What do you desire? Do you want more things… such as homes, cars, clothes, money? Do you want to be admired by others? Do you want to be better looking or more desirable? Do you just want to be loved?
The funny thing about our desires is that they are a moving target. When you were a baby, you just wanted to be held and fed and nurtured. As you grew into a young child, your desires broadened. Of course, you still wanted to be fed and nurtured. But now, you wanted toys, and friends, to play games and to be entertained. As a teenager you started to notice the appeal of the opposite sex which opened up a whole new level of desire. Perhaps you always wanted a particular car and once you got it, realized you wanted a different car. Our desires are fickle and as you get older, your desires change. Desire is a natural part of who we are. But it is, like every part of our being, something that must be surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:17 tells us “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
God promises to give us the desires of our “heart” if we delight in Him. The word for heart in Hebrew is lēḇ which refers to the seat of our emotions, passions, and desires. It is from the “heart” that our desires spring. As Christians, we focus so much on trying to tame or keep under control those desires which we know to be contrary to God’s laws. And we should, indeed, keep ourselves from fulfilling those evil desires. But God wants to go deeper. He wants to set us free from sin. He offers us a NEW HEART… with NEW DESIRES. In Ezekiel 36:26 He promises, if you are willing, He will “give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” With this new heart and this new spirit, we will find that our desires line up with God’s plan for us. And the one desire that trumps all others, is our desire for God. To know Him. To feel His presence. To be made clean, clothed in Christ’s righteousness, and granted access to God's presence. And like King David, we will sing “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” - Psalm 42:1
The word “delight” in the Hebrew text is עָנַג (ʿānaḡ) means to be soft or pliable. When we are stubborn and refuse to repent, we are incapable of delighting in the Lord. Delight (ʿānaḡ) is a feminine verb; in the context of a woman who is delicate and effeminate, one who gives herself completely to her husband and takes pleasure in his touch, his glance, and his attentions. In a spiritual sense, we are to have the same “delight” in God. Do you see? If we do not desire Him, He will not – cannot – fulfill our desires. God created us to love Him and be loved by Him. That is our whole purpose. The first commandment, the one on which all other commandments hinge, is “you shall love the Lord your God with ALL YOUR HEART.”
My friend, if you have struggled to let go of some hurt or resentment, let it go and give it to God. If you are holding on to some secret sin or unholy habit, repent of it today and turn away from it. If you are consumed with a desire for more stuff, confess it and let it go. Turn your gaze, your attention, and your heart towards God. Make Him your first priority of every day. Delight yourself in Him. And if you do, I can promise you this without a shadow of a doubt… He WILL give you the desires of your heart.
Give it a try... taste and see that the Lord is good!
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. - Hebrews 3:12-13
Beware! There’s a word that should get our attention. Right?
The Greek word here (blepō) means “to see with discernment and have the power of understanding.” And we are warned that the alternative to having a discerning heart is to have an "evil heart." The word evil is (ponēros) which indicates degeneracy from original virtue or health – something that has become corrupted or sick. This is why, when Kind David was confronted with the ugliness of his sin, he cried out “create in me a clean heart.” I remember, years ago, I was driving to a jobsite; using the time to pray… feeling very pious. I prayed something to the effect of “Lord, you know I mess up sometimes, but You know my heart.” What I meant was “I mess up sometimes, but I have such a GOOD heart.” And the Lord spoke to me as clearly as if it had been audible… “Yes, son, I DO know your heart.” And I was instantly reminded of Jeremiah 17:9 which states “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?” This “evil heart” will become hardened by unbelief (apistia) which means “without faith.” Hebrews 11:6 tells us “without faith it is impossible to please God.” And without faith, we will “depart from the living God.” What a warning. What a fearful and dreadful thing. So much for “follow your heart.”
And so, we are instructed to “exhort one another daily – while it is still called today.” Don’t wait for tomorrow… for tomorrow may never come. There is an urgency here… do it today! The word “exhort” is (parakaleō) – to implore with, to encourage, to strive to appease by entreaty, to beg if necessary. When we see a brother or sister turning from the truth, walking in sin, or just struggling in general; we are to encourage them when they are oppressed and lovingly correct them when they stray from the truth. I see here a picture of people who do not “judge” one another, but love one another deeply. We ARE indeed our brother’s keeper. We aren’t called to “stay in our own lane” and “mind our own business.” We are called to “exhort” one another… daily. There is a closeness and an intimacy of fellowship. And there is a deep love, a sacrificial love, and a grace extended and received. Oh, how this is lacking in the church. No wonder so many of us have been “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” When we, from a distance, judge one another rather than moving in closer to show grace to one another; we fall prey to the darts of the evil one. We are living in a time of such extreme isolation. We build our little castles around ourselves and don’t know we are constructing our own prisons. We live in a time of fear, strife, and casting accusations at one another. But we, dear brothers and sisters, are to be known by our love for one another. Love doesn’t look the other way when we see someone falling into sin. And love doesn’t take offence when someone else loves us enough to correct us.
Do you remember? I can hear it ever so faintly in the distance… as though we heard it in a dream somewhere… the words of our Savior… “This is my commandment, that you LOVE one another.” You cannot love God whom you cannot see if you do not love your brother who you can see… it is an impossibility.
Let us “exhort” one another… while it is still called today.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
What are you thinking about today… about your husband, your wife, your parent, your child, your coworker, your employee, your employer… perhaps someone who sometimes makes your life difficult? Are you thinking about their insensitivity, lack of grace, selfishness, laziness, lack of integrity, or some other fault? You have a choice - You have the veto power over any thought that comes into your mind. The term “think about” here is “logizomai” in the Greek, which means “to take into account, meditate on, pass on to one’s account.” We have control over what we choose to take into account regarding another person. And this Scripture is giving us direction on what we should meditate on or pass on to their account. When we feel hurt or wronged in some way, even by someone we love, we have a choice to make. As followers of Christ, we are called to be ministers of His grace. It is a grace that forgives, shows mercy, and is infused with great love – a love that covers a multitude of sins. Think about whatever is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
What’s going through your head? If it’s not good, toss it out. Make a choice to love. Make a choice to forgive. Remember, God loved us “while we were yet sinners.” Make a choice to love someone who doesn’t deserve it.
God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:27
Every human being is of immeasurable worth. Yes, every-single-one. We are created in the image of God. The Hebrew word צֶלֶם, pronounced (tseh'-lem) translated as “image” means “a representative figure” or “bearing a resemblance of.” And the amazing thing is that God allows us to be a part of the creative process of bringing new “images” of himself into existence. Since Adam and Eve, every single human being that has existed was formed in the womb of a woman. Even Jesus came into this world through the womb of the precious mother Mary. The womb is a sacred and holy place. From the act of physical intimacy between husband and wife (a picture of Christ and the church), comes a new life… a new human soul. Have you ever just paused and thought about what an incredible, mystical, beautiful thing that is? An act of love and surrender between two souls who have been joined together and “become one flesh” literally creates another soul. And in that sacred holy of holies… the womb, God begins the process of His purpose for that new life. He is the author of that persons unique DNA. He writes the blueprint of each and every one. God told Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” - Jeremiah 1:5 And you and I are no different. God formed you in your mother’s womb. He knew you and had an eternal plan for you. Approximately 385,000 human beings are born every day. And God knows every single one intimately. What a beautiful design and plan for life.
However, there is an evil epidemic interrupting that beautiful plan right now. There is a satanic attack on this sacred, holy process. Approximately 116,860 human babies are murdered every single day… human beings… in the sacred place where God forms them… the holy and intimate place of love and safety – the womb. In the very place where our journey as a human being is just beginning, the place where we have the most intimate connection to our Creator… lives are being snuffed out at a mind-boggling rate.
In the book of Genesis, the fourth chapter, we learn of the first murder. Cain kills his brother Abel and God calls out to him and says “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” A man kills his brother – a terrible crime. And this one murder evokes a quick and severe response from God. We are approaching two billion abortions now over a forty-year period. Two billion mother’s who have murdered their own babies. What shall God’s response be? How long will He wait? Can you imagine the sound? If the blood of one brother cried out to God, what must the sound of the blood of two billion babies crying out sound like? Can you begin to fathom the severity of the crime? Can you just go on like it doesn’t matter? You pastors… will you really be silent? You Christians, will you just stand by? Do you think God will pardon our complacency – or worse yet, our being complicit? Yes, there are other crimes and tragedies. There are people killing each other, mistreating each other, lying, cheating, stealing, abusing, and deceiving. It is all a part of a fallen and sin-sick world. And in the midst of this chaotic scene, life goes on. We continue to procreate and God continues to form each human being. And every life matters. The bum under the bridge, the teenager who feels like no one understands or cares, the child who just wants someone to listen to them. The prisoner lost in the system, the elderly dying alone, the prostitute selling her body, the drug addict wasting away. Every one of these lives matter. And God cares about each and every one. I know, you can’t reach everyone. But you can talk to your neighbor. You can stop and listen to a child… maybe your own. You can ask God each day to show you what His plan is for you. And you can speak out for the voiceless. You can share God’s heart towards the human race. Because every life matters.
And God has a plan for your life. If you will let Him, He will show you each day how to live it. He will lead you and guide you. And He will use you to touch someone’s life… a life that matters, just like yours.
How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you.; when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm. - Proverbs 1:22-33
Do you love your “simple ways?” Are you “simple?” The root word used here is פָּתָה (pāṯâ) which refers to someone with and “open mind” – someone who is open to flattery, manipulation, or enticement – someone who is easily persuaded and easily deceived. Such a person hates Knowledge דַּעַת (daʿaṯ) / wisdom that comes from knowing and being known by God. The only hope for such a person is to repent. God says “if you will repent, I will pour out my thoughts to you – I will make known to you my teachings.” Do you see? Can you understand? Can you fathom the immeasurable value of what God is offering? He is offering to pour out His thoughts and make known the meaning of His teachings. Do you try to read the Bible and find that you can’t make sense of it? God is offering to reveal Himself to you from the very pages. He is offering to speak to your inner soul. His only prerequisite is that you repent and turn from your “simple ways” – your “open mind” that is swayed by every wind of doctrine, the ideals and values of the world, and the lies of the enemy. And for those who do not repent – for those who do not take what is freely offered… God will laugh at you when your calamity comes.
I recommend repentance. I recommend turning away from sin and “simple ways.” Turn to God – seek Him while He may be found. Very soon, it will be too late. He is waiting. He is ready to forgive - He loves to show mercy. He is ready to pour out His thoughts to you. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe wants to share His thoughts with you – How will you respond?