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Repentance

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Today’s Bible reading begins one of my favorite books of the Bible: Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul begins his Magnum Opus Systematic Theology by laying out the gospel message with a description of man’s descent from the time of Creation to his day — and to our day.

Paul says that God’s wrath is already being revealed against ungodliness because mankind has been able to clearly see God’s revealed glory, and yet refused to acknowledge God’s existence. He wrote this around AD 57. And yet, little has changed.

When the Jewish people cried out to the prophet Samuel for a king (1Samuel 8), he warned them that they didn’t need a king, since God was their king. The people said they wanted to be like other nations and to do that, they needed a king. The people kept asking Samuel for a king until he gave them what they asked for: King Saul. And he did everything that God warned the people he would do. (1 Samuel 8:11–18) They got everything they wanted.

In Romans 1, Paul says that God gave the people what they wanted. And the very thing that they wanted became their judgment.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
For this reason God delivered them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The men in the same way also left natural relations with women and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.
And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Romans 1:22–31 (CSB)

Finally, Paul complete his description of God’s judgment against Fallen Mankind:

Although they know God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them. Romans 1:32 (CSB)

Paul says, it wasn’t enough that people sinned against God. They took it one final step further: they encouraged other people to sin.

Even in my lifetime, I have witnessed this descent played out in society’s acknowledgement to leniency to approval of the sins that Paul spells out here. God has given mankind what mankind has asked for.

Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches. Romans 1:27 (The Message)

Here in verse 27, Paul is referring to Isaiah’s warning:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (CSB)

Application

You may not have personally participated in, approved, or encouraged other people to commit the sins that Paul spells out so clearly. But Mankind has. And America has. We, believers, are at least partially to blame for society’s sinful demise. We have not been the salt and light that we are called to be. (Matthew 5:13–16)

Believers, we must confess and repent for our own participation in the sins of our culture. And we must beg for God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy for our nation’s sins. Our only hope of avoiding God’s wrath being poured out on us is to repent and pray. (2Chronicles 7:14)

Pray for God to send a spiritual awakening and revival, unlike anything our nation has ever experienced. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict believers of their own sin, as well as our sin of silence while the world has gone to hell around them. Pray that pastors will faithfully speak God’s Word and disciple new (and old) believers in the faith. And pray that believers will hear God’s invitation to seek Him with all that they are.

If we don’t pray, no one will. Lost people definitely won’t do it!
Prayer is our job!

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source: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading from Matthew 27, we see Jesus’ last moments as He dies on a cross just outside Jerusalem. He cries out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Billy Foote’s song You are My King (Amazing Love) begins, “I’m forgiven because You were forsaken. I’m accepted. You were condemned.”

As I am typing this and considering the verse, Billy’s description, and the picture, tears are welling up in my eyes. Jesus voluntarily became God’s sacrificial lamb, dying on the cross and taking the wrath of God head-on, becoming the atoning sacrifice for sin that wasn’t His — it was mine and it was yours — all to bridge the chasm between our Holy Creator and us, the fallen creation.

His death accomplished what our feeble attempt at obedience to the Law wasn’t able to — and wasn’t designed to do: give God’s people eternal forgiveness and eternal life. His death reestablished a relationship between God and His people, a relationship that had been severed a long time ago in a garden (Eden). And Jesus’ battle in another garden (Gethsemane) secured the victory over sin, a victory that God’s people experience vicariously.

Application

Jesus was abandoned. Jesus was condemned. Jesus died. He endured all of these things so that you wouldn’t have to. Believer, your sin-debt has been paid. You have been adopted and you will never be abandoned by your Father. Because Jesus died and rose from the dead, power and desire to walk a life that pleases God is available to you.

Spend a few minutes worshiping God. Spend a few minutes expressing your gratitude for the incredibly selfless act that Jesus accomplished for you “on a hill far away”.

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It never ceases to amaze me. Despite Jesus’ clear words in today’s Bible reading, people still think they’ve figured out when Jesus will return.

Pre-millennial. A-millennial. Post-millennial. Pre-Trib. Post-Trib. Mid-Trib. The theological term is eschatology, the study of the End Times. I admit it, I’m not convinced of the details of the End Times. But I do know that Jesus will return for His bride.

Jesus gives us things to look for, but He never tells us when but He says you can tell the seasons by looking at a fig tree. (Matthew 24:32)

Why would Jesus not tell his disciples when He will return? Well, for one thing, He didn’t know! (Matthew 24:36) Other than that, I think the most convincing reason He didn’t tell them/us when He will return is that He knows our hearts. He knows that if He said He wouldn’t return until the Twenty-First Century, the missions movement of the past one hundred-fifty years probably wouldn’t have taken place. We think we can wait until the last minute to get right with God and get busy with Kingdom affairs.

Look around. Do you see a sense of urgency in the lives of churches around your town? Do you see a sense of urgency in the lives of the leaders in those churches?

Application

There’s no reason to fear the end-times … if you are a believer. Your eternal destiny is secure. But if you aren’t a believer, you have a lot to fear! Don’t hesitate! No one knows when Jesus will return! And no one knows when their own time is up! Don’t wait! Get right with God now!

Now, if you are a believer, your work isn’t done yet! Sure, your eternity is secure, but don’t you want to bring as many into the Kingdom of God as possible (here and now, as well as then!)? If you have breath in your lungs and if your heart is still beating, your work isn’t done yet! You can still tell people about Jesus. And you can still pray! Pray for God to create a spiritual awakening, that people will be drawn to Christ and that believers will pursue Gospel-centered conversations with lost friends and loved ones.

No, the work of God’s people is not yet done yet. And Jesus won’t return until it is. So, let’s engage in His business until He returns! (Luke 19:13)

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Jesus weeps over religion

Today’s Bible reading records some of the saddest times of Jesus’ life. He weeps over the religious leaders of His day, pointing out their hypocrisy, and He weeps over Jerusalem for killing the prophets God sent to her.

In pointing out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, he also tells His disciples and the crowd to listen and obey what the leaders’ say when they sit in Moses’ seat. (Matthew 23:3) There may be two reasons Jesus told them to do this:

  1. Sitting in Moses’ seat confers God’s authority. Regardless of their personal lives, these leaders are still speaking God’s truth. To disobey the leaders is to disobey God.
  2. Even on this side of the cross, obedience is still required. Just because Jesus has paid our sin-debt doesn’t mean that we can live however we want. I preach grace. I preach mercy. I preach these things because I have received so much grace and mercy. I preach these things because I believe these are important truths for God’s people to hear. But grace and mercy are not opposed to obedience. They empower obedience!

Application

As you contemplate the grace and mercy that God has given to you as a believer, do you think you can live however you want? Are believers no longer bound to live moral, God-pleasing lives? Let me ask you, “What Bible verses are you getting that from?”

If believers were released from obedience, then why do the Apostles give commands in the book of Acts and in their letters? Even in the fifty days between the Resurrection and the Day of Pentecost, Jesus gave His disciples commands to obey:

  • Go back to Jerusalem and wait for the promised Holy Spirit
  • Make disciples by baptizing and teaching obedience

Obedience on this side of the cross is empowered by justification. It is empowered by grace and mercy. It is empowered by the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. We don’t obey in order to get God’s favor. Rather, we already have God’s favor which empowers us to want to obey Him. (Galatians 5:16, Romans 1:5)

Until we cross over to the other side of eternity, we will experience the tension between our “already justification” and our “not-yet justification”. Like Paul in Romans 7, we will do things we don’t want to do, and we won’t do the things we do want to do. (Romans 7:15-24)

And while we struggle in our conflicting desires on this side of eternity, Paul reminds us in Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation for believers.

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sin

Two words emerge from today’s Bible reading from Matthew 18:SIN and FORGIVENESS.

Jesus talks about causing a child to stumble and says that it would better for the person who causes this offense to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied to his neck.

Next, He says that if your eye or hand causes you to sin, it would better to pluck it out and cut it off because it would be better to enter the Kingdom of Heaven maimed than to suffer in Hell because you didn’t deal with your sin.

Later, He emphasizes the importance of restoration when someone sins. Note, he says restoration and not punishment. Relationships are very important: relationships between people and people’s relationship with God. (Matthew 18:35, Matthew 6:14-15)

Finally, Jesus turns to the need to repeatedly forgive an offender. The math of 70×7 works out to 490, but Jesus’ emphasis is not on counting how many times you forgive, but that you forgive.

Application

The bottom line of Matthew 18 is the seriousness of sin. Sin is bad. Really bad. And we should do whatever it takes to avoid it. John Piper quotes Puritan John Owen when he said that if you are not killing sin, it is killing you. Owen wrote a book, The Mortification of Sin in Believers based on Romans 8:13.

The second main point of Matthew 18 is the seriousness of forgiveness. As bad as it is when people sin against you, it is equally bad when you withhold forgiveness from them — whether or not they ask for forgiveness.

Someone wisely said that withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping the offender gets sick. They may not even be aware that they sinned against you. Withholding forgiveness will eat you alive, so don’t do it. It will shortcircuit your walk with Christ. And that isn’t worth it, regardless of what the other person has done to you.

Now hear me out: the fact that someone sinned against you is bad. Really bad. Forgiveness does not respond by saying, “That’s ok.” It’s not OK! But we are called to release that person to let God deal with their sin. And if you really want to go deep in forgiving the other person, ask God to not hold this sin against them when they stand before the Judgment.

God is infinitely better at dealing with sin
than you will ever hope to be.
And yet, God is infinitely better at forgiving sin
than you will ever hope to be.

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