Thursday, October 25, 2012

Repentance Means

Praying Woman
If we were to ask what repentance is, we would probably be told that we should turn away from sin and live a more Godly life.  This is true, but the Bible makes it clearer than that.  In answer to what repentance is Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  We are told to become a new person in 2 Corinthians 5:17.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!”

The Bible also has some definite requirements for what must be included in repentance.  They are as follows:

  1. Faith  -  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  Mark 1:15
  2. Humility  -  “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  James 4:10
  3. Prayer  -  “Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord.”  Acts 8:22A
  4. Sorrow for Sin  -  “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  Job 42:6

Finally, the Bible makes it clear that we are to show that we are a repentant sinner by the deeds that we do.  In Matthew 3:8 John the Baptist says, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”  Paul repeats this same command in Acts 26:20B when he says, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”

As you can see it is not easy to repent.  We can only begin and continue with a sincere heart and mind and do the very best we can.  When we stumble, we must confess our sin, repent, and continue on knowing that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and that He is with us every step of the way.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Can You Do It?

Praying Woman
In Luke 13:3 Jesus makes it very clear that anyone who does not repent will perish.  But what does it mean to repent?  The dictionary defines the word repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.”  Most pastors will also tell you that to repent means to turn away from sin.  So we say, “Okay, I’ll do that.”  But are you sure?  Let’s take a look at what sin really is.

Exodus 20:1-17 contains the record of The Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses.  I will not repeat them at this time, since everyone can read them.  I will, however, direct your attention to Matthew 5:17-18 where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”  Jesus continues in Matthew 5 and says that anyone who becomes angry is subject to the same judgment as someone who has committed murder.  He also says that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery.  He continues explaining why it is impossible to gain salvation on our own.

In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus introduces The Greatest Commandment.  He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  I am very sure that no one, myself included, can say that no matter what happens we always put the needs and desires of the other person before our own.  This means that we have sinned and fall short of what God expects from us.

Finally, there are sins of commission and of omission.  Sins of commission occur when we do something that we shouldn’t.  Sins of omission occur when we don’t do something that we should, even if we do not realize that we should do it

The point is that it is impossible on our own to live a sin free life.  This is why we have Jesus; our Lord and our Savior.  He took onto Himself all of our sins, so that when we stand before God all God sees is a pure and sin free life.  But as I said last time, in order to gain salvation we must repent and do the very best we can to live a sin free life.  When we mess up, as we most assuredly will, we must confess our sins, repent, and keep trying.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Heaven or Hell - Are you sure?

Praying Woman
This past week I had the opportunity to hear several people speak, who said they had turned their lives over to God and that they were now Christians.  On the surface this sounds wonderful, but as I listened I realized that something was terribly wrong and that these people were probably headed for hell, not Heaven.  You ask, “Why?  How could you say such a thing?”  The words that these people spoke indicated that they had missed a huge component of giving your life to Christ.  Repentance!

They understood that Jesus had suffered and died on the cross to save them from their sins.  They understood that God is love.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  The part that they missed is that God is also a jealous God.  “He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.  He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.”  Joshua 24:19

The life that we must live in order to have God’s forgiveness is one of repentance.  In Acts 2:38 Peter says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”  Peter speaks again in Acts 3:19.  “Repent, then, and turn to god, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.”  Jesus says it very clearly and to the point in Luke 13:3 when He says, “I tell you. .unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

As we joyfully remember God’s love in sending Jesus to suffer and die in our place, we must also remember that God expects something from us.  It is not a free ride.  We must repent and do our very best to live the kind of life that Jesus taught and lived.  The two are a pair.  In the words of a long forgotten song, “You can’t have one without the other.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Apple for Jesus

This story came from a church newsletter written many years ago.  I thought it would be appropriate as we enter apple picking season.

One day an elderly man entered into a hospital.  He was grumpy from being on medication and the nurses thought him to be insane, as he yelled for his wife to get the apple basket.  By the time they had checked him into his room the nurses were exhausted from the fight he was putting up.  “Sir you have to calm down we are doing everything we can for you”  they would try to explain.  “I don’t need your help,” the grumpy man would yell, “I want my apple basket”.  He finally slept.  The nurses sighed with relief and talked among themselves whether they should call the hospital psychologist about the old man and his obsession with the apple basket.  As they talked and laughed about the situation the wife came in carrying the basket of apples.  They looked kind of stunned as she asked if she could see her husband and deliver his basket.  Sure, they agreed as they watched her slip past into his room.  Curiosity consumed them over the next few weeks as they tended to the elderly man.  He was eaten with cancer and the doctors had given him no hope of survival.  He turned out to be a very calm, happy man once he had his basket.  His wife, they noticed, would come in with apples and go out with apples and the curiosity grew even more till one nurse couldn't stand the suspense.

One night as he was nearing the end, the nurse sat down in a chair by the wife.  “May I ask why do you have that apple basket?  I just don’t understand the significance.”  “I am an apple farmer by trade he sighed.  From the time I was 20 till the day I do die I will forever have my apples.”  The nurse nodded thinking she understood.  He just likes his work, she thought, assured now he was a little bit crazy.  As she started to leave, the old man asked her to sit down.  “At age 20 I was saved, I accepted the Lord as my Savior.”  Oh no, the nurse thought.  Here comes the lecture on religion.  The old man continued.  “The day I accepted the Lord as my Savior I got this basket, and each time I had a problem or concern that I could not handle, I put an apple in the basket un-shined.”  “Why?”  the nurse said shaking her head.  “Because it reminded me to give those problems to the Lord for him to shine.  See my basket now, he stated.  As my problems disappear so do the apples.  As I get new problems, ones I cannot handle alone, I put an apple in.”  The humble nurse looked into the basket . .  only one apple was there.  With that, he took a big breath and grabbed his wife by the hand and faded into eternal sleep.  The wife paused for a moment and got up from her place to take from the basket the last remaining apple.  She whispered in his ear that his reward awaits him in heaven.  The nurse stayed still and asked with tears in her eyes, “What do you think his riches will be?”  The wife knew what they were, eternal life with Jesus Christ.  But she could see the concern and sadness upon the young nurses’ face and handed her the apple and said, “The biggest apple pie you can imagine!”  That was the day the young nurse was saved, and from that day on she always had a basket by her bed.

Peace UCC newsletter