Solomon once made this observation about man: “for as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Centuries later Jesus would echo and add to that understanding, saying, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And He said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:18-23). Essentially mankind has two ways of thinking— as the world has influenced him to think or as God has instructed him. If we claim the name of Christ how do we learn to think as God would have us to think as opposed to the world?
Addressing this Paul once made this observation about both Jesus and the mind of man: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). To be like Christ, to think like Him, we must do as He did. As a man Jesus learned to let go of or overcome the prejudices, self-will, and base desires of the world in order to become obedient to God the Father— in word and deed; as He once said, “For I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me a commandment—what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49).
Who is the Lord of your mind? Perhaps you have heard the old Cherokee legend passed on by a grandfather to his grandson— that every man has two wolves at war within himself, one that is evil and another that is good. Ultimately only one can win. Having heard his grandfather describe the two wolves the grandson asked, “Which one will win?” The grandfathers answer? “The one you feed the most.” In Romans 7:15-25 Paul recognized this same internal battle as that between the law of the flesh (evil) and the law of God (good). His answer for those who want to do good: Turn to Christ and follow the law of the Spirit of Life (Romans 8:1-2). We either feed the good wolf with the word of God, or we feed the evil wolf with what the world teaches in opposition. When it comes to good and evil every man has a master, however, each one of us gets to choose the master we will serve. Whichever one you choose to feed will become your Lord and master.
Solomon’s advice was to follow our Father’s teachings: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil” (Proverbs 4:24-27). When we find the truth in God’s word we should ponder (study; meditate upon) it and refuse to deviate from it. Moreover, in seeking and following the truth we should look not only to our own interests, but to the interests of others as well (Philippians 2:4). The Christian’s concern for others should be as great as their concern for themselves. The height of understanding in the mind of a Christian encompasses the eternal fate of both those who follow Christ and those who don’t. No true follower of Jesus wants to see another human consigned to hell when they could have been redeemed. Our desire for salvation should be one we share with our fellow man, in accordance to the understanding we gain in these matters from studying the Bible and incorporating its teachings into our lives.
As Paul explained to the Hebrews, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3). The accounts of what the prophets, up to and including Jesus, proclaimed were recorded for us so that we can learn of God’s history with man and His plans for our salvation. It is in the Holy Scriptures that we learn of God’s will and how we are to abide by it.
By God’s direction Abraham left his home behind in order to seek the land of promise. In the same way we are to leave the world behind to seek the kingdom of God by following Jesus (Luke 9:57-62). We are to set our course with Him, without looking back. Jesus came to earth to do the will of His Father and to accomplish all that He was given to do (I Timothy 2:5-6; John 4:34; 6:38). With His resurrection Jesus was established as the one mediator between God and man and the great high priest in the true tabernacle in the heavenly places. It is to Him that we must look for salvation, and as He humbled Himself in obedience (Philippians 2:8), so must we. As Peter wrote in his first letter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:6-8).
When we learn true humility, it keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3), creating a humility that helps us see more clearly the dangers the world presents to us and helping us to avoid those mistakes of over-confidence and pride the we might otherwise be prone to. It also places us on the same level with our fellow man enabling us to bear with one another, finding common cause is the singular pursuit of God (Ephesians 4:29-32). When we look through the lens of God’s word and see ourselves as we truly are it can (and does) lead us to many profound insights into ourselves and the condition of mankind.
Many a man has sought to come to God on his own terms, without having considered the example Christ left for us. Not only did Jesus humble Himself when He came to earth, but He suffered, learning true obedience as a man through the experience. Being made perfect in His obedience and suffering He became both the pattern and source of our salvation (Hebrews (5:8-9; 2:6-11). Even in His darkest hour Jesus put the will of God (and the welfare of humanity) above His own pain and desires. Compare that to the loss of authority and the unwillingness of people to respect it so prevalent in the world today. As Christian parents and children we should take Christ’s example to heart (Ephesians 6:1-4). At the root of the first commandment with a promise is the command to honor our father and mother. Can we honestly look at ourselves and say that we are honoring our Heavenly Father by our actions? When we honor those in authority over us, as bond-servants of Christ, thereby doing the will of God we will be rewarded by our Father (Ephesians 6:5-9). Are we seeking to earn the Lord’s praise, or are we man-pleasers, or even self-pleasers instead? Which wolf are we feeding by our decisions in life? Another question to ask ourselves is this: “what kind of example are we setting for our children, and what kind of goals are we teaching them to set?” According to Luke, as a young man “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” Luke 2:52). What are our youth learning from us? To curry the favor of man, or to increase “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man?” Are we teaching them the proper priorities in life, or just how to get ahead? Certainly, we are to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1-2; Matthew 22:17-21), but what if the will of man is in opposition to God’s will? What do we do then? And, what are we teaching the next generation to do? To stand with God, or acquiesce to the will of our fellow man? One last question on authority in our lives: “Are we imitating those in authority over us in the church (our elders), and acting in obedience to them, or are we a grievance to them? (Hebrews 13:7; 13:17-18).
Who is the Lord of your mind? In Romans 12:1-2 Paul wrote: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” When we look at ourselves in the mirror of our souls what do we see reflected there? Do we see the world and all our successes and failures in the natural realm, or do we see Christ crucified and what He has done for us, and what we have done in return? Peter once wrote, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15). Is our life itself a defense of God’s work in our lives or would our peers at work be surprised to learn that we are a Christian? If Christ is the Lord of our minds there should be no doubt.
by Roland W. Keith
Every Christians goal should be to reflect Christ in their lives. As Paul wrote, “I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21). For all that God does for us in our lives our greatest gain as His children comes after death, when we are welcomed into the bosom of Abraham awaiting our entry into heaven on the judgment day. Until then it is our responsibility and great honor to emulate Christ in our lives, to reflect ever how dimly His glory through the way we conduct ourselves as His followers.
In his first letter John wrote to encourage his readers to turn from the world and the things in it and to do the will of God (I John 2:15-17). The reward is an eternity in the presence of God as citizens of His magnificent and eternal kingdom. To enter into this kingdom, we must become a person transformed. That transformation is achieved when we choose to turn from our sins and follow Jesus, Who once said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36). If we are to be bound let us be bound to obedience to God and His righteousness (Romans 6:16-18). Indeed, it is only by becoming slaves of righteousness that we can find the truth and real freedom (John 8:31-32; 14:6).
To enter into His kingdom Jesus said that we must be born again— that is spiritually redeemed or made a new person (John 3:3-5; II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:20-25; Colossians 3:10). In this transformation we become, through the blood of Christ, innocent again— like little children (Matthew 8:13). In this rebirth we are added to the body of Christ and begin the process of reshaping or renewing our minds and bodies, as Paul told the Romans, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
By this renewal we are changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 3:18). Becoming a mature Christian is a growing process that requires time and patience, study, prayer, and meaningful interaction with the members of our new family— Christ’s body or church. When we actively engage in the Christian life the Lord changes us and we begin to reflect His image. According to Paul, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord Who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:18).
The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John contain the power to salvation (Romans 1:16). And just as the gospel produces a faith that leads to salvation, the epistles and other writings in the New Testament are not only instrumental but are necessary for our spiritual maturation. In his first letter Peter wrote, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (I Peter 1:22-25).
The word of God is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12), it is that which brings us to God and sustains us as His faithful servants. It is through His word that God convicts us of our sins and the need for repentance. Moreover, it is through His word that He works within us as His children, and through us as His servants. And it is in it’s wisdom that we can achieve a Christ-filled life in which we put Him first (Philippians 1:21). When we learn to do that, to let God guide us by His word, we become able to keep our hearts and to truly live (Proverbs 4:23). Paul feared for the church in Corinth because it had not yet learned to trust in the word of God but put up with false teachings (II Corinthians 11:3-4). Jesus understood better than anyone how easily the mind of man can be swayed, and its tendency to evil (Mark 7:21-23). That is why He has armed us to do battle against the world and its Dark Master (Ephesians 6:10-18), with all that we need to stand victorious in the end (Romans 11:20; 14:4).
When we become strong in the word of God we are able to destroy any argument against Him and any doubt that may try to creep into our own minds (II Corinthians 10:5-6). We are also able to develop the mind of Christ within ourselves, becoming of one mind with our brothers and sisters in the Lord in the process (Philippians 2:1-7). It is when we learn to think according to the wisdom of the Bible that we can truly begin to reflect Christ to the world becoming a model of the Lord’s way for the world to imitate (Titus 2:7-10).
This oneness of mind with the Lord and our fellow Christians is more than a goal, however. It is a necessity. In Philippians 1:27-30 we read, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (see also Ephesians 4:1-6).
We all belong to the Lord, both individually, and as a body built together as a living temple (I Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:17-22). Because of this special relationship to the Lord we are to submit our bodies to Him in an appropriate manner, being transformed from conformity with the world into an acceptable vessel for the Lord (Romans 12:1-2). Regarding the body Paul wrote, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness… I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:12-13, 19).
When we submit ourselves to God our bodies should become vessels for good (Ephesian 4:28), including that small member known as the tongue. James once said of it, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9). We must master our mind and tongue using it for the praise of God and the edification and welfare of others (II Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 13:15; Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:19). As Christians we should work together to spread the gospel, edify one another, labor to our own benefit and to the benefit of others (Ephesians 6:15; 4:28). Our conduct should be worthy of the blood of Christ and the sacrifice He made on our behalf (Philippians 1:27).
Everything we do should be a positive reflection of Jesus Christ. To achieve such a goal our lives must be rooted in scripture. Not only that but our decision making must be informed by God’s word above all human creeds, moral and ethical standards, and laws. It is not our job to demand that the world live by our standards (they won’t), but it is our responsibility to set the standard and exhibit the will of God in our lives for all to see. It should also be our goal to share the word with as many people as we can as we walk along life’s way with the hope that a few may turn to God because we were willing tell them the story of Jesus Christ and what He did for all of us.
by Roland W. Keith
The Godhead or Trinity is made up of three unique beings who are equal in divinity but diverse in power, authority, and responsibility. God the Father, The Son of God, and the Holy Spirit. They are separate yet are still One. The Bible tells us that the God of Israel is the One True and Living God. Moreover, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is an all-powerful God. All things that exist, exists within God or because of God. He is All-In-All. He is the Uncaused (Spirit) and the First Cause (of the physical universe). The Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and End of All Things. It does the human race no good to ponder how God can exist, because such knowledge is beyond our three-dimensional, time-space view of things. In many ways we see God obliquely— like seeing the shadow, but not the Person (Psalm 91:1; Isaiah 51:16; Lamentations 4:20; Hosea 14:7). Even Moses, whom God spoke to as a friend, was only permitted to see God’s glory from the back as He passed by (Exodus 33:18-23). However, God has given us the ability to know Him through His creation and His word.
The Psalmist wrote, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; He puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him! For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:6-9). Paul echoed this understanding when he told the Hebrews, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Moreover, Paul wrote, the evidence of God’s existence as revealed in His creation is sufficient for man to comprehend His Creator, leaving him without excuse if he denies God (Romans 1:18-22; see also II Peter 3:5-7).
The creation demonstrates the awesome power and infinite nature of God (in that He exists separate from and outside of or beyond all natural boundaries). But it does not reveal the personality or personal nature of God beyond His creative impulses. God divulges the intimate details of His person through His interactions with His creation (particularly man) which is recorded in His word. According to the written word, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). Not only are the scriptures God-breathed, but they were given to man by the Holy Spirit through the Son of God and those disciples selected to herald and record it (I Corinthians 2:9-14; John 8:28; John 21: 24-25; Luke 1:1-4; Ephesians 3:1-6).
God’s will for man is unveiled in the Bible. Foremost in that unveiling is the pronouncement that though man has fallen from grace, God loves him and has determined to redeem him from the consequences of his sin. According to Jesus, the Father sent Him into the world that we might be saved through faith in Him (John 3:16-17). In addition, John tells us that the Father has testified concerning His Son and the promise of eternal life (I John 5:9-12; I John 2:25). Peter also commented on the revelation of God’s plan of salvation when he wrote, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (II Peter 1:3-4).
The risen Christ commanded His disciples to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). God’s plan was put into full effect on the Day of Pentecost, when the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit and began proclaiming the gospel with the first sermon delivered by Peter. That same gospel is what the church has been preaching for the past two thousand years, and according to Paul “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith" (Romans 1:16-17). That power Paul speaks of is the blood of Christ and the fact that God sent His Only Son to earth to live a perfect life and then to give that life in sacrifice, His blood shed as an atonement for our sins (Romans 3:21-26; 5:8-10; 6:1-6).
Peter describes our salvation as an eternal inheritance given to those who become the children of God. Though we may be put through many trials during this life our salvation is protected by God if we remain faithful to our confession (I Peter 1:3-7; Hebrews 10:23; I Timothy 6:12). Lest we forget, however, God’s promises are like a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. Even as the righteous are promised salvation, the unrighteous remain under punishment (II Peter 2:9-15). As John has warned us: “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (I John 3:7-10).
Let each person assess his own spiritual condition. If any one of us who has called upon the Lord, has since returned to a life of sin let him repent and turn back to God. As John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:15-17. We should remember that we have the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven because of God’s great love for us, not because of anything we have done, however, God does require us to accept His gift in obedience, and to walk the path He has set before us (Ephesians 2:8-10.
We are agents of free will. We can choose any path we want. We can even forge a new path if we so desire. Yet, God tells us there is only one path that leads to truth, to salvation, to Him. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). It is by submitting ourselves to Christ and following in His footsteps that we are able to enter the promised land. On another occasion Jesus would describe the path with these words: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). God has not promised us a free ride, only that He has cleared the way for us, and will be with us every step of that way. Nonetheless, it can still be a difficult road fraught with obstacles and setbacks and all manner of difficulties. Even of those who seek to enter not all will be able to on that day because they did not follow the path with fidelity (Luke 13:24-27).
Paul likened the Christian life to a fight, saying, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (I Timothy 6:12). He understood that salvation is a gift (Romans 6:23), but it is a gift that we must take hold of and protect. At the end of his life he also said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7). Paul went through much to make it to the finish line, and in the end, he knew it was worth everything he had given. Are we like Paul? Are we willing to give everything for Christ? (Philippians 3:8). By the power of God, we exist, and it is by His power that we are saved (Romans 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:4-8; Romans 5:6-10). He and His Son, Jesus Christ, paid our ransom in blood. They are the rock and strength of every believer. The power of God becomes our salvation, but only if we believe in the gospel and put our faith in Christ giving our lives over to Him (Romans 1:16). Are we willing to sacrifice anything and everything to receive salvation and help others to do the same? (II Timothy 2:10). If so, we will be “raised with Him [Jesus] through faith in the powerful working of God, Who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
by Roland W. Keith
God had a plan. From the very beginning. Once Adam and Eve fell from grace God began to work through selected men (and women) to redeem mankind. From our perspective it seems like a long arduous effort fraught with failure (on man’s part) and disappointment. God’s initial covenant led us from Abraham to the Law of Moses to the Messiah and the Law of Grace. The plan was based on the foundation of God’s love for man and His grace which He extended to us. We hear a lot about the free gift of God, without appreciating the fact that it is only free to the recipient (man). Like all things of value, it cost somebody something. For humanity salvation is free, but only because God paid the price for us.
The Old and New Testaments are a combined history of God’s plan of salvation enacted across the history of mankind. It is a history of success and disappointments, of joy and wrath, of love and unmerited opportunity and patience. It is a story of a Creator and His love for one special creation. Yes, we are special, but only because God has deemed us so. So special that God sent His Only Son to deliver the final, perfect covenant to us personally and to die to put it into effect. Today God no longer works through selected individuals but through the body of Christ, His church, to reach man with the gospel and the final testament founded on the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is a plan that calls upon man to turn back to God, to repent of his sinful ways and to accept the gift of salvation.
The call to repentance echoes down through time and God’s word as delivered to His prophets: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30; also, Jeremiah 26:13). To repent is to avoid ruin. When one turns back to God His wrath is averted, but to turn away from God is to bring His judgment upon us (Jeremiah 18:7-10).
When John the Baptist began preaching in the wilderness of Judea he did so with the admonition to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). His message had an added immediacy to it. What had been hoped for and looked to in the future was at hand. The long-awaited kingdom was about to be established, but those who hoped to be its citizens needed to repent. John’s work was to prepare Israel for the arrival of their King and His domain. When Jesus did arrive, He brought with Him the word His Father had given Him to deliver, as Paul explained, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus picked up where John was at and carried the word forward, revealing God’s will through His own work and ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, through the apostles. The apex of God’s plan of salvation? According to Jesus: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48). Salvation was offered by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but the gateposts of entry into the kingdom are repentance and the forgiveness of sins. How important is repentance? Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). There is no salvation without repentance. To be saved our prior sins must be wiped away; yet, there can be no forgiveness of sins unless we are willing to turn away from our sinful life and follow Jesus (Matthew 10:38).
In both Heaven and Hades there are those interested in the repentance of men; according to Jesus, “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” (Luke 15:7; 16:30). There was a time when God allowed for the ignorance of man and held their sins in abeyance until the blood of Christ set them free, but those days are over, as Luke wrote, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
Considering the importance of repentance, it is important to understand what it means to repent— and what doesn’t constitute repentance. According to John there were many who believed in Jesus who refused to confess Him (John 12:42-43). It is clear by John’s words that while faith may lead to repentance that is not always the case. So, repenting is not synonymous with faith alone. In Luke’s account of Paul’s appearance before Felix the governor was alarmed at what Paul told him, but his fear of the truth did not lead him to repentance (Acts 24:25). Calling on the Lord, without obedience, does not qualify as turning back to God, either (Matthew 7:21). Sorrow or grief at what we have done may bring feelings of guilt, but that guilt without a decision to change is not repentance (II Corinthians 7:10). What then is repentance?
Repentance is a change of behavior that results when one chooses to turn from a life of sin to a life of obedience to God. We literally replace one way of life with a different, better, way of life— the godly way of life. An example of this change was given by Jesus when He taught: “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go” (Matthew 21:28-30). According to this lesson a repentant person is one who has previously refused to do what he ought to do, but has a change of heart and ultimately does what is right. Luke recorded this response to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized 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” (Acts 2:37-38). Those listening were so taken with the guilt of their sins and the realization of who Christ was they actually interrupted Peter’s sermon to ask what they needed to do. Luke recorded that about three thousand people were saved that day. The question is how many whose consciences were pricked on that day never came forward?
It is not always easy to get people to come forward, because it is not always easy for people to accept responsibility for their own actions, or because they don’t want to believe what they know is true, or they feel unworthy, or any number of other reasons. How, then do we lead others to repentance?
One way is to help them understand that no matter who they are, or what they have done, God wants them to seek salvation ((II Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2:3-4; Acts 11:18). Even the most impenitent heart can escape the wrath of God if we can some how convince them to give God’s kindness a chance to change their lives. In some cases, it may be that the best way to reach someone is to explain what the judgement holds for those who don’t change their lives (Romans 2: 4-7; Matthew 11:20-24), and then contrast that with these words of Jesus: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28-30).
Each of us will receive what is due to us when we appear before the judgement seat of Christ. The question is what will our due be? Before that day comes many of us may need to take the advice Peter gave Simon the magician, when he scathingly told him, “Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). For others, who have repented and confessed Christ and obeyed His commands that day will be one of confident expectation that they are covered by His blood and promises.
Have you let go of your past? As Peter said, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (II Peter 3:9). God is patient, but our lives are finite, and eventually His patience will end. Don’t let opportunity pass you by. Especially the opportunity to know God and become a part of His Kingdom. “Repent and be baptized 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” (Acts 2:38). That call to repentance has been made millions of times since Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Will you be one of those who heeds it?
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.