By Roland W. Keith
In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus told this story of the vintner and his two sons: “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. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you”.
In the story one son either lied or had a change of heart that led to him breaking his promise and dishonoring his father’s command. The second son refused his father’s command outright, but then regretted his behavior, that is he felt contrition for his disobedience, which led to a positive change of heart. Due to this change of mind he amended his behavior and acted in obedience to his father’s wishes. This story is the Bible’s ‘textbook’ example of what it means to repent.
True repentance is a turning away from sin to embrace God’s will for our lives. It is this turning away from evil that leads to the forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Acts 2:38; 11:18). Moreover, Jesus taught that as we are forgiven we must also be willing to forgive those who have trespassed against us (Luke 17:3-4; Colossians 3:13). Mercy gained should ultimately become mercy given. We have all been transgressed against even as we have all been guilty of transgression in our lives.
When we confess our sins in repentance John tells us God is faithful and just in cleansing us of those sins (I John 1:9). God was willing to overlook the ignorance of man in times past and hold their sins in abeyance until that which was perfect had come (I Corinthians 13:10; Hebrews 5:9), but now that Christ has appeared and delivered God’s last covenant to man with the agency of the Holy Spirit, God requires all men to come to repentance before the coming day of judgment (Acts 17:30-31). Yet, even as God’s justice demands judgment of the transgressors He has no wish to condemn anyone. He devised a plan of salvation to satisfy His just nature and sent His Son to earth to implement that plan (John 3:16-18). God’s plan sets forth the opportunity for man to come to Him in faith in His Son. In addition, as Peter explained in II Peter 3:8-9, God has been patient with mankind, desiring that each person should reach repentance. However, God’s great love for man does not override His need for justice. As Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
God has done all He can for us. He sent His Son to die for us. And, He has given us a clear path to salvation with an ironclad promise, founded on His word and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose gospel is proclaimed among all the nations (Luke 24:46-47).
If there are those out there who still ask, “Why should I repent?”, I ask you to consider the words of Paul: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We have all earned spiritual death as a result of our sinful actions, but God will take away the due punishment we face for our sins if we will repent and turn to Him for salvation through Christ Jesus. In addition, Luke recorded this exchange from 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 who refuse God’s invitation, rejecting the kindness of God’s offer, will feel the full effect of His wrath on the day of judgment (Romans 2:4-5). We should be grieved at our own sins, as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (II Corinthians 7:10). The end result of unrepentant sin is spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (II Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:15). The sad thing is, there is no reason anyone should suffer such a fate. What are we holding on to in this lifetime that is worth eternal damnation? What do we have here on earth that is better than what we will gain in heaven?
In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we are given the example of a young man who thought that what the world had to offer was more desirable or greater than what he had in his father’s household, so he asked for and received his portion of the inheritance and set out in the world. After living it up and squandering his wealth he found himself destitute with nowhere to turn. It was then he determined to return to his father, admit his mistake, and ask for a job as a hired hand. Instead he was joyfully received by his father, who had thought he had lost his son forever, only to gain him back. Like the prodigal son we are all ‘lost’ in the world spiritually, and when we turn to God, admitting our sins, there is rejoicing in heaven (Matthew 18:13; Luke 15:10).
Repenting of our rebellion against God and accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ not only brings us into salvation, it enables us to serve the Lord in His work to redeem other lost souls. Most of you know the story of Jonah, who rebelled against God’s command to deliver His message to that great city. Because he tried to run away from his duty to God he found himself cast into the sea and swallowed by a great fish. It was in the belly of the fish from whence Jonah prayed to the Lord. He repented of his disobedience and was delivered from his plight. The second time God came to him he went to Nineveh and delivered the Lord’s word. In so doing he became a part of God’s work in saving the citizens of that city when they repented of their evil ways.
The Bible is full of stories of men who disobeyed God, including some who repented and many who didn’t. One such repentant soul was King David. After committing adultery with a married woman and then causing the death of her husband to hide his first sin, David repented, although his sins were not without consequences— they cost the life of David and Bathsheba’s infant son. Still, David sought the Lord, following after Him throughout his life, always seeking His guidance and forgiveness. In Psalm 51:5-7 he wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Another man who repented of his rebellion was Saul of Tarsus. After being confronted by the vision of Christ on the road to Damascus Paul repented of his ways and became one of the great champions of God’s truth. As he reported to king Agrippa, “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 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” (Acts 26:19-20). The man in need of repentance spent the rest of his life leading others to Christ.
King David and Paul the apostle are both great examples of men who struggled with sin, even open rebellion against God and yet found redemption in repentance and an humble heart. Moreover, after submitting themselves to God’s will both became examples of what we can achieve, what God can achieve through us, when we act in obedience to His commands. Success in life is measured in how we live it, not in what we achieve in the physical realm. If we have lived in accordance to God’s word, we have lived life well. If, instead we have lived according to the dictates of the world we will one day be found wanting (Revelation 20:12-13).
Paul wrote, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:5-10). For those who put off, that is repent of, what is earthly and put on the new self in Christ Jesus there is a great day coming. For all that walk in the light there is the assurance of forgiveness and a cleansing of all unrighteousness (I John 1:7-9).
Jesus once said, “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). Have you given the angels in heaven an occasion to rejoice over you?
by Roland W. Keith
Most people fear death. We are, after all, born with a natural impulse and desire to live. However, death is a natural part of life; there is a beginning and there is an end to our human existence, as there is for all physical life. Solomon wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
After Adam and Eve's fall from grace God told Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). Since then no man has had access to the Tree of Life that was put into the garden to sustain man for as long as he ate from it. From the first man and woman’s sin until the world comes to an end each of us will return to the dust from which we were taken, and our souls will return to the spiritual realm (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Every one of us has an appointment with death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27). For most human’s death is not what they should fear, however, because it is inevitable, what they should be afraid of is the judgment they will face afterwards. But they do not dread that day because the don’t believe they will be judged. The wise man on the other hand heeds the observation of Job when “he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding'" (Job 28:28).
For the man and woman who takes Job’s advice the natural fear of death is under good regulation. We can look forward to that day knowing what awaits us, with the confidence of one who has prepared for their appearance before the judgment seat of Christ. We do not need to fear our own demise, nor overly grieve the death of loved ones we know died as faithful Christians because we know there is a place for them in the kingdom of God (I Thessalonians 4:13-14; II Corinthians 5:1).
God has fixed the day of judgment on which all of mankind will be held to account for the life we have lived, judged by the one appointed (Acts 17:31). In Revelation John gave us a brief description of that day: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12-13; Matthew 25:31-46).
That day may well be both the most tragic day in history and the most joyful. On that day all the saints will finally enter heaven to spend eternity with God, but for those not found in the book of life “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (II Thessalonians 1:9). The cowardly, liars, idolaters, the sexually immoral and many others that make up the faithless and disobedient will suffer what is known as the second death in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-15; 21:8).
Without describing the actual day of judgment Paul alluded to its outcome when he wrote to the Romans, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). For Paul to die was gain. He saw the afterlife as something far better than life on earth (Philippians 1:21-23). Moreover, no matter how well we live life here or how good life is to us it does not equal what is awaiting us in heaven. Though we cannot receive our inheritance while in earthly form (I Corinthians 15:50), nor can we depart before our time, we can certainly make it our life’s goal to get there and to bring as many others with us as we can.
It is the knowledge of God’s plan of salvation and its reward that helps us to alleviate the fear of death and to proceed through life with a sense of purpose that extends beyond our time here on earth (Revelation 2:10). The Bible tells us that God’s children are precious in His sight (Psalm 116:15). It also tells us that those who die in the Lord are blessed and will find rest from their labors (Revelation 14:13).
None of us know exactly what heaven or hell will be like, but we are given enough information to make an informed decision about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We are also given enough information to decide where we would rather spend eternity. We can follow the world through the wide gate that leads to destruction, or we can enter through the narrow gate that leads to life as one of the saints of God (Matthew 7:13-14).
Jesus told the apostles, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to
Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Does Jesus have a place prepared for you? If not, it is not too late to change the path you’re on.
by Roland W. Keith
Most of us have known people in life who talk a good game, as they say. But when it comes to standing up for what they believe in when faced with adversity they crumble. One of life’s hardest lessons is to learn that a person we have been there for time and again in turn abandons us in a difficult time. Thereafter it is hard for us to put our trust in that person, knowing they might forsake us again when push comes to shove.
It is no different in the spiritual realm. Christ gave up everything, including His Own life, for us (Mark 10:45). In return He expects us, as His followers, to be willing to do the same for Him and one another (Luke 9:24; John 15:13). We must be willing to stand up for Jesus and our fellow disciples. Just as Jesus made the good confession concerning Himself before Caiaphas and the council, then Pontius Pilate, knowing the consequences (Matthew 26:63-64; John 18:33-37), we must be willing to confess Christ before our fellow man.. As Paul told Timothy: “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 charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 6:12-14).
No confession or statement of allegiance that we will ever make compares to the one we make when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Paul told the Romans, “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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10; I John 4:15).
Ultimately all of humanity will confess the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11), but for many it will come only after their opportunity for salvation has already passed them by. But if we are willing to make that confession during our earthly lifetime, in faith, we will reap the benefits of God’s many promises made to those who obey His commands. It was Jesus Himself who proclaimed, “So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
We often hear that faith alone saves. However, that is a greatly oversimplified view. Faith without action or obedience on our part is not enough. For instance, if we believe in God, but put the world or our desires ahead of Him we cannot expect His acceptance since He deserves and demands preeminence (Matthew 10:37-38; II Thessalonians 1:11-12; Hebrews 10:29). In his gospel account John noted: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:42-43).
Many of the Jewish leaders believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but not only did they deny it, they murdered Him to protect their positions in society. Others make the confession but over time return to their old ways thus denying Christ in their actions, so ultimately, they are no different than the Jewish leaders. Are they then saved? In addition, Belief and confession lead to salvation (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 10:32-33), but that is not all that is to be done for the one who would come to Christ (Acts 8:37; 2:38). However, for now, we will restrict our study to the topic of today’s lesson.
Confession. Are there any prerequisites to make our confession effective? According to the word before we can confess in the Lord we must hear of Him (Romans 10:14; Luke 11:28; John 5:25). We must believe that He is the Son of God (John 8:28; 9:35; Acts 16:31). Moreover, we must also repent of our sins (Luke 13:3; Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Acts 2:38; 3:19).
We must believe that Jesus is deity. That He came to earth on our behalf, was crucified and rose from the dead, overcoming death on our behalf. In the Gospel of John we find this exchange between Jesus and Martha: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on Me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die. Believest thou this?
She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I have believed that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, even He that cometh into the world (John 11:25-27; see also 20:28).
What Martha understood and confessed is what we also must know to be true and be willing to confess before the world (Acts 8:37; Matthew 10:32-33). It is the same as Peter believed and confessed (Matthew 16:13-18), as well as all the early Christians.
Once we have made that confession we must be willing to fight to keep hold of it and the promises made to all who remain faithful. As Paul wrote Timothy: “Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses (I Timothy 6:12).
For those who confess Christ there is eternal life in heaven. In the book of Revelation, we read: “He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5). Do you want to be added to the book of life, and one day hear Jesus confess your name before the Heavenly Father? If so, I have one question: have you confessed Him before your fellow man? And do you continue to confess him in all your words and actions?
by Roland W. Keith
The apostle Peter’s second letter, which he penned sometime between A.D. 64 and 67, was and is an open letter to all Christians, everywhere. It has been described as something of a treatise on knowledge, but more specifically it is a study of the importance of distinguishing between truth and error, and those who are true teachers of God’s word as opposed to false teachers or prophets who would deceive us.
Regarding his own trustworthiness Peter wrote, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:16-21).
In comparison to his own credentials as an apostle he described false teachers as “irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing” (II Peter 2:12-13). These are those who twist the word of God to deceive themselves and others to draw them away from the promises of God in which they hope. Peter’s desire in writing this letter was to encourage us to be diligent in our Christian pursuit (II Peter 3:14), and to help us be aware of the dangers of those who oppose the truth, warning his readers, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (II Peter 3:17).
Jesus stressed the importance of being watchful, observant of the times and their signs, and being prepared for the master’s return (Matthew 25:13; 24:32; Luke 12:46). Later, Peter would remind his fellow Christians that any delay in Christ’s return was not due to slowness, but rather a desire to provide as many as possible with the opportunity to repent; nonetheless the day will come when He will return, and we must be ready, remembering the promises He has made (II Peter 3:9-13). In like manner Paul described the relief and wonder that awaited Christ’s followers upon His return, in contrast to the vengeance to be inflicted on “those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (II Thessalonians 1:5-10).
In detailing His return Jesus told His disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.'
"Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and His angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'
Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
What of those who are enlightened but later wander away from the truth? Is there any hope for one who has become misguided? In answer to that James wrote, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). As Christians we should have each other’s back. If we see a brother or sister going astray we should take action to bring them back to God, knowing the dangers that await those who turn from the truth, as James also taught, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4; see also I John 2:15). On the other hand, as John noted, if we remain in the light the blood of Jesus perpetually cleanses us of our shortcomings (I John 1:7).
Someone once asked, “If Jesus had returned yesterday, where would you be today?” A sobering thought for many of us. Are we truly pursuing the life that God has intended for us? Are we at peace with God, rejoicing in the hope before us? (Romans 5:1-2), or are we knee deep in the concerns of the world, paying only nominal attention to God? If so, perhaps we should turn back to God and lay those concerns at His feet, as Paul encouraged the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
There are many in the world today who think of themselves as religious, but in the end, what is their religion worth (James 1:26-27)? The litmus test for our religious standing is the Bible. Since becoming a Christian how stable has your religious life been? How much have you grown as a servant of God? How many of us have become stagnate or regressed in our spiritual lives, instead of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Savior as Peter spoke of (II Peter 3:17-18)? After making a list of Christian qualities in II Peter 1:5-9, the writer stated, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:10-11).
In addition to these qualities do we spend adequate time in the study of God’s word and in prayer? Do we observe the world and make a distinction between its ways and the way of God? Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” That’s life. We often come to the point of decision without knowing enough to make the right one, so many of us just “flip a coin” and proceed. However, when it comes to our eternal destination shouldn’t we want to know where the two paths lead? The Bible is our roadmap to heaven; moreover, it is our guide that warns us of all the forks in the road and pitfalls along the way and how to avoid them, by making informed decisions. That includes how to avoid false teachers— those who would lead us off the path into the wilderness of life.
If we have been misguided there is still time to turn back and find the true path. If we have been lax in our own efforts, we can change our ways. And, that time is now. Today. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2).
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.