Thursday, March 1, 2012

Repentance and Faith and Works


Repentance and Faith and Works 

If you watch a lot of news, you are probably afraid to leave the house.  If you really watch a lot of news, you are probably afraid even when you do stay in the house.  No one is safe anywhere.  If you aren’t robbed or murdered by gang members or drug addicts, you may get attacked in a different way by the EPA or some other out of control branch of your own government. It is time for Christians to stand up and do something.  But what is there to do?  What can be done to make this a better world where people have the freedom to enjoy those inalienable rights with which were endowed by our Creator? (inalienable = unchallengeable, absolute, indisputable, undeniable, unassailable…..) 

We can definitely say that 2 Timothy 3:1 is coming to pass.  It says, ‘This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.’

In these perilous times the duty of the Christian has not changed.  The duty of every Christian remains EVANGELISM.  The hearts of those who know Christ are changed.  The world needs at least a chance to hear about Jesus.  Many haven’t heard at all.  Others need someone to tell them again.  What an individual does with Jesus is up to that individual.  It is the job of Christians to tell others about Jesus.

 Christians do want those living apart from reconciliation with God to understand their need to make peace with God Almighty and to be saved.  Christians also understand that any reconciliation between an individual and God must be a free will choice of the individual.  Forced conversions are not conversions at all.

 There is currently a growing danger to evangelicals around the world.  Consider the Christian pastor in Iran who has been jailed for more than two years for being a Christian.  He is under a death sentence because he won’t renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.  The Christians of the world have been praying for his safety and release.  He has made national news on numerous occasions.  He has a wife and two little boys.  (Youcef Nadarkhani   http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/international/christian-pastor-sentenced-to-death-in-iran-for-apostasy  Please take a moment to pray for our brother in Christ and his family.)



And – numerous news stories over the past few years regarding the ‘terrorist threat’ of fundamental Christians and those with traditional conservative views.

 Christianity is definitely not the religion for cowards.  And, evangelists seems to be really asking for trouble.  Yet, those working to spread the Gospel keep on preaching Jesus Christ even in the face of death. 

 On our own, we Christians have no more courage than anyone else.  The pastor in an Iranian prison awaiting execution is just a human being like the rest of us.  I know it is the Lord who has strengthened him to refuse to renounce his faith.  Non-Christians who are watching this news story may wonder what it is that strengthens him to cling to his faith in the face of death; and we can hope that some watching this man will seek out Jesus Christ for themselves.  I expect our brother in Christ has had times of despair, times of overwhelming loneliness, times of terror over the fate of his family.  Probably his worst nightmare is that his sons would be forced into Islam.  Of course we can’t know what thoughts are going through his mind, but we do know he is a human being, subject to the same weaknesses as everyone else. 

 I love the old hymn ‘Just as I Am’.  One line says, ‘fightings and fears, within without, O Lamb of God, I come’.  That pretty much describes us all. The hymn was written by a woman describing her journey to faith in Christ.  It is also appropriate when describing a Christian beginning a work for Christ.  Evangelism is often thought of as a preacher or missionary preaching to a congregation.  This is true.  However, it is also one on one.  It is a Christian like you or me telling someone else that God Himself has made a way for people to be reconciled to God and to escape hell.


 When Christians set their minds to take Christianity seriously, evangelism on some level becomes an integral part of their lives.  Their hearts desire becomes that others will be saved.  But, they recognize their own frailties.  We Christians have no power to compel others to be saved.  The evangelist must witness by faith in the mighty power of God to convert the lost soul.  


Here is a very good quote from an Author Pink sermon on faith.  If we are going to witness by faith, then a better understanding of faith is necessary.

 ‘In order to please God, four things must concur, all of which are accomplished by faith.

First, the person of him that pleaseth God must be accepted of Him (Gen. 4:4).

Second, the thing done that pleaseth God must be in accord with His will (Heb. 13:21).

Third, the manner of doing it must be pleasing to God: it must be performed in humility

(1 Cor. 15:10), in sincerity (Isa. 38:3), in cheerfulness (2 Cor. 8:12; 9:7).

Fourth, the end in view must be God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31).

Now faith is the only means whereby these four requirements are met. By faith in Christ the person is accepted of God.

 Faith makes us submit ourselves to God’s will.

Faith causes us to examine the manner of what we do Godwards.

Faith aims at God’s glory: of Abraham it is recorded that he “was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20).’  Author Pink    http://www.eternallifeministries.org/pink/STUD-A32.pdf

 From a selfish point of view, faith is necessary for our own comfort. 

First, faith that God is with us and will help us gives us courage to go forward into whatever the future holds. By faith we Christians know we have a traveling companion who will never leave us nor forsake us. 

Second, faith in God takes the pressure off the Christian to bring about a specific outcome.  Christians are bound by duty and love to do the things Christ says to do.  Christians are to do the things Christ says to do with all their might.  But the ultimate outcome of our efforts is not in our hands.   

 Those wanting to have greater faith can follow the example of the apostles who requested, ‘“And the apostles said unto the Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 18:5).  Of many examples worthy to be followed in the Bible, this is one of the stands out to those seeking to please God.

 Faith leads us to follow the instructions in Colossians 3:2 which says, ‘Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.’  Christians understand that we will not ‘transform’ this earth into a utopian paradise through evangelistic efforts.  The lives of Christians in the United States have certainly been blessed by God.  God has provided us with a stable government and blessed the efforts of His children to prosper.  But, as we watch or freedoms erode we are reminded that our citizenship is in heaven.  That is the place where we will life eternally. 

 The more your affection is set on things above the more you are moved to act on your faith and to do the things Christ says to do.

 The more your affection is set on things above, the more you work to lay up treasures in heaven instead of here on earth.

 For Christians, their first ‘repentance’ is repentance that leads to salvation.  It is acknowledging their sins have separated them from God, turning from a life apart from God, and setting their face to walk in the narrow way.  Then, individual sins require repentance. This is not repentance to salvation, but repentance that maintains or restores fellowship with God.  As Christians grow in maturity, specific sins are brought to light.  They repent and turn from them.  Christians also realize there are things they should be doing, or should have been doing that have not been done.  Something often left undone is evangelism.  Perhaps they have not spoken out for Christ when the opportunity presented itself.  Perhaps they have not supported missionary and evangelistic efforts.  Perhaps they have not lived in a way that represents God in a manner pleasing to Him. 

 When a Christian begins to take his or her faith seriously he or she begins to work for the Lord full time.  I don’t mean they go into full time service as a missionary or evangelist or preacher, although that may happen.  I mean they begin to take very seriously doing the things Christ says to do every moment of every day. 

 I want to encourage you to do things Christ puts in your path today.  Often it will be a very normal day, filled with the same people and problems you had yesterday.  Honestly, repetitive days are really good.  On days that are pretty much the same as yesterday, you have an opportunity to ‘tweak’ things a little bit.  You can be kinder to the difficult person.  You can manage a recurring difficult situation a little better.  Your day-dreams can be put to better use.  You can think on the good things of God instead of the problems you are facing.  You can change your schedule to find more time to pray.

 ‘I Surrender All’
http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/i/s/u/isurrend.htm

All to Jesus, I surrender;
 All to Him I freely give;
 I will ever love and trust Him,
 In His presence daily live.

 Refrain

I surrender all, I surrender all,
 All to Thee, my bless├Ęd Savior,
 I surrender all.

 Alll to Jesus I surrender;
 Humbly at His feet I bow,
 Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
 Take me, Jesus, take me now.

Refrain

All to Jesus, I surrender;
 Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
 Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
 Truly know that Thou art mine.

Refrain

All to Jesus, I surrender;
 Lord, I give myself to Thee;
 Fill me with Thy love and power;
 Let Thy blessing fall on me.

Refrain
All to Jesus I surrender;
 Now I feel the sacred flame.
 O the joy of full salvation!
 Glory, glory, to His name!
 
Refrain

Monday, February 27, 2012

Kind Soothing Words versus the Truth

We have all heard so-called Christians say things like:
‘We are all going to the same place anyway’

‘We are all praying to the same God’

‘God wouldn’t send anyone to hell’

‘He/she is a good person’

And a host of other phrases that sound kind, good, unifying, and pleasing to the itching ear.

Such words are spoken with the idea of just getting along.  The speakers want to sooth and assure.  They also want to avoid conflict.

 These kind soothing words may make a momentary situation easier.  Such words may make people feel good, or at least feel better; but the long term effects can be eternally damning.

The truth is that all these words are lies.  What people need is to hear the truth. 

Christians should ask themselves, ‘If I were lost, wouldn’t I want to hear the truth about actually getting into heaven?’  If that is the way we would want to be treated, shouldn’t we treat other people that way?

 It is the duty of every Christian to be ready to tell people, ‘The God of the Bible is unique.  And the Bible tells us:

If you are praying to any other god, you are NOT praying to the same God to whom followers of Jesus Christ pray.

We are not all going to the same place. 

We are all going to one of two places. 

Followers of Jesus Christ are going to heaven. 

Those who don’t follow Him are going to a place called hell.

According to the Bible, those who reject Jesus Christ will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

The Bible says we are saved by grace through faith, so just being a good person won’t get anyone into heaven.’


We may wonder why it is that Christians are prone to let falsehoods regarding the way of salvation stand instead of at least attempting to correct them. Many Christians have shut themselves up in selfish indifference and unconcern. On a kinder note, perhaps they are just overwhelmed with the cares of the world. These Christians know the way of salvation.  They know the eternal destination of those who reject Jesus Christ.  But, they can’t seem to just tell the truth that Jesus alone is the way to eternal life.  Regardless of the reasons, they remain unwilling or afraid to confront error in Bible theology in the culture in general and in friends specifically. 


One strong reason Christians are willing to speak sweet words of agreement like those already mentioned is Christians forget God’s continual presence with them personally.  While words like ‘we all pray to the same God’ may sooth the ears of a visible friend or companion they hardly sooth the ears of God Almighty.  Christians need to take very seriously the constant presence of God.  If it must be that someone is made uncomfortable or his/her feelings are hurt by a Christian pointing out that to pray to the God of the Bible is not praying to a generic god, then it let it be a human companion.  Don’t let it be God.


Christians should take God’s companionship seriously all the time.  It will keep them from sin.  For instance, a Christian who is walking with their spouse will hardly venture into adultery at the same time.  A Christian who is constantly aware of God’s presence will be much more mindful of his conduct. 

 As a Christian becomes more aware of God’s continual presence, the more useful that Christian becomes to God.

 Here is another sad truth. Compromise in the name of getting along brings the things of the world into the church – it brings in sin – things unacceptable to God.  Misguided and marginal Christians are prone to bring ungodly things into the church in the name of reaching out to the lost.  So many things of the world are in some churches that the congregation might as well be attending a high school pep rally.  People may come to church somewhat depressed and leave emotionally charged up, but they haven’t really heard a lesson from the Bible.

 What are the consequences of Christians not confronting the culture?  Are more people actually restored to fellowship with God by speaking kind soothing words, or are more people restored to fellowship with God Almighty by quoting John 14:6 which says, ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’

 Another very common sin that leads to mixing the things of the world in with the things of the church is impatience.  It is the same sin that got Abraham and Sarah into all that trouble when they came up with the plan for Abraham to have a child with Sarah’s maid.  They knew God’s promise, but they just didn’t have the patience to wait on God to do what He had promised to do. 

 A zealous Christian today can easily fall into the same trap.  They honestly want to see souls reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.  They go out and tell people about Jesus, but they don’t get the desired results.  Perhaps they don’t get any results.  So, instead of continuing to use the anvil of Bible truth, they begin to look for other ways to ‘reach out’ to the people of the world.  Church growth becomes the measure of their success instead of souls actually saved.  Then, when church growth becomes the measure of success, anything and everything becomes acceptable as long as it increases the size of the church congregation.  It is certainly possible to have a church that is very large and preaches fundamental truths of the Bible.  It is also possible to have a very small church that is so far away from Bible truths that it shouldn’t even be called a church.  The size of the congregation should be up to God.  The church members need to stick to the same story that Paul stuck to in Acts when he got himself kicked out of two towns for preaching the gospel, and went straight on to preach the gospel in the third town. 


At the end of every day, a Christian can evaluate his/her day by this one thing.  ‘Did I do the best I could do to say and do the things pleasing to Christ today?’  When the answer is yes, then a ‘well done’ is awarded for that day.  The outcome of action is not in the hands of mankind. It is like a farmer fighting the nature and the weather.  He can plant, fertilize, plow, irrigate, and stand ready to harvest when the crops are done.  That is all he can do.  He has no control over storms, fires, drought, floods, locusts, crop blights, late frosts, early frosts, or anything else.  All he can do is what he can do.  All we can do is to be like Paul and keep hammering away with the truth of God’s word.

 The word of God is more effective than any program ever devised.  Hebrews 4:12 says, ‘For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’

 Something else Christians should take into consideration is that an opportunity to speak to someone about Jesus Christ has to be brought about by God.  Personally, I don’t get out of the house much.  I am not around a lot of people except at church or in the grocery store.  I just don’t meet that many people.  I have a few people now that I know personally that I am praying for.  I haven’t been able to have a real discussion with them about the Bible.  I have made a real effort to engage them in a conversation about their religious beliefs, but I haven’t made any progress.  I am ready to talk to them, but the opportunity to talk is going to have to be set up by God.  We have no power to make people willing to listen.  We do have the choice to keep praying and to be ready to speak the truth when an opportunity is given.  I was able to give one dear person a gospel tract, and of course I pray that time will be made to read it.  Acts 8:26-40 gives a wonderful example of God setting up an opportunity to lead someone to Him.  You probably already know that story.  An important man was reading scripture.  God sent someone to him who explained the scripture, explained Jesus; the man was saved and baptized.  Obviously, an opportunity isn’t usually that dramatic, but it still must be set up by God.  Probably the only way to tell if it is an opportunity is to make an effort to engage in conversation about Jesus.  If they respond to your question or statement, then go from there.  In even a sentence or two, you may plant a little seed of a question, and someone else may plant another, and someone else another.  Who knows who will actually be the one to have the experience of being present when a person you witnessed too actually turns to Jesus?  If you get a chance to say something appropriate regarding Bible truth at any given time, you have planted or watered a seed already planted by someone else.  Remember 1 Corinthians 3:6 which tells us, ‘I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.’

 A very interesting Bible passage is Luke 10:2 which says, ‘Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.’

 When we read or hear this passage we most often think of people out on the streets preaching or of missionaries away from their native land trying to preach the gospel in a language not their own.  But, we can make it a lot more personal if we begin to think of the labor of prayer.  Prayer is the beginning of success.  What do you think would be the result if Christians doubled their time in prayer for the souls of the lost?  Is God calling you to pray for the lost?  Pray for the lost, and pray for God to call others to pray for the lost. 

 Remember 1 Timothy 2

1. I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

2.  For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

3.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

4.  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

5.  For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

6.  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.


And

1 Thessalonians 5:17   Pray without ceasing.

 Ultimately there are no kinder or more soothing words than the truth of the Bible.  Jesus saves.