Thursday, December 1, 2016

To Repentance


“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32

Trying to "win" people for Christ by saying that they don't have to give up their sins, or that their sin is NOT sin, is like the old retail bait and switch.  They get you in the door (of the church building in this instance) by making an offer too good to resist, but then they change the product (message of salvation) that was offered to one you would not have been interested in and would not have bothered to come if you had known the truth. If you ask retail salesmen, this trick works quite a bit of the time when selling products.  If you ask honest pastors, I think they will tell you that it doesn't work very well.  Instead, the person who wants to keep their sin will leave, and possibly look for a church to join that doesn't preach repentance at all.  In the verse at the top of this page, Jesus acknowledges that some people, such as the Pharisees, didn’t think they are sinners themselves and so they wouldn’t respond to His message–they were SELF-righteous.  Sadly, what the Pharisees didn’t seem to realize then is that there is no such thing as a righteous person, and it’s the same today.  We are ALL sinners who need Jesus to be our righteousness so that we can be accepted by God (justified).  (Rom. 3:23, 1 Cor. 1:30-31, 2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 4:7-8)

People like the first part of the verse about calling sinners not the righteous, but they like to leave off the last two words: “to repentance.”  Sometimes those who wish to have their sin and their salvation too will try to change their chosen church rather than leaving.  Thus, numerous warnings were given in the Bible so that we would be prepared and know what to do in those instances.  Jesus Himself spelled out the steps to follow if someone claims to be a believer and yet sins deliberately.  We were told to confront them privately.  If they refuse to repent, then one or two witnesses are to be present when they are confronted again.  If they still refuse to repent, then the matter is to be brought before the congregation.  If they still refuse to repent at that point, then they are to be excluded from the congregation.  (Matt. 18:15-17)

We were told to be careful while trying to restore our straying brother to fellowship not to fall into their sin ourselves.  (Gal. 6:1) And that those who love the world as well as sin are not born of God, but are the children of the devil.  (1 John 3:4-10)  Does that sound like we should look the other way?  (James 5:19-20)  No, Paul said not to even eat with such people.  (1 Cor. 5:11)  John said not to even greet someone who has altered the teachings about Christ.  (2 John 1:9-11)  The reason for this is that false teachings and sin spread like leaven permeates through a lump of bread dough.  (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

Paul said people who claim to be believers but deny it by their actions–wantonly immersing themselves in sin–must be shown by their exclusion from the assembly that they are not saved.  (1 Cor. 5:1-6)  It's better for them to understand there's a problem so that they can seek repentance and salvation rather than being deceived into thinking they are fine, and perishing.  Most certainly we should not be “proud” of tolerating their sin.  “Baby Christians” are to be lovingly corrected and gently instructed so they can GROW into maturity in Christ.  (Eph. 4:14-16, Col. 1:28, 2 Tim. 2:24-26, 1 Cor. 13:11, 3:1, 1 Peter 2:1-3)  There is no allotted time period during which they can do whatever want, with no progression toward Christ-likeness, wherein the congregation is to excuse it without a word. (1 Peter 1:14-19) They are to be lovingly instructed in the truth and gently corrected for their good and the health of the congregation.  (Col. 3:16, 1 Tim. 1:3-11, 2 Tim. 2:22-26, Titus 2:1-8)

We were given a list of qualities that should be our goal to emulate.  (2 Peter 1:5-11)  Teaching these things is not being self-righteous or hypocritical--the same "rules" apply to ALL of us.  (Matt. 7:3-5, Luke 6:39-42, Rom. 2:3)  We are not called to ignore other people's sins in order that they will ignore ours, but to be kind to each other as we hold each other accountable.  We are ALL supposed to be more interested in pleasing OUR SAVIOR (IF we ARE saved, and Paul says we should examine ourselves in that regard), than in pleasing ourselves.  (2 Cor. 13:5, Eph. 5:5-12, 15-21)

Our lives belong to Him after salvation, and so the standard is HIGHER, not lower.  Our very lives have been PURCHASED with His precious blood. (1 Cor. 6:18-20, Acts 20:28) He is our Master now–good thing He is a very merciful, loving One who is faithful and full of grace.  He will forgive us for ANY sin (1 John 1:9-10), but we mustn't mock Him by pretending to be sorry for things that we not only did on purpose, but have every intention of continuing to do. (Gal. 6:7-8)  Repentance means turning from the sin, not merely apologizing for it, but genuinely being sorry and striving not to repeat the mistake.  (2 Tim. 2:19, James 1:21-25, Rev. 3:19) Please understand that justification (being made righteous in the sight of God) is not the same thing as sanctification (being made holy).  We can’t achieve either without Jesus, but we must COOPERATE with Him.  We must accept His work on the cross on our behalf (justification), and we must yield to His Spirit within us as He conforms us to His image (sanctification). (1 Thess. 5:16-22, Rom. 8:29, 12:2, 1 Tim. 6:3-5, 1 Peter 1:14-19)

After what Jesus did for us, do we really need to be threatened in some way in order to be inspired enough to want to turn from our old ways (repent) and to please Him by obeying? (Luke 12:47-48, Matt.  5:13, 2 Cor. 12:20-13:1-2) The point is not to try to achieve righteousness on our own to satisfy God, but to please Him because He sent His Son to BE our righteousness.  Isn't His Spirit inside of us helping us to want to please Him and to know what His will is and helping us to do it?  (1 Thess. 4:1-8, , Eph. 4:30) Yes, but only IF we are truly saved.  (Rom. 8:7-9, 1 Peter 1:23)  So assuring someone who has no fruits of the Spirit that they are saved is not only useless, but it's like telling a blind person that there IS a bridge, but not that the bridge is OUT at this time.  How unconscionable would that be?  (Gal. 5:19-25, Luke 6:43-44) Or how would it be if we were responsible for feeding a child and instead of giving them nutritious meals, we gave them snacks and diet soda?  Will they be healthy with that inadequate diet?  No, they’ll be weak and they’ll waste away–and so will our faith if all we receive are little snippets and “sound bites” of God’s word.  Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep.  (John 21:15-17)  We can be sure He didn’t mean put His sheep on a starvation diet. (Heb. 5:12-14)

If it makes us uncomfortable to talk about "negative" things like sin, maybe it will help to remember what Jesus said:  "For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of Him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38  To me, being ashamed of His more "harsh" sayings and only accepting and identifying with His more "loving" sayings is the same thing as being ashamed of Him and His words.  Read the Bible for yourself!  Don't accept "another Jesus" than the One you find revealed there, in context, complete.  Paul said that the Corinthians were accepting false versions of Jesus than what they had previously been told. (2 Cor. 11:2-4) They were not remaining devoted solely to Jesus in purity, set apart for Him. (1 Cor. 15:1-5)

If the world is told that sin is not sin, then what on earth would they need a Savior for?  How will that bring them to a saving faith if they don't even understand that anything is wrong and why Jesus died for them?  How can we tell them that sin is sin if we are not allowed to discuss it for fear of being called self-righteous and hypocritical?  What a dilemma!  It would seem that since we DO need to discuss sin as part of the Gospel message, that the answer is that while we ALL sin, we do not do so DELIBERATELY after we are born again by the washing and regeneration of our spirits by God's Spirit. (1 John 2:3-6, 1 John 5:18)

The great news is that Jesus forgives us, just as He will forgive the recipients of our message when they place their trust in Him.  That is what we usually call our testimony.  We are witnesses to His grace and mercy.  If we can't talk about sin, then we can't be a witness to His goodness–if we can't admit that there is such a thing as sin, then we have no testimony to give.  Sharing God's grace doesn't mean pretending others don't sin, it's forgiving them when they sin, including against us, as He does–because ALL sin is ultimately against Him. (Matt. 18:21-22)  It means loving them anyway despite their flaws, the way He loves them and us.  (1 John 4:11-13)  There is a difference between accepting everyone’s sins and forgiving others for sinning.  There is a saying “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  That just isn’t so, according to the Bible.  Love means owning up to it when you have sinned against someone, repenting and asking their forgiveness; and love means accepting that apology.  (Matt. 18:21-35, Luke 6:36-42, 17:3-4) How can we even admit we sinned or ask forgiveness if the very topic is not discussed?

There is freedom given in the Bible about how to live to the glory of God in ways that do not involve sin by doing or not doing them.  We are told to be gentle when dealing with each other about these things, so as not to harm the faith of our weaker brother for whom Jesus also died.  (Rom. 14)  The sort of things Paul discussed include whether to eat meat or be a vegan, whether to consider one day more special than the other or all the same, etc.  This was NOT about tolerating deliberate, unrepentant sin!  Again, he would be contradicting much of the Bible if that is what he meant.

Those who say that it is falling from grace and reverting to salvation by works if we try to live in such a way as to please God AFTER coming to salvation often point to Galatians to support their view.  (Gal. 5)  However, the issue there was that the new believers were being told that they needed to be circumcised and also observe other rituals that were required under the OLD covenant.   That doesn’t mean that basic decency and morals should go out the window!  It means we can ONLY be justified by Jesus.  (Remember, justification is a ONE time event, but sanctification is a continuous process throughout our lives from the time we come to faith until we are perfected by Jesus once and for all at our death.)  Jesus said He set us free from the penalty for our sins AND from being enslaved to practicing sin. (John 8:31-36)  Paul continued on in Galatians 5 to say that they should NOT use their freedom from the law to indulge the flesh (the old sinful nature), and let’s not forget we also get the fruits of the Spirit from, you guessed it, Galatians 5.

Previously, Paul reprimanded the Galatians in chapter 4 for observing too many Jewish customs, such as special days, new moons, festivals and Sabbaths.  He didn’t say they could not do these things, but reminded them that they are FREE of those obligations.  Christians do not convert to Judaism.  If they feel in their hearts to honor God in some of the same ways that Jews do, their motivation must be love, not fear of what will happen if they do not observe a special day or whatever.  (1 John 4:18)  God does not want to set out specific, detailed instructions for worship in this age of grace to be followed to the letter.  He wants to be worshiped in spirit and truth–by our actions from the heart and not merely with our mouths and external rituals.  (John 4:23, Rom. 2:25-29, 7:4-6, Matt. 15:7-9, Mark 7:6-8)

The apostles wrote a letter to the Gentile believers spelling out what they should do in order to please God.  (Acts 15)  The Jewish law was referred to as a yoke too heavy to bear (v. 10), but still the Gentiles were not told to “merely believe” and continue living as heathens.  Their instructions, given through the Holy Spirit, reaffirmed that sexual sins are particularly inappropriate for believers (v. 19-20, 28-29)–God is holy and we are His temple!

If God loves our sin as well as us, and His mission is for us to love the sins of others along with the people, then WHY would He send His only begotten, beloved Son to DIE for us?  (John 3:16-18)  The point of God being able to "come as you are" to God is that He saved us while we were still sinners--He loved us even then.  (Rom. 5:6-8)  Jesus is a friend of sinners by laying down His life for us (John 15:13-14, 1 John 4:10), NOT because He suffered so that we could continue sinning!  (Romans 6:1-2)  Notice He said IF we’re His friends, we will do what He says.  The Pharisees accused Him of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners, to which He replied that He came to save the lost (and Zacchaeus repented).  (Matt. 9:9, 11:19, Luke 19:2, 7-10) Note that Jesus always preached repentance from sin.  (John 5:14, 8:10-11)  Paul said the same thing, warning us about the company we keep.  (1 Cor. 15:33-34)  Jesus also asked why people called Him Lord but didn’t do what He said; and He said the one who loves Him will obey His commands.  (Luke 6:46, 49, John 14:21)

AFTER we are saved, through repentance and faith (which are both GIFTS from Him - 2 Tim. 2:25, Eph. 2:8-10), we begin the lifelong process of being conformed to the image of Jesus. (Rom. 8:29, 12:2) What good is it to "love" someone right up until they enter hell?  Love is not defined as approving of sin and telling people lies they want to hear.  (2 Tim. 4:3-4, Rom. 1:32, Jude 1:4)  Love is pointing the way to the Savior, as He really is, not a "come as you are AND STAY as you are" Jesus.  That is a false Jesus (2 Cor. 11:2-4), because Jesus would not have needed to suffer and die for us if God now loves sin--that makes no sense at all!  (1 Cor. 15:1-5, 2 Tim. 2:19) Jesus said this:

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down His life for His friends. 14  You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his Master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16  You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. 17  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” John 15:10-17

There are SO many warnings about the behavior of believers.  They are not there for unbelievers (1 Cor. 5:9-11)–the lost are doomed to destruction–good behavior will not save them (John 3:18).  Without faith, it’s impossible to please Him.  (Heb. 11:6)  The only hope is to repent and believe, then AFTER that our behavior should be appropriate for a child of God. (1 Thess. 4:1-8) It's HIS Spirit within us enabling us to want to please Him (to work OUT our salvation, NOT to work FOR it; Philip. 2:12-13)--the flesh is naturally hostile to God, but those walking in the Spirit are regenerated and no longer enslaved by the desire to please their old, sinful flesh.  (Rom. 8:7-9)  God helps us not only to desire and do His will, but He provides a way out of all temptations that are allowed in each believer's life. (1 Cor. 10:13, 2 Peter 2:9-10)

This it NOT about hating anyone or being better than anyone, or nitpicking people to death over every little fault and detail.  This is about loving everyone enough to want them to understand what God wants and expects so that they can receive the gifts of TRUE repentance and SAVING faith (which is in their hearts, evidenced by their actions–not empty words and unchanged lives), and have eternal life.  Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Matthew 3:8  Jesus died for the sins of all, but not everyone will enter His kingdom.  Only those who are born again, having been washed clean by His precious blood by faith in Him as their Savior, having had their spirits brought to life by the washing and regeneration of His indwelling Spirit, will have the incredible privilege of praising and serving Him forever.  (Titus 3:4-7)  The rest will suffer eternal torment in the lake of fire.  (Rev. 20:10, 15)  Personally, I don't want ANYONE to go there!

I’ve seen memes on Facebook that say the church is a hospital for sinners, not a meeting place for saints.  The problem with that line of thinking is that hospitals TREAT their patients, don’t they?  If “sick” believers enter as sinners and leave as sinners, then the Church is doing a terrible job!  Jesus healed sinners and told them to go and sin no more.  (John 5:14, 8:11)  Everyone sins–slipping is something we all do from time to time, but it’s not who we ARE because of regular practice.  The woman caught in adultery was not meant to go and move in with the man she sinned with, but to strive to never do that again!  And let’s not forget, Jesus saved her from literally being stoned to death.  They were not figurative stones.  He was not saying that no one can ever speak of sin unless they have never sinned.  He was saying have compassion–none of us are perfect.  (James 2:13)  Name-calling and a mob mentality are not appropriate.  As for the “saint” part of the meme, it’s true in that “churches” are not a buildings or places, but the assembly of believers.  However, it’s not true as is implied that “saints” are “perfect people.”  The word “saints” refers to the redeemed of God.  (There is no such process in the Bible of that followed by the Roman Catholic church to canonize “saints” according to their own, very detailed guidelines.)

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. Philippians 3:17-19

Another meme pointed out the sins of various people who were used by God in the Bible.  (Some of them were not even sins, such as Mary being unwed.  Mary was not a fornicator or adulterer–her baby was conceived of the Holy Spirit.)  God can use whomever He pleases to accomplish His purposes, but that does not mean we should hold up any sins as being acceptable in His sight.  God is honest with us.  There is no such thing as a perfect person, or even a good person.  (Mark 10:18, Rom. 3:23)  He has recorded for us both times when His people failed in the past as well as when they did as they should, and He was able and willing to bless them and even give them great victories.  We can learn from both examples.

Yet another meme says not to judge others just because they “sin differently than you do.”  While that is true, it misses the point.  The Church has become so tolerant of sin that we have lost our witness to the world.  There is no difference between “us” and “them.”  (Matt. 5:16, Philip. 2:12-16)  They look at us and see hypocrisy, because our behavior is no better than theirs.  Paul said not to judge others for the SAME SINS you do YOURSELF.  (Romans 2:1)  His point was to STOP doing them, not to look the other way when others sin so long as others will do the same for you.  Paul said that we should NOT sin in order that grace may increase.  (Rom. 6:1-2)  Jesus said take the log out of your eye BEFORE you try to take the speck out of your brother’s eye and that  blind man can’t lead a blind man.  (Matt. 7:3-5, Luke 6:39-42)  The goal is not to harm but to help; not to point a finger, but to bring back a wandering soul.  (James 5:19-20)  If we couldn’t talk about sin, because it’s “judging,” then Satan would win this war–no one needs a Savior if sin is permissible.

Have you read posts or articles explaining that “sin” actually ONLY means “missing the mark”?  I have, so I thought I would look into it further, as it seems that people who embrace this view often use it as support for their reasoning that there is no such thing as right or wrong.  God just wants us to do our best and that’s different for everyone.  Right away, that’s a red flag-that’s a very worldly viewpoint.  Well, it turns out that this ideology stems from the use of the word in Homer’s Iliad–fair enough.  Sin can indeed mean missing the mark, but that is not ALL it means.  I doubt very much that God would make it a prerequisite to read classical Greek literature in order to understand a concept He was trying to explain to us.  (Matt. 11:25-26)  But if we think about it, we DO actually know that sin means doing wrong, don’t we?  Because the opposite of it is RIGHTeousness.  (1 John 3:4-7)  Cain was angry because God was not pleased with him.  He was told by God that if he does RIGHT, God will accept him.  (Gen. 4:3-8)  If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we have all used our free will to choose to do wrong.  (1 John 1:8-10)  Let’s not be like Cain and be angry with God for expecting something better of us and then go commit even worse sins.  Praise God that He made a way for us to be made right with Him even though none of us can live up to His perfect standards.  (2 Cor. 5:21-6:1-2)  In thankfulness, let’s bring our best offering to Him like Abel did.

Now that we have solidified our understanding that sin is sin, think about how illogical it is if we tell the world that sin is so abhorrent to God that He sent His Son to pay for the penalty of it for us AND so that we can continue doing it intentionally?  No, He came to set us free from the penalty AND the enslavement to the evil desires we had before we were born again by His Spirit and gift of life.  (Rom. 6:6, 2 Peter 2:19)  He forgives all of those unspeakable things we did before coming to faith and even the ones we did in our weakness afterward, IF we confess (to Him in our prayers or to another believer–it doesn’t need to be a “priest” as we are ALL part of a royal priesthood - 1 Peter 2:9) what we did was wrong.  He will clean us up every time we admit we slipped, and help us to walk as we should, following His example.  (1 John 1:9)  If we love Him, we will not insist upon returning to the mud each time He washes us clean by His blood.  (Eph. 1:7, Heb. 9:22, 1 Peter 1:17-19, 1 John 1:7, Eph. 5:7-10, 2 Peter 2:20-22)

Many people like to quote Paul’s “worst of sinners” statement as evidence that Paul was an unrepentant sinner.  They conclude that if that was the case for him, then we could not possibly be expected to do any better.  However, if we look at the context, we can see that Paul is saying that he acted out of ignorance.  He seems to be reassuring us that we have no need to fear being held responsible for the awful things we did before we came to Christ (such as he did in persecuting Christians, Acts 22, 26).  (1 Tim. 1:12-16)  He does say in Galatians 5:17 and Romans 7:22-23 that our flesh opposes us when we want to obey God’s law.  However, he goes on to explain that if it weren’t for the law, we wouldn’t even know what sin was.  In both Romans 8 and Galatians 5, he continues to explain that those who are in Christ do not live according to the desires of the flesh, but by the Spirit of Jesus within them.  If Paul were trying to tell us that it is useless to try to resist sin, then he would be contradicting the rest of the Bible, including his own writings.  No, he is reassuring us that we can receive forgiveness, and that we are not left on our own, but have the very Spirit of God within us to guide and help us.

Have you ever thought about why Jesus told us to love even our enemies?  (Matthew 5:38-48)  Paul and Peter both answered it for us.  They said that by our love toward them, they will be put to shame for slandering us.  (Rom. 12:20, 1 Tim. 5, 2 Cor. 6)  How is it slander if it’s true?  In other words, how will we put them to shame if the awful things they say about us are factual?  Paul said our love and good works are supposed to shut the mouths of those who revile us and our God.  (1 Peter 3:16)  If the works of the redeemed children of God are no better than those of the lost surrounding us, then how will these Scriptures be lived out?  Our behavior reflects on our holy God.  We’re meant to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  (1 Peter 2:19-23)  He said in Matt. 5:48 to be perfect as our Father is perfect.  He didn’t say we are perfect now, on this earth, because we believe in Him, and so then we can do whatever we please as spoiled rotten children of God.  Just as a man’s prayer requests can be hindered from being granted by God if he mistreats his wife (1 Peter 3:7), so can our prayers be hindered if we fail to control ourselves in a godly manner.  (1 Peter 4:7-8) (Not that this is always the reason our prayers do not yield the hoped for results–sometimes what we asked for is just not best according to God’s perfect wisdom, or the time is not right yet; and sometimes we need to persevere through trials in order for our faith to be tested as to whether it is genuine.  1 Peter 1:6-7, Heb. 12:1-11, Rev. 3:19)

God loves everyone so much that He made a way for us ALL to be forgiven.  He is sovereign–that is the ONLY way–through His only begotten Son, Jesus.  As redeemed children of God, we should love everyone our Father loves–and He does love everyone, but only those who repent will be saved.  Changing the message to suit the hearer will not save anyone.  Let's love them enough to care more about telling them the truth for their eternal good than to worry about some people not liking us.  (Gal. 1:10)  We need to realize that even though God doesn’t wish ANY to perish (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:3-6), some WILL.  We shouldn’t listen to those who are perishing when they share their “wisdom” with us.  (1 Cor. 2:10-14, 2 Cor. 4:3-4, Matt. 7:26-27, Rom. 1:21, 2 Thess. 2:9-11, , Matt. 13:36-43, 1 John 3:10)  Let's not call it "love" to keep silent while we watch others travel the road to destruction.  This life is temporary and so short compared to what is to be.  Let's wake up and get ready for the return of our Lord and Savior!  (Rom. 13:11-14)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26  For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31  so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:23-25

These "good works" are not only nice things we do to try to serve God, but also the "works" of putting Him first in our hearts instead of ourselves, of treasuring and obeying His word, of refraining from doing things that He said He detests and choosing instead to live the way He instructed us.  “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  James 2:17 We need to put our faith into practice by the way we live.  If we are truly children of God, we will want the world to see how wonderful He is so that they can be drawn to Him to receive eternal life as we have.

The reason for this article is not that I “have arrived” and so now I think it’s my place to berate everyone else who is not “perfect yet.”  No, the reason is that I KNOW how easy it is to get distracted with the busy-ness of this life and to just go along with whatever is the norm and acceptable by society, and especially other believers, thinking that must be okay with God.  But then I read the Bible a lot more than I had been doing and saw that is just not so.  (Matt. 13:22)  Believers are to be different, set apart from the world even while living in it.  (John 14:17, 15:19, Gal. 6:14, Philip. 3:20-21, 1 Peter 2:11, 2 Tim. 2:21-22)

We’re in the end times and the false teachers are out in full force (but it will continue to get worse as the remaining time grows shorter–they will be doing signs and wonders to fool people who don’t KNOW better.  Matt. 24:24, 2 Thess. 2:9-12, Rev. 13:11-15)   Those who are IN Christ are the ones who love Him.  (John 15:7-10)  Those who love also Him obey Him, not because they need to try to save themselves or keep themselves saved, but because they LOVE Him.  (John 14:15-17)  He has made them NEW by His Spirit within them, which is how and when they became born again.  (Romans 8:9, John 3:3, John 1:12-13)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

Jesus told Paul not to “kick at the goads.”  (Acts 26:14)  A goad is a tool used to prod an animal in the direction you want it to go.  We have all heard the term “goaded” into doing something.  A similar thing is when a Border Collie, shepherds sheep using various techniques, including sometimes nipping the leg of a particularly wayward sheep.  Paul said that it grieved him to send a particularly harsh letter to the Corinthians because he knew it would upset them, but happily, it had the desired effect and the sadness was only temporarily (because they heeded his words.)  (2 Cor. 7:8-11)  My message is that Jesus is returning for a pure, spotless bride.  He shed His blood to wash us clean and that should MEAN SOMETHING to us.  If it does, then let’s live like it, not just professing with empty words.  (Eph. 5:25-27, Rev. 7:14)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2  and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 3  But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4  and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5  For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7  Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8  for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9  (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10  trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:1-10

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3  For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5  but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 1 Peter 4:1-5

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8  it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9  And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:6-9

I want us all to be ready for His return so that His and our joy may be complete and we aren't ashamed!  (Matt. 25:21, John 15:11, 16:22, Rom. 6:20-22)  He is our Creator, Lord and Master.  (John 1:1-5, 1 Cor. 8:5-6, Heb. 3:4, 1 Chron. 29:11, Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 24:1, Psalm 89:11)  If we balk at that idea, then there is a problem with our understanding, which can be remedied by reading the Bible and observing the awesome vastness and amazing variety of what God made, and by prayer.  He values diversity, but not in the modern way the word is frequently used to denote diverse ways of sinning against Him.  Think about it.  He loves each and every individual.  There are no two alike–even identical twins, triplets, etc. have different personalities.  He loves YOU.  He NEVER wanted (or He could have easily made) identical, perfect robots to serve Him without any free will.  That’s not because He enjoys it when we rebel against Him, but because forced obedience is artificial.  True obedience is out of LOVE and respect.  He loves US and wants us to love HIM, not only to want things FROM Him (though EVERY good thing we have is a gift from Him - James 1:17 and He delights in blessing those who seek Him FIRST - Matt. 6:33) or pretend to love Him (but prove by our behavior that we are not sincere–and He knows).  We must humble ourselves to accept we were created by Him for His good pleasure, and His way is the only way to salvation.  (Gen. 1:26-27, John 1:9-13, John 5:24)  We need to give up our foolish, selfish ways and choose His perfect, wise ways instead.  (Isaiah 55:6-9)  We need to TRUST Him.  (Prov. 14:11-12, Proverbs 1-3)

If we refuse His lavishly generous offer of love and salvation (Eph. 1:3-14, 1 John 3:1-3), that is our choice, but since He is God and we are not, we will pay the consequences for our rebellion.  We will die in our sins.  He has made the two choices very clear.  Moses also offered the Israelites two choices in Deut. 30:11-20.  Go into the promised land, serve God and live in peace and happiness, or refuse and suffer the consequences.  In the Old Covenant, they had to obey the law in order to be accepted by God.  Their obedience showed they had FAITH in God.  They promised they would, but they incurred wrath by forsaking God, who is faithful and desires faithfulness in return.  (Exodus 34:6-7, 1 Cor. 1:9, Heb. 10:23)  In the New Covenant, we need to accept Jesus as our Righteousness in order to be accepted by God. (Rom. 10:4-13, Heb. 12:18-29, Heb. 3:12-15)  We are saved by GRACE through FAITH without the requirement to observe rituals and ceremonies.  However, it is made perfectly clear that IF we love Him and truly believe, then we WILL obey the greatest two commands and thereby fulfill the entire law.  God’s people have always been meant to be set apart for Him.  (2 Tim. 2:21, 2 Cor. 6:14-18, Heb. 12:14)  Jesus is the ONLY ONE who can take us into “the promised land.”  We can live with Him forever–serving, honoring, obeying, revering, worshiping, praising, adoring–blissfully happy because we were MADE for Him.  We were DESIGNED to be one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17) and He has prepared a place for us.  (John 14:2-3)  He knows us better than we know ourselves!  We will NOT be disappointed.  (1 Cor. 2:9)  The other choice is the suffer eternal torment in the lake of fire.  (Rev. 20:10, 15)

I am consumed with this topic because I love Jesus for who He is, what He is like and what He has done for me at such incredible cost to Himself, despite my UTTER unworthiness!  We don't need "special revelation" to know this.  If that is what we are basing our beliefs on, then we are being misled–whether by someone claiming to have dreams on Youtube, by your own imagination or whatever other way you have been led astray from solid teaching.  Don’t listen to false prophets spreading confusion!  (2 Cor. 11:13-15)  God said that if He sends a prophet, those who hear their message will turn from their sin.  (Jer. 23:14-32)  Everything we need to know is in the Bible  (You can also read the article I wrote, available in a pdf download on the sidebar of my blog,  entitled "Beautiful," which is also packed with verses, and see the verses below for a good start.)

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25  And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. 26  I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27  But the anointing [Holy Spirit] that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. 28  And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29  If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:24-29

Let’s boldly proclaim the Good News in its entirety, not sidestepping parts that make people feel uncomfortable–they can’t know Him if they have only bits and pieces of information about Him.  We need to read our Bibles and look at all our Creator has made.  God is sovereign and if we don’t understand how great He is, then how can we understand why we worship Him?  The awesome Designer of ALL that exists, including us, loves us and wants to spend eternity with us.  Wow!  Doesn’t it make you speechless with awe?  In this case, the appeal of the real deal is BETTER than the lure of the fake one.  Why would anyone want their flawed, defective way over His perfect, wonderful way?  We were made to worship and we’re free to do so–let’s celebrate all our God is, what He’s like, what He’s done, continually does and is going to do, and that we are His and He’s coming back for us!  Hallelujah!  (John 17:24,  John 14:2-3,  Rev. 3:11)

kit:  Your Time by DitaB Designs

This article can be downloaded in pdf form, entitled Bait and Switch, on the sidebar.  The pdf includes 38 pages of Bible verses that are referenced.