The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

Avoiding Persecution at the Expense of the Gospel

Posted by israeliteindeed on August 3, 2016

Ever since I began to read the Voice of the Martyrs magazine* years ago, I have had the conviction that the western Church has much to learn from the Church in the rest of the world, and particularly from the suffering Church. This is not to say that the non-western Church has no errors or weaknesses. We know from reading Revelation 2 & 3 that churches can have both. They need rebukes, exhortations and continual guidance by the Great Shepherd. Sometimes they go so far astray, they are under threat of having their lamps darkened forever.

However the non-western Church has an advantage, in that her faith has survived wars, poverty, social upheaval and persecution. In most cases, she has not learned that persecution must be avoided at all cost, or that Jesus died to give her prosperity and earthly security. Jesus did not lie when He said it was hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, and we in the west are rich. There is a great blindness and apathy that seems to accompany prosperity and ease, unless we are very careful to cast it off. I believe that listening to these foreign disciples–and watching how they live out their faith–is akin to going to Jesus for some much-needed eye medication.  We have much to learn.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a message with you from a Christian evangelist who works in Tyre, Lebanon among 95% Muslims. He was born a Muslim himself, but became a follower of Jesus at a young age, due to the influence of a Christian church in his neighborhood. He lived for some time in the USA, after being flown here when his life was threatened because of his preaching. But he went back, and he opened a mission which openly admits with a sign that it exists to proclaim the gospel.

Mohammad Yamout tells his story and delivers some powerful exhortations to the western Church in the video below. Here is a transcription of part of it:

“Any Christian who thinks he can avoid persecution, I think that is not possible…We’re in the devil’s den. You’re attacking the fortress of the devil. The devil is not going to kiss you if you attack him. He’s going to attack back…

And any time you will try to avoid persecution, you have to do it on the expense of the gospel. You will compromise your stand in order to avoid persecution. I don’t want to compromise my stand. I don’t want to compromise the gospel to avoid persecution.

Many people, under the pretext of wisdom, say, ‘You have to be wise.’ I don’t know how wise you can be. I don’t think you can be more wise than Jesus Christ. He came, and He had to be persecuted. And He had to die. There was no other way.

For the gospel to spread out, and for people to know the truth, we have to die too. For the Muslim people to know Christ, we have to die. There has to be a line of martyrs in the future, I think, before these people understand that there’s a God that loves them. If we’re not ready to pay that cost, I don’t think anything’s going to happen….

Christianity was spread in the first century church by the blood of the martyrs. People died, that’s how Christianity was spread. That’s how we conquered.

Today in order to conquer, we have to be ready to die. People ask me in churches, ‘What makes a good missionary?’ And my answer is always, ‘Are you ready to die?’ If you’re not ready to die, pack it and go home…This was the life theme of every successful missionary–they were ready to die for Jesus.”

I hope you will set aside time to watch the entire video. God bless you.

*Note: While I credit the VOM magazine for helping me to better understand the worldwide church, and I respect its founder Richard Wurmbrand, I can no longer promote the ministry due to some revelations that Richard Wurmbrand’s son brought to light.

Posted in Christian Life, persecution, Suffering | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Necessity of Change, Part 1

Posted by israeliteindeed on June 8, 2016

I recently heard a song in a public place which repeated these words, “Don’t try to change me.” It struck me that this is the attitude of many people toward God.  They do what they want, following their own darkened hearts, and they run into trouble after trouble. But they never blame themselves for their troubles or acknowledge that they need to change. In fact, they defy anyone who would try to change them, and they demand that everyone accept them “just as they are.” But what does God think about this refusal to change?

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)

The essence of this repentance–which God requires of all men everywhere–is CHANGE. We must change our thoughts and our actions from rebellion and self-will to obedience and self-denial.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good. (Isa. 1:16)

To those who repent, God gives a new heart and spirit, out of which flows a whole new (changed) life.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)

The prodigal is a great example of the change that is required by God (Luke 15:11-24). He came to himself, reasoning about the suffering his rebellion against a good father had brought him (he changed his mind). Then he returned to the father, acknowledged he was a sinner who deserved nothing, and offered to be a servant (he changed his behavior from riotous rebellion to humble service.)

This is repentance– the change that is required for a man, dead in his sins, to be made alive again.  Without it, there can be no salvation.

Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3)

A refusal to change is a refusal of salvation.

Posted in Preach the Gospel, Repentance | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Would Jesus Help a Muslim?

Posted by israeliteindeed on January 16, 2016

“Why would Jesus help a Muslim?”  This is the question this devoted Muslim asked after Jesus made a point of helping him. This, he says, was not his conversion, but was the start of his “confusion.”  I pray that we too will walk in the heart of Christ toward all people, causing them a holy confusion about what they once confidently believed.

This is one of the most beautiful conversion stories I’ve ever seen. Please take the time to watch both videos below.

Also, please read this encouraging article, which shows how even the evil of ISIS is being used by God for good.   One Christian leader is quoted as saying his organization “can barely keep up with the desire of refugees to learn about Christ and the Bible.” Jesus was telling the Truth when He told his disciples to look on the fields, which were white already to harvest (Jn. 4:35). He also said this–

The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  (Matt. 9:37-38)

Are we trying to learn how to be laborers in His harvest? Or are we seeking to save our own lives in this world?

Posted in "Christian" Zionism, Christian Life, Preach the Gospel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

Posted by israeliteindeed on March 21, 2015

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. (Isa. 11:6)

Watch as 10 yr-old Miriam gives her edifying testimony of God’s love and faithfulness, in spite of the fact that Isis has made her homeless. Look at her thankful spirit and her contagious joy. See how readily she forgives her enemies without the slightest hesitation! Weep as she sings a song of love to her Savior, Who, motivated by love, came to restore her to righteousness. Pray that your faith and your heart can be as pure as hers if you are ever tested in the ultimate way!

See also Who is my Neighbor
Early Church Writings on Christians and Violence

Posted in Christian Life, persecution | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Abel Still Speaks

Posted by israeliteindeed on June 17, 2014

If I had to choose a subheading for this post, it would be, “Why I Write.”

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Heb. 11:4)

The man Abel has been a huge encouragement to me. One day, I will tell him so.

Just think: He “preached” (through his actions) to a mission field of one person–his brother Cain. Cain murdered him because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous (I Jn. 3:12). Abel’s ministry didn’t last very long, and the only person he tried to influence refused to repent. Into the grave went Abel, seemingly a total failure if judged by carnal standards.

But God has not deemed him a failure, nor allowed his testimony to go silent. Abel, being dead, still speaks. And through God, his mission field went from one person to millions. That is the power of God that comes to us through the gospel! Not even death can stop the work of the Lord. God’s Truth continues to march on and fill the earth with His glory, and He has somehow been able to incorporate the voices of many different peoples over many generations in many different regions into one great chorus that no one can ever silence!

I have an advantage Abel never had–the internet. Unless the powers that be somehow erase my words from this technological world, they will continue to be here–one small candle in a dark place. My hope is that they will help some to find Jesus–the Light of the world–and remain with Him. And even if my little offerings are removed from the internet world, or I am silenced in some other way, I know that God will cause my testimony to go on. Being dead, I will also continue to speak.

And that is my heart’s desire–to sing my part in God’s great choir, and to sing it well, and to sing it forever–not to glorify myself, but to glorify my King.

Posted in Preach the Gospel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Reciprocal Love

Posted by israeliteindeed on February 16, 2014

Many of us know what it is to receive reciprocal love. When we take care of a pet, and that animal voluntarily comes and shows affection toward us when it could run the other way, we are warmed inside by this “free will offering” of love. When our children do for us some act of kindness that goes over and beyond the rules, we experience the thrill of being truly cared for by them. There is something very precious about voluntary reciprocal love–not only to us, but to God.

God is love, and God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. While we were yet sinners–not concerned in the least about what God deserves–Christ died for us. While we still hated God, God cared to the point of His own hurt. While we were friends of the world, carnal, and enemies of everything good, God was working out a Way to redeem us and save us from our self-destruction.

What does such a God deserve? Does He not deserve sincere reciprocal love from us?

“We love Him because He first loved us.” (I Jn. 4:19)

And what does this love look like?

There are thousands–perhaps millions–of people who claim to love God while they live and behave in ways that make God sick and angry. Not only do they not reverence Him or do anything He says, they hate and hurt one another (sometimes even claiming they are doing it for God–John 16:2). But did not Jesus say, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me”? Yes, and He also said, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21)

God loved us through the sacrifice of Jesus. We owe Him love and gratitude in response to that gift, and our love will be evidenced by our keeping His commands. Our keeping His commands is the key to abiding or remaining in His love (John 15:10). Our reciprocal love toward Jesus will be met with MORE reciprocal love from God toward us.

The Apostle John wrote, “This IS the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” (I John 5:3) In this statement, John has written for us a very clear definition of the love of God. It has been, since the beginning of time, God’s will for men to heed His voice. This is only as it should be. He is the self-sacrificing Shepherd; we are the sheep. He is the benevolent Father; we are the children. He is the wise Potter; we are the clay–only useful to Him and others if we yield to Him.

However, men given over to the lusts of their own flesh despise authority. They want to be in charge of their own lives so they can do whatever seems good to them. Since they also want to be religious, they have decided for themselves that the love of God is something other than what the Word of God says. They have re-defined the love of God to be something that they find easy to fulfill. For some, going to church on Sunday fulfills their commitment to love God. For others, wearing a gold cross on their neck, or trying to be nice and agreeable (tolerating sin) is “proof” of their love for God, even while they ignore the things God says. But this “worship” toward God is not in Spirit and Truth, and God does not accept it.

For the person who has been truly born again by God’s Spirit, the commandments of God are not burdensome, because whatever is born of God overcomes the world (I John 5:3-4). True faith manifests as obedience to God because true faith recognizes that God is the wisest, kindest, and best Authority there is; and the only correct response to that authority is obedience.

David wrote in Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do your will, O my God, and your law is within my heart.”

This is a far cry from a reluctant attempt to appease God here and there while still trying to live for ourselves as we please. If we are still trying to please ourselves, we have not yet been crucified with Christ to this world and our flesh. This is why we have no resurrection power to overcome the world. No one can serve both God and self. If self is still allowed to rule, we demonstrate that we do not yet recognize how criminal this usurpation of authority is. As rebels, we are contributing to the world’s problems rather than being helpful to the world. And despite any lipservice we give to God concerning the Sacrifice He has made, we show by our disobedience that we do not value that Sacrifice at all.

If we are playing at religion while harboring love for the world–and our temporal lives in it–in our hearts, we need to come clean and admit we are enemies of God (I John 2:15-16). We need to sorrow over this sorry condition we are in, and commit to seeking God until we are completely changed from the heart.

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. And His grace has the power to teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age (Titus 2:11-12). In other words, God’s grace–if it is not received in vain by a hard, stubborn heart that doesn’t care–has the power to produce in us a sincere reciprocal love for God that manifests itself in obedience to His commands. And only those who love Him in this manner will escape the curse of damnation that is coming on this world (I Cor. 16:22).

Posted in Christian Life, Once Saved Always Saved, Repentance | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Real Good News

Posted by israeliteindeed on February 11, 2014

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.  The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.  I Pet. 22-25

The ESV renders that last sentence this way–

“And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

The Word is preached to people by the gospel.

That same Word is the incorruptible Seed–Jesus–through Whom we can be born again.

Obeying the Word (Jesus) is obeying the Truth, and by this our souls are purified.

The Truth = the Word of God = Jesus, and we obey and enter into these by obeying the gospel or good news. All of these are to be obeyed.  You cannot “receive the good news” without obeying Jesus. You cannot be benefited by the gospel (way of salvation) without submitting to Jesus (the Way of Salvation).

A false gospel (that promises blessing for a life of continued rebellion) is often called “the good news” by those who think it very good news indeed that they can sin with impunity now that God is turning a blind eye to their sin because they prayed a little half-hearted prayer. Such a person does not yet know Jesus or the Truth or the Good News. They are still in ignorance and darkness. Though they might list the “death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus” in their doctrines, those precious things will not profit them until they obey the Truth.

The true “good news from a far country” is only refreshing to a weary soul, burdened with carrying the weight of sin (Prov. 25:25; Matt. 11:28-29). The good news of Jesus–Redeemer and Lord–comes to the poor in spirit;  it is the poor who will be brought into that “far country” and inherit the kingdom of God. The poor are ready to be delivered from their slavery to sin and made the willing servants of a new Master.  The mourners (over their sin and spiritual poverty) are they who will be comforted by the good news (Matt. 5:3-4; Isa. 61:1-3).  Those who are proud and remain in obstinate rebellion to God should have no expectation of good news at all; instead the messenger of death will be sent against them (Prov. 17:11).  For the wages of sin is death.

The good news is news of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 4:23, 9:35; Lk. 4:43, 8:1, 16:16). It is the authority of the righteous King ruling over His subjects from their very hearts, while also providing for them all that they need.  The good news also reminds us that although the kingdoms of men often reward unrighteousness and take advantage of others, there is a higher Kingdom ruling over them, and a just King who will always make things right in the end. Although we ourselves have sinned against this King of kings, His will for us is that we repent of our sins and be reconciled to Him through the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and men. We can be translated from the perishing kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of the Forever-Living Son of God; and in that Kingdom, we can possess an inheritance that our enemies cannot take from us.

The good news includes within it this wonderful proclamation, “Your God reigns!” (Isa. 52:7)  Yes, for those who live on Mount Zion under the authority of King Jesus (Heb. 12:22), they need fear nothing that can happen to them in this world. Their God reigns. He has not only redeemed them from all iniquity, He shepherds them every step of their pilgrimage.  He is King of all the earth, reigning over the nations, seated on His holy throne (Psa. 47:7-8).

The good news is a publishing of peace to those who through obedient faith are redeemed (Isa. 52:7-9; Nahum 1:15). The redeemed have peace with God because they are forgiven, and live at peace with others as much as they are able (Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14).  Their peace surpasses human understanding because it does not rely on comfortable circumstances, but is fueled by faith in the unseen God and His Word.  The wicked are excluded from this peace because there can never be peace unto the wicked (Isa. 48:22);  thus the prophet Nahum proclaims in the same breath that proclaims peace–“The wicked…is utterly cut off.” The wicked have no inheritance in the kingdom of peace.

The good news is a proclamation of righteousness.  David knew this, though he acknowledged that he had committed many sins, and needed a merciful Redeemer through Whom to enter in.  He testified that the law of God was abiding in his very heart, and he delighted to do the will of God (Psalm 40:7-9). Have you washed your robe and made it white in the Blood of the Lamb?  Are you following Him daily in the paths of righteousness?

The good news can be of no profit to the hearer, if the hearer does not add faith to the message (Heb. 4:2-11). Obedience is the only proof of faith.  By faith Abraham obeyed (Heb. 11:8).  Those who disobey the message will not enter the promised rest, even if they are thought to be “the people of God” by others and themselves.  Although the wedding feast is prepared, many who are invited will not be found worthy (Matt. 22:8). Many hear but reject the Word of God, judging themselves unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46).

With the good news–news of peace with God through submission to Jesus–comes the possibility of offense and falling away. Jesus testified to John the Baptist as he was languishing in prison and beginning to doubt–

The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.  Matt. 11:5-6

Some only endure for a while, but when persecution or tribulation arises BECAUSE of the Word–Good News–Jesus–they are offended and fall away (Matt. 13:21). Jesus was warning John the Baptist not to be offended into unbelief due to the injustice he was experiencing. The good news is not news of worldly comfort or popularity with men, but eternal spiritual riches in Christ and peace with God. The wicked plot against the just, and gnash their teeth at them–indeed they even put them to death.  But the Lord makes sure the inheritance of the righteous is secure, completely out of reach of the wicked (Psa. 37). He has destroyed the ultimate enemy–death–by His own resurrection from the dead. He has promised to raise from the dead those who fall asleep (die) in Jesus.

Many want the good news of life after death and forgiveness of sins, but they don’t want the good news that there is a Lord & King Jesus to whom they must submit right now and forever. If they would only taste and see His goodness, they would see that by holding onto sin, they keep themselves from all truly good things!

I have served both God and the devil, and testify that God is a kind, loving, patient, helpful Father;  while the devil was like a cruel desert Pharaoh, demanding that I make brick with no straw and beating me for every failure. There is only one way to have eternal life, unsinkable hope, and unshakeable peace–one must have Jesus as Lord. I almost perished in my sins, and I was sinking fast in despair as I followed lie after lie.  And then I met Jesus. He wanted me to turn and He offered me forgiveness, and a new start with Him in control. For me, it was very good news indeed.


Posted in Christian Life, Repentance | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dead Works vs. Good Works

Posted by israeliteindeed on March 24, 2013

Hebrews 6:1-2 contains a list of foundational principles of the doctrine (teaching) of Christ. In order, they are:  repentance from dead works, faith toward God, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

So…what exactly is repentance from dead works?

I have heard it taught that this refers to a repenting of doing good works, and that one must be sure not to do good works when they are seeking salvation.

The gospel, presented with this particular understanding of repentance from dead works, looks like this:

You must repent of doing good works (often called “self-righteousness”) and you must understand there is nothing you can do. Then have faith in Jesus and He will do it all.

This explanation of the gospel is woefully inadequate and dangerous. Some people who hear this message conclude that their works (good or bad) don’t matter at all, and that trying to live a life pleasing to the Father is sinful. They think it would be a better expression of faith if they stop (repent of) trying to do good, and just go with the flow, trusting the mercy of God to cover them. I believe this false understanding is a recipe for spiritual shipwreck.

While it is true that we can’t earn salvation with good works, I do not think this is what the writer of Hebrews had in mind. By dead works, I believe he meant works that lead to death–or in other words, sin.  Remember, the wages of sin is death. We are required to repent of sin/iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19).  We are to repent of dead works, and we begin to do the good works that glorify our Father (Matt. 5:16) which God has ordained for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10). We don’t begin to do those good works in order to earn our salvation, but because we have been converted from the heart to love righteousness and hate wickedness as our Father does.  [For more detail on the necessity of biblical repentance and what it looks like, please read Repentance Toward God.]

Hebrews 9:13-14 also contains the phrase dead works. Look at how it is used–

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Do we need our conscience cleansed in the blood of Christ from righteous works or from evil works? Evil works offend our conscience and weigh us down with guilt. Notice we go from doing these dead works to serving the living God. In other words, we go from doing evil (serving the flesh and idols) to doing good (serving God.)

Another interesting verse is Rev. 9:20–

But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.

Notice that the works which mankind was expected to repent of was the worship of demons and idols. They were not condemned because they were trying too hard to please God with good works. They were condemned because they wouldn’t stop worshiping demons and idols.

Elsewhere in Scripture, dead works are referred to as wicked works (Neh. 9:35; Psa. 141:4; Col. 1:21), evil works (Jonah 3:10; John 7:7; 2 Tim. 4:14; I Jn. 3:12), abominable works (Psa. 14:1), works done in the dark (Isa. 29:15), works that are as nothing or vain (Isa. 41:29), works of iniquity that leave a man naked and vulnerable to judgment (Isa. 59:6), works of darkness (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11), and works of the flesh that will exclude us from the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).

Let us remember that Scripture was given that the man of God can be perfect and thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Jesus died for us to redeem us from iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).  What sets us apart from the world and makes us peculiar is that we are zealous for good works rather than for evil works!  Christians are to consider how to provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24), and we are urged to maintain (continually do) good works (Titus 3:8,14).

Our good works do not atone for the dead works we have done while we were yet children of wrath. We (believers) do not do good works for the purpose of atoning for our sins;  we do them because we love our Redeemer and agree with His ways.

Nevertheless, God commands all men everywhere to repent–to turn from their evil ways and works. Every evildoer is called to repent, and turn from all his transgressions, so that iniquity will not be his ruin (Ezek. 18:30).  Do not let the false explanation of some teachers water down the seriousness of the Bible’s warnings. Repenting of works that lead to death is foundational to the Christian faith, and unless we do repent, we will perish according to Jesus (Luke 13:3-5).

Posted in Once Saved Always Saved, Repentance | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Repentance Toward God

Posted by israeliteindeed on July 14, 2012

The gospel for all men, according to the Apostle Paul, includes both repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).  The writer of Hebrews included “repentance from dead works” in his list of foundational, elementary Christian teachings (6:1).  Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:13), and He taught, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3,5)  Thus repentance is foundational and necessary for all who want to be saved. Without repentance there is no salvation.

So what is repentance and what does it look like?

Example 1–The Repentance of Nineveh

Jesus said the following to the Scribes and Pharisees:

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Matt. 12:41)

According to Jesus, the men of Nineveh repented. What did their repentance look like? Read the account of their repentance in Jonah 3.  Jonah walked through the city proclaiming that judgment was coming from God for their sin, and the people believed the warning (vs. 5) and  began fasting. Even the king humbled himself by removing his royal robes and dressing in sackcloth and ashes, and he published a command to the whole city that the people should turn from their evil ways and from the violence that was in their hands (vs. 8).  He had a hope that God might be merciful to them after all (vs. 9).

Look at God’s response to their repentance:

Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)

This can only mean that the people stopped doing the evil and violence they were accustomed to doing, and God forgave them and withheld from them their deserved punishment.  When Jesus rebuked His own generation for not repenting, He was saying that the people needed to stop doing the evil they were doing, just as the Ninevites had done.

Example 2–The Prodigal Son

Most people know the story of the prodigal son, which you can read in Luke 15:11-32.  This son squandered the privilege of his inheritance on sinful living far from home, being an example of people created by God who waste their blessings living in sin outside of His influence. As will always happen when a sinner follows his flesh long enough, this young man began to be in want. None of his experiences satisfied him at all, he lost everything he had that was good, and the world to which he had joined himself cared nothing for him (vss. 14-16). Then he came to his senses (vs. 17).  Realizing that even his father’s servants had a better life than he had, he determined to leave the filthy pig pen he was employed in, go back to his father, humbly confess that he had sinned and was unworthy of being a son any longer (vss. 18-19), and beg to be a servant to his father (vs. 19).

Most people know the outcome of this choice, how the father saw him coming and with mercy and compassion received him back into the family with great celebration. Clearly this is written to show us that God is merciful and compassionate to the repentant sinner. Indeed Jesus said there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:7).  But I remind you, before this son received the mercy of his father, he left his pig pen, traveled home, confessed his sin, and was willing to be a servant (obedient). This is a great example of repentance. There are many today trying to bring the pig pen (life of sin) home with them, and refusing to serve the Lord when they get there. It doesn’t work. Unless you repent you will perish, as Jesus taught.

The Goodness of God

The goodness of God leads you to repentance (Rom. 2:4).  God shows His goodness to man in many ways every day–through nature, through His patience while men ignore and rebel against Him; and ultimately He has shown His goodness on the cross–while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  God showed His goodness to the Ninevites when He sent the prophet Jonah to warn them that destruction was coming. Had they not been warned, they would have surely been destroyed as they deserved. But the warning showed that God didn’t really want to destroy them, and gave them a chance to be saved from His wrath. It was necessary that they heed the warning and change their ways if they were to receive mercy.

Please note that the Ninevites still deserved wrath for all the sins they had already done. Stopping their evil did not give them a clean record with God. But God was willing to forgive them (wipe the slate clean) when they repented. Repentance was a condition for them, and it is a condition for us. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away sin. Obedience to God can not wash away past disobedience. But we must turn from disobedience to obedience if we wish to be forgiven, and then have faith in Jesus Christ our Savior, believing that His blood is efficient to cleanse us from all the unrighteous things we have done, and following His teachings.

Fruit Worthy of Repentance

When speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees, John the Baptist commanded them to bear fruits worthy of repentance, and warned them that every tree that did not bear good fruit would be cut down and destroyed by fire (Matt. 3:8-10).  Repentance then is more than a mental process. It begins in the mind with believing God’s warnings of judgment, it progresses in the mind to a decision to leave the life of sin behind and offer to be a servant of God from this point on, and it continues on until good behavior is produced like fruit is produced on a tree. The Ninevites produced the fruit of repentance when their works changed and their violence ceased. The prodigal produced the fruit of repentance when he left his wicked life, confessed his sin to the father, and submitted himself to humble servitude.  The Pharisees and Sadducees of John the Baptist’s time were professing to be righteous men, but according to Jesus they were wicked men (Matt. 23) who refused to repent & be baptized to signify that repentance (Matt. 21:31-32; Luke 7:30).

The Folly of a Repentance-Free “Christianity”

There are teachers today who water down the gospel so much that it becomes ineffective and worthless. They either leave out repentance altogether, or they portray repentance as being only a mental acknowledgement that you are a sinner. They add insult to injury when they teach that you must sin continually for the rest of your life, and will never be able to obey God until after you are dead. Satan has been busy polluting the church with false teachings so that men will remain in bondage to sin and perish in the end. Most people will acknowledge they have sinned, and unfortunately most professing “Christians” will unashamedly confess they still remain in a life of sin (they have not repented).  Dear friend, do not believe the watered-down message on most “gospel tracts” and preached in most pulpits today. Do not listen to your friends, who soothe your conscience with words like this:  We all sin…nobody is perfect…God understands.   Times of ignorance God may overlook, but He now commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30).   You must be born again, and this will not happen unless you repent.

Repentance Leading to Salvation

After the church at Corinth repented at the preaching of Paul the apostle, he wrote the following to them:

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.  (2 Cor. 7:9-11)

From this passage, observe the following:

  • The message Paul had written to them made them feel sorrowful over their actions.
  • Their sorrow was godly sorrow, a sorrow that produced repentance. They were not merely sorry they got caught, they were sorry they had sinned.
  • The repentance that is produced by godly sorrow leads to salvation.
  • Their repentance was described in the following terms:  diligence (to change), clearing of themselves, indignation (against sin), fear (of God, and of displeasing Him), vehement desire (to do right), zeal (for doing good), and vindication (of wrongdoing).
  • They proved themselves “clear in this matter,” meaning they have been forgiven and the matter was now settled between them and God. They had produced fruit worthy of repentance, and were no longer in danger of being cut down and burned in the fire.

The Purpose of This Post

My purpose for writing this paper is to show people their need for true, Biblical repentance. Knowing that many are not sharing the whole counsel of God, but only bits and pieces that misrepresent God and His Salvation, I want to fill in the gaps for some people.   I have talked to people who profess faith in Jesus, but they are still slaves of sin and “waiting for God” to come and change them while they continue to do all the wickedness they did prior to confessing faith in Jesus!  Such people have need of repentance, and without it, they will perish.

If you have never sorrowed over your life of sin to the point of real repentance, if you have never believed the warnings of His prophets about the destruction that is coming on all the disobedient, if you have never humbled yourself and turned from your wicked works, if you have never come to your senses and gone to God in full surrender ready to serve Him alone, please do it today.  Do not receive the grace of God in vain. His warnings and His teaching come to turn you from darkness to light, but if you harden your heart, you may yet be lost. If you hear His voice, do not harden your heart, but lay aside all filthiness and wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word of God which is able to save your soul (James 1:21).

Posted in Judgment of God, Repentance | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Standing Before Governors and Kings

Posted by israeliteindeed on July 11, 2011

Jesus told us that we, His followers, will be brought before governors and kings for His sake, for a testimony against them.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.  But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;  and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.  But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.   For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.  (Matt. 10:16-20)

These verses remind me of righteous Daniel, who was brought from apostate Israel to stand before three pagan kings, each of whom was greatly affected by him.

The first king, Nebuchadnezzar, communed with Daniel and three of his young fellow Hebrews, and in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. (Dan. 1:20)  Young person, when you are brought before kings and governors, let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (I Tim. 4:12)

During Nebuchadnezzar’s second year, Daniel interpreted a dream for him, proving that his God was a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets (Dan. 2:47), by which he saved the lives of every wise man in the land.  When Daniel’s friends–Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego–were brought forth from the fire unharmed after refusing to worship an image of the king,  Nebuchadnezzar made this decree:

That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. (Dan. 3:29)

And finally, Daniel was called upon to warn Nebuchadnezzar of the pride in his heart, for he attributed all his dominion to his own power and strength, even after seeing the power of the true God and giving lipservice to Him before his whole kingdom. At the end of twelve months, Nebuchadnezzar lost the kingdom and was driven from among men, having gone mad and become like a beast. After the duration of this judgment, he looked to the God of heaven and blessed the most High, and praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:  and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? (Dan. 4:34-35)

The second king before whom Daniel stood, Belshazzar, had an encounter with Daniel’s God that was not to his own profit, but to his swift and irreversible judgment.  For he knew all this–that is, he knew all the things that had happened during his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar’s reign–and yet had not humbled his heart, but had lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven (Dan. 5:23). We must take heed how we hear and what we do with what we know. If we apply the wisdom we hear, we shall be given more, but if not, we shall become spiritual paupers, losing the very truth that was sent to save us (Mk. 4:24-25).  Belshazzar was a poor steward of the light indeed, neglecting to take heed to Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony, and so he lost the kingdom and even his own life.

The third king before whom Daniel stood was Darius the Mede. Darius discerned in Daniel an excellent spirit, and preferred him to all presidents and princes, which would have cost Daniel his life if not for the Lord’s protection in the lions’ den. When King Darius anxiously called to Daniel the morning after he was thrown into the den, Daniel responded to the king’s delight that he was unhurt, for God who is King of kings had declared him innocent in all matters.  Then Darius made this decree:

That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.  He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.  (Dan. 6:26)

I am amazed at the influence of this one righteous man on the hugest kingdom on earth at that time!  Is it any wonder that God has seen fit, in His glorious plans, to allow us to fall into troubles that will bring us before rulers?  For we are witnesses unto Him near and far, in our hometowns and unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Jesus Himself, whom we follow, stood before governors and kings. Standing before Pilate, he testified that He was a king whose kingdom was not of this world, that He had come into the world to bear witness of the truth, that all who hear truth listen to Him, that Pilate had no power but what power God gave him, and that those who delivered him up to be killed had the greater sin. Before Herod, Jesus answered not a word, giving the testimony of silence, for the heavens are brass to those who only wish to be entertained by spiritual things and mock at the truth.

The apostle Paul also stood before governors and kings. The Lord spoke to Paul after his arrest, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”  Paul taught Felix a more accurate knowledge of the way— he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come–until the governor trembled in fear. (Acts 24:22,25) Then before King Agrippa and his wife Bernice, Paul testified of his former life as a Jew and his subsequent encounter with the risen Christ, who had suffered and been the first to rise from the dead; and how he preached everywhere that men should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20). For a testimony against them Paul was sent, for Felix remained unchanged and Agrippa was only almost persuaded to be a Christian.

Saints, we may yet stand before governors and kings. The Lord sends us forth as sheep into the midst of wolves, and commands that we be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  The Lord will give us the words to speak when the time comes.  We have the examples of Daniel, Jesus, and Paul to give us courage. Paul gave this amazing testimony to Timothy after having stood before Caesar (probably Nero)–

At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.  Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.  And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:16-18)

The Lord stood with him and strengthened him, that the Gospel would go forth! Paul knew he was likely to be martyred soon (2 Tim. 4:6), and yet he wrote that the Lord would deliver him and preserve him. And so he certainly was delivered and preserved after completing his testimony before governors and kings, for precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Psa. 116:15), and not a hair on their heads will ever perish (Luke 21:18).

The LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.   Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.  Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. (Jer. 1:7-9)

God bless you!

Posted in persecution, Preach the Gospel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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