rep enta nce


Most of us think we have a good idea of what repentance is. But, I want to take some time today to study repentance and to highlight the beauty of this gift we have received from God!

It is hard to be thankful for a gift when you have no understanding of the gift’s purpose. So, let’s take a good look at what God has given us.

The New Testament word for repentance means:

Changing one’s mind so that one’s views, values, goals, and ways are changed and one’s whole life is lived differently.

It is easy to confuse repentance with another human experience called “attrition”. Looking at the definition reveals the difference.

Attrition – remorse, self-reproach, and sorrow for sin generated by fear of punishment, without any wish or resolve to forsake sinning.

The difference between repentance and the act of attrition is found in the finished product. In both repentance and attrition, you will find some aspect of sorrow. But attrition, at best leads only to some type of outward change. It may lead to someone being more careful so they don’t get caught but it does not lead to a hatred of the behavior itself.

When a person repents, the change is radical. It involves change, both inwardly and outwardly; mind and judgment, will and affections, behavior and life-style, motives and purposes – all are involved.

Attrition is not sufficient for godly transformation because it allows the love for the sin to continue to live within us. Repentance means going in the opposite direction -to practice the virtues, motives, and behaviors most directly opposed to the sin.

One theologian said that repentance is a fruit of faith. I agree because by its purest definition repentance involves a change in how we think and how we respond. In essence, one cannot truly repent without having something to turn to. God provided His Son as a sacrifice for our sins; a way in which we can live differently than we do when dominated by a life of sin. The sacrifice of the Son of God allows an alternative to the dominance of sin and death. In its purest form, faith is part of the gift that God has given to us – opening the door to the gift of salvation.

Faith cannot operate without repentance. To trust in God, we must have a revelation that the road of sin is leading to death and then, we must change our mind regarding how we will live and receive the gift of salvation offered by God through His Son. The bridge between revelation and transformation is repentance!

The idea that there can be saving faith without repentance, and that one can be justified by embracing Christ as Savior while refusing Him as Lord is a destructive delusion. True faith acknowledges who God really is- Priest and King. True trust in Him as Savior will express itself in submission to Him as Lord also.

The culmination of all God’s gifts to mankind are summed up in the reality called “The Kingdom of Heaven”. To receive the Kingdom involves walking a pathway along which we come upon many gifts along the way. These gifts are not haphazardly placed on this pathway, but placed according to a priority necessary for the realization of the final product.

Repentance is the first gift we find as we walk the pathway.

Every true preacher of the gospel always points this gift out first to those seeking to walk the pathway to the Kingdom. In the Old Testament, the prophets pointed the gift out to Israel as they sought to return to the God from whom they had strayed. John the Baptist pointed the gift out as he prepared the way for the Savior. Jesus pointed it out as the first step to the Kingdom. The Twelve pointed it out to the Jews, Paul pointed it out to the Gentiles and the glorified Jesus pointed it out to the seven churches in the book of Revelation.

Impenitence is always the road to ruin. Repentance is always the path to remission of sins and the surety of God’s favor.

If you don’t see repentance as a gift, then think of what the world would be like without it! Even with Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind, without repentance there is no way to embrace it.

 Thank God for the gift of repentance! May repentance always be one of my closest friends!

 

 

The Millennial Reign of Christ


 

Today, I will finish the series of blogs about the end times by taking a look at the final event before the establishment of the new heavens and new earth. This final event, or better yet – final time period is known as the Millennial Reign of Christ.

We ended last time by describing the battle of Armageddon. The Antichrist, the False Prophet and their armies move against Israel to destroy her. It is at this time, that Jesus appears on the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem with the armies of heaven. His appearing is accompanied by cataclysmic events such as earthquakes and hailstorms. Jesus destroys the armies arrayed against Him with a word from His mouth. The destruction is to the extent that the blood of the slain flows at the depth of a horse’s bridle for 200 miles! The Antichrist and the False Prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire.

Here’s where we pick up:

There are people who believe that the 1000 year reign of Christ known as the Millennial Reign is simply allegorical, with differences covering everything from disagreement over the length of an actual millennium to disagreement on when this will occur to others saying that they don’t believe in a literal, physical reign of Christ upon the earth. It would take too long to discuss the origin and reason for each of these positions. This is my point in mentioning this:

I don’t see any reason to dispute what the Bible seems to be saying which is that there will be a literal 1000 year reign of Christ upon the earth. There is no reason that I can see not to interpret these scriptures literally. You want to interpret all scripture literally unless there is good reason to interpret them figuratively.

Now, the Bible tells us that when Christ returns to the earth at the time of His Second Coming, He will establish  Himself as king in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David. This period of time will result in the fulfillment of several covenants that God made with the patriarchs.

 

It will fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant promising Israel a land, a posterity and a ruler, which shall be a spiritual blessing to all (Gen. 12:1-3). It will fulfill the Palestinian Covenant promising Israel restoration to the land and occupation of it (Deut. 30:1-10). It will also fulfill the Davidic Covenant which promises Israel a king from David’s line who would rule forever—giving the nation rest from all their enemies (2 Sam. 7:10-13).

Israel will be re-gathered from the nations, converted, and restored to the land. The Bible speaks of the conditions during the millennium as being a perfect environment as earthly possible. Micah 4:2-4 and Isaiah 32:17-18 says it will be a time of peace. Isaiah 61:7,10 states that it will be a time of joy. Isaiah 40:1-2 tells of the comfort of that period. Christ will rule as king. According to Isaiah 32:1 and Matthew 19:28, righteous nobles and governors will rule with Him and Zech. 8:3 states that Jerusalem will be the political center of the world.

Who will be alive and populate the earth during the Millennial Reign?

Most scholars believe that there will be two distinct groups occupying the earth in the millennial kingdom – those with glorified bodies and those with earthly bodies who lived through the tribulation. Most scholars believe that those with glorified bodies consist of the raptured Church who return with Christ and the martyred tribulation saints who are resurrected at the Second Coming.

Matthew 25:31-46 tells of the separation of the sheep and the goats. Many scholars believe this to refer to the righteous and unrighteous Gentiles, the unrighteous or goats who took the mark of the beast cast into the lake of fire while the righteous or sheep will survive on into the millennium. Some believe that Old Testament saints will also be raised during this period (Dan. 12:2).

Those who are live during the Tribulation in earthly  bodies are the righteous who survived the Tribulation and, the impression is given that it will be the Israelis alive at the time of Christ’s Second Coming. Zechariah 8:1-5 describes Jerusalem this way:

“I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fervor I am zealous for her. I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of Hosts, the Holy Mountain. Thus says the Lord of Hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of his great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.”

Most scholars believe that, according to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 22:30, those with glorified bodies will not marry or be given in marriage so as to produce children, yet those with earthly bodies could have children.

People will not be robots during this period; they will still be responsible for their own faith. The influence of the devil will be gone, the influence of Christ will be present and the authority of the establishment will be righteous.

But, Revelation 20 tells us a sad and unbelievable tale.

At the end of the 1000 years, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will go to the lands farthest away from Jerusalem and will deceive people into rebelling against Christ revealing to us the utter folly of the belief that our nature is basically good. An army will be raised and will march against Jerusalem to destroy the rule of Jesus. Fire will fall from the sky and will destroy the army.

Satan will then be cast into the lake of fire, where he will be tortured forever along with all those who lived all throughout history whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

This is the final event in history before the creation of the new heavens and new earth and in it, the new home of man and God, the New Jerusalem.

Now, hear the pronouncement to those of us who live now:

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14

 

Kingdom Reasons


For the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at Kingdom living.

This talk is intended to teach us to become more comfortable and therefore, more at peace with how the kingdom of God operates. Many people feel as if they are paddling upstream when it comes to living in the kingdom of God. They struggle with “how” God is going to accomplish His purposes. They struggle with “when” God is going to accomplish His purposes. And, they struggle with another aspect of the kingdom that I want to talk about today: “Why” God chooses to do things a certain way.

We’ve discussed the “how” and the “when”, so now, let’s talk a bit about “why.”

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! Romans 11:33 NLT

In spite of the truth of scriptures like Romans 11:33, we still believe that we could operate better in life if we just knew why God does the things He does.

But, the problem with us understanding the “whys” of God mirrors the problem with us knowing the “hows” of God.

Do you remember what problems occurred when the disciples were told exactly “how” God was going to do something?

  1. The disciples told Jesus that He didn’t understand exactly what was going on.
  2. The disciples had a better remedy for the situation.
  3. The disciples had a better response to the situation.

Well, these same problems occur if God tells us “why” He is going to do something. If we don’t trust that God understands exactly what is going on, then He cannot be trusted to choose the right remedy and response to the situation.

How many of you have argued with God concerning directions given to us in the Bible or by the Spirit of God?

How many argue with loving your enemies? How many argue against repenting to someone who is unrepentant? How many argue against forgiving an abuser? How many argue against giving the tithe?

I hear many people ask the question, “Why would God…..”

To believe that we could understand the answer to that question presupposes some things:

  1. We can “see” everything God sees.

When Job asked God why certain things happened to him, God never gave Job the answer. You know how God responded to Job’s question?

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb? Who put wisdom in the mind and given understanding to the heart? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you look on the proud and humble him? Can you tread down the wicked in their place? If so, then I will confess to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 38:4

God sees how everything is going to affect everything else, not just now but in the future. God knows the motive for why each and every action is taken. Only someone like this is capable of making an informed decision as to “what” needs to be done.

  1. We are purer in motive than God is.

How many of you would dare to say that you are purer in heart than God? Often, that is exactly what is rattling around in our brain when we ask God to explain Himself to us. We want to know “why” a decision was made not for education but to debate its legitimacy.

Kingdom ways are higher than our ways in motive and therefore, too pure for us to conceive their operation!

This simply means that God’s ways are so much purer and loving than our ways that we would never conceive the plan that God comes up with in life situations!

Even if we come up with a benevolent plan it is tainted with impure motives – to prove we are a good person, to be seen by other people; you name it!

  1. We have the power to bring what we conceive to pass.

We often judge things we have no control over! So, here we are judging the death of someone, the election of someone, the promotion of someone, the fairness of a decision when we don’t have the power to change it if we could!

Remember, the question, “Why would God?” is asked about situations we cannot change. Am I right? If we could bring about a different outcome, we would have!

It would be more accurate for us to say, “If I were God.”

If this statement could be transformed from a verbal statement to an object, what would it look like?

It would appear as the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil! You can’t trust God so you better take control!

To flow in the Kingdom, we must obtain “50-20 Vision.”

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. GENESIS 50:19-20

God intends it for good. God, help us to trust Your heart when we cannot see what Your hand is doing!!!!

 

 

Kingdom Timing


Last week, we talked about understanding how things work in the kingdom of God.

Jesus taught extensively on the kingdom of God and how it operates. He wants His people to understand the flow of the kingdom so that they can be successful in what He has called them to in this late hour.

The first talk we shared on this topic focused on the mysteries of the kingdom; specifically how we move in the kingdom without knowing the specifics of what God is doing and how He is accomplishing His purpose. To be successful in the kingdom requires us to be comfortable with God being in control and us being out of control.

Trying to control things wears you out and frustrates you. God is not going to change the way He operates and the faster we accept this, the better the ride will be!

Today, let’s talk about a topic that is related to last week’s but with its own distinctive traits that we must understand to get into the flow of the kingdom. 

God often tell us that He is going to do something in our lives before it actually happens. I have often received a word from the Lord revealing to me exactly what He plans to do for me, around me, or through me.

Anyone every received a word from God revealing what He is about to do in you, through you, or around you?

When you receive these words, they often fail to include two significant pieces of information:

  1. How God is going to accomplish what He has said.
  2. When God is going to do what He has said.

Last week, we talked about getting comfortable with the “how” He is going to do what He has said. But, what about the “when?”

We often struggle just as much with the timing as we do with how God is going to accomplish His purpose.

We are “now” people! Wouldn’t you say so? Our society has taught us to expect things now or very quickly. To flow in the kingdom without losing your sanity, you must know a few things about God and how He does things.

 

  1. God is doing a lot more than filling an “order” or performing a “magic trick.”

I once asked God when I was first saved, “What is my destiny?” I wanted to know the purpose for my life. As I waited for His response, I pictured in my mind that the answer would show some type of occupation or a ministry I would do. His response to me didn’t reveal a destination that I would reach but a journey that I would undertake that would last a lifetime. His answer to me was:

Romans 8:29-30: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

This answer clarified much for me and will for you too. My destiny and your destiny is to be conformed to the image of His Son. As you are being conformed, your life will win many around you to the Lord. Finally, God is the One doing the work, so the key to me reaching my destination is submission.

God is going to bring about some amazing “things” in your life but those things don’t mean much if your destiny is not fulfilled along the way. If you know that Christlikeness is your destiny, then the fact that prophecies take time to fulfill makes much more sense.

  1. The kingdom of God works “seasonally” just like the natural world.

Jesus used many parables to teach about the kingdom. Many of those parables were “farming” examples. In these parables, Jesus reinforced the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:1 – There is a season for everything, a time for every purpose.”

A farmer understands several principles of success.

  1. Patience – plants don’t spring up overnight.
  2. Attention to detail – little things can destroy much hard work.
  3. Timing – There is a certain season for every farming activity.

You don’t plant in winter. The soil and weather are not conducive to the seed’s survival. You don’t harvest in winter. The conditions are not warm enough to produce fruit. Fruit trees look dead in winter, but important work is going on below the surface. Their roots are going deeper to prepare for the increased weight of the growth of the tree and the weight of the harvest.

There is a time for your word to come to pass; an appointed season for harvest. Don’t faint during winter – summer is on its way!

Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 explains the joy of those who understand kingdom timing:

“What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.”

 

Kingdom Living


Blessed by the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle……………PSALM 144:1

This scripture is about training. It is about acknowledging that God is in the process of preparing His people to operate successfully in the kingdom of God.

This scripture is also about understanding; understanding what occurs in the kingdom – so that you and I are not living under some type of mistaken illusion regarding the activities that make up kingdom living.

How many times in the gospels did Jesus say to His disciples, “The kingdom of God is like….?” Jesus wants us to understand the flow of the kingdom of God: its motives, its goals, its mode of operation so that we can flow with what God is doing in our lives.

We will never completely understand the move of God. His ways are mysterious to us and beyond finding out.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

This scripture tells us that, without spiritual revelation, we cannot grasp what God is doing among us.

God often moves without telling us what is to come or without explaining to us how and why He is doing certain things.

Have you experienced God’s mysterious ways?

Don’t we question God’s decision to withhold information from us? Let’s be honest!

Wouldn’t it make things easier if we knew exactly what was going to happen?

Wouldn’t it be a great learning experience for us to know exactly how and why God does things?

Let’s do some looking at our questions to see if there is any validity in them.

First, let’s look at the question:

“Wouldn’t it make things easier if we knew exactly what was going to happen?

There are times in the gospels in which Jesus told His disciples exactly what was going to happen. He would share with them what the plan of the kingdom was for them and for the hour. 

In Matthew 26:31-35, Jesus is eating the Last Supper with His disciples. During this supper, He tells them exactly what is going to happen in the next few hours. Did this knowledge make things easier for the disciples?

No. Why?

Because kingdom ways are higher than our ways in motive and operation.

Let’s look at what happens after Jesus tells the disciples exactly what is going to happen:

  1. The disciples remind Jesus that He doesn’t understand what is really going on.

Peter and the rest of the disciples begin to argue with Jesus telling Him that He doesn’t understand where they are emotionally and spiritually.

  1. The disciples have a better remedy for the stress of the moment.

Since the disciples know that Jesus doesn’t really know what is going on with them, they disregard His focus on prayer, choosing sleep as the best response for the moment.

  1. The disciples have a better response to the attack of the enemy.

Instead of receiving Christ’s plan for the moment, someone starts swinging a sword; thinking it is time to fight rather than submit.

If Jesus had not been in control of the moment, but had ceded that control to the disciple’s judgment of the situation and the needed response, what would have happened?

Would Jesus have died?

Would we have been redeemed?

Would the Holy Spirit have been able to come to us?

This is just one example to answer the question: “Wouldn’t things be easier if we knew exactly what is going to happen?”

Jesus has told you and I exactly how to respond in many situations, yet we still struggle with it and often choose a different path!

Examples: love your enemies. Bless those who curse you! Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who despise you!

Because kingdom ways are higher than our ways in motive and operation, we cannot understand them even if we know ahead of time what is going to happen!

Later, the disciples had a better understanding of God’s choice in the matter of His death, but knowing ahead of time didn’t help them at all.

Do you still think that it would be helpful to you if you knew exactly what was going to happen before it happened? Would this knowledge cause you to choose God’s pathway?

To flow in kingdom living, we must learn to trust God’s heart, even when we cannot see what His hand is doing!

Next time we are together, we’ll talk about this more!