5/20/18 ~ What about the ignorant?

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Jesus placed a burden, a responsibility on the Apostles. According to Matthew 28:19-20 they had to go to all the world and teach them of God’s will and the salvation that is only in Jesus. In teaching that Good News they had to–much like the old court injunction–tell the truth… the whole truth… and nothing but the truth.

In telling all the truth (Jesus called it “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”) they were passing on to each new child of God the responsibility to also share the Good News with everyone else.

That leads us to an interesting and important question:

What About the Ignorant?

Have you ever noticed how often people have an opinion of God without actually consulting God’s revealed word? It is a frequent approach by people that do not actually follow the New Testament but, sadly, it is also often practiced by those claiming to be Christians.

Before you claim that this cannot possibly be so, consider how often you’ve heard someone discussing things about God’s will and say something like, “I think” or “I believe” as they give an opinion. Perhaps you’ve even been guilty of saying it yourself.

Opinions are nice things… sometimes. But we would all have to agree that failing to stop for a STOP sign is not a matter of opinion but a matter of law. The obvious principle for spiritual matters must be that, if God tells us the facts, if He sets the law of what is true and false, right and wrong, then we must agree with Him if we want to be right.

Once we understand and accept this fact, then we realize the seriousness of continued study of His word. Only when we first actually listen to and follow God may we be in agreement with Him. Amos the prophet asked the question: Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3, NKJV) We find ourselves out of step and unable to walk with our God if we do not agree with Him!

So let’s consider the question: What about those ignorant of God’s will? We ask it often in many ways and many times we find ourselves giving an opinion that is completely out of step, out of agreement with God! What about the person that has never heard God’s will and dies in their ignorance? Surely God wouldn’t send that person to hell!

The Apostle Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians in large part to deal with the question of how God will deal with unbelievers and false teachers when Jesus returns. Certainly, that question is of great importance to us today and is directly relevant to our question of ignorance.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-8 Paul says: (5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and results in your being considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are indeed suffering. (6) For it is a righteous thing for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to give relief to you who are afflicted, and to us as well, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not know God, and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (Mounce-NT translation)

You will notice that I quoted that from a very literal translation that is actually used for teaching Greek translation. But the fact is, nearly every single English translation agrees with the Greek that punishment is coming on those who do not know God as well as those that do not obey Him. As a matter of fact, the only English Bible I found that implies another meaning is a work known as The Message; a work known for repeated intentional mistranslation. It says, Those who refuse to know God and refuse to obey the Message will pay for what they’ve done, and thus completely misses the force of what God actually says.

So, we can safely conclude that the only way to claim ignorance of God’s word as an excuse in the Judgement Day is to pervert what God actually says. Oops! That’s NOT a good opinion to hold, is it?

Consider one last point. If people can go to heaven out of ignorance then there’s not any point in the Great Commission! Think about it! Why should we try so hard to teach people of Jesus if they would actually be better off in ignorance?

And that leads us to one last important lesson. What if we fail to do our job of telling the Good News? What if we fail to warn others of God’s way and judgment?

God actually has that discussion with Ezekiel the prophet in chapter 33, verses 1-20. Since Ezekiel was given a commission by God to speak God’s will (much like Jesus passed on to us all in Matthew 28:19-20), he is responsible only for his failure to preach the truth. If others listen and obey God’s will, their salvation is assured. If others choose to ignore God’s message then they bear the burden of their sin.

Never does God make an exception for ignorance. We know God’s will and we are responsible for sharing that Good News with others. It’s time for us to get busy because ignorance is death.

— Lester P. Bagley

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5/12/18 ~ Battle Buddies

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you helping or hurting the church, the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Are you a real soul winner for Jesus or just an old sorehead? Do you truly stand with your…

Battle Buddies

The fact is, we as Christians are often guilty of “shooting our wounded!”

The most demanding job in this world is that of actively living a Christ-like life! Having said that, we often imagine that what that means is living a totally self-righteous life. While Jesus lived a sinless life, he did NOT live it without friendships, encouragement, love, and support of others!

John is described as the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). While Jesus was close to all His disciples, there were some that especially provided even closer friendship and fellowship. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are also singled out as those that Jesus loved (John 11:5). Certainly, many of Jesus’ discussions with Peter show an especially close bond of encouragement.

If Jesus drew strength and reinforcement from that bond of friendship then we undoubtedly need the same thing, too. Solomon, another “wise man,” reminded us that there is a friend that is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Burnout is highest among those that work the hardest! Teachers, elders, preachers, deacons and all who faithfully serve the Lord are both worthy of honor and in danger of that dreaded disease.

Think of Paul’s admonition, The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17). We usually focus on the “double honor” as being paid for their work, but part of the honor is also the appreciation and caring for that’s so richly deserved, even here on earth, for those that faithfully serve.

Over the years many of our finest elders, preachers, teachers and Christian servants of the Lord have burned out and even lost their faith. So, what can we do about it?

As we’ve already noted, Jesus had close, loving friends that were an encouragement to Him. Solomon, David and many others of God’s people depended on those friends that were closer than earthly family.

Let’s back up a moment and consider the problem from another angle. Suicide (both literally and professionally) is extremely high among soldiers with the most combat experience. And very similar things happen among the most proficient police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical professionals. The challenge of constantly having someone’s life (soul) in your hands and so often seeing it all go badly wrong too often is a huge burden to bear.

It seems like some of that pressure is evident in the apostle Paul’s writings. Too many battles fought with too little support from your own side is an awful burden to bear. You can hear it rather loudly in 2 Timothy 4.

The US Army began a program several years back known as the “battle buddy.” The idea is that a battle buddy assists his or her partner both in and out of combat. They are not just for company but intentionally for the reduction of suicide. Each battle buddy watches his partner’s actions and is expected to save their fellow soldier’s life by noticing negative thoughts and feelings and intervening to provide help.

It is a real challenge to have the self-confidence to stay strong without that “buddy” support. Nowadays the “battle buddy” concept is not only for support in combat but for the ongoing support for living life outside of combat. The lesson readily applies to Christians that are sincerely fighting the good fight of faith.

Go back to 2 Timothy 4 and note verses 9-11: Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. Do you hear the loss of too many? Do you see the importance of those close friends, those “battle buddies” that remain faithful?

You will recall that Jesus ALWAYS sent his disciples to work in (at least) pairs. Paul routinely traveled and worked with one or more fellow workers.

John tells us, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). But it remains for James to demonstrate the practice as he says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)

It seems like God is trying to tell us something there! The way to survive the trials is with the working together, the praying for one another. Only together can we accomplish much!

Look at four additional scriptures that address this issue: A friend loves at all times, & a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10). With all humility & gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).

There are souls to save here. And the only way we can save the souls of fellow saints is to stand strong and firm with them in the Lord. Only together can we accomplish much!

— Lester P. Bagley

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5/6/18 ~ Going Beyond or Falling Short

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Have you ever noticed how some things are “just right” the way they are? It is important for us to remember that “no substitutes, no additions, no changes” is a vital truth of God’s word. We sometimes say that a miss is as good as a mile, and with God, that is especially true. However you miss, it is still a miss and nothing can make that miss a hit. As Christians, we need to make certain that we never…

Go Beyond or Fall Short

While we often remember Balaam for his later failure to honor God, we need to also remember his early faithfulness. Balak, king of the Moabites, was making every effort to persuade Balaam to go against God’s commands. Balaam’s reply to Balak’s servants was, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God” (Numbers 22:18).

Do we have the same courage to be so determined to obey our God? Can we truly say that we are so faithful to Him that we will do nothing little or big that is contrary to His commands?

As the New Testament is still being written, God constantly includes reminders that the “perfect” revelation, will and instructions of God are the standard that all future generations will adhere to for what is right and wrong. Paul told the church at Corinth that was so inordinately proud of their miraculous spiritual gifts that they were all coming to an end.

The gifts of prophecy would be done away with, the “tongues” (speaking a language you had never learned so you could teach the gospel to someone of that language) will cease. Even the gift of miraculous knowledge (knowing the will of God without the effort of study and preparation beforehand) would end. All that was partial and imperfect was to end when the perfect revelation was complete (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

Strangely enough, many years ago someone informed me that this view, this understanding of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 was unique to the “churches of Christ” and that no other “Bible scholars” saw it that way. Think about that argument for a moment. Even IF the only people that agreed with God (just like in Balaam’s case) were those that actually worshipped God, then that would still make it right! Nothing you can believe, say or do will ever make a wrong right.

Worse still, is the fact that many (most?) Bible scholars even in the denominational world (people that will accept some error or false teaching as okay) admit that there is no other way to interpret Paul’s words! Like Balaam, many times people that plead their case for disobeying God, nevertheless admit that what God actually says is both true and required if we would obey Him!

The writer of Hebrews challenges us with the same idea. We cannot afford to even seem or appear to come short of God’s standard. That will lose us our reward (cf. Hebrews 4:1). As John pens the final words of God in the Revelation, he includes God’s command to read, hear and obey “these words” without change (cf. Revelation 22:18). God promises to add the “plagues” to those that add to His word. Sounds like God is serious, doesn’t it?

Since Jesus promised that God (His Spirit) was the author of all the Apostles’ teaching passed on to us (cf. John 14:26; 16:13; Matthew 28:20), it is obligatory that we only believe, teach and practice the same things! That is literally what Jesus commands of all teaching by His people in Matthew 28:20. Hopefully, we all know and understand the concept of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Everything God speaks to His people is important! That precept is stated in many ways throughout the Bible and repeated by Jesus to Satan (Matthew 4:4). Every word that comes from God is our life. Obviously, words are important and we ignore them at our peril!

That leads to an important reminder. Any time we take a statement of God out of context, we sin and lose sight of godly teaching. An excellent example is found in 2 Timothy 2:14. When Paul tells Timothy not to wrangle about words, he is NOT talking about teaching and learning (like we often hear argued) what God says!

Paul is talking about the word arguments that he and Timothy had repeatedly dealt with, the myths and genealogies (worldly and pagan things as in 1 Timothy 1:3-4) and includes the old wives’ tales of 1 Timothy 4:7. Worldly words, ideas, “theological” arguments outside of the revealed word of God have no place alongside the actual holy words of God. By God’s definition, His word and only His word is the absolute truth (cf. Psalm 119:160 and confirmed by Jesus in John 17:17).

Since our Lord is truly the great God and Savior (cf. Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1), we learn and obey His words in His context and meaning. We are not called to just obey basic concepts. Our God is able to say exactly what He means and His wisdom is what we need to learn and obey. The psalmist reminds us of those who rebelled against the words of God and spurned His counsel (Psalm 107:11).

One of Jesus’ warnings shortly before He left this earth was of “false prophets” that would come after He left (Matthew 24:24). In some of the last words from God to His people, John would remind us that “many false prophets” are out there in the world and we are not to believe them. Once again, the standard we compare them to is God (1 John 4:1).

If these things taught by God are all true, then we have a responsibility to learn, believe, practice and continue to teach God’s word. The truth, the facts, the way of salvation, the way of worship and service to God, and the way we are to live is all settled. As Jude concluded, we are to contend for (defend) the faith, the truth that was once for all delivered to us (Jude 3).

We have God’s word, God’s standard, God’s requirements for us, our lives and our teaching. If we would be true to God, we must neither go beyond nor fall short of what He says!

— Lester P. Bagley

4/8/18 – True Heroes

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

I guess that by now everyone knows that I think we have one of the greatest groups of young people ever in this congregation. Perhaps one of the areas in which our teens impress me most is their courage. It is not easy for anyone to live in a world that believes that what God defines as wrong and sinful is accepted as right and good. And yet our teens face that challenge on a daily basis and still try to maintain both their Christ-like standards and their desire to tell others of the right.

Of course, that is God’s will for every one of us but to uphold those standards when your teachers and fellow students many time do not requires great faith. Do we appreciate what great examples our young Christians are for us all?

God says that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). We must remember that fact!

Following the terror events of 9-11 many people, even schools, openly prayed. Today most have gone back to the old ways of rejecting God. In fact, prayers are banned from many public functions by the US Supreme Court decisions in direct violation of Constitutional law that prevents any part of the US government from making ANY laws with regard to religion in this country!

At the same time, our government affirms the “right” to murder unborn babies. How long before it is considered a “right” to murder older children? Have we perhaps gone mad?

While athletes and even teenagers violating the law are held up as “heroes” and examples for all, it seems even more amazing that some can actually do what is right and thus show the world what real heroes are. Consider a couple of examples from the world of true heroes and let’s appreciate the spiritual lesson. And let’s resolve that we will have the courage from here on to place God’s will and what is right before what men may say, do, teach and even demand from us as laws:

True Heroes

Do you remember the heroes of the September 11th United Airlines Flight 93? Three typical American men on that flight, armed only with plastic butter knives, talked one last time to their wives and families and then attacked the hijackers on board their flight. These three knew of the devastation that had already occurred on the ground in New York and Washington and sought to prevent it happening again. They were successful! But before they made that heroic attempt they did one other thing, they prayed.

A few years later on June 28, 2005, a small four-man Navy SEAL team of Operation Red Wings was pinned down by a large enemy force and called for help. At that point, no one knew that only one of those four would survive. Without hesitation, the nearest aid consisting of 11 Navy SEALs and 8 Army Night Stalkers boarded their helicopter to attempt a rescue. Upon arrival to the area, the helicopter was shot down with the loss of all 19 men.

It would take some time and great effort to eventually recover all those lost men. But when they did there was an interesting dog tag found in the helicopter wreckage. It read: I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.

We would, like most folks, consider all those people to be heroes. But think for a moment what kind of persons God declares to be heroes. I guess our first thought would be Hebrews 11 and those oft referred to as heroes of faith. Perhaps some would think of the good example of those brave heroes Peter and John who stood before the Supreme Court of their country and declared, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

But what of some more modern heroes? Do we recall the New Testament Christians who died in Hitler’s concentration camps? Even today there are brethren who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus in countries like Afghanistan, China and India to what is almost our own backyard in Mexico.

And how about our young people, faithfully serving the Lord and being such a good example to us all when many of their fellow students and teachers are proud to teach and practice sin? What of our elderly Christians with their many years of service and their still constant devotion to the Savior?

Do we remember that Jesus Himself said that these modern heroes of faith are in God’s measure even greater than those of the Old Testament? “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)

Did you hear what Jesus said? It’s really the same comment that the Hebrew writer would use to conclude his list of heroes of faith: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40).

Do you remember that dog tag I mentioned above? Do we as Christians have the courage to live like that? Do you love the Lord and the church He died for enough to say: I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Heroes are just ordinary people who, in times of crisis, do extraordinary things. Let’s remember the real heroes this week! Truly, the Lord’s church is made up of those heroes. Let’s resolve to be faithful, loving, prayerful, encouraging this week and show just who and what we really are!

— Lester P. Bagley

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I must leave it more glorious than I found it

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Today is the only one I have for my usage and tomorrow possibly.  I will have another but today is the only one I have.  Every day is like every opportunity.  I accept it from Him in the morning and how I return it to him at evening is all in accordance with my love for Him.

I must go wherever He sends me polishing and brightening every soul I meet.  I must leave it more glorious for Him than I found it.

Oh, how I love God.  How can I say He is my God and I am His child if I do not glorify the day He has given me?  I cannot even imagine such an ingrate.  For those who love God, it would be virtually impossible.

I have oft been made to wonder how one thanks God for giving him one day of life.  What can I do? What can I say?  What words are going to adequately describe my feelings and be sufficient to even attempt to offer something toward the worthiness of the value of a day?

How incapable man is to even come near reaching the infinite value of a touch of appreciation deserved for just a moment of basking in its beauty, glory, and splendor.  Wherever one might be on this verdant globe, every single day one might see is a glory to God and I have shared in its existence!

Where does someone find the heart, the feelings, the words to express appreciation for only this moment? Only the thrill of the soul that stops to enjoy such a gift can within that jubilation pleasingly thank God, for he has fulfilled the intent of its creation.

The joy of a child of God!  Anything else is a worthless, meager, bereft attempt leaving the soul empty in the wonder of the purpose of its existence.  What a waste of all creation for the one and what an eternal ecstasy for the other.

In no other way can the wisdom of the wise and the foolishness of the fool be more clearly seen!  The moment when God’s purpose and man’s value meet and share the common joy of existence. They meet. They share. In that moment they are one. That is what all existence is all about. The oneness of God.

Malcolm Parsley, Korea

 

Let there be Light

Mitch Teemley

Many scientists are disinclined to believe in God (although poll numbers vary greatly). It is interesting to note, however, that among those who study science at its extremes, rather than at the bio-materialistic mid-levels, belief is quite high. A majority of quantum physicists, for example, allow for the likelihood of a creative consciousness behind the universe, which is now understood to be more concept than concrete reality.

“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.” ~Arno Penzias, Nobel prize in physics

“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence…

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2/25/18 ~ Playing Legal Games With God

 

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

I guess we’ve all noticed that there are some games we like to play and others that really don’t interest us. One of those games that many play and enjoy is the “game” of perverting God’s word.

Recently in a conversation, I was told that God will save even those that are disobedient to His will, so we have nothing to worry about. I quickly checked my Bible to see if God had perhaps changed His will. But, no, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (and a host of other similar scriptures!) was still there. When Jesus comes again He will come taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So how is it that people can twist and pervert God’s word like that? Let’s consider the subject of…

Playing Legal Games with God

Back in 2012 an 81-year-old woman with a sore jaw died just weeks after a hospital in Detroit mistakenly performed brain surgery on her. A jury awarded her family $20 million. But appeals courts and the state Supreme Court reversed the decision claiming that it was simple medical malpractice and not negligence. Yet the hospital had admitted that the surgery was an error of negligence!

What was shocking to nearly everyone involved in this case is that, in an amazing display of legal gamesmanship, the courts reversed the actual evidence and facts. What the judges did allowed a crime to be committed and the criminals to be declared innocent with no hope of any future justice in the case.

As appalling as this case is, it has become relatively commonplace in the American legal system. Right and wrong are no longer decided by facts and laws but by who can play the best game.

Again, as appalling as all this is in the world, it is also a favorite game for people to play with God, His word, and His laws. For, you see, in spite of all the nonsense we attempt to use to cover the facts, God has clearly defined right and wrong and people have felt free to play legal games!

Solomon faced the problem in his day and declared, He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 17:15).

Many years later this same legal game was being played in Isaiah’s time and caused God to comment: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)  Do we disobey God, commit some sin, then either declare that it’s okay or imagine that God has to forgive us so we are free to do wrong? Even under the Old Law God recognized and forbade His people from playing legal games. The word He often used for this sin of playing legal games with sin is presumptuousness.

Many translations use this same English word but some translate it as

  • premeditated
  • contempt
  • arrogance
  • willful
  • flagrant

Do you see God’s word pictures of His view of our legal games?

Consider some specific examples: The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again. (Deuteronomy 17:12-13) Paul would echo this command to Timothy in dealing with elders (or any other Christian by implication) who sin like this (read 1 Timothy 5:19-20).

The term false teachers (or prophets) is used for those teaching or advocating playing legal games with God, and they deserve the same treatment by those faithful to God: But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20). Again the New Testament echoes this lesson (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Peter 3:14-18; 1 John 4:1-6, etc.)

 David, even as he wrote of his praise to God, would also remember to ask, Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression (Psalm 19:13).

We as Christians face a world that loves to play legal games, even with God’s own words and commands.

  • You will be told that God doesn’t care how you worship and serve Him.
  • You will be told that all you have to do to be saved is pray a “sinners prayer” that’s never found in the Bible.
  • You will be told that God has nothing against homosexual behavior or that sex outside of marriage is okay.
  • You will be told a million things by those playing legal games with God.

And they will all still be lies that will cost you your soul if you believe them for God still says that the soul that sins will die (cf. Ezekiel 18:20).

So how about it? Are you smart enough NOT to play legal games with God? Are you smart enough to actually obey what God says? It is a choice we need to make right now!

— Lester P. Bagley

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1/21/18 ~ Repentance

Repentance

From the Preacher’s Pen… There’s an old hymn that asks the question: Did you repent, fully repent? It is a most sobering question. Repentance, as described by God, is the U-turn that gets us on the right way to eternal life.

RacineBuildingLike so many of God’s words, repentance has a very specific meaning in the Bible that is unlike the way it is used by the world. Consider that important ingredient that God commands us to use in our lives:

Repentance

Repentance has often been called the forgotten command of God and for very good reasons. In recent years even the denominational world has begun to notice it as painfully missing from their “Sinner’s Prayer” method of “salvation.”

Sadly, too many Christians have begun to forget or willingly ignore repentance. As you will learn by reading either the New or the Old Testament, that loss will cost you your soul.

Isaiah warned that God had instructed His people to repent and let God take care of things (Isaiah 30:15), but they were unwilling. In that failure to repent and trust God would come their downfall.

As a matter of record, God always requires obedience even, or perhaps more accurately, especially of His people. John the Immerser preached a message of preparation for Jesus as the Kingdom was about to come (Matthew 3:1). Their proof of repentance was to be found in bearing fruit or deeds that showed evidence of that repentance (Matthew 3:8).

It is embarrassing when we miss the point of a story or joke. Something that just goes over our heads or, worse still, something that we misunderstand completely can be worse than awkward. One statement of Jesus that is often misunderstood (much like many in His audience often miss the point!) is found in Luke 5:32.

It is all too easy for us to feel like the audience evidently did when Jesus said, I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. If we imagine for even a moment that we are so wonderful, so righteous in God’s eyes that we have no need of our Savior and of repentance, then we are horribly deluded!

Jesus came into the world to save sinners, Paul the Apostle would say (1 Timothy 1:15) years later, of whom I am foremost! Yet he could also claim (Acts 23:1) to have lived his entire life with a perfectly good conscience before God!

Evidently, since all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (cf. Romans 3:23), we all need to repent as none of us are righteous without God!

This message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47) was the message the Apostles were to take to the whole world. Repentance was for or going toward the goal of forgiveness of sins. No, it is not the only step, but it is a vital one.

Just as baptism is for or going toward the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), so is repentance. That tells us two very important things: First, without repentance, you are NOT going the right direction for the forgiveness of sins. Second, in the same way, without baptism, you are NOT going the right direction for the forgiveness of sins.

In math the equation would be “a + b = c” and this is true, for example, of 2+3=5. But it is NEVER true that 2=5 nor does 3=5. In God’s mathematical equation neither repentance alone nor baptism alone will save you. Only the right combination!

It is, of course, the kindness, grace, and mercy of God that leads us to have the opportunity of repentance (see Romans 2:4). We have to be sorrowful for our wrongs, our sins, for our failure to properly follow God (2 Corinthians 7:9).

Just being sorry is not the same as repentance. Many people are sorry that they were caught but not sorry for the sin. We can be sorry for many things without having the sorrow that corrects and leads us in the right direction. Paul says it like this, For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Did you catch all that? God must break us of our sin. But Godly sorrow does not lead to ongoing brokenness. God’s way is all about life and the positive change that we are making.

As those who complete the equation of both repentance and baptism, we receive a new life. There is freedom from the old way of sin and death, and this new life is filled with the spirit of God (Acts 2:38 and repeatedly in 1 Corinthians).

Rejecting God’s way, even for those who have once been saved, is described as a life without repentance and thus without hope (Hebrews 6:6). Repentance is a treasure of God that forms a crucial ingredient of our salvation. It is more than just important, it is vital!

Have you made the U-turn that leads from living your life for Satan, sin, and death? Have you made the U-turn to obey and follow Jesus? Have you completed the equation for the forgiveness of your sins?

If you’ve done those things to begin that family relationship with God then have you continue the path of obedience to salvation? If not, is it time for your repentance to get you headed in the right direction?

— Lester P. Bagley

1/7/17 ~ Faith is our starting point to reaching out

Image result for faith

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingAs we begin a new year we begin a new opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those around us in this world. We have several new tools (both books and DVDs) to help us with both what we should say and with reaching out to others.

Without the knowledge of and obedience to the Lord, everyone on earth faces a dim future. Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that we all have an appointment with death, and then an appointment with judgment before God.

What happens in that final appointment to your family, friends, neighbors, and others you meet begins with you! Ezekiel chapter 18 is a great lesson from God about our personal responsibility. If we share the truth of God and His will, then we accomplish our part of that duty. If we fail, then we must bear the responsibility for each and every soul we lose.

Let’s think for a moment about the starting point for us in…

Faith

Faith is not just a “religious” word, but a word that we understand in almost every area of life. Faith is putting your complete trust or confidence in someone or something. The opposite in someone is literally betrayal and disloyalty, and in something it is uselessness.

Think about that a moment. A person or a thing that you cannot depend on is dangerous. Even if you try to make sure that you never have to depend on someone or something that is dangerous, you still must be careful knowing that you can never really trust them. Faith or trust, real trust is reserved for very special people and things!

The real reason that Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land was because he broke God’s trust in him. Isn’t that a shocking thought? That is exactly what God told Moses in Deuteronomy 32:51 and, to make things worse, God went on to describe that as a failure to respect or treat God as holy.

The writer of Hebrews (in Hebrews 11:6) explains it like this: without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

We often imagine that faith as a Christian is a one-way street. It isn’t! In reality the faith that God calls us to is a two-way street. Faith is trusting God so completely that He can trust us!

In Hebrews chapter 11 that is the very point the writer is emphasizing. By faith (verse 4) Abel offered a better sacrifice and God, Himself, became the proof, the testimony, the witness of that faith. Faithful to God means God will be faithful to us!

Psalm 146 is a great song of praise to the Lord and the author reflects that he is unable to trust earthly people, even royalty, in the same way that he can trust God (cf. verse 3). Not only is God the creator of all things, but God is the one that keeps faith, is trustworthy, forever (verse 6)!

In working rescue, we inspected and tested our equipment every single day. A rope that might be called upon to lift you or someone else to safety could never be just okay or good enough. If it had the slightest flaw, the tiniest break or abrasion, it was considered unsafe. After all, it could easily be my own life that depended on it, so no one would ever take the chance of what was unworthy of complete trust.

Do we see the point and make the spiritual application? Faith is not ever just a whimsical liking or fondness or even a half-hearted belief in God. Faith is the knowledge that God has been tested and proven faithful (actually what Hebrews 11:1 says!). Faith is never wishful thinking. Faith is confident, intelligent trust.

Peter and the other Apostles came to know that Jesus was really the Promised One (John 6:69). Paul was willing to suffer things on this earth without shame because he was convinced of his God’s faithfulness (2 Timothy 1:12). And John (1 John 4:16) calls us to know and believe the love God has for us.

When it comes to our God, there is no room for wishy-washy faith. As His own chosen family, His Royal Priesthood, His Holy Nation, we are called to, not just trust (if that is even possible!) but to trust and obey. Indeed, we are called to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

Faith is our firm foundation, our starting point to reach out with the Good News! Will you be displaying real faith this year?

— Lester P. Bagley