Monthly Archives: April 2012

Everybody needs to repent

Yesterday’s blog took an approach to the question of Homosexuality as a sin by pointing out that it isn’t the only sin out there and rejecting one sin does no good unless we reject all sins. Today I simply want to expand on the idea of sin and repentance in general and make sure that we don’t miss the point of repentance.

To repent is take an action which moves you away from a previous course or thought process towards a different one. To describe it as a U-turn or a turn about or doing a 180 are all ways of looking at repentance. Many things can cause a person to repent.

Some people repent because of social pressure. They take a stand and find out that no one is willing to walk with them so they change their mind. As a child, I made many such stands and eventually (in most cases) repented and started walking a path that was more in line with what my parents wanted.  In the heat of the moment a repentance may occur but really, it is the long-lasting results of that repentance that we need to be concerned about.

Some people repent because of new knowledge. There is nothing quite like the words “you have cancer” to make a person change a lot of things in their life. Smoking, drinking, bad food and such will many times go out the window in view of the new reality that has just been thrust upon them.

There may be more reasons to repent but those two really make up the basic reasons. In the church they work pretty good too. Social pressure can be applied to encourage a way-ward brother to change his life. I Corinthians 5 discusses a brother engaged in a particular sin—-that of having his father’s wife.  The withdrawal process that Paul discusses was for his own good, as well as that of the congregation. It seems that it worked if I read 2 Corinthians 2 correctly because Paul is encouraging them to accept him back.

A new reality will also help. When one realizes that they have sinned and (if you will excuse the term) sinned really badly, they are very happy to take advantage of the relief that comes from being in Christ. Peter preached an excellent sermon and reached the hearts of those people on Pentecost. They saw the new reality and wanted to know what to do. Peter told them and you might not be surprised: REPENT.

In this case, i would say that the repentance was a changing of mind about who this man Jesus is. Accept that He is the Christ.

Repentance, of course, is not a one time thing. One can determine that Jesus is the Lord and wish to follow him but you will need to keep repenting of things and thoughts that are not appropriate. In this world, there is a lot to be repentant of too!

One key element of repentance is humility. When one accepts the reality and then the path that this reality places upon them, there is a humility that can be seen.  Why do we not watch movies that are R rated for sexually explicit (or just sexual content period) and all sorts of violence and language? Why do we turn off the TV or even the commercials when Lingerie commercials come on. There is one commercial where everyone at a soccer game starts stripping down and I still don’t know what they are selling because I change the channel.

May I encourage you to do the same thing?

Here are some things that we should repent of, or at least consider if we need to repent of them.

Our use of time (Do we engage in regular Bible reading with the idea that God wants to talk to us? Do we pray as we ought and as often as we ought? Do we visit others like we should?)

Our use of money (Do we look at it as a means to promote the Gospel or to make ourselves feel or look better to ourselves or others? Do we envy those who have a lot of  money w/o really know either how they got the money or how they use it? Do make plans with it for the future or simply spend it on the here  and now?)

Our entertainment (Do we go along to get along? Will we turn down an invitation to a party that we know will be wild (define that how you will)? Do we have 500 movie channels and flip through, watching shows that we would never go pay at a theater for? )

Mostly when you think of what you can repent of it will be in the area of time, money or thought (in this case I put entertainment in the area of thought)

Three steps for knowing what to repent of:

1. Determine to do what is right no matter what.

2. Learn what is right.

3. Act on it. (Sometimes this is instantaneous and sometimes we need to make sure we understand everything properly before acting)

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Jesus is not a homophobe

I just could not resist writing about this story I saw.  Here is a  link to a story where a 16 year old high school student is suing for the right to wear a shirt which says “Jesus is not a homophobe”. There seems to be a controversy over the issue. Maybe he will win, maybe he won’t but I have a few things to say about this:

First, the young man is a brave individual. Regardless of what many people might say publicly, I still think that the vast majority is more uncomfortable with the homosexual lifestyle than comfortable with it. So for that reason I will give him the due of his courage to stand up for what he thinks is correct. In this country we value, or we say that we value, the freedom of speech.

Second, the young man is correct. Jesus is not a homophobe. In fact, Jesus loves the homosexual just as he does the heterosexual. To Jesus both are created in the image of God, have an eternal soul and if they believe in the Son of God, God will grant to them too the right to become sons of God.

Christians are not to be homophobes. This is also just as true. The fulfilling of the Great commandments of Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself cannot be fulfilled if you have hatred toward the homosexuals of this world.

Of course it helps to define the terms we are using here. To be homophobic according to an online dictionary search says that it is “to fear or to hate homosexuals”. If it were only that simple; however, there is more to it than that. We also need to be very aware of what this young man is saying, it isn’t just that Jesus does not hate homosexuals but that Jesus tolerates homosexual behavior. He wants to be accepted and accepted as he is.  Well, Jesus does save us “Just as I am” but he doesn’t want any of us to stay there but to become more like the I AM so that that song reads better “he saved me as I was”.  Can you grow in Christ and be a practicing homosexual?

To answer that question, there are somethings that I will point out where this young man is wrong.

First, there are not “lots” of religions who “accept gay people””:  I would ask him to name the ones that do. I think he would have a hard time doing so unless he resorted to looking some denominations who claim to be a Christian church who do and in that case, there are at least several groups that would indeed accept a homosexual. Of course, what he means really is that there are groups that will accept someone as a Christian and allow them to practice the homosexual lifestyle. Key word: PRACTICE as in participate in it.

Second, he may not realize this but Jesus does not love sin: We have to acknowledge this premise even before we even ask the question about whether homosexuality is a sin or not. This is the virtue that we add to our faith. If we accept that Jesus does not love sin, then we will also not love sin.  As we add knowledge to our lives we will see what is and what is not a sin.  Our view on this must be the same as Jesus’. Sin is an abomination to him. What is sin? Sin is missing the mark, sin is lawlessness, sin is not living the way God (who does all things in love) tells us we should live. So what constitutes sin?

What about heterosexuality? Sometimes! Make sure you read that correctly. I am talking about Hetero not HOMO sexuality. Is practicing sexual behaviors as a Heterosexual not a sin when two people who are not married engage in sexual behavior? When both are single we call it fornication, when one or both are married, we call it adultery, when it is forced on another we call it rape.

While we do frown on rape, most people are quite tolerant even supportive of heterosexual activity outside of marriage. We have friends who live together, we support TV shows with live-in couples and cheer for our favorite one. We want Amy to break up with Casey because she really belongs with Mark. And unless soap operas have changed in the last 20 years, everyone gets married to everyone else regardless of age differences or prior marriages (my former step father and I just got married after he divorced my mother…sigh! I cor 5 no longer applies even to the Gentiles)

So here is the point I am getting at. Yes, we know that the Scriptures teach to love all sinners but the scriptures also teach that all who come to Christ need to stop practicing their sins.  If you want acceptance in the body of Christ you cannot, must not, shall not, continue to practice sin. Look at this list of sins the Corinthians were guilty of. Only one sin mentioned is of homosexuality, many others are listed.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
(1Co 6:9-11)

Should the thief say “Well, I will not accept the practicing homosexual but I should still be allowed to steal?” Then neither can the homosexual say “I will not accept the drunkard but should still be allowed to practice homosexuality” All are to abandon their sinful ways!

Maybe this young man would support the wearing of a shirt that said “Jesus doesn’t hate the homosexual but wants him (and all sinners) to repent” After all, we just want to be accepted too. But our acceptance is an acceptance into the Kingdom of God. If this young man truly wants to be accepted and comforted, he needs to come to Jesus, not on his terms but on the Lord’s terms. However, that is the way it is for all of us.

Who is in your boat?

Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”  (Luk 8:22-25)

I really enjoy it when I am reading along and out of nowhere comes this thought that makes you see things differently. In this passage, I saw something that I don’t think I had seen before which I will share in a moment. However, the one thing that we should all see here is that Jesus was asleep in the middle of a storm. The text says they were in jeopardy so I know if must have been serious. However, what allowed Jesus to be asleep at a time like that? The same thing that allows me to sleep while my wife, who is an excellent driver, drives along. Faith! Trust that everything will be all right.

Of course, Jesus was very important to God’s plan and so with even more confidence He was able to sleep because He knew and trusted the Words of Scripture.

Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
(Psa 91:9-12)

Jesus knew He was safe from the harm caused by the winds and the waves, so his sleep whether from exhaustion or just a normal time to sleep was easily done because there was faith/trust in God.

The second thing though is this question: Who was in the boat? Well, Jesus was in the boat and so the boat was safe even in the midst of the storm. Now ask: Who is in YOUR boat? As you travel through this life, is Jesus in your boat? If he is, you also ought to be able to curl up and go to sleep, knowing that the Lord has plans for you. While the vast majority of the times, those plans will include your continued life in this world, even if they do not, you will be ok.

We worry to often about things that we cannot control. However, the God of the universe is in control and if we will simply trust Him (Trust implies action), then those things that threaten us will not have the affect in our lifes that they will in the lives of those who do not trust Him.

 

 

Focus on Jesus

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
(Mat 14:25-32)

You have to love Peter! So ready to do and even to the point of not thinking about all the details, at least until the details start to smack him in the face. This part of the Gospel is well-known and even though the obvious meaning has been brought out time and time again, it is still appropriate to remind and be reminded of this important lesson.

When Jesus called Peter out of the boat into the winds and onto the water, Peter was going to do what only one other man (Jesus) had done. Yet, as he got out there he began to realize how precarious his situation was. With no boat to rely on, his feet on mere liquid water and a storm that was keeping them from making progress whipping the wind and the waves around him, he became afraid.

You will notice that they were afraid when they saw Him on the water. I have to laugh a little at Peter because he speaks so quickly. Imagine if it had not been the Lord, perhaps even a mischievous ghost or demon would he not have received the same answer “Come”? Still perhaps it was the voice of Jesus that Peter knew so well and in that split second, he wanted to be where Jesus was, so Jesus bids him to come.

However, Peter was much like a baby learning to walk. The encouraging parent is there a few feet away. What must seem like hundreds of steps away to the child can be done, one step at a time, even if it is a bit wobbly. Still for a couple steps, off the baby goes and then a dog, cat or some other distraction happens and down the baby goes.

Peter was walking on the water but in a moment of simple humanity he looked around and saw the winds and he became afraid and he began to sink. What Peter did was to begin to focus on the winds and not on Jesus. Once that happened, he began to sink. Still, even in his sinking, Jesus was able to save Him.  It was a test for Peter and whether we think of Peter as having failed that test or not, I am certain that it made an impression on him.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

We can learn many lessons from this but two are sufficient. 1) The Lord does not call us where we cannot go. 2) Where ever we go we should keep our eyes focused on Jesus.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. So often we run around thinking that we are doing what God wants us to do but unable to find his direction from the Scriptures. We do what WE want but have not actually heard God tell us to do it. So when times get tough we think “just have faith” and it will be ok. However, if it isn’t what God said, then what is the faith actually in? The Scriptures tell us how to live our lives and how the man of God can be properly equipped for all the good works God has in mind so we should find our marching orders there, in the Bible.

Then, as we go about doing them, we need to keep our focus on Jesus. We need to realize He, too, has lived this life and He has finished the race. As we focus on Jesus, the distractions of this world  will not affect us. At least not enough so as to cause us to sink. Of course, even if we do begin to sink, the Lord is only a call away!

Jesus left us an example

This Sunday’s sermon continued our theme on the qualities Peter says every Christian should have. Rather than going through one a week, we are going through one over several weeks. Right now we are looking at self control, a topic that I have to admit is one I need and sometimes more than others.

The basis for even talking about self control is found within ourselves. We all have feelings, desires, wants, and needs which we wish to fulfill. The thing is, not every option to fulfilling those desires and needs is either appropriate, wise, or godly. The 3-year-old who throws a temper tantrum in the store over a candy bar is trying to fulfill a want but not in a good way. To control oneself though is to recognize that there is a reason for doing so and it comes down to the heart of Christian living.

While we have added virtue to our lives (the determination to do right) and knowledge (the understanding of what IS right), Peter now wants us to add to our knowledge, self control (based on what we know we now will control ourselves for a benefit). (2 peter 1:5-7) In many ways, this quality of self control is what we get to when we ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?”  Because what ever the answer, it is implied that that is the best thing to do and,  if our first inclination was different, we will change (control ourselves) to now DO what Jesus would.

Self control is absolutely part of the Christian Life. Those who want to live godly lives will exercise self control.

Luke 9:23 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.

The ideas behind denial of self, taking up your cross and following Him all involve self control. Whereas many people are content to have a “little Jesus” in their life and let Jesus follow you where you go, it is different when you follow Jesus where He goes.

Cain was told that if he did well he would be accepted but he choose to do wrong instead and Able was killed. James says that the one who boasts of being righteous but does not bridle his tongue is deceiving himself. It does not involve just the hearing of what to do but it involves the doing of it.

There is, of course, a self control that is ineffective. That is, when we exercise self control for either the wrong reasons or purpose.Paul asked the Colossians why they submitted to regulations of the Jewish system. These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. The Pharisees also exercised self control, they tithed of the smallest of herbs, they cast their money into the temple treasury, they spent time on street corners praying, they fasted often (two or three times a week) and all of that control they used was for naught (Matt 6:1-9) because they did it to be seen of men. (If you question the idea of praying as an act of self control, ask yourself if you are able to spend 30 minutes in prayer without wanting to get up and do ‘other things’)

Ineffective and unprofitable self control is rooted in the opposite of what we see asked of us in Philippians 2:3

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

In looking at proper motives for self control, it is not so much in finding out the “what” to control but in finding out the “why” to control.  We may exercise self control for the sake of a weak brother (I cor 8) or we may do so simply because it is better for another brother (Philp. 2:1-ff) but Paul’s words tell us a good reason to exercise self control.

2Ti 2:4  No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

We exercise Self control in order to please God. This is what Jesus did. He exercised tremendous self control in order to please God and for our benefit. Consider what self control our Savior used in order to wash the feet of Judas (John 13) or to not show anger as Judas came to betray him with a kiss (Luke 22:48). Consider the self control when he could have called 12 legions of angels to protect him (Mt 26:53) or to not answer the trumped up charges (Mt 27:14)

Truly Peter was correct when he said:

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;  (1Pe 2:19-23)

The sermon can be heard here

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