Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Genuine Repentance

What constitutes genuine repentance? King David and King Saul both committed sins. David‘s were the more serious, adultery and murder. But God rejected Saul’s repentance (1 Samuel 15:20-31) and accepted the repentance of David, though there were consequences (2 Samuel 12:13-15). Why? Now God knows the heart and can see things we cannot. But can we tell why there was a difference?

Saul made excuses. We see this also at the time of his earlier sin (1 Samuel 13:10-14). He followed the procedure that goes all the way back to the Garden, of passing the buck (Genesis 3:8-13). More than that, he was more worried about what the people thought than what God thought (Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25; 1 John 2:15-17). We see this in his pleading with Samuel to honor him before the people. Blaming his sin on the people. Panicking and offering the sacrifice because the people were deserting him. And later on he tried to kill David because the people liked him better (1 Samuel 18:6-11). He saw God as a means to the end of having the people honor him. But the bottom line was, he did not trust God. When the people were deserting him, he offered the sacrifice for fear of losing his army. But God later showed He could bring about victory with only a few (1 Samuel 14:1-23). Because of this, Saul was unwilling to obey God by killing all the Amalekites. Therefore, though Saul went through the motions of repentance, his repentance was a sham. He was more concerned with his image than with being right with God. But if we look at David’s confession (Psalms 51), we see a man who wants to be right with God. He admits his sin and does not try to come up with a multitude of excuses. David, for all his failings, sought God’s approval; Saul sought people’s approval and saw God as a means to that end.

In 2 Corinthians 7:10 it speaks of two kinds of sorrow for sin. One brings a person to God to repent. It leads to being without regret, not that you do not wish you had not sinned, but you put it behind you and go on (Philippians 3:12). This is ultimately based on the forgiveness God offers at the cross through faith in Christ (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 4;4,5; Philippians 3:9). The other pushes you from God to hide from Him and ultimately on some level produces death. This is shown in the lives of two other men. Peter denied Christ but repented (Matthew 26:69-75) and ultimately became a mighty preacher in God’s service (Acts 2:14). Judas betrayed Christ and later regretted it and went out and hung himself (Matthew 27:1-10). So when we sin we need to be willing to come to God and honestly admit our sins, trusting in Him to forgive us (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9; Psalms 32:5). And not just do it for show.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Touch of Humor - Expressing Reverence

What is reverence for God? How should we express it?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Old Erich Proverb - Already Won

God is not sitting around waiting for us to get working, but He is waiting for us to realize He has already won.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Voice from the Past - Zwingli

Real petitioners call to God in spirit and truly, without great ado before men.

Huldrich Zwingli, 1483-1531, Sixty Seven Articles of Zwingli,  About Prayer, XLIV (Selected Works of Huldrich Zwingli, edited by Samuel Macauley Jackson, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1901,  The Online Library of Liberty, p.94)

Is this the right goal? How can it be achieved?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Carnality in Perspective

The Corinthians have a reputation. They have become almost synonymous with carnality. Yet it is interesting how they are described at the beginning of 1 Corinthians. They are described as saints, people not lacking in any gift, and objects of God’s faithfulness (1 Corinthians 1:1-9). This is said in spite of their behavior as chronicled in the rest of the book. We see divisions, lawsuits, sexual immorality, and fighting over things of a marginal nature. Yet it is despite these things that the Corinthians are so described. Now I do not want to deny that God is at work in us to change our behavior patterns (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10). Also, it is clear Paul wants to encourage the Corinthians to grow up spiritually so that they might not continue behaving as they have been (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 5:6-8; 6:19,20). But that does not change how Paul addresses them. 
To see the basis for this, we have to start with the fact that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9), based on what Christ has done (Colossians 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:24,25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But salvation should not be seen as a door we enter, with everything after that based on our performance. Rather, we always stand before God on the basis of grace (Romans 8:31-39; 5:1,2; Galatians 5:1). Therefore, we are to regard ourselves as completely supplied in Him with what we need to live for Him (Colossians 2:10; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6). Nor do we approach Him with fear, but with confidence that we are His children (Romans 8:15; 1 John 4:15-18; Hebrews 4:16).

Why then should we live for God, rather than simply indulging our own desires? The answer is because we love God in response to what He has done for us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Romans 12:1). In this, it is helpful to remember a person cannot scam God. This is because God knows the heart (Romans 2:16; 1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 21:2). The individual with genuine faith will not simply continue on in their old manner of life (James 2:14-26; 2 Peter 2:7,8; 1:9). But the new life is not a life of drudgery, but a celebration of what God has done for us (Romans 14:17; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Philippians 4:4). Because who we are in Christ does not depend on what we do, but on what He has done.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Writing Our Own Story

I confess, I want to be the writer of my own story. I think this is a tendency true of all of us. I am willing to serve God, but I want to do it my way and under my conditions. I would even be willing to endure great toil and make large sacrifices. But I want to be able to define the toil and the sacrifices. But God does not work that way. God wants us to submit to His will and do what He wants, the way He wants. He wants us to undertake the toil He calls us to, even if it does not make sense to us that this is what we should be doing. He calls us to make the sacrifices He wants us to make, which may not fit our desire for dignity and recognition. God requires that He be the author of the story. Take Moses; he was ready to work to deliver his people. He thought he knew what needed to be done and was willing to take risks to do it. But God sent him into the desert to herd sheep for forty years before He commissioned him to go back and deliver his people. David was anointed king and killed Goliath, but sent many years running from King Saul before he came into his kingdom. Then he wanted to build God a temple, but was told his son would do it rather than him. Saul, later to be the Apostle Paul, was converted to Christianity and was zealous to serve the faith he had persecuted. But he ended up spending years in Tarsus before being sent out on his great missionary journeys. God always does things His way.  

It is important to remember that God is in control of the world and is working all things together for our good (Ephesians 1:11; 2:10; Romans 8:28). But our good does not necessarily mean what we want or how we think things should work out. And frequently our good involves being willing to put God and His glory before what we want (1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Colossians 3:23,24). But this is not always easy. I would find the story of the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness hard to believe if I did not see the same things in my own life. It is easy in each new situation to forget God’s past deliverances and to grumble and complain about what God is requiring me to face now. This is true even though God has brought me through in the past time and time again. I think ultimately we just have to trust that God has a plan for our lives even if we do not understand what He is doing at the moment (Proverbs 3:5,6; Hebrews 11:13-16; Habakkuk 3:17-19). Easy to write, but not always easy to do.