Seek the Lord! Before It’s Too Late!

Today’s reading is Psalm 32.

David isn’t bragging about his own forgiveness in the Lord. He is using it as a basis to teach everyone about forgiveness. He basically says, “Hey you guys! Look at me. I sinned. I sinned big. I didn’t want to talk about it. I tried to cover it up. But the Lord saw. He disciplined. I finally confessed. You know what God did? He forgave me.”

Then, in vs. 6, he turns to his audience and says, “Be like me. I know you all have sinned. Let my forgiveness be an example to you. Our God forgives. Seek Him while He may be found.” Whoa! Wait a minute! “While He may be found”? Does that mean there will come a time when He won’t be found?

Yes! That is absolutely what that means.

Folks who are postponing their repentance have no idea the danger they are putting themselves in. While it is true that you will be forgiven any time you repent and for anything of which you repent, you need to understand that the longer you push off repentance, the harder it is for you to do it. It is never easier than today to repent and seek the Lord. The more you sin, the more you postpone repentance, the harder your heart becomes, the harder it is for that shell to be broken.

Further, you have no idea when the full judgment for your sins is actually going to take place. Trying to wait until just before that moment of judgment to repent is not actually repenting. The days are evil. Make the most of today by repenting and confessing right now. You may not have tomorrow.

But if you do seek the Lord while He can be found, then the great rush of waters will not reach you. Yes, that ought to call to mind the great rush of waters that came in the days of Noah. Once the rain starts to fall and the Ark is closed, its too late to seek the Lord.

Seek the Lord! Before it’s too late!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 32.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post.

Continue reading “Seek the Lord! Before It’s Too Late!”

Wait! Who is Blessed?

Today’s reading is Psalm 32.

I love Psalm 32, don’t you? It’s so comforting. However, most of my life, I’ve read it in a vacuum. I love it’s message about forgiveness. I bask in it and then move on. But now that we are walking through the psalms slowly, one at a time, this psalm explodes with new meaning.

Do you recall the doorway into the psalms: Psalm 1? The entire psalter started with a beatitude. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…” It paints the picture of the person who doesn’t take counsel from the wicked, sinful, scoffers, but simply meditates in God’s Word. There are the blessed, and there are the wicked. And let’s face it, at the end of Psalm 1 there is a small part of us thinking, “Blessed is the man who has never violated God’s Law.”

While reading that first psalm, we might be able to convince ourselves we fit. We like God’s Word. We think about it a great deal. We try hard to follow it. However, having worked our way through all the psalms so far, we have been disabused of that notion. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t sinless. There have been plenty of times God’s law and will were not our meditation. There have been plenty of times we have listened to the counsel of the wicked. Where does that leave us?

Enter Psalm 32. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a second beatitude. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Praise God! The blessed are not the perfect, they are the forgiven.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 32.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post.

Continue reading “Wait! Who is Blessed?”

Falling into His Own Pit

Today’s reading is Psalm 7.

On the one hand, the imagery of Psalm 7:12-16 is tragic and terrifying. I don’t love it in the sense of taking sadistic glee in the downfall of my enemies anymore than God desires and delights in the death of the wicked (see Ezekiel 18:23). On the other hand, I do love the picture David presents as it clarifies an aspect of God’s wrath, judgment, and punishment on the wicked. Often, when we consider God’s wrath, we only think in terms of Psalm 7:12-13. That is, our imagery is simply of an angry God who has lost control and is throwing a barrage of attacks at those who didn’t measure up to His rules. However, David’s picture goes on modifying and clarifying. This wrath of God is not that of an unruly child who is picking up his toys and going home because others wouldn’t play by his rules. Rather, it is the anger of One who has provided every way possible for protection and salvation, but the others have decided to follow their own path. They have decided to pursue their own mischief. What do God’s deadly weapons and fiery shafts actually look like? They look like withdrawing His hand of protection and letting the sinners face the consequences of their own actions. It is not that God alone has fashioned deadly weapons, it is that the sinner has been fashioning those weapons for God. Remember in Psalm 1 it is not the wicked that perish, but the way of the wicked perishes. Obviously, any who are on a perishing way will also perish. God has provided His counsel and protection, but those who push back against Him will suffer His wrath, which means they will suffer the natural consequences of deadly sins they have committed. They have been digging pits; God will let them fall into them. God didn’t dig their pits; they did. The lesson is clear. Don’t dig pits!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 7.

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In All Good Conscience? Really?

Today’s reading is Acts 23.

With a straight face, Paul told the Jewish council, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” Wait?! Isn’t this the guy who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen? Isn’t this the guy who chased down Christians and put them in prison? Isn’t this the guy who cast his vote against Christians and led many to their deaths? Yep. Good conscience, huh? Absolutely! Because when he did those things, he really thought he was pleasing God. He really believed that is exactly what God wanted from him. His conscience wasn’t a very good guide during those days, was it? This must be a lesson for us. A good, clean conscience is not our guide. “I’m okay with that,” doesn’t mean God is okay with that. Just because we are certain what we are doing is right with God, doesn’t mean it is. We can have a good conscience and still be lost, separated from God. What we need is the Word of God! Yes, we can train our consciences by God’s Word and our conscience can become a guide. However, let us never assume that because we have a good conscience about something it is obviously the right thing to do. Let us always compare our conscience to God’s Word.

Today’s reading is Acts 23.

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Repentance that Leads to Life

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

Let’s face it. Acts 11:18 is weird. I mean, I would understand it more easily if they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted life.” Or “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted salvation.” Instead, they glorified God saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance.” Yes, they go on to point out that it is repentance that leads to life. But, for just a moment, stop and consider what was granted the Gentiles. They were not granted unconditional salvation. They were not granted unconditional life. Rather, God granted them access to the pathway that leads to life. They still had to choose to get on it. Gentiles are also allowed to repent. And when they do repent, they also get life. Since I am a Gentile, that is good news for me. Have you repented? Have you given your allegiance over to Jesus Christ? If we can help you with that, please, let us know in the comments below.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 11.

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Repent and Be Baptized

Today’s reading is Acts 2.

Here it is, the first proclamation of the post-resurrection gospel. Jesus was raised from the dead and is King. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord, the King. “But what are we to do,” the crowds cry out. This is not polite plea for more information. This is no quiet request to know how to get saved. This is a desperate cry. “We killed the King, what are we to do?” Do you think they expected Peter to have a response? Don’t you know they expected to hear, “Well, nothing. I mean, what could you do? You killed the Messiah. You’re toast.” That, however, is not what they heard. Peter responded by saying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Here is the very first time people responded to the gospel message that Jesus was the resurrected Lord and King. What was the response? Repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. Every other story we read in Acts about forgiveness, salvation, submission to King Jesus is predicated on this very first explanation of the gateway into the kingdom. It’s odd to me. Many people today will turn to all kinds of passages to explain to people what they should do when they want to surrender to Jesus as king. But they won’t turn to this, the very first time it ever happened for anyone. Why? Because this one doesn’t say what they want it to say. It doesn’t say, “You don’t have to do anything. If you’re chosen, God will do it.” It doesn’t say, “All you have to do is believe.” It doesn’t say, “Repeat this prayer after me.” It says, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” May I ask you a very simple question. Have you repented and been baptized for the remission of your sins? That is, have you decided to let Jesus be your King and then been immersed in water in order to let Jesus forgive you? If not, why not surrender to King Jesus the same way the very first kingdom citizens did? Why would you try to accomplish that any other way? There is no way to enter the kingdom but God’s way. Can we help you enter today?

Next week’s reading is Acts 3.

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Please, Forgive Me

Today’s reading is Luke 17.

Since I missed putting up a message this past Monday, I thought I’d give you a bonus weekend message and wrap up this series on Jesus’s incredibly hard teaching on forgiveness. And, apologies up front. It will be a little longer than usual.

In the earlier messages we focused on the person Jesus focused on, the person who needs to forgive. There is one draw back to that approach. It ignores the person who needs forgiveness. Perhaps I should say, the one who needs to repent. Sadly, that person is often quick to jump on the one from whom they want to receive forgiveness, twist this teaching, weaponize it, and misuse it in an attempt to actually ignore their own sin all while making the person who may be responsible to forgive look like the bad guy. With that in mind, let’s remember some foundational concepts about repentance and forgiveness. First, as I pointed out to the children in yesterday’s post, notice that Jesus uses the phrase “I repent,” not “I’m sorry.” The statement of “I repent” doesn’t mean I simply feel sorry for what I’ve done or for the consequences. It means I’m going to change my behavior. As I say, “I repent,” I should be willing to say what the behavior change is actually going to be. If I don’t actually plan to change my behavior, can’t even name the behavior that needs to be changed, and am unwilling to commit to the new behavior, then I’m not actually repenting, am I? Second,”I repent” is not a magical phrase that automatically obligates forgiveness. That is, even in Jesus’s teaching, the phrase “I repent” is predicated on actual repentance. “If he repents, forgive him.” Jesus’s follow-up statement about the person coming seven times in a day and saying “I repent” is figure of speech called synecdoche. That is, it is using one part of the process to refer to the whole process. It mentions only the spoken promise of repentance to refer to real repentance. While the person who is forgiving is not granted permission from Jesus to withhold forgiveness until repentance is proven by changed behavior throughout even that day, there are some people adept at saying “I repent” while actually demonstrating they don’t repent at all. For instance: “I’m sorry I yelled at you, honey. I won’t do that anymore. But when the house is a mess when I get home, I just can’t help myself. Why do you make me do that?” Let’s face it, that apologizer said some words of repentance (“I won’t do that anymore”), but also demonstrated that he is not repenting at all. He has actually demonstrated he doesn’t believe his action is a sin, but is the natural and only response to his wife’s action. He is actually declaring she is the one in sin. Further, he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, saying he will change the behavior while also saying he will only change his behavior if she changes hers. That is neither an actual apology, a correct confession, or remotely real repentance. Third, when asking for forgiveness, we are asking for mercy. Mercy is never owed. In other words, when I am truly asking for forgiveness, I realize I’m asking for something I have absolutely no permission to demand. I cannot remotely view the person I’m asking as if my mere request for it obligates them to give it. Then it wouldn’t be mercy, would it? It may truly be that the person I’m asking forgiveness from is required by God to forgive me. But that is something they owe God, not something they owe me. God can demand it. He can send messengers to teach them about it. But I don’t ever get to be that messenger. I never get to demand forgiveness. I merely get to ask and hope they will respond. Until they do, I need to humbly remember my sins were the cause of this struggle not their lack of forgiveness. The moment I start acting like someone is obligated to forgive me, I’ve ceased asking for forgiveness. I have actually demonstrated I am not really repenting at all. This leads to our fourth foundational concept. I should read this passage for what it says to me, not what it says to the person on the other side of it. In other words, if I am the one who sinned, I shouldn’t take this passage as a sermon to preach to the person whom I want to forgive me. In like manner, if I am the one who is sinned against, I really shouldn’t take it as a sermon to preach against the one who sinned (remembering, of course, part of the lesson it teaches me is I need to love someone enough to rebuke them). Finally, the fifth foundational concept is that forgiveness doesn’t mean there are no consequences. For instance, God forgave David. However, the child still died, Absalom still rebelled and publicly humiliated David by going into his father’s concubines, and on the list of consequences goes. If I embezzle funds from the business my best friend and I started together, when I repent, he may forgive me. However, he is not obligated to maintain the business with me. If I commit adultery, when I repent, my wife may forgive me. However, she is not obligated to stay married to me. When some of us ask for forgiveness, what we really want is the removal of all consequences, then we want to treat the people through whom those consequences come as if they haven’t obeyed God. Granted, this can get very complex, very quickly. Each forgiver has to wrestle with what is simply natural consequences and what is continued acts of punishment. I can’t provide cut and dried rules for you on that one. But, at this point, the person being forgiven needs to remember foundational concept #3. When I’m being forgiven, I don’t get to make demands about what that looks like. I don’t get to treat others like they are obligated to forgive me in a certain way. After all, as we learned above, forgiveness is mercy. Therefore, it is never owed to me.

Monday’s reading is Luke 18.

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Seven Times in a Day

Today’s reading is Luke 17.

But if my brother sins against me seven times in a day, isn’t that an indication he hasn’t really repented? Perhaps. How many times have you committed the same sin against God and then repented and asked for forgiveness? This goes so against the common sense of our age. After all, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me seven times in a day… Certainly, this is not Jesus’s permission for any of us to sin repeatedly so long as we say the obligatory “I repent.” It is Jesus’s instruction to drop the rebuke and the punishment when they declare their repentance, even if this is the seventh time today. Neither is the point that on the eighth time they’re out of luck. Rather, the use of seven here is a symbolic idea of completeness. As in the seventh year all debts were completely forgiven no matter how great, every day we forgive the spiritual debts completely even if it is an unlikely seven times in one day. “But this is so unnatural,” we cry. “No one would ever do this.” Even the apostles, hearing this, begged for Jesus to increase their faith. Of course, Jesus’s response was that they didn’t need an increased faith, they needed to actually act based on the faith they had. No doubt, it is unnatural. In fact, we might, in a sense, say it is supernatural. No one who is disconnected from Jesus will ever pull this off. “But what if someone takes advantage of me?” Perhaps we need to remember that no one has ever lost their soul for being taken advantage of, but we may well lose our souls if we refuse to forgive. After all, our prayer is for God to forgive us the way we forgive others.

Monday’s reading is Luke 18.

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If Your Brother Repents, Forgive Him

Today’s reading is Luke 17.

Because so few understand what it means to rebuke a sinner properly, few understand forgiveness as well. Because of this misunderstanding, I fear many of us focus more on forgiveness as defined by psychologists than as defined by the Bible. For instance, while searching for images to go with this post, I saw a meme that says, “Forgiveness is for you, not for them.” From a psychological standpoint, this sounds deep and profound. The idea is whether or not a person repents, let go of your anger, your frustration, your seething desire for revenge. Quit feeding your negative feelings toward them because it is destroying you on the inside. If you would just learn to forgive, you would be so much more psychologically healthy. The problem with this biblically is that while all those things are emotional and psychological prerequisites to spiritual forgiveness, they are not forgiveness. That is, if you hang on to your anger, your frustration, your desire for revenge, or if you continue to feed your negative feelings toward a person, you will never forgive them, but letting all those go is not forgiveness. After all, when Jesus was on the cross dying as the sacrifice that would pay the debt for the sins of the crowd that shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”, that nailed Him to the cross, that stood their jeering, “Come down and we’ll believe in You,” and He said, “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing,” was He hanging on to anger, frustration, vengeance? Was He feeding His negative feelings toward them? No, obviously not. And yet, He wasn’t forgiving them. The One who had the power to forgive sins on the earth and who had even told people their sins were forgiven while on the earth, didn’t do that on the cross. He didn’t say, “You are forgiven.” He didn’t say, “I forgive you.” He didn’t forgive them, but asked the Father to do so. And the Father did forgive many of them…on the day of Pentecost and in the days and years following (as did Jesus). Whether or not someone repents, we need to let go of our hate, our anger, our grudge-holding, our desire to hurt, our desire to get vengeance. We need to do that because these emotions and desires hurt not only the person we feel them towards, but also hurt us. In fact, as we learned yesterday, the only way to rebuke properly, with the desire to bring someone to repentance is to let go of these things. But, until they have repented, we must continue to warn them, to rebuke them. Until they have repented, their relationship with God is in jeopardy, their soul is in danger. How can we call it love to simply let sin go and allow a person to walk blithely on to eternal destruction? We need to understand that Jesus’s words here in Luke 17:1-4 are not for our psychological health (though that may be a serendipitous byproduct), they are for the salvation of sinners. Sometimes the sinner is us. Sometimes the sinner is someone else. If your brother sins, love him enough to rebuke him. If he repents, love him enough to forgive him.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 17.

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Baptism of Repentance

Today’s reading is Luke 3.

When John baptized people for the forgiveness of their sins, it was not so they could live however they pleased. Rather, it was a baptism of repentance. They were to follow their baptism up with fruit in keeping with the repentance their baptism proclaimed. The crowds were to learn to share with those who had less. The tax collectors were to learn not to take more than they were authorized. The soldiers were to learn not to extort money, but be content with their wages. Ours is also a baptism of repentance for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). We do not receive the remission of our sins in order to live however we please. We are to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. As the practical application of this was different for each person at John’s baptism, it will be different for each of us. What does fruit of repentance mean for you? Does it have to do with material contentment? Submission to authority? Humility? Morality? Spiritual focus? What fruit of repentance can you work on today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 3.

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