From Bad to Worse

Today’s reading is Psalm 36.

Imagine yourself at the fork of two paths where two guides encourage you in opposite directions. You know one of them leads where you ultimately want to go, but the other looks fun. It is more pleasing to the eye. It doesn’t look quite as difficult. “Besides,” the guide for that path tells you, “after you’ve had all your fun on my path, you can always hop over to the other path. Just look at how close together they are.” They do seem pretty close. That sounds like a pretty solid plan.

The problem is the guide is lying. That isn’t how it works. Once you start walking on Transgression’s path, you get farther and farther from God’s path. While it is true you always have the option to repent and make your way to God’s path, the farther down Sin’s path you go, the more settled, the more deceived, the more entrenched you become. It is not that repentance becomes less of an option, it simply becomes less likely.

David shows us the path in sin, reminding us again of the very first psalm. In Psalm 1, we see the general settling and entrenchment of the wicked. They start by walking according to the counsel of the wicked, progress to standing in the way of the sinner, and finally settle down to sit in the seat of the scoffer. In Psalm 36, Transgression begins with flattery. “No one will know. You won’t get caught. It’s not that big of a deal. Just this once.” But it is trouble and deceit that ends by having evil thinking and plotting at all times, even when lying in bed. The wicked, no doubt, always assumes eventually they’ll get back to God’s path. But they end up on an evil path that is increasingly difficult to abandon.

That voice telling you today’s sin doesn’t matter that much is lying. Don’t trust it. Trust God. He knows the way of the righteous. His steadfast love is precious. He delivers.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 36.

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.

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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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The Whole Counsel of God

Today’s reading is Acts 20.

Paul was walking in the footsteps of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 3:16-21, God explained to the prophet that if he didn’t warn folks when God gave warning, God would punish the people, but He would require the people’s blood at Ezekiel’s hand. Paul said he was innocent of the blood of all people, because he withheld nothing. He taught the whole counsel of God. He taught it publicly and privately; he was the same on the stage as he was at home. He taught it to Jews and to Gentiles. He taught everything that was profitable, holding nothing back. He taught God and the word of His grace. He taught faith and repentance. He did not cease to admonish. Even through tears, he proclaimed the gospel. May we walk in his footsteps, holding nothing back. Letting everyone know about the judgment to come and the salvation in Jesus Christ. May we be innocent of the blood of all people as well.

Next week’s reading is Acts 21.

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All People Every Must Repent

Today’s reading is Acts 17.

Paul had said he was proclaiming to the Athenians the God they didn’t know. That is, the God of whom they were ignorant. As he gets to the end of his sermon, he points out God overlooked times of ignorance, but is now commanding repentance of all people. That is, the Athenians had lived in their ignorance of God long enough. Now it was time to repent. It was time to get to know God. Repentance is often described as a change of mind. It should lead to a change of action. Some describe it as a change of the will. In a very New Testament sense, it is a change of masters, of kings. God no longer ignores my ignorance of Him. Rather, Jesus Christ having been demonstrated to be God’s King by the resurrection, I must get to know Him. I must change my life to submit to Jesus, to God. I don’t just change my behavior because I realize it has hurt people or it hasn’t been producing the results I want. Rather, I change my thinking and my behavior because my King, Jesus, says my behavior needs to change. That is New Testament repentance. And God is commanding it of Jews, of Gentiles, of everyone, including you and me.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 17.

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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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Don’t Just Accept, Proclaim

Today’s reading is Luke 24.

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Jesus didn’t die merely so we could accept Him and receive forgiveness. He died so we could proclaim repentance and forgiveness. The world is happy with us to keep our “little religious convictions” inside our church buildings or isolated to our private lives. However, when you have a message that leads to forgiveness and salvation, how can we keep it contained? Of course, Luke is setting the stage for what we will see in his sequel: The Acts of the Apostles. But the story of this proclamation continues all the way to our day. Jesus rose from the dead and that means something. It means we need to be telling people. Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed!

Next week’s reading is Acts 1.

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Repent

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

Jesus continues to meet real life representatives of His story about the Pharisee and the tax collector. Last week, He met the rich ruler, a Pharisee if there ever was one. Then he met the blind beggar, who like the little children was hindered from calling out to Jesus by the crowds, and who like the tax collector of Jesus’s story simply begged for mercy. And now, Jesus meets an actual tax collector. This meeting gives us some insight to the justification of the tax collector in the story. Justification doesn’t come simply by saying the right words in a prayer. That prayer was the manifestation of a penitent heart, just as Zacchaeus’s reaction to Jesus was. The rich ruler walked away sad from Jesus. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, received Jesus joyfully and responded to His teaching. He repented. He restored fourfold to all those he had swindled (as tax collectors were wont to do in those days), however, beyond that he gave half of all he had to the poor. In the account of Zacchaeus, the people call him a sinner. But he was just like the tax collector in the story. He didn’t need others to call him a sinner. He knew exactly who he was, but he also knew exactly who Jesus was. Jesus was offering mercy. Zacchaeus understood. What response could there be but repentance, turning his life over to Jesus. This is what the justification of Jesus’s story looks like.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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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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If Your Brother Sins, Rebuke Him

Today’s reading is Luke 17.

If your brother sins, rebuke him. The command is not to hate him, yell at him, hold a grudge against him, be mean to him, hurt him, get in his face, be angry with him, badmouth him, slander him, ignore him, give him the cold shoulder. The command is to rebuke him. As Jesus rebuked the wind and the storm charging them to stop and rebuked demons charging them to leave people, when we rebuke someone we are charging them to change their behavior. Rebuking someone is not venting my hurt feelings, expressing my anger, blowing my stack. Rebuking someone is not yelling at them, hitting them, or even punishing them. Rebuking someone is instructing them to change their behavior, that is, to repent. Why would we do that? Because we love them. Because we know their sins separate them from God and from us. Because we don’t want them to perish in sin anymore than God wants that (see Ezekiel 18:20, 32). Most people don’t rebuke. They either vent their feelings or ignore the situation not wanting to rock the boat. It takes someone who truly loves to offer a sincere, true rebuke intended to bring someone to soul-saving repentance. Will you love those who sin that much?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 17.

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Repent or Perish

Today’s reading is Luke 13.

Pilate, the Gentile governor, had executed several Galileans. When Jesus says to His audience, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” He isn’t speaking about the final judgment. He is foretelling the coming judgment on the Jews. He is pointing out that if the Jews do not repent, God will bring judgment upon them via the Gentiles. In fact, this chapter ends with a promise of coming destruction of Jerusalem. All that being said, we still see an application for us today. We must not look at those who endure hardship or suffering and assume they were worse sinners than we are. We must not think because we are not facing hardship presently that we are escaping judgment. Rather, we need to realize we are sinners. We need a Savior just like everyone else. That, of course, is why Jesus came into the world. As with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, He does want to gather us under His wings, protecting and delivering us. However, we must repent. We must recognize how sinful we are. We must recognize what judgment we deserve. Only then will we surrender to the King. Only then will we turn our lives over to Him. Only then will we be saved. Judgment is coming. Repent and live.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 13.

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