Oh, to Believe It!

One of the hardest lessons each of us must learn is that it really is to our advantage to do God’s will instead of our own. Many never learn this lesson.

Using the free will God gave us, we can choose our own way in life. How easy it is to do what we want instead of what God wants!

To believe that it is truly to our advantage to do God’s will, we must believe that:

  1. God knows best. We do not. He is far wiser than we. Like a small child intent on disobedience, we fail to understand our Father’s purposes for both our immediate and ultimate welfare.
  2. God not only knows best, He asks of us only what is best for us. Doing His will may hurt (cause us pain), but doing His will can never hurt (harm) us.
  3. His way brings far greater benefits than any supposed gain we might receive from doing our own thing. “. . . whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
  4. Sin means doing my will when it runs counter to His will. Obedience means voluntarily yielding my will to His.
  5. It is so easy to focus on the cost of obedience and overlook the rewards of obedience. And yet the rewards far outweigh anything we may give up in order to obey (Mark 10:28-30; Romans 8:18). God is the Great Compensator.
  6. Satan will make sin look so attractive, so glamorous, and so alluring, that I must keep reminding myself that it is all a sham, a pretense, a lie. Satan does not deliver the goods.
  7. Sin (doing my will instead of God’s) may bring me momentary pleasure (Hebrews 11:25), but sin will destroy me if I don’t repent (Romans 6:23).
  8. To repent may sound tremendously hard and unappealing, but in view of the blessings God pours out on the truly penitent, repentance must be one of the most sensible, positive things I can do for myself (Acts 3:19).

His way may not be easy, but His way is truly best.

Now if I can just keep believing that—and act accordingly.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Guilty/Forgiven/Transformed

Many ways to sin

Several New Testament passages cite a number of sins (Matthew 15:19-20; Romans 1:28-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:25-31; Colossians 3:5-9; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 21:8; etc.). None of these lists is intended to be complete. Notice how many sins are indicted in this passage:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

How we respond

There are at least three ways we can read this passage: 1) we can think about people we know who are guilty of these sins (Luke 18:9-14), 2) we can be convicted of those sins we are guilty of and truly repent (Acts 2:36-41; 2 Corinthians 7:6-16), or 3) we can read it without giving it much thought one way or another (Ezekiel 33:30-32). Of these three options, which would the Lord want us to take?

Regarding the specific sins listed above, we may not have ever gotten drunk, but have we ever envied? We may have never become involved in the occult (sorcery), but have we ever let anger get the best of us?

What we most need

Yes, we need to be personally convicted of our sins so we can repent and be forgiven. But we need something more. We need encouragement that victory over our sin is possible through Jesus Christ. In another passage Paul lists ten specific sins, but then he says, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

What an encouraging passage! These former pagans had been convicted, cleansed, and consecrated to God. What they experienced we can experience.

There is hope!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Reconciled!

Many believe it’s the greatest story Jesus ever told: the dramatic parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). What can we learn from the beautiful reunion of a loving father and his wayward son?

Reconciliation depends on repentance (our part).

Though the word repentance is not found in the story, it is obvious that the Prodigal was truly penitent. Once he humbled his willful heart, he was ready to go home. His words, “I have sinned,” are not just appropriate, they are essential.

Reconciliation depends on grace (God’s part).

The Prodigal knew he was in no position to demand anything. Whatever his father might be willing to give him would be better than what he had, which was nothing.

Reconciliation calls for a celebration!

The father graciously granted him a royal welcome, complete with robe, ring, shoes, and a party! This is one of the best illustrations of grace in the Bible!

Reconciliation is horizontal as well as vertical.

The glum attitude of the elder brother casts a long shadow on the celebration. Not only was he unwilling to be reconciled to his brother, but he himself felt estranged from his own father. Self-righteousness is both ugly and self-defeating.

Why this story?

The main reason Jesus told this story was to help the Pharisees understand why He chose to spend time with those for whom they had no use (verses 1-3). Like the Prodigal, these sinners were coming home. Like the elder brother, the Pharisees could not understand God’s heart for reconciliation.

When God receives a sinner home, so should we!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Micah Principle Applied

What God expects

“And what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Seven centuries later John the Baptist challenged his listeners.

When tax collectors asked what repentance would mean for them, John answered, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to” (Luke 3:13). Do justice!

To the crowds John said, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none . . .” (3:11). Love kindness!

John also warned that they should not boast, “We have Abraham for our father” when what they truly needed was to repent (3:8). Walk humbly with your God!

How we respond

The Micah Principle governs how we treat others and how we respond to God.

It is so powerful!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Where Repentance Begins

Thinking at its best

“And when he came to himself . . .” (Luke 15:17). The Prodigal Son was now tasting the bitter fruit of his foolishness. Having hit bottom, he made up his mind to go home.

Honest self-examination is one of the hardest but one of the best things we can do. Since repentance involves a change of mind, thinking is critical.

We must make time to think.

Thoughtless living

To be saved we must repent (Acts 17:30-31). But how can we repent if we don’t think?

Satan knows that. If we let him distract us with entertainment, pleasure, or busy-ness, when will we ever get around to reflecting on our sins?

Have we, like the Prodigal, come to ourselves?

Like him, our story can have a happy ending.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

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“What Have I Done?”

”No man repented of his wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” . . . . Were they ashamed because of the abominations they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, and they did not know how to blush . . .” (Jeremiah 8:6, 12).

Repentance involves coming to grips with our sin.

“What have I done?”

Have we had this soul-deep conviction of sin?

Repentance involves a sense of shame.

Those in Jeremiah’s day “did not know how to blush.”

Many today are way past blushing.

If someone lovingly confronts them, their reaction is defiance.

Repentance involves a major shift in thinking and behavior.

Repentance is a mind-change leading to a life-change (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 26:18, 20).

Repentance means humbling ourselves (Luke 18:9-14).

What we need is “a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).

And that’s the kind of heart that God can bless!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Holding True

Talking the talk . . . .

“All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 19:8; 24:3, 7).

Israel made this pledge only weeks before worshiping the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-35).

Similarly, Peter denied he would deny Christ, then denied Him anyway (Matthew 26:31-35).

Though Peter stumbled badly, he repented thoroughly.

Have we ever talked a good religion but failed to follow through?

Walking the walk

If we have confessed Christ and been united with Him in baptism, let’s hold true to our confession! If we’ve fallen short like Peter, let’s turn back before our hearts grow cold.

“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),

God is faithful. Let’s reflect His faithfulness!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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