Category Archives: Jesus Christ
“She considers herself a Christian, but…” This line from a recent Atlanta news station article brings to light the antithesis of one of the greatest problems with modern-day, western, CHRISTianity. Whenever you find it necessary to follow-up your statement declaring your Christian “affiliation” with the word “but”, I can assure you that you are NOT of the CHRISTian “faith”, rather you are only loosely associating yourself with the christian “religion”. And, a loose association is guaranteed to result in one of 2 responses from the Lord of CHRISTianity:
1) His words: “I never knew you” (Matt 7:23); or
2) You will be vomit from His mouth (Rev 3:16)
It is unfortunate indeed that we humans, particularly in the west, have both misused and abused the term: CHRISTian. And what we are to do about that varies in speculation – but all who are concerned and aware, agree, something must be done.
There is little that can be done about those who insist & persist in associating themselves with a the watered-down, man-made, powerless religion of “christian” as nothing more than an answer to a question on a survey “What is your religious affiliation?” They will always have “buts” to include in their religious claims, as they associate themselves only with the kindness and love for mankind that CHRISTianity teaches, but refuse to get to know any more about the other substantial aspects of the foundational Truths of CHRISTianity. These folk are not a real threat to true CHRISTianity, as they are simply misusing the term – and most folks will see that for what it is: “an answer on a survey”.
But, beyond that, what about those who are abusing the term – living a much closer association – likely deceived into believing that there is indeed substance to this self-affixed “Christian” label they wear? A brief word study will reveal that nowhere in Scripture (something that “misusers” know little about; and something abusers have only intellectual knowledge of) will you find a “CHRISTian” calling or labeling themselves, a “CHRISTian! No, in fact the very term is only in Scripture 3 times:
Acts 11:26 – “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” In this passage the simple point that must be noted, is that the disciples DID NOT call themselves “CHRISTian”, but rather THOSE WATCHING THEIR LIFE called them CHRISTian. Critical distinction for those who have ears to hear.
Acts 26:28 – “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Here, Agrippa, not a disciple, nor follower of Christ, MAKES REFERENCE to others as CHRISTian.
Lastly, 1 Peter 4:16 – “if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, instead, glorify God on this behalf..” Here the Apostle Peter lays out for us the deep Truth that the misusers and abusers don’t want to talk about – if, by your CHRISTIAN LIFESTYLE, you SUFFER – then Praise God that others are mistreating you because THEY have LABELED you as a CHRISTian!
Had a survey been offered to the early Church regarding their religious affiliation, they would have likely been given the choices to answer: “Disciple of Christ” – “Follower of The Way” – “Believer in Messiah” – or possibly – in the Jewish arena that they were in: “Heretic”. If these were our choices today – I am afraid most would check “other” or “none of the above.” Or… write in “Christian” (as if it is somehow different from the choices provided) – How sad is that?
So, what do we do? I propose that there are 4 approaches to our response to the misuse and abuse of the term “CHRISTian”:
1) Disregard it all together. Maybe it’s not a problem. Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe we need to just leave it alone. In the end we know that Matthew 13 teaches us in several different ways that the untrue among us will be separated from the true believers in the end.
2) Attempt to redeem it from our society. Maybe we should actively speak out about the misuse and abuse of the term CHRISTian (as I am doing in some ways herein), in an attempt to raise awareness to this problem. Or maybe, our redemption of the term should simply look like #4 below.
3) Call ourselves something else. In some ways this is a pretty radical approach – but John 6 teaches us (as does much else in Scripture) that those who the Father seeks – those that are His own – are Disciples who are True Believers. Not just fans. Not just followers. Not even merely disciples – nor just believers (there is another abused term) – but Disciples of Jesus, who Believe with a belief that has changed everything! Are you…. Am I… A “Believing Disciple of Jesus”?
4) Leave it as it was in the Bible. True Believers will not need to “call” or “label” themselves anything. If we are surrendering to the Life Of CHRIST in us – they will see it – they will know it – and THEY will “call us CHRISTian”!
Personally, I lean towards a whole lot of #4, with an emphasis on the principle truths of #3. May I live my life so surrendered to the Life of Christ – that I will be a Believing Disciple, active in both my belief and my discipleship – that those who watch my life, might say of me: “Now that, is a true CHRISTian” (Matt 5:16)
In a recent blog (“Believe!”), I made some bold statements in my closing paragraph:
“Reader, it’s time for some soul searching… what role does Jesus Christ really play in your life? Is He nothing more than your “favorite motivational speaker”? Or have you committed to following Him – yet still at a distance – offended at some of His audacity, and ready to “walk” as soon as He gets too close? Or, are you among those who would proudly wear your “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt, since, after all, you number yourself among the inner circle… but in your heart, do you believe all His outrageous and extreme claims – really?”
Yes, that’s right – I believe from the passage of scripture referenced (John 6:53-69), that there were those among the crowds, follows and even the disciples themselves (a group much larger than “the 12”), who were “just waiting to be offended” and “give Jesus the straight-arm, and walk away”. I believe there are those among us today, and I believe they are many.
Folks, I am gonna say it as clear was I can – and if you are waiting to get offended with Jesus, here is your big chance. Being a true believer in Jesus is NOT a Golden Corral buffet, were you can pick and choose your favorite foods and ignore the rest. No, not at all. Being a true believer in Jesus means being seated at the table that He has prepared for me, in the presence of my enemies (Ps 23:5a), and devouring with gratitude, every morsel of food set before me! How dare we come to the King’s table, and pick and choose what we will and will not eat?!? Imagine it: “Thank you King Jesus for this beautiful spread of organic brussels sprouts, artichokes, nutritious tofu with avocado dip, and such carefully crafted Limburger cheese fondue – however, I was hoping for mac n’ cheese, bacon, McDonald’s fries and one of those molten lava chocolate cakes from Shoney’s.” Jesus shakes his head in disappointment, as we push back from the Kings table, and leave… to our shock, He doesn’t run after us, or offer to heat up a can of Chef-Boyardee ravioli… He just lets us leave, tears in His eyes… and an increasing disgust in ours.
During this advent season we frequently read passages such as: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Newsflash: baby Jesus born that day was NOT just Savior… no, no – the Holy Spirit clearly wrote for us, that He is both Christ and Lord, as well. Oh how we get excited and love to load up our plates with that Golden Corral sweet baby Jesus, come to save us from hell, as He lies in that adorable bed of straw! We might even carefully and curiously indulge is a small helping of “Christ” (the anointed one) – after all, it’s good to have connections with “the big man upstairs” in case we need something – but we make it clear: “don’t get carried away, Jesus; just mind your own business, and we will get along just fine!
As for being “Lord” – heaven’s no! I ain’t looking for a Lord, King or Master – I’ve got that covered myself. So, baby Jesus, you just serve up my all-I-care-to-eat buffet of starches and fast food burgers, and let me rest in the false assurance of “when I get to gloryland”, but don’t serve me up any of that nasty food I don’t like – cause I will straight-arm you and walk away disgusted. (And then act shocked when You one day say to me: “depart from me, I never knew you.”)
Whatever you consider yourself to be, as it relates to this man, Jesus – I ask you: will you lay down your rights, your wants, your likes, loves and desires, for this man Jesus? Will you be awakened to Christ as He calls you to His table – prepared for you – and surrender to believing that He – this Jesus – whom you have called Savior – is both Christ and Lord? And no matter your preconceived notions about the food He is serving up at His King’s Table – it is light-years better than the picking and choosing of the buffet life you have made for yourself – serving up peace, hope, joy and rest, both now, and for eternity!
As I sit here watching the Thanksgiving Day sunrise outside the windows of my den, and see the grays slowly turn warm purple, and the pinks begin to morph into a blazing red, I am reminded of the awe of the Lord God. I see the silhouettes of the mostly leafless trees against the backdrop of this Artist’s canvass, and I am reminded of the dull and plain condition of my life, in comparison to the vast, indescribable beauty, of this Great God.
Then the wind begins to blow through the limbs, and they start to dance! As a result of the beauty of their backdrop, even the simplistic, non-featured limbs and trees begin a beautiful, intriguing, and fascinating performance of worship to His Glory.
Isn’t that just like us and God? Our lives are dull and plain – mere silhouettes of barren trees – until the beauty of The Lord becomes our backdrop.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…
…To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
(Isaiah 61:1a, 3)
So, on this day of giving thanks, as I ponder the long list I could make of true blessings for which I am sincerely grateful – I can only pause and realize that among them all, there is truly only One that matters. For without Him having turned my mere silhouette of a life into something more than ashes, nothing else would be of significance – nothing else could even matter. And for that, my Lord and King, I am eternally grateful.
May this life of mine, that was once a barren tree, indeed now be called an Oak of Righteousness, because You, my Jesus, have planted it for Your Glory.
May the canvass of Your beauty – be the backdrop of my life. Amen.
The same passage of Scripture (1 Tim 4) that begins with these words: “in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons”, ends, 16 verses later with these: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” In between is talk of things which are permitted, encouraged, taught, preached, lived, and forbidden.
But what are we to make of these words “Watch your life … closely”? Given the dramatic start of this passage, I have a suspicion that these closing words are of utmost importance. With that in mind, I ask myself, “what do they mean to me?”
Recently – as many times before – I was browsing the Facebook pages of my friends, and I saw some photos of folks whom I know to be followers – even disciples – of Christ, photographing and displaying actions and behaviors, that for some among us, would be considered – at best, questionable – and at worst, sin (or at least “self-serving”).
I am NOT the perfect human – but I am humbled that perfection, in the person of Jesus Christ, does indeed live in me! I am not perfect, but am called to be holy, as He is holy. I am not perfect, but I am called to be certain that any liberties that I might perceive myself to have, are not a stumbling block to my brother or sister, or a reproach, to the watching world.
Among the fruits of repentance is ‘self-denial’ for the sake of others, rather than ‘self-serving’ actions for my own pleasure. I might foolishly say: “I can’t help what others think of me – that’s their problem.” That may be true, however, I can control the image they are given, from which they formulate their thoughts towards me. Their perceptions will be, what they will be – yet, I can bear the fruits of repentance, by showing concern and forethought in my actions and behaviors that might aid them in making wrong perceptions. 1 Thess 5:22 comes to mind here: “Abstain from all appearances of evil.”
Sure, we can we debate alcohol, tobacco, tattoos, immodesty, cussing, and the like, until Jesus Himself returns. But the questions we must ask ourselves – in light of the Life that lives in us – is this: “Am I exercising my perceived rights to self-serving pleasures, or am I going to elevate myself to self-denial, in the name of ‘bearing fruits of repentance’ for the sake of my weaker brothers and sisters, and the Lord’s testimony to a watching world? Simply put… am I going to obey the admonishment of 1 Tim 4:16 and “Watch [my] life … closely. [that I might] save both [my]self and my hearers” and watchers? Or will I enter eternity rejecting the fruits of repentance, while singing that old nightclub *hymn*: “I did it my way”?
John 6:53-69 reads:
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would [j]betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Though the reading of the Gospel accounts, it is clear that there were 4 types of people that typically encountered Jesus:
1) Those that opposed Him
2) The massive crowds that came to see Him
3) The thousands that followed Him
4) Those that were His Disciples (Not just “The Twelve”)
In every town, there were massive crowds that came out to see Jesus. But when he left, they went home – anxiously awaiting his next “tour date” in their hometown. There were also those who followed Him, faithfully, from town-to-town, enduring much, to hear his next public teaching, and to see His next miraculous display. Among those the followed Him, were those who made up the group commonly referred to as the disciples – this group would have included several women – likely His mother Mary, the other “Mary’s”; his half-brothers; and from time to time, Lazarus, Martha, and several others. But then still, there was the inner circle of disciples, often referred to as “the twelve”.
Now, probably no one would suggest that “the crowds” were “saved” (however, I bet if they were asked on a modern-day survey what their “religious affiliation” was, they would say “Christian”.) But in reality, they were more like modern day “fans” of a rock band – looking forward to the annual “show” in their area, talking about them, and making reference to them, as if they know them personally – but they don’t.
A step of commitment beyond, was that of “the followers“. Indeed this is a title we often give ourselves when we speak of our “Christian Experience”, but that too takes a turn for the lesser in this passage, as clearly not all who were in the “crowds” were “followers”, and not all who followed were counted among His disciples, though they clearly exhibited a sacrificial determination to get closer to Jesus – but what was their motives, really? Many among us would call ourselves a follower, and rest well with that distinction, proclaiming ourselves to be a “saved Christian” – yet, hold on… Jesus makes yet another, seeming final distinction.
The Lord went on to call some of these followers, “disciples“. There can be no argument, that not all who came to hear were followers; and not all who followed, were disciples – and certainly to be a disciple, is a far more committed role in the “Christian Experience” than that of just a follower, as we see from the passage above, and many others in Scripture. Clearly those who were disciples – and maybe many of us – rest confident in being called and numbered among this “elite” group of devotees.
Think of it… I am a “disciple of Jesus”! Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it. I am an apprentice of the Savior come from Heaven, being taught at the feet of the master Himself – being privy to parables explained and mysteries revealed. But wait… there’s more! Look carefully at the beginning of verse 64: “there are some of you who do not believe” – some of who? The crowds? The followers? No, the disciples!! Look at the verses just prior to this, and the one immediately following (60, 61 & 66): “Therefore many of His disciples,” – “His disciples grumbled at this” & “many of His disciples withdrew.” As frightening as it may seem, even being a disciple, does not appear to be adequate for salvation!
So if being among the crowd who hails Jesus as the best motivational speaker in the region – those who never miss hearing Him when he comes to town is not enough… if being so “inspired” by His teachings that you make great sacrifice to follow Him from town-to-town, is not enough… if committing to sit at His feet, and be listed among those crazy disciples is not enough… then the question begs to be asked “What in the world does this Jesus want from us anyway?!?”
Verse 64 provides the answer: “believe”.
It seems we have it backwards. We call folks to first “believe” (thereafter pronouncing them “saved”), then tell them to follow Jesus all the days of their life. And, if you really want to get carried away, you might consider becoming a disciple – but we treat true discipleship as if it is optional, and only for the “extremists” among us. However, the Holy Spirit teaches us in this very passage, that many among the crowds will begin to follow Jesus, and some among the followers will become disciples, and few among the disciples will become *believers*.
Is this not what our Heavenly Father is seeking… *True Believers*? Not casual fans – not even committed followers – nor just extreme disciples! He is looking for those who will be satisfied with none of that – remaining hungry for more – and willing to cast aside all caution – BELIEVE the radical, life-changing, history-altering message of the King, come to earth, to save His own from themselves, that they might return to Him with desperate, reckless, selfless, passionate abandon – surrendering fully to all His seemingly foolish and outrageous words, and yielding the throne of their lives, to His rule and reign, in their hearts, for all their days.
And when these *True Believers* emerge from the ranks of those being discipled to Jesus, then – and only then – will the watching world look at them, and with pointed fingers, with a bit of mockery – and, as they did in Antioch (Acts 11:26) – call them “Christians” – for in this way, they have become just like that crazy Jesus guy!
Reader, it’s time for some soul searching… what role does Jesus Christ really play in your life? Is He really nothing more that “favorite motivational speaker”? Or have you committed to following Him – yet still at a distance – offended at some of His audacity, and ready to “walk” as soon as He gets too close? Or, are you among those who would proudly wear your “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt, since, after all, you number yourself among the inner circle… but in your heart, do you believe all His outrageous and extreme claims – really? He is calling you to believe! Believe with all your heart! Believe without reservation! Believe with reckless abandon that “Jesus alone has the words of Life, and that He is the Holy One of God”! Believe!
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“Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden; it is forbidden because it is harmful!” Thank God that Grace doesn’t just “cover my sin”, but by His Spirit indwelling & inhabitation my life – and by a *grace-driven* surrender & yielding to His Life – Grace empowers me to be RID of sin, to His Glory!!!
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4 things that we need to have/be to experience “Deeper” in Christ: 1) Humility, 2) Childlike Faith, 3) Determination, & 4) Unashamed. Consider both the woman with the issue of blood, crawling to Christ & Blind Bartimaeus, crying out without regard. (Inspired by Blake & Perri at Everburn 8/10/12)
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“Heaven is not a place for people who do not want hell; heaven is a place for people who love God.” ~ Matt Chandler
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“The characteristic of a man who has come to God is that you cannot get him to take anyone seriously, but God.” ~ Oswald Chambers
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The Gospel of The Kingdom is likened unto this: The front walkway, the front steps & the front door are of first-most importance to entering the domain of another. In fact, it could be said that they are the ONLY WAY to lawfully gain entrance. However, the purpose of them, is not themselves alone, but to ALLOW entry to the domain of another, where the Owner of that domain resides. If we only admire, accept, or otherwise embrace the “entry” alone – never utilizing them as a means of entrance – we render them of no effect! So is it with the Death, Burial & Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Let him who has ears to hear, hear. ~ Grrr
Let me share a little about “judging” based on my limited study of the whole-counsel of scripture, and the original Greek text. First, this study written for Christians – And I am making the assumption that as a professing Christian, you are actually a Christ-follower. If that is not correct, disregard the rest of this post.
There are 3 important things to know about “judging”. 1) Jesus DID NOT teach that we were to not judge one another, He did say (in the original Greek) that if we don’t want to be judged, then don’t judge, but went on to say that we need to understand, that the way we judge (measuring stick we use, and attitude we have, whether merciful, graceful, harsh or critical) is the same way we will be judged by others – the passage in Matthew 7:1-5 – ends with Jesus saying: “cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
2) There are at least 3 Greek words used for “Judge/Judging/Judgement” in the new testament: Krisis, Krino & Krites. The words have different meanings:
- Krisis means to distinguish between wrong & right;
- Krites means to rule over “such as a court Judge”; and
- Krino which means, primarily, among other things to condemn or damn.
So, it is important to know that we read the word “judge” in scripture, it doesn’t always mean the same thing. Scripture is clear in it’s teaching that we are not to judge, in the sense of condemning or damning someone – that, you are correct, is the “Word’s” responsibility alone.
However, 3) In 1 Corinthian’s 5, especially verses 11-14, we are clearly taught that we, as Christians, are to judge (distinguish between right & wrong) with fellow Christians. Even to the point that, certain behavior, requires us to treat them as an unbeliever and not be in fellowship with them (that they might see the error of their way, and come to repentance).
With that said, the Word clearly teaches that we, as Christians, are to:
- guard our hearts from evil (Prov 4:23 & others);
- abstain from carnality & worldliness (1 Peter 2:11-17) (it even teaches that if we love the world and it’s ways, we hate God – James 4:4);
- all unwholesome talk and cursing should not be on our lips (Eph 4:29)
So, we suggest strongly to you, in judgement of right and wrong, that there are clearly behaviors, that, as a Christ-follower, it is improper to willingly participate in. We are not condemning or damning when we point this out; rather, we are stating Scripturally, that it is improper for God’s holy children to behave in certain ways. Lastly, consider Eph 5:3-4: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
I hope & pray this brings life!
1) A proper understanding of Grace – Grace is multi-faceted. It didn’t start and stop at Calvary. It predates Eden, and it will last beyond the New Jerusalem. Grace’s premier moment was Calvary, but it was the very Grace of Calvary that made a way for the Grace of Pentecost, which demonstrates a Grace never seen or know in this age: Christ IN US. Grace can be God doing FOR US, or God doing IN US, or God doing THROUGH US. Yes, it is all “GOD DOING” – but it is multi-faceted for certain, and He desires, even commands that we experience and participate in all facets of His Grace!
2) A proper understanding of Faith – Faith is far bigger than belief as we understand it, and it requires more than we realize. Faith starts with “Hearing the Living, Breathing & Active Word of God.” Without this (Rhema), we CANNOT have faith. Faith “consummates” with “our doing” – yes, there is both the “hearing of faith” and the “doing of faith”. In your heart, believer, God speaks His Word to you. Always in line with His Written Word, faith is our acting upon what we have “heard” our Lord speak to us. Without action, our faith is dead. Without the “hearing” our faith is legalism. Neither will lead to Life.
3) A proper understanding of Repentance – Repentance is foundational. And a proper understanding of repentance is vital. Repentance always bears fruit – visible fruit – in our lives. Repentance is coming to a place in your heart where we surrender to the truth that our way in a matter, is not God’s way; our thoughts on a matter, are not His thoughts. When we yield to His ways & thoughts on each and every matter, this is repentance! If you deal with the fruit (outward manifestations/sins), without dealing with the root (wicked, selfish, evil heart), then you have not repented, you have just practiced behavior management. God is calling us to repentance. To surrender our rule and reign over the ways and thoughts of our lives, step by step, to His rule and reign. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
4) A proper understanding of Salvation – Like Grace, Salvation is multi-faceted. We sell ourselves short when we limit salvation to a prayer at an altar experience. Scripture teaches that we “are saved”, we are “being saved”, and we “will be saved”. What we typically call “salvation” (getting saved), is just the “Staring Line” of a journey “in Christ”. True “salvation” begins with a supernatural conversion or regeneration of our life, in our spirit and heart. We call this being born again – this is the “justification” facet of salvation. But then we move to “being saved” – a partnership between our “new man” and the Spirit of God within us – a lifelong process of growing to be like Jesus in Holiness, Purity, Selflessness, Love & Humility. This, we call the “sanctification” facet of salvation, and takes place primarily in our soul. Lastly, in an age yet to come – oh glorious day – we “will be saved”, when this old “earth suit” (physical body) is “made new” as God the Father has planned, to bring Him the fullness of His Glory in mankind. This we call the “Glorification” facet of salvation.
So, just some thoughts on Grace, and Faith, and Repentance, and Salvation.
In Part 1, we summed up “Saving Belief” as “a belief of the heart that comes from being born again to new life in Christ, with new things having come and old things having passed away, manifested in a life of repentance, immersion & saturation with the life of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and an unmistakable visual lifestyle that displays righteousness.”
In Part 2, we will look at the most foundational aspect of this “Christian Journey”: “Saving Repentance”. A term once so commonplace to “Christiandom”, “repentance” has become a lost concept in many “seeker sensitive” congregations, and our culture of easy-believism. However, Repentance is both central, and foundational to the Christian faith. It has been called: “The first word of the Kingdom.” Both John the Baptist, as the forerunner to the Christ, and Jesus Himself, in the first “red letters” of His public ministry, said: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand.”
What is this repentance, and why is it necessary?
All my Christian life, I was told that “repentance” was a “180 degree turning” – and although that is in no way a “wrong” definition, I have found that defining repentance with this simple 3 word phrase does two things. 1) it falls short of giving us an understanding of the truth of repentance, and 2) it seems to suggest an action that is “easily accomplished” in our own efforts. And, though repentance is a turning, and it does require effort on our part, I have found that to have “saving repentance” in our lives, we need more that just a 3 word definition.
My journey in Christ was revolutionized with 2 scripture passages regarding “repentance” – the first was Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ ” I figured that the first recorded words of Jesus’ public ministry in the New Testament had to be of significance, and then even more, the first word: “Repent”.
A quick word study on the Greek word for Repent, and its use in this passage was more than eye-opening. First, the word repent does mean “to turn” but it means more than that, it also means “to change your mind” or, “to change your perception (or your way of thinking)”. This is significant, and will prove to be even more so with the second passage below. But, before I get ahead of myself, let’s look at the “implications” of the use of this word in this statement: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This passage literally implies that “if there is not a change in perception (your thought process), you will miss the Kingdom of Heaven all together”. Those Jesus was speaking to didn’t need to make a 180 degree turn physically – they were face-to-face with the Kingdom of Heaven in Christ Himself – what they needed to do was make a 180 degree (or complete) change in their way of thinking, or the Kingdom of Heaven – though right in their midst – would pass them by, as they would not even perceive that it had come!
Now, to explore the second passage, found in a strange place, and it doesn’t even include the word repentance as such. Isaiah 55, verses 8 & 9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” There was a moment in time in which the Spirit of God illuminated this passage to me, and spoke two things to me. 1) This passage is foundational to your (Christian) journey; 2) This is the essence of repentance.
I have discovered that my mind (my thought processing) is one of the largest, if not the largest, obstacle to my ability to “enter the kingdom”. That is to say, if I insist on processing The Word of God using “my mind” (thought process), I will get hung up at every apparent contradiction, every teaching that is contrary to my logic, and every action of Jesus and the Prophets that just doesn’t make sense. Establishing a commitment to “Isaiah 55:8 & 9 Repentance”, as I call it, is the only way that we can progress forward in our Christian Journey without getting hung up or derailed at every turn. And there are many, unexpected twists and turns upon the narrow road.
If you can grasp the revelation of this deeper insight into Repentance, it will revolutionize every aspect of your Christian journey into the Kingdom of God.
Addendum, “The morning after…”
The depth of repentance that I propose, “saving repentance”, is this: “Father I acknowledge and embrace that my thinking, my perceptions and my ways, are not Yours. I repent, that is I turn from my way of thinking, acting & my perceptions, to Your way of thinking, acting and perceiving. Renew my mind to the mind of Christ, that I might see and receive your Kingdom, in all areas of my life.”
Other Scripture to consider:
Romans 8:6, 7 – “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.”
Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
1 Cor 2:14-16 – “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
Next up in NoSpectators’ “Wake Up!” series? We will dissect “Saving Sanctification” by looking into Spirit, Soul, Body & Heart, and how the understanding of it plays out into our journey from sinner, to saint – kingdom of darkness, to the Kingdom of God!
True Biblical Faith begins in the heart – however, faith of the heart alone is dead faith; while faith of the feet alone, is legalism; neither, by itself, is saving faith. It takes God’s Grace to have ‘The Faith of Son of God’ in the heart; and Grace alone can make that faith manifest in your feet.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” – Gal 2:20“For by grace are you saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” – Eph 2:8“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” – James 2:14, 17
May our prayer be: “Father, grant by Your Grace, that the faith of my heart, might be the faith of Christ, and allow the Grace of your Holy Spirit to strengthen, empower, compel and cause me to have faith of the feet!”“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” – Ez 36:27“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” – Matt 5:16″So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the [living & active]word of Christ.” – Rom 10:17Lastly, in this story that Jesus told, consider that both heard, it could even be said both had faith of the heart; but only one had faith of the feet:“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” – Matt 7:24-27