Theological Essay: Repentance – The Obligation & The Gift

 

Repentance is a dense word that carries theological significance, obligatory action, and requires grace from God.  Living in the twenty-first century where words like tolerance, multiculturalism, pluralism, relativism, and unity are used as trigger words to silence anyone with an opposing opinion, or fact, or truth claim.  Thus, there is an obligation placed on us as the children of Light to interpret and proclaim the Word of God anew in each generation.  In fact, almost 2,000 years ago a man named Paul said that times would come when people “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  Additionally, a Jewish leader writing in the 1800s stated, “With the passage of time, the hearts of men degenerated even further, until the point where the “dwarves” of our time—who are too delicate to accept reproof—no longer have the willpower to force themselves to do anything.”[1]  Today in 2018 we are living in such a time when correction and reproof is seen as an attack on one’s identity, and where spoken words are interpreted as physical attacks of violence, and where the elite of our nation become the social engineers proclaiming to the people—“speak your own personal truth.”[2]  However, “personal truth” is simply a fancy way of saying, “speak you own personal opinions.”  Thus, when personal opinions and alternative facts are given elevated status because someone “feels” that it is true, we have then come to a point in our culture where we must define anew the words we speak in order to bring clarity and reveal the truth.  To be clear, truth with a capital T is: (a) absolute and objective, (b) verifiable and corresponds with reality, (c) necessarily restrictive which differentiates itself from error or non-truth, (d) discovered—not created, and (e) truth is descriptive and substantial which makes it inescapable.  Truth does not require belief in order for it to function and exist.

Yet, let all the world open their ears to hear and know, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9), and because of this, repentance is to be witnessed and experienced as a way of life, whereby the heart that has been regenerated by God’s Spirit continues to pursue and please His Maker by continuously turning one’s heart, mind, and affections towards the God of Glory wherein one’s treasure is truly secure (cf. Hosea 6:1-6; Romans 5:1-5; 8:5-13; Matthew 6:19-21).

From a theological standpoint there are two particular aspects of repentance (metanoia); namely, turning from sin, and turning to God (Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 3:2, 8).  The NIDNTT notes these two distinctions by saying that two different words are used to describe the act of turning, and these are found in Acts 3:19 and 26:20: metanoeō (“to repent”) describes the turning from evil (i.e. sin), and epistrephō (“to turn”) the turning to God.[3]  Both of these two Greek words have their counterparts as niam (“to feel sorrow”) and shub (“to return”) in the Hebrew Old Testament.[4]  These two actions of turning are witnessed by Paul within the context of our required response, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:11).  It is the work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit who enables us to have a steady contemplation of our newness of life by a careful consideration so we may determine that we are indeed (1) dead to sin, and (2) alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Both the Old and New Testaments clearly nuance the inner change of the heart, the mind, and the will that is associated with repentance and returning to Yahweh (Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 4:1-4; Joel 2:12-13; Micah 6:6-8; Acts 2:33-39; 3:26; 5:31-32; 10:43; 13:38-39).  Let us think and reason clearly, because the call to repent implies that a violation has occurred.  If you violate someone’s person or property it is natural to admit one’s guilt and to seek restitution by restoring that person’s property, as well as to seek reconciliation in order to restore the broken relationship—thus property and relationship are restored.  When the law has been broken and we stand before a judge, if we simply confess and say we are sorry it does not provide the justice required.  If the judge is upright the law must be upheld despite one’s confession of guilt.  Seriously, think this through…if you break the law and stand before a judge and confess that you are sorry, your confession is not sufficient enough to render you innocent.  Yet, the Most High Living God renders us innocent through the finished work of Jesus Christ, because “God made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Therefore, every human being is under the violation of God’s law (Romans 3:9-26), and this necessitates a guilty verdict because God is Just and Holy, and the law has been broken and violated.  However, the satisfaction for sin is not given by repentance, but it is given by the sacrifice of Christ’s shed blood on the cross who paid our debt-price through the grace of God at Calvary, and it is this which atones for sin (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; 10:1-4, 10, 12, 14).  This is an important distinction because we do not have six Solas (Sola Repentus) as part of the Reformation essentials, we only have five Solas.[5]  Additionally, the Westminster Confession of Faith states, “Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it” (WCF 15.3).[6]  This necessity for all sinners to repent is why the prophets became teachers and messengers of repentance.  The call to repent is a call to examine ourselves in light of the character of God, and to use God’s Law as the standard and measure of all measures.  Since no one is righteous in and of themselves (Psalms 14:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 9:3; Romans 3:10), the obligatory command to repent is given to all, but the forgiveness of sin rests upon those whom the Father chooses to draws near to Christ Jesus (John 6:37, 39, 44, 65).

Therefore, repentance must be seen as a biblical command given as a means of grace, which involves a heart change through confession of sin as well as the forsaking of sin (Proverbs 28:13; e.g. Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 12:2; Matthew 23:1-3).  The call to repent is a command given by God to all peoples (Acts 17:30) that we should humble ourselves, confess and forsake our iniquity, pray and acknowledge our utter need for the Living God to deliver us out of our transgressions by granting us forgiveness of sin and reconciliation as we cry out with all of our heart and soul to God for salvation and deliverance.  Yet, God who gives life and breath to all things is the One who circumcises the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6), writes the law of God on the heart and inner parts (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:16), gives a new heart and a new spirit (Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-28), is the one who grants repentance and the knowledge of the truth (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25b-26), and is the one who reconciles us back to Himself through Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17-21; John 6:37, 39, 44, 65; Acts 2:39, 47; 13:48; 16:14).

Repentance before Conversion

Individuals who are the image-bearers of God have natural inclinations of the moral law that is structured within their conscience, and the social fabric they find themselves in, and therefore may have feelings of sorrow and guilt in offending or violating the rights of others.  This natural guilt and sorrow which may lead to repentance, does not mean that the repentance offered is acceptable to God, namely, that the repentance offered does not lead to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10; Hebrews 12:14-17).  Although repentance is obligatory upon all, it is also a gift of God that must be granted through the Spirit of Christ for repentance to be efficacious.  On a personal note, there were many times that I confessed my sin and asked God for forgiveness and sought to reform my life before I was regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  During this repentance, I was sorry for a time and a season, but I did not understand the severity of sin as being a rebel against God, nor did I have the awareness of how our impure thoughts separate us from God (Isaiah 26:3-4; Psalm 10:3; Micah 4:12; Romans 8:5-8).  Not growing up in a Christian home, but always believing that God was real, there were many times that I had conviction about some of the bad or dumb things I had done.  Therefore, people may have sorrow and remorse, and seek to reform their lives, but unless there is saving faith (which is a gift of God) and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, who provides the satisfaction for sin, that repentance and remorse has not led to salvation.  William Ames writing in the 1600s says, “Repentance is not true and sound when it does not turn a man from all known sin to all known good, or when it does not continue in strength and actually renew itself continually from the time of conversion to the end of life.”[7]

You who have a belief in God, you who desire to know spiritual truths, or you who want to be involved in what God is doing in this world should continue to press within and press into God until you can stand before God and know with blessed assurance that you belong to the Family of Heaven—the Household of God and that your name is inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life for good.  However, what should be noted is that although this repentance did not lead to salvation it can be part of the drawing process of leading us to God by breaking up the fallow ground of the heart (Hosea 10:12; Jeremiah 4:3) and the preparing of the good ground to receive the Word of God (Luke 8:4-15; James 1:21).  Although it is true that we were chosen before the foundation of the world by God’s grace, yet until we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit we are strangers and enemies to the household of God.  Although saving faith is a free gift of God, we should not lose heart if we lack the full assurance of our salvation, because we are commanded to “be even more diligent, to make our calling and election sure” by “giving all diligence to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love (2 Peter 1:1-11).  And if we lack wisdom or any of these things let us ask of God who gives to those who ask, seek, and knock (James 1:5-8; Matthew 7:7-12).  Let me repeat this again, if you lack the full assurance of your salvation—you are required to continuously pursue God and lay hold of Him which all of our strength (Isaiah 27:5; 64:4-7; Acts 17:26-28; Hebrews 6:18), and when our strength fails us we are required to continually call out for God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness and to be filled with faith in Jesus Christ – until it is received (Luke 11:5-13), and when it is received you will know that you know—for the Spirit will bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God (Romans 8:16).

What this means is that acknowledging, confessing, and forsaking our sin is part of our responsibility to God, yet it is also not enough because saving faith in Christ, which is a free gift of God (Ephesians 2:1-10), is a prerequisite for the forgiveness of sins by repentance because it is only God who can truly pardon our sin by Jesus Christ His Son.  Thus, regeneration and genuine faith are bestowed and freely given as Sola Gratia (only by grace), Sola Fide (only by faith), and Solus Christus (Christ alone) in order for repentance to be efficacious, namely, for repentance to be effectively granted through the legal act of justification.  Herman Bavinck states, “The new life implanted in regeneration yields, in relation to the intellect, faith and knowledge and wisdom; in relation to the will, conversion and repentance.”[8]  Reformed thinkers have noted that, “there is no repentance without regeneration.  Neither is there regeneration that does not manifest itself in repentance.”[9]  Therefore, “faith and repentance are fruits of regeneration.”[10]  Louis Berkhof notes that the scriptural view of repentance “conceives of real repentance as always accompanied with true faith.  The two go hand in hand, and are but different aspects of the same change in man.”[11]

To be clear, regeneration is the sovereign act of God through the Word of God by changing the inner and governing disposition of one’s heart, mind, and soul.  To be clear, regeneration is also called being born-again, or being born of God (John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:22-25; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18) and is “according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:3-14) which enables us to have saving faith and godly sorrow which produces repentance leading to salvation as part of our conversion.

Repentance in and after Conversion

John Calvin in his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion is clear to point out that true repentance is the fruit of true faith when he says, “Those who think that repentance precedes faith instead of flowing from, or being produced by it, as the fruit by the tree, have never understood its nature, and are moved to adopt that view on very insufficient grounds” (3.3.1).[12]  Calvin adds, “Since Christ confers upon us, and we obtain by faith, both free reconciliation and newness of life, reason and order require that…for repentance being properly understood, it will better appear how a man is justified freely by faith alone, and yet that holiness of life, real holiness, as it is called, is inseparable from the free imputation of righteousness.  That repentance not only always follows faith, but is produced by it, ought to be without controversy” (3.3.1).[13]  Although faith and repentance should be linked together as seen in various passages (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 19:4; 20:21) they are distinct.  You cannot have true repentance without true faith, but you can have true faith that leads to true repentance. To describe this, one cannot truly repent of their sin without first believing and trusting that God is both able to pardon and receive such a confession and turning away from sin.  However, when true faith exists (through regeneration) then the character of God’s holiness and holy law is revealed, and this leads to a clear recognition of our sin and of our insufficient ability to be reconciled to God by our own strength.

In seeking to describe the work of repentance it is important to note the inner personality aspects that are involved; namely, the intellect, the emotions, and the will which all constitute the processes of movement and action within the being of each person.  Louis Berkhof describes the intellectual, emotional, and volitional aspects of our being as various elements of repentance.  The intellectual element of repentance refers to a change of view of our personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness exemplified as the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).[14]  The emotional element of repentance refers to a change of feeling manifesting as sorrow for sin (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).[15]  Lastly, the volitional element of repentance manifests as the actual change of purpose, or an inward turning away from sin and a disposition moving toward God for pardon and cleansing (Psalm 51:5-10).[16]  These various elements simply provide language to the inner workings of what takes place in the whole person as they turn away from sin, and turn to God.

The foundational doctrine of salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-10) is central for understanding the role and work of repentance.  Additionally, when rightly understanding that saving faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8) because of spiritual regeneration (e.g. born-again, born from above) it naturally leads that “godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Therefore, we cannot receive saving faith apart from God supernaturally giving us a new heart and a new spirit (Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-32) in order for us to bring forth the fruit of obedience, or what John the Baptist calls “bearing fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8).  In fact, in these sections from Jeremiah and Ezekiel—it is only when God gives a new heart and a new spirit that the people of God are able to walk in His laws and statutes (c.f. Deuteronomy 30:6).

The Christian reformed doctrine of total depravity suggests that all facets of the human personality (e.g. cognition, reasoning, language, behavior, emotions, volition or will, etc.) have been corrupted to such a degree that no human being is able by their own effort and volition to autonomously choose God in order to generate salvation for themselves.  Therefore, other religions which purpose that repentance is the only necessary means (Islam and Judaism in particular) of satisfying a Holy and Just God place the work of salvation or deliverance into the hands of the individual.  God does not receive the glory if we simply save ourselves, would we not rather rejoice over ourselves if that were the case?  “Judaism emphasizes the redeeming power of teshubah (repentance), which is nothing else than man’s self-redemption from the thraldom of sin.”[17]  This is not to say that Judaism does not recognize the sovereignty and grace of God, but with 2,000 years of not having a sacrificial system as part of the religious institution, repentance has morphed into a status that has removed the sacrificial atonement and blood-sacrifice that is needed for sin (cf. Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26-28; 10:1-4; 10, 12, 14).  However, total depravity does not mean that humanity is so depraved that they are unrestrained in their depravity, thus everyone is not a Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini or a Mao, but that the totality of one’s being has been affected, corrupted, and held captive to the power and effects of sin[18] (c.f. Genesis 4:7) brought about by Adam’s rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).

In linking the concepts of original sin and total depravity with the need to be reconciled to God through regeneration we are led to consider the nature of repentance and its place in the Christian life.  The biblical call to repentance is given afresh in each generation, because the command to repent is given to all people (Acts 17:30-31) at all times (Matthew 4:17).  The first preaching of Jesus was a call to repent (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15), and in each of these cases the call to repent that is given by Jesus Christ in the Greek text is found in the present tense, active voice, imperative mood, and in the plural which signifies that all people at all times are to actively repent continuously; namely, those who hear the call to repent are to mandatorily live a life of repentance which means to continuously turn from sin through the intellect, emotions, and volition and turn towards God.  This call to repentance is not portrayed in such a way that it might be a good idea to repent, or perhaps that it would help you in some form, but the call to repent that Jesus makes is a command declaration that all people at all times must repent.  Martin Luther who in 1517 posted his 95 Theses at Wittenberg begins in his first Thesis when he said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”[19]  Martin Luther is absolutely correct in stating this, because of the present tense and active voice in the Greek text (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15), because the child of God that has been set-apart by God (John 1:12-13) does not practice sin as a lifestyle (1 John 3:4-9), but is commanded to pursue communion and abiding with God through denial of self and submission to God’s will (1 John 3:24; 4:4, 7, 12-16; 5:1-3, 20; John 15:1-17; Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 9:23-27; James 4:6-10) by living a life that continuously turns away from sin (1 Corinthians 10:13), and in turning away from sin turns to God as his refuge, rock, shield, and great deliverer (Psalm 18:1-2; 27:5; 91:1-16; Romans 6:13).  Therefore, it is crucial that every child of God immerse themselves in the Word of God, because it is Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) which provides us with the necessary knowledge for that which is well-pleasing to God as well as that which is abhorrent to the Most High.

When we think of repentance in this way it is not that repentance provides satisfaction for sin, but that repentance is the natural response of saving faith that is involved in a change of heart and mind towards one’s sin against the Holy and Just God of all creation.  In the work of salvation with the conversion of the rebellious sinner God receives all the glory.  Soli Deo Gloria!  God rescues us from the tyranny of Satan and translates us from death to life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14), from the power of darkness to the kingdom of His Son through the washing of regeneration by His Holy Word and Holy Spirit.  The state of regeneration—of being born of God, produces saving faith in God which leads to godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation.  True repentance is just as much a gift of grace from God as faith is (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25b-26; Ephesians 2:1-10).  Nevertheless, you O man, and you O woman are called to “strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather healed.  Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord…Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is Faithful and Just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him (God) a liar, and His Word is not in us” (Hebrews 12:12-14; 13:15-16; 1 John 1:7b-10).

 

 

 

References:

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[1] Menachem Mendel Levin. Cheshbon Ha-Nefesh. Translated by Shraga Silverstein. New York: Feldheim Publishers, 1995, p.45.

[2] This was uttered by Oprah Winfrey at the 2017-2018 Golden Globe awards.

[3] Verbrugge, Verlyn ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT): Abridged Edition. Michigan: Zondervan, 2000, p.367. Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics. Abridged in One Volume. Edited by John Bolt. Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011, p.538.

[4] Kohler, Kaufmann; & Schlesinger, Max. Repentance (Hebr. “Teshubah”). Retrieved from http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12680-repentance on December 27, 2017.

[5] Sola Repentus is a fictitious creation that is not part of the five traditional Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Soli Deo Gloria (Glory of God Alone).

[6] Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms with Proof Texts. Georgia: Christian Education & Publications, 2007, p.65.

[7] Ames, William. The Marrow of Theology. Edited by John D. Eusden. Michigan: Baker Books, 1997, p.160.

[8] Bavinck. Reformed Dogmatics. Baker Academic, 2011, p.536.

[9] Genderen, J. van, & Velema, W. H. Concise Reformed Dogmatics. Translated by Gerrit Bilkes, & Ed M. van der Maas. New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2008, p.600.

[10] Ibid. p.600.

[11] Berkhof, Louis. Manual of Christian Doctrine. Michigan: Eerdmans, 1999, p.245.

[12] Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2007, p.386.

[13] Ibid. p.386.

[14] Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, p.486.

[15] Ibid. p.486.

[16] Ibid. p.486.

[17] Kohler. & Schlesinger. Repentance (Hebr. “Teshubah”).

[18] Billings, J. Todd. Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church. Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011.

[19] Nichols, Stephen ed. Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2002, p.23.

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The Call to Repentance

 

The first proclamation that Jesus made when beginning His ministry was, “repent, all of you, for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  The call to repentance is to be given in all generations, because repentance serves as a means of grace to pull us away from a life devoted to sin, selfishness, and self-sufficiency; and to draw us toward a covenant relationship with the God of all creation. We must recognize our own failures, sin, depravity, and the destruction that we create throughout our lives—which ripple out and affects the lives of those around us.  Therefore, you O man, woman, and child are to recognize that you have been created by God Almighty for His pleasure, and that you will discover your highest pleasure and purpose in union with Christ Jesus who is the direct embodiment of Yahweh God (Deut. 10:14-15; Ps. 16:1-11; 63:1-8; Heb. 1:1-4) who came to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and the power of sin through His sacrifice on the Cross (Col. 1:13; Heb. 2:10-18; 7:26-27; 9:11-15, 23-28; 10:1-14).  Since all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23) when we stand before the Judge of all the Earth, and simply confess our sin and acknowledge our violation of His law it is not enough to justify us, just as it is not enough to justify us in a human court of law.  It is Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sin by accepting the punishment on our behalf; therefore, the satisfaction for sin is not given by repentance, but it is given by the sacrifice of Christ’s shed blood on the cross who paid our legal debt-price through the grace of God at Calvary, and it is this which atones for sin (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; 10:1-4, 10, 12, 14).  Yet, faith and repentance are commanded by God as means of reconciliation and regeneration.

Just as a father and mother rejoices to see their children take responsibility for their own actions and begin taking the necessary steps towards being a mature and conscientious adult—so also does God rejoice (Deut. 10:15; 30:9; Jer. 32:41) over those whom He chooses, and those who acknowledge His greatness and seek to submit their lives to His holy will through the way of faith and repentance.  We must realize that all the commandments and rules that God sets out in the Bible are designed to not only please our Creator, but are designed for our good and protection.  The inevitable consequences of sin cannot be understated.  Oftentimes, our pain and suffering in life is a result of our own decisions.  For example, if we take some time and contemplate the heartaches, pain, guilt, disease, and death that could be prevented by waiting until marriage to consummate the union that occurs between a man and a woman—we would soon realize that society and future generations could greatly benefit from a life that is submitted to the simplicity of God’s will and ways.  God’s commandments are not designed to restrict us, but designed to fulfill us in such a way so as to minimize the consequences of pain and suffering that inevitably result from our actions.  We all come short of the glory and perfection of God, and because of this we need the imputed righteousness of Christ lest the wrath of God forever remain upon the children of disobedience.  For God made Jesus Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).  Therefore, the call to repent is a command given by God to all peoples (Acts 17:30) that we should humble ourselves, confess and forsake our iniquity, pray and acknowledge our utter need for the Living God to deliver us out of our transgressions by granting us forgiveness of sin and reconciliation as we cry out with all of our heart and soul to God for salvation and deliverance.

The first preaching of Jesus was a call to repent (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15), and in each of these cases the call to repent that is given by Jesus Christ in the Greek text is found in the present tense, active voice, imperative mood, and in the plural which signifies that all people at all times are to actively repent continuously; namely, those who hear the call to repent are to mandatorily live a life of repentance which means to continuously turn from sin through the intellect, the emotions, and the will and to turn with one’s whole being towards God.  This call to repentance that Jesus makes is a command declaration that all people at all times must repent.  Martin Luther who in 1517 posted his 95 Theses at Wittenberg begins in his first Thesis when he said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”[1]  The child of God that has been set-apart by God (John 1:12-13) does not practice sin as a lifestyle (1 John 3:4-9), but is commanded to pursue communion and abiding with God through denial of self and submission to God’s will (1 John 3:24; 4:4, 7, 12-16; 5:1-3, 20; John 15:1-17; Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 9:23-27; James 4:6-10) by living a life that continuously turns away from sin (1 Corinthians 10:13), and in turning away from sin turns to God as his refuge, rock, shield, and great deliverer (Psalm 18:1-2; 27:5; 91:1-16; Romans 6:13).  Thus, it is crucial that every child of God immerses themselves in the Word of God, because it is Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) which provides us with the necessary knowledge and insight for that which is well-pleasing to God as well as that which is abhorrent to the Most High.  Yet, let all the world open their ears to hear and know, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9), and because of this, repentance is to be witnessed and experienced as a way of life.  Therefore, the heart that has been regenerated by God’s Spirit continues to pursue and please His Maker by continuously turning one’s heart, mind, and affections towards the God of Glory wherein one’s treasure is truly secure (cf. Hosea 6:1-6; Romans 5:1-5; 8:5-13; Matthew 6:19-21).

 

Do you regard the lovingkindness of God better than life itself?

Do you seek God early in the day?

Does your soul and flesh thirst and long after God your Savior?

Do you look towards God to see His power and glory?

How often to you lift up your voice in praise and worship in self-abandonment?

Are you satisfied with God and with His goodness?

How often do you remember God on your bed?

Do you meditate on God in the night watches?

Do you rejoice in God who gives you life and breath each moment?

Are you consciously seeking to follow closely the God of Truth?

 

These questions emerge from Psalm 63:1-8.  And if the answer is no—then repent and earnestly seek the forgiveness of God, and yearn to be united to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  When God and His kingdom become our first priority in life we begin to re-structure our thoughts, words, and actions in alignment with God’s natural law, and God’s spiritual law.

 

 

 

[1] Nichols, Stephen ed. Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2002, p.23.

Accounting of the Soul

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Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.”

2 Corinthians 13:5

 

But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.  The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.  My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.  Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.  Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.”

Proverbs 4:18-27

 

 

Chesbon Ha’Nefesh is the Hebrew phrase that literally means “accounting of the soul.”  “Chesbon” is a Jewish technical term that is used in the field of accounting, which implies a thorough and exacting examination of all accounts received and paid, and “Ha’Nefesh” refers to “the soul.”  These two words combined refer to the Biblical examination of oneself, namely the need to take a careful examination of our souls.  For the purposes of this work, I am mainly interested in conveying to you various ways to take an accounting of yourself in order to grow and develop your spiritual life with the Lord.  However, these principles can be extracted and used in other contexts of life; e.g. parenting, mentoring, counseling, business, leadership, and personal reflection.

The accounting of our souls represents a structured and comprehensive examination of our life.  With the key fueling questions of WHAT and WHY?  What is your worldview, why?  What do you believe life is about…why?  What else, why? What else, why?  What are your strengths, why?  This examination includes, but is not limited to: our (a) worldview, (b) beliefs, (c) identity, (d) values, (e) strengths, (f) weaknesses, (g) capacities, (h) environment, (i) purpose in life, (j) goals, (k) motivations, (l) family history, (m) personality traits, (n) roles, (o) careers, (p) physical health, (q) personal relationships, etc.

Your life is a systemic whole, which means that your feelings influence your thoughts, and your thoughts influence your feelings.  Your decisions influence both your thoughts and feelings, and vice-versa.  Similarly, people who study micro-expressions understand that certain eye movements and facial expressions correlate with certain affective and cognitive states.  Thus, our systemic nature of heart, mind, soul, and will become evident via our thoughts, words, and behaviors.  Within the context of our lives and discerning where we are going – it is the decisions, thought-patterns, and emotional feelings that we tend to regularly experience which will influence us in the future of how we live, move and have our being.  Therefore, habits can be changed, emotional and thought patterns can be changed, beliefs can be changed, identities can be changed, and unhealthy behaviors can be changed completely in union with the grace of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

To complete this examination properly we will have to become aware of the various distinctions taking place inside of our being.  Namely, you will become intimately aware of your fears, prejudices, assumptions, beliefs, emotional states, internal dialogue, and decision making processes.  What you must realize is that the core drivers of your behavior are your thoughts, beliefs, desires, emotions, environment, and will.  It is necessary to become aware of how these other levels of ourselves can be altered in order to influence new positive outcomes that are congruent and in harmony with God’s Word.  This can be one of the most difficult parts of our spiritual growth, because it causes us to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.  David cries out, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:12-13).  Again, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 13:23-24).  What is crucial to understand is that we must come to understand and know within ourselves, and say with Jeremiah “O Yahweh, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. O Yahweh, correct me, but with justice; not in your anger, lest You bring me to nothing” (Jeremiah 10:23-24).  Taking an accounting of ourselves is never done completely within one examination, nor is it done correctly in our own strength.  It is obligatory that we openly confess any and all sin and forsake it (Proverbs 28:13), and genuinely seek and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit to open up new areas that need cleansing, healing, and reconciliation so that all members of your being are set apart and sanctified for the work of the Lord (Romans 6:11-19; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Timothy 2:20-21; Titus 2:11-15)

Sin has distorted our perceptions, our beliefs, our values, our identities, and our relationships.  Although this work will take time and conscious effort to know and excavate who you are, what you stand for, why you are here on earth, where you are going…….and why.  The reward and fruit of knowing who you truly are in Christ enables you to say with Paul that “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

So if you are committed to honor God with your life, and letting your profession and confession of Jesus Christ is Lord be the ruling standard of your life, then you are obligated to count the cost, deny yourself, and pick up your cross (Luke 9:23-26, 62) in order that you may honestly “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), and turn toward God and ask, seek, and knock for the desire to change, and the strength to endure because Christ Jesus is truly our life, our strength, our peace, our wisdom, our redemption, our sanctification, our joy (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 2:14; Deuteronomy 10:21).  Since our thoughts and emotions are primary drivers for behavior it is crucial to redirect our hearts and minds to God again, again, and again in order to create new habits of the heart and mind so that we may seek God as our source for everything.  Below is the Biblical foundation for the need of going through “the way” towards an accounting of your soul, and of your life.  True humility is an accurate understanding of who you are in God’s plan, as well as your own weaknesses.  The verses that follow present a Biblical foundation for the need to take an “Accounting of the Soul.”

 

2 Corinthians 13:5Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.

1 Corinthians 3:10According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

1 Thessalonians 4:4That each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.[1]

Galatians 6:2-4Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

James 1:23-24For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

Lamentations 3:39-41Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?  Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to Yahweh; let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.

1 Timothy 4:16Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

Proverbs 4:18-27But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.  The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.  My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.  Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.  Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.

Proverbs 5:21For the ways of man are before the eyes of Yahweh, and He ponders all his paths.

Proverbs 14:8, 15The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.

Proverbs 25:28Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.

Proverbs 20:5Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Proverbs 20:27The spirit of a man is the lamp of Yahweh, searching all the inner depths of his heart.

Psalms 26:2Examine me, O Yahweh, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.

Psalms 119:59I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies.

Psalms 139:23-24Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Deuteronomy 4:9Only take heed to yourself (lit. souls), and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.

Luke 17:3-4Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.

Luke 21:34-36But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.  For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

John 3:19-21And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

Job 13:23How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin.

Ezekiel 20:43And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed.

Malachi 2:14-16Yet you say, for what reason? Because Yahweh has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant.  But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.  For Yahweh God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence, says Yahweh of Hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.

 

Let us consider these verses well, because the Word of God is not simply poetic speech to be admired, but it is a Living Word that is designed to be implanted within us in such a way so as to take root and grow, and to bear forth much good fruit (James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:22-25).  Therefore, let us take heed to ourselves…Do we truly call out and desire to be cleansed of every wicked way?  Do we sincerely desire to please God in all things?  Why or why not?  These questions and others will serve as guide-posts for our spiritual growth.  The accounting of our souls enables us to examine what we actually stand for.

 

Basic questions to initiate examination.

Who are you? – Identity

Where are you from? – Origins

What do you hold as important, or who do you hold as important? – Values

Why are you here on earth? – Purpose in life, passion

Where are you going? – Future, vision, hope, faith

What is life all about? – Worldview(s), beliefs

What can you contribute? – Capabilities, capacities, strengths, weaknesses

What has shaped who you are now? – Culture, environment, family history, genetics, past

What are your priorities in life? – Life organization

These questions and others are designed to be asked over and over, this isn’t about simplistic answers to check off the box.

 

We each go through life and inevitably absorb our cultural values and norms on an often unconscious implicit level.  The media (i.e. music, television, movies, Web, video games, social media, etc.), our peers, our family, and our schools are all involved in the formation of our psyche and because of this we accept certain beliefs, values, and worldviews at an unconscious implicit level.  What I mean by this is that most of our beliefs, values, and worldviews are outside of our conscious awareness.  Additionally, if you were to question yourself it would likely reveal only a superficial knowledge about yourself.  This manifests itself when we truly begin to question ourselves on “why” we believe what we believe, or “why” we value what we value.  How often do people go through life without coming to realize what is really important, what they stand for, and why they are here only to have a heart attack, stroke, or be diagnosed with cancer – which opens them up to question themselves and what is really important in life.

From examining my life and learning from the lives of others, I have come to discover that all life is about relationships, communication, and perception.   Relationships with God, family, friends, co-workers, children, colleagues, money, career, health, government, guns, various groups, food, ourselves and of course the list can go on.  Since communication (verbal, nonverbal, and internal dialogue) serves as the primary interface for connecting with our relationships; then it naturally follows that perception is the primary filter for (a) what we see and (b) how we see it, (c) how we generate meaning,  and (d) express ourselves [i.e. communication] in our relationships.  So yes, in a very abstract sense all life is about relationships, communication, and perception; however, in a practical and concrete sense life is about much more than this.  Having researched the fields of biblical studies, leadership, and psychology and meeting many people from all walks of life, it has become clear that leadership and life are inextricably wedded together.  The leadership I am referring to is “self-leadership;” therefore, we must effectively learn how to utilize our “will” that has been regenerated in order to “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).  Thus, as we submit our will to the will of God as revealed in His Word (James 4:1-10), and His Inspiration given through the Holy Spirit we learn to participate in the handiwork of God in our lives (Ephesians 2:10).

Life, here on planet Earth, presents its inhabitants with myriads of problems and life experiences.  As a result of these experiences and problems, we create self-schemas which provide the scripts and rules we use that frame our perceptions to make sense of ourselves, our place in the world, along with the roles and functions we accept and internalize as part of our identity.  In many ways our self-schemas serve us well, and at times they don’t because limited notions of ourselves and others can often continue to perpetuate behaviors, stereotypes, and beliefs that do not awaken and honor the dignity of every man, woman, and child into their greater potential(s) of why we are here on this planet to begin with.

Now what does all of this have to do with life, relationships, communication, and perception?  In short, it has to do with our personal ability of leading ourselves under and in union with the Lordship of Christ Jesus, while being able to effectively engage with the world and the situations we find ourselves in, and in such a way so as to live, move, and have our being in the “new life of God” while also being a light, encouraging others, and building up the Body of Christ so that the Lamb of God may receive His due reward.

Therefore, we go about leading ourselves and submitting our will to the will of God in the context of actively and consciously seeking to submit all of our energies and being unto the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ.  We cannot submit ourselves unto God unless we are actively seeking to consciously do so.   This is where we consciously lead ourselves in union with the grace of God, to “present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13b).  In short, this means living a life of holiness in thought, word, and deed and being obedient in the two great commandments, namely, to love Yahweh our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31).  Thus, as we lead ourselves in union with Christ by actively denying ourselves, picking up our cross, and seeking “to guard our heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23) we “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).  Examining ourselves and leading ourselves is not something we do apart from the grace of God, but it is our reasonable service to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, and to not be conformed to this world system (cf. Romans 12:1b-2a).

 

 

 

 

[1] The term vessel has been a matter of debate among scholars, the two implications is that one should know how to posses or master oneself (cf. 2 Timothy 2:20-21), the other interpretation is taking one’s spouse as the vessel (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).

Fear of the Lord

 

My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart, too, will rejoice; and my kidneys will rejoice when your lips speak upright things. Let your heart not envy sinners, rather those in fear of Yahweh always. For there is a latter end, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:15-18

 

In contemplating and seeking to interpret the imperative command to fear the Lord it is necessary to search the Scriptures to discover the various nuances involved in carrying out this biblical injunction.  The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments reveal that “fear” is a necessary experiential attitude that the people of God are to have toward Yahweh—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  For the modern mind terms like fear and jealousy seem to have a negative connotation; however, these terms have important theological connections both to our attitude towards God (i.e. fear) and God’s attitude towards His people (i.e. jealousy).  Fear can be a debilitating emotion when people are dealing with phobias of snakes, spiders, and elevators, but fear can also be a positive force towards preserving life such as seeing a shark at the beach, seeing a poisonous snake in the woods, or hearing a gun shot.  Yet, the biblical definition regarding the fear of the LORD is to depart from evil and do good (cf. Psalms 34:11-14).  However, there is a distinction which must be made, namely, (a) our personal way of defining good and evil (Proverbs 1:31), or (b) the ways and laws of God (Psalms 19:7-9; 119:1-176).  Therefore, the Holy Spirit through the Word of God must speak for itself regarding the paths of life and death.

The Scripture declares that the beginning of wisdom, and the beginning of knowledge both have their roots in the fear of the LORD Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10).  In the Torah the command is given to honor the elderly and to fear your God—Yahweh (Leviticus 19:32).  Additionally, the fear of Yahweh is necessary in order to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments; and that this fear will prolong our days (cf. Deuteronomy 6:1-3).  “The LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear Yahweh our God for our good always, to keep us alive as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24).  We see from these verses that the fear of the LORD (1) is for our good, (2) it prolongs our days, and (3) it enables us to keep the commandments, statutes, and judgments of God.

God’s covenant children are humbled and tested from time to time in order to do us good in the end (Deuteronomy 8:1-5, 16; Hebrews 12:5-11), so that we may walk in His ways and to fear Him (Deuteronomy 8:6).  Yet, the spirit and essence of the Law is revealed in this word…“And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in His ways and to love Him, to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul…you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your very all (Deuteronomy 10:12; 6:5).  Thus, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).  So the Scriptures declare that God requires us to fear Him, yet not in an incapacitating fear, but in a way that gives true life to our souls through submission to His will by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, our spiritual growth in progressive sanctification is a constant training in learning how to fear Yahweh always (cf. Deuteronomy 14:23; Proverbs 23:17).  However, what is the fear of the LORD?  What does it actually mean?  How can I actually learn to fear Yahweh always?

 

  1. The fear of the LORD represents an awe of the majesty of God – Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 22:23; 25:14; 33:18; 103:17. As we contemplate the universe above and the majestic beauty of the earth, the myriad creatures, the complexity of DNA-RNA, and to our bodies from organs, tissues, cells, molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles, namely all things being held together by God’s Sovereign Decree.  So we declare with the Psalmist, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:14)

 

  1. The fear of the LORD represents a fearful dread – Psalm 96:9; 102:15; Proverbs 1:29; Isaiah 8:11-15; Malachi 1:6; 3:5; 2 Corinthians 7:9-12; Hebrews 10:26-31. Once we have received new life through Jesus Christ by His one offering, He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14), and in this new life there are times when our affections are turned away from God and our desires conceive and give birth to sin (Genesis 4:7; James 1:14-15).  Thus, a life of repentance (Mark 1:15) is necessary to restore our confidence (1 John 2:28).  Yet, there are times when we are to recognize the power of justice (Psalm 50:21) against unrighteousness, and this healthy dread is necessary from time to time so we do not degrade the holiness of God into a common thing. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) in Chapter 14.2 on Saving Faith states, “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings (cf. Ezra 9:4; Isaiah 66:2; Hebrews 4:1), and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.  But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace” (WCF 14.2).

 

  1. The fear of the LORD represents a continuous consciousness of God – Deuteronomy 14:23; Psalm 36:1; Proverbs 2:1-5; 23:17; Malachi 3:16. To have a fear of God actually means to be aware of God.  To be aware of God reveals an immediate knowing that we are subordinate to God since we are His creation.  To know that we are subordinate to God means that all “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).  However, this conscious awareness of God can have a blend of the dread and fear associated to Yahweh’s holiness, as well as an intimate nearness of His Fatherhood and provision from the majesty of His glorious works.  Additionally, there are eight processes given in Proverbs 2:1-4 which ultimately lead to an understanding of the fear of Yahweh and the discovery of the knowledge of God.  These eight processes are (1) receiving God’s Word, (2) treasuring His commands within, (3) inclining our ear to wisdom, (4) applying our heart to understanding, (5) crying out for discernment, (6) lifting up our voice for understanding, (7) seeking wisdom as if it were silver, and (8) searching for wisdom as if it were hidden treasures.  These eight actions have been summed up by Jesus when He commands us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13).

 

  1. The Fear of the LORD represents the instruction of wisdom, namely, the way of life – Joshua 24:14; Psalm 34:11-16; 103:17; 128:1-4; Proverbs 14:25-27; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 29:25; Jeremiah 32:37-41. The commandments, laws, ordinances, statues, judgments, testimonies, and words of Yahweh are revealed and given unto us so that we may learn to do good and seek justice (cf. Isaiah 1:16-17), seek peace (cf. Psalm 34:14), to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (cf. Micah 6:8), while also departing from evil, and keeping our tongue from corrupt communication and our lips from speaking deceit (Psalm 34:13-14; Ephesians 4:29-5:7).  God has ordained what is good and evil, and the paths that He has commanded us to walk in are for our good and well-being, and length of days; therefore, we are to fear God because reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Deuteronomy 5:16; 29, 33; 6:3, 18, 24; Proverbs 6:23).

 

As we begin to absorb the sweetness of God’s Word and allow it to dwell richly within us we will cry out to be “cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” we will begin to experience the “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).  The fear of the LORD is an important factor in our spiritual communion with God, because (a) it gives us wisdom in the way we should walk (Psalm 34:11-14), (b) it gives the ordering of the right relationships we should have toward ourselves (Proverbs 1:31; Jeremiah 17:9-10), others (Psalm 118:8-9), and with our Creator (Psalm 27:1-3; Habakkuk 3:17-19), (c) the fear of the LORD Yahweh is a means of grace for communion with the Most High God, and (d) the Holy Spirit which indwells all adopted children of God, also represents the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh (Isaiah 11:1-2).  Therefore, allow the fear of the LORD to be a driving force for your obedience to God.  Let us go forward and “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Credo

 

In the Wisdom of the Scriptures it is seen that “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).  Here in the West we pride ourselves on the false notion of autonomy (which literally means self-law), and yet autonomy without being our brothers and sisters keeper is why we see such disregard for human life in the economic, religious, scientific and political arenas. When we see significant inequality of wealth, murder, rape, dehumanization philosophies of evolution, abortion, and political figures who are wicked shepherds serving themselves we must ask ourselves…is this path we are on – sustainable?  The “good way” and the “ancient paths” call out for us to distinguish between Right & Wrong – and to pursue justice, righteousness, truth, compassion, humility and selflessness; because inherent in these qualities represent the seeds that if sown upon the good ground will yield sustainable relationships, families, communities, businesses, and societies.

Unfortunately, many in the Christian faith have erred in believing that the passage in John 3:3 is about being “born-again” or “born-from-above” in order to get into Heaven.  The context of the verse according the Greek language reveals another story.  It speaks about receiving spiritual life from above (i.e. born-again) in order to CONSCIOUSLY experience and participate in the Kingdom of God NOW!  “Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  The Greek gives a Subjunctive Mood, which means that this is a conditional statement that is pertinent upon the condition of those who have not been born-again; additionally, and because they are not born-again the Present Tense is used which means that they cannot at this moment in time see and participate in the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, to state this verse in positive terms “Amen, Amen, I say to you, when one is born-again, he sees the Kingdom of God.”  I have met hundreds of people who have given witness and testimony to the reality of receiving new life from God, a new identity, purpose, meaning and power.

In fact, to experience and walk in the “newness of life” (Romans 6:4; 7:6) is such a joy and rapture in the freedom of the spirit that no amount of money, fame, sex, drugs, food, or sleep could ever compare or be traded for this new life.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ;s behalf, be reconciled to God.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

Therefore, the sustainable solution to positively transforming the world is found in receiving new life from God, and new life from God is found in Christ – the Word of God made flesh – Who will take up residence and make a home within you (John 14:16-24) and within the one who comes to Him will by no means be cast out (John 6:37).  Understand this, that life is a precious gift that is to be cherished, honored, and ultimately redeemed.  New life from God does not destroy your personal identity and personality and purpose — it completes and fulfills it!

 


 

Here is “Creed” by Steve Turner:

*****

Creed

“We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy is OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything is getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in
horoscopes, UFO’s and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man
just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher
although we think His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same–
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it’s compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
and the flowering of individual thought.

“Chance” a post-script

If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear

State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!

It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.”  (i.e. himself).

____________________________________________________________

 

Consider these words well from the “Creed” by Steve Turner, and mark well the perfume of hypocrisy and the lack of coherent logic.

 

 

Peace be with each of you.

 

Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony

The following section below represents a portion of “Our World Belongs to God” developed originally in 1986, and updated in 2008 by the Christian Reformed Church in North America.  For the full version, which has 58 sections click on the link below.  I originally came across this source in the book:

Our Faith: Ecumenical Creeds, Reformed Confessions, and Other Resources. Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

 

Let it be known that you and every person who has ever existed will give an account of how we have used our life-space, and that our thoughts, words, and actions will testify against us in this great accounting.  To be sure, that just as most children don’t like to be told what to do, so too, adults do not like to be told what to do.  Therefore, what is often the case is that we have “children in adult bodies” (see Matthew 11:16-19).  And…in our stubbornness and self-sufficiency we refuse to submit to the natural order of God’s Rule.  Saint Augustine eloquently said, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you.”  If God does indeed exist (which I hope to address this issue in future posts) then the Most High Living God must be eternally superior to anything of the created order.  If this first principle is true, which indeed it is, then to elevate anything that is created above the Majesty and Perfection of God is to exalt the inferior over the superior – and to do so is logically foolish, ignorant, and sinful.  This has been the great charge of the sages, prophets, teachers, and apostles of the ages, namely, that we indeed are blind and even “willingly ignorant” until by the Grace of God our eyes are opened to see “as we ought to see.”

 

Let us learn what it means to “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5-6) and to “put one the armor of Light” (Romans 13:12-14; Ephesians 6:10-18).  I hope you all enjoy the opening sections of this Contemporary Testimony.

Our World Belongs to God

Preamble
1. As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world—
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!

For God’s ownership of all things, see Psalm 24:1 (quoted in 1 Cor. 10:26), Job 41:11, and Deuteronomy 10:14. That this is also “our world”—given to the human race to keep and care for—is one of the themes of the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.

2. From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until the kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever:
Our world belongs to God!
God is King: Let the earth be glad!
Christ is victor: his rule has begun!
The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

For God’s faithfulness, see, among many passages, Psalm 89, 117, 145; Romans 8:31-39; and Hebrews 10:23. For the victory of God in Christ and the rule of Christ, see 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, Philippians 2:9-11, and Revelation 1:13-18. For the Spirit’s work renewing creation, see Genesis 1 and Romans 8.

3. Still, despair and rebellious pride fill the earth:
some, crushed by failure
or broken by pain,
give up on life and hope and God;
others, shaken,
but still hoping for human triumph,
work feverishly to realize their dreams.
As believers in God,
we also struggle with the spirits of this age,
resisting them in the power of the Spirit,
testing them by God’s sure Word.

Psalm 2 expresses the rebellious spirit of the human race. See also Romans 1-3. Ephesians 6:10-17 describes the struggle of believers with the spirits of the age. On testing the spirits, see 1 John 4.

4. Our world, fallen into sin,
has lost its first goodness,
but God has not abandoned the work of his hands:
our Maker preserves this world,
sending seasons, sun, and rain,
upholding all creatures,
renewing the earth,
promising a Savior,
guiding all things to their purpose.

See Genesis 3; 9:8-16; Psalm 104, especially verse 30; Matthew 5:45; and Acts 14:17. For the promises of a Savior, see Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; 11:1-5; 42:1-7, 53; and Micah 5:2.

5. God holds this world
with fierce love.
Keeping his promise,
he sends Jesus into the world,
pours out the Holy Spirit,
and announces the good news:
sinners who repent and believe in Jesus
live anew as members of the family of God—
the firstfruits of a new creation.

For God’s fierce love, see Hosea 11, especially verses 10-11. For statements of the gospel message, see John 3:1-21, Acts 2:36-39, Romans 10:7-11, and Ephesians 2:1-10. For “firstfruits,” see Leviticus 23:9-14 and James 1:18.

6. We rejoice in the goodness of God,
renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves to holy living.
As covenant partners,
set free for joyful obedience,
we offer our hearts and lives
to do God’s work in the world.
With tempered impatience,
eager to see injustice ended,
we expect the Day of the Lord.
We are confident
that the light
which shines in the present darkness
will fill the earth
when Christ appears.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Our world belongs to you.

Among the texts referenced in this paragraph, see Matthew 5:17-20, 48; John 1:1-5, 9-13; 3:19-21; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:11; 2 Peter 3; 1 John 2:7-11; and Revelation 22:20.

 

Creation

7. Our world belongs to God—
not to us or earthly powers,
not to demons, fate, or chance.
The earth is the Lord’s.

For references, see the first paragraph.

8. In the beginning, God—
Father, Word, and Spirit—
called this world into being
out of nothing,
and gave it shape and order.

See Genesis 1, where Creator, Word, and Spirit call creation into order. For the role of the Word in creation and Jesus as the Word, see John 1:1-14.

9. God formed sky, land, and sea;
stars above, moon and sun,
making a world of color, beauty, and variety—
a fitting home for plants and animals, and us—
a place to work and play,
worship and wonder,
love and laugh.
God rested
and gave us rest.
In the beginning
everything was very good.

On creation, besides Genesis 1 and 2, see Psalm 19; 33:6-9; and 104.

10. Made in God’s image
to live in loving communion with our Maker,
we are appointed earthkeepers and caretakers
to tend the earth, enjoy it,
and love our neighbors.
God uses our skills
for the unfolding and well-being of his world
so that creation and all who live in it may flourish.

For the image of God, see Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; and James 3:9.

11. Together,
male and female,
single and married,
young and old—
every hue and variety of humanity—
we are called to represent God,
for the Lord God made us all.
Life is God’s gift to us,
and we are called to foster
the well-being of all the living,
protecting from harm
the unborn and the weak,
the poor and the vulnerable.

See Genesis 1:26-27, Galatians 3:26-28, and Acts 2:5-11. On how we treat the vulnerable among us as a measure of justice, see Isaiah 1:15-17 and James 1:27.

12. Even now,
as history unfolds
in ways we know only in part,
we are assured
that God is with us in our world,
holding all things in tender embrace
and bending them to his purpose.
The confidence that the Lord is faithful
gives meaning to our days
and hope to our years.
The future is secure,
for our world belongs to God.

For the providential care of God, see Isaiah 45:6-7, Matthew 6:25-34, and Luke 12:4-7.

 

 

The highest pursuit in life is the pursuit of Truth.  Peace be with each of you.

 

 

Understanding the Image of God

“No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6b).  This statement is obviously true if one accepts that Jesus the Christ is in fact—“the truth” (John 14:6a).  However, Jesus had to make this claim, because the Christ or “the Messiah” is “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints (lit. holy ones)” (Colossians 1:26), and the only way back to the pristine state as Adam was first formed is through the “last Adam,” (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. Romans 5:14) Jesus the Christ.  Thus, Jesus Christ had to be born of a virgin and born of the Holy Spirit, because just as Adam was born from the breath of God (i.e. Spirit of God; Genesis 2:7) and the womb of the earth (i.e. dust) so too the “last Adam” had to be born of the Spirit of God (Matthew 1:20) from the womb of woman (Genesis 3:15).  This was done in order to reconcile the fallen state of man (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17-20) when Adam died a spiritual death (cf. Genesis 2:17; 3:6-7).

 

Genesis 2:17 says, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  It is clear from the biblical account that Adam lived some 900 years later (cf. Genesis 5:4-5) after “the day” when he partook of the fruit; however, the Rabbinical tradition took the Hebrew words mot tamut (i.e. “you shall surely die”) to literally mean, “dying, you will die.”  This in turn represents a Hebrew double idiom for a double death, hence a physical and spiritual death.  It is by virtue of this spiritual death that Jesus tells Nicodemus, “he must be born from above (or, born again) of the Spirit in order to see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3-8; cf. 1 Peter 1:22-23).  However, the Holy Spirit renews all who are “born from above” back into the “image of His Son” (Romans 8:29), by being “transformed into the same image of the Lord from glory to glory” (τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  The Spirit of God renews those “born from above” back into “the new man which was created according to God [past tense], in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24; cf. Genesis 1:26-17), and back into “the image of Him who created Him [past tense]” (Colossians 3:10), as “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

 

Before Jesus was manifested in the flesh, the prophets of old received “the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).  Additionally, even Moses “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26).  How can Moses and the prophets of old participate in the work of Christ or the work of the Messiah before the historical Jesus?

 

We see a clear picture that is formed which centers on the work of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4) before His earthly mission, namely, the Christ is “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His holy ones.  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles/nations: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).  This is the unveiling of the full participation and fellowship with the Godhead, namely with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Therefore, a consistent thread or tapestry throughout the Bible is that the revelation of “the Christ” is to also partake in the process of “Christ being formed within” (Galatians 4:19) or as David says, “I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your Likeness” (Psalms 17:15).  Therefore, let us recognize why Christ Jesus came to earth, to suffer, die by crucifixion, be raised from the dead the third day (cf. Aramaic Targum of Hosea 6:2), and ascend to the Right Hand of YHVH.

 

Coming to the Father through Christ must necessitate a transformation by the Spirit of the Lord to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6), because the “new man is renewed in knowledge…” (Colossians 3:10; cf. Proverbs 11:9).  Essentially, Paul uses the metaphor of the “new man, inner man, inward man, new creation” to refer to the process of being transformed into the Image of Christ (Romans 8:29), and it is the Image of Christ who is the original Image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

 

The Bible is very clear that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, Yahweh יהוה, because Christ represents the original birthright that humanity was originally created into before the spiritual death of Adam.  This is witnessed in Christ Jesus being exemplified as “the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3).  Thus, to reiterate, since humanity was created into the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and Christ is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3), and those who have been “born from above” (John 3:3) are being transformed into the “same image of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18), and are being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29) as the “inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16) through the process of “Christ being formed within” (Galatians 4:19).

 

Therefore, we must ask ourselves and take a good look by examining ourselves (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5; etc…) to see how we are expressing Christ in all domains of our lives.  Therefore, are you expressing Jesus Christ’s works in and through your life, not to even mention the greater works that we are promised we shall do (John 14:12)?  How are you “bringing every thought captive through the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), or is this even a concern for you?  What is life all about, and are your behaviors, words, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs aligned with the two greatest commandments—Love Yahweh יהוה your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength – and to love your neighbor as yourself?  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:7-8, 20).

 

Now, what does this mean in the daily faith-walk of each believer?  All of this reveals that “The power of Christ may rest (lit. tabernacle, or abide upon) upon us” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  However, when it is discerned what it actually means to “have Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27), and “you in Christ” (Galatians 3:28) – then we can appreciate the spiritual language with its richness and depth by “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13).  When we get off the “milk” of the basic 101 spiritual teaching and dogma (and yes they are necessary—see Hebrews 6:1-3), and enter the realm of embodied direct experience with the Godhead (John 14:17, 20-21, 23; Ephesians 3:19; Revelation 3:20) then we can partake of “the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5), yes, even in this life.  Let us call out to be genuinely cleansed of every wicked way within us (Psalms 139:23-24), and seek to be filled with the Spirit of God and Truth in order to serve our Maker and to serve His creation.  This is beautifully said by Paul the apostle, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  Oh, what freedom there is in Christ!

 

Thus, as leaders our work is to embody God’s Word as the righteous scripture as “epistles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3; cf. Colossians 3:16) by receiving the implanted Word on the good ground that has been tilled and prepared by life to receive it and bear fruit with patience and endurance (James 1:21; Luke 8:15; Jeremiah 4:3-4) and to train others (Matthew 28:20; 2 Timothy 2:4-5, 15) to put aside the lower games of the flesh that masquerade as culturally acceptable religious devotion and spirituality.  Because, “those who belong to Christ have already crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24), so “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20).

 

Where is this in the Church (i.e. the People of God) today being actively expressed?  To be sure it is actively expressed by those whom the Father has trained and prepared.  Let us reason with what the Scriptures tell us.  What does living as Christ look like, what does it live like, what does it sound like, what does it breathe like, what does it feel like? What does it mean to be a sacrifice that is still living (Romans 12:1)?  What does it truly mean to “transform ourselves by renewing our mind” (Romans 12:2; cf. Ephesians 4:23), or by “setting our minds on things that are above, where Christ is…” (Colossians 3:1-4)?  How can God’s Word be firmly fixed in the Heavens, yet be hidden within our hearts (Psalms 119:11, 89)?  Think…does putting on the armor of Light and the Lord Jesus Christ simply entail behavior modification, or is there something more (Romans 13:12-14)???

 

Peace be with each of you.