Repentance or Death?

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

There is considerable significance in the choice of a word. For many years I have used a short hand for the gospel message of, repent and believe-

The time has come he said, the Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.

Mark 1:15

These two words are stacked with significance. To repent is to change allegiance from my self with all its desires to Christ. To believe is to entrust myself to Christ. I am willing to do all he asks of me.

Then I was studying the gospel message and discovered that, the word repent occurs only eight times in the New Testament letters. So, how do the New Testament writers handle this key concept? The dominant word seems to be die or death (about 100 times in New Testament letters), for example-

if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13

While repent is a change of heart or direction in my choices in life, putting to death the misdeeds of the body brings to an end my life force of rebellion against Jesus and creates the space in my life for him to occupy by his Spirit. Suddenly it is no longer me controlling the direction of my life, but Jesus.

Choose Jesus’ way

Jesus talks of how we choose to receive His word. An emphasis on visible results has pushed us towards –

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.

Results are easy! We can count green shoots of decisions and boast of fruitfulness. But easy come brings easy go –

But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

Noticing the failure trailing this approach, many abandoned the focus on decisions for a journey into the Christian life. This sounds good, but the thorny issues of life are not dealt with in repentance. So –

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

Protecting ourselves and others from Jesus’ cross is producing a fruitless faith. There is however another choice –

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Mat 13:18-23 (NIV 1984)

Jesus is clear about what this choice involves–

…  unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Let’s choose Jesus’ way!

Freedom from Slavery

Psalm 114 (Message)

After Israel left Egypt, the clan of Jacob left those barbarians behind;

Judah became holy land for him, Israel the place of holy rule.

Leaving the land of slavery, Israel became God’s holy people and the land the place of holy rule. This was a first step to their being made Holy.

This move from slavery to holiness is not a process we are good at. We lurch between slaveries. People who have encountered the Lord and been freed often develop a path through which others can find their freedom that is upheld legalistically.

The freedom described here is not gained through repeating steps in a plan, but calling out to the Lord for mercy and waiting for Him.

Sea took one look and ran the other way; River Jordan turned around and ran off.

The mountains turned playful and skipped like rams, the hills frolicked like spring lambs.

When the Lord intervenes, then nothing will be an obstacle to Him. Discussing this with someone from Africa he commented that, in the face of corrupt officials, if the Lord wants something to happen it will.  It may take longer, but the Lord will fulfil his word.

Tremble, Earth! You’re in the Lord’s presence! in the presence of Jacob’s God.

He turned the rock into a pool of cool water, turned flint into fresh spring water.

The transforming effect is not because of the skill of the people of Israel, it is because the presence of the Lord is there. The earth trembles when the Lord approaches.

 

The more complete Study of this passage can be found at –Freedom from Legalism

Worship, a cure for rebellion

When I really want something, I look on the Bible as a hindrance, getting in the way of what I want. I want to rebel –

 ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’ Psalm 2:3

I despise my convictions as irrelevant for this situation. The Lord however, has a response:

He rebukes them … saying, ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ Psalm 2:5-6

I have become so passionate for what I desire that I have forgotten Jesus. The way back is to focus on Him alone. When I have Jesus in focus, when I have surrendered the passion and spent time with Him, feeding on Him, I find my heart is restored. Then questions of ‘What are the limits I can get away with?’ become irrelevant.

For those unwilling to surrender there is a tragic road ahead –

You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery. Psalm 2:9

The Lord is clear about His intention. He will not willingly allow us to be drawn away by false gods.

Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:12

Finding the limit of law is a sideshow. The response He is looking for is to worship Him, to choose to delight in Him, not the trappings of this world, to turn my head around and look passionately at Jesus.

 

The Bible study from which this came – biblebase2adaringfaith

Rest in stress

There are times when I am stressed out by the urgent and yet it seems every road I take to resolve the situation ends in frustration. It seems I am battling against God.

The real surprise shown in Isaiah 30 is that this may well be the case!

16 You said, “No, we will flee on horses.” Therefore you will flee! You said, “We will ride off on swift horses.”  Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

When I am stressed my mind drives towards a solution. In my drivenness I push aside every consideration towards love. When I scheme I make myself the answer, I try to become my own salvation, supplanting Jesus. The Lord is looking for a very different attitude.

15 In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.

The Lord’s counsel: In repentance and rest I find salvation, repentance of the drivenness that suggests all depends on me. Can I hold this attitude of being at rest? Faith is not demonstrated through inactivity but attitude. It is possible to work hard, and be at rest in the soul, confident the Lord will bring to fruition His work. When I wait for Him I receive far more than I either deserve or imagine!

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him!

 

For a fuller look at Isaiah 30 HERE is the study.