Month: October 2013

What is Genuine Repentance?

REPENTANCE....(Camp Trip outpost 253) Be set free.

“From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near (Matt. 3:2).”

Imagine that you have a warm, juicy, raw piece of steak on the table getting ready to be placed on the grill to eat. In order to protect it from being eaten, you put a short enough chain around your dog’s collar to keep him from jumping on the table. What do you think the dog will do? He will immediately run toward that sweet aroma and use all his energy to rip or bite off that chain from his neck, and in no time, devour the steak.

Often times as Christians, we put chains of safeguards to prevent us from satiating our sinful desires. It is wise to have accountability, google safe search on your internet, curfews, and sketchy places that you avoid. However, if you haven’t been born-again, died to your old nature, and been given the mind of Christ, you will eventually give in to your lusts. In the illustration above, what’s the only true way to prevent the dog from eating the steak? To completely change his will or desire.

There is a major difference between preventing yourself from sinning and having a change of mind toward sin. Let’s briefly discuss what Jesus meant in this passage by the term repentance. Repentance is a misunderstood term that is used widely by Christians. Some argue its “turning from sin,” but this is not the biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the Greek word (metanoia) is where we get our English word for metamorphous or “change”. The Scripture teaches that when one repents, they have a change of mind that leads to a change of action.

The apostle Paul declared in Acts 26:20 that he preached so people would repent, turn to God, and prove their repentance by their deeds. Does this mean that repentance is a work we do to earn salvation? Absolutely not. No one can repent and come to God unless God grants it (Jn 6:44; Acts 5:31; 11:18). All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God opening our eyes and changing our deceitful hearts to trust and obey Him. Only  when God changes our will are we able to have a true repentant heart that leads to godliness. If you haven’t put your trust in Jesus, I pray you would do that today! God bless.

The Suffering Savior

Cross, Calvary, Crown of Thorns

“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered (Heb. 2:9).”

A famous evangelist told the following incident: “I have a friend who in a time of business recession lost his job, a sizable fortune, and his beautiful home. To add to his sorrow, his precious wife died; yet he tenaciously held to his faith, which was the only thing he had left. One day when he was out walking in search of employment, he stopped to watch some men who were doing stonework on a large church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock, “where are you putting that?” he asked. The man said, ‘Do you see that little opening up there near the steeple? Well, I’m shaping this stone down here so that it will fit in up there. Tears filled my friend’s eyes as he walked away, for the Lord had spoken to him through that laborer whose words gave new meaning to his troubled situation.” – Daily Bread

We can relate to the man in the story. Some of us have been betrayed by our best friends, others have watched their own family members suffer from cancer, and some may have experienced an illness themselves, leading to mental or physical suffering. The gospel of James reminds us to count it a great joy whenever we experience various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. Doesn’t this concept seem contradictory to what the culture tells us? Don’t they preach to us that fulfillment is found in a beautiful family, a nice fenced in backyard, and a job that pays our salary and gives good insurance?

This wasn’t what our Creator had in mind for us. He doesn’t promise us, at least in this life, that our pain and suffering will magically go away or that we will live the American dream. Instead, in the midst of our storms, Jesus whispers to us: “I am with you. I know what you are going through. I took on human flesh and became like you in every way. Yes, life is full of difficulty, but remember that I work together for good to those who are calling according to my purposes.”

The man realized at the end of the story that the rock that was being chiseled, worked on, renewed, and shaped was someday going to be a beautiful piece on top of the steeple. In the same way, God allows the trials of life to chisel and work in us, but His goal is to sanctify and ultimately glorify us when we get to heaven. And yes, He does promise us in the new heaven and the new earth that all of our tears, frustrations, and pains will be wiped away and remembered no more. Aren’t you glad we have a hope and a future through Jesus? I am.

The Whole Gospel to the Whole World

English: An old farmer woman, Eastern Europe.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (Matt. 9:35-38).”

Harvest is the process of gathering all the mature crops or produce that has been cultivated year round and ready to be used. The harvest is recognized as the end of the growing season or cycle and is considered to be the most labor-intensive activity for farmers. For example, they must cool, sort, clean, and then pack all of their produce to the consumer market within a limited time. I have a friend who is a farmer, and during the harvest, he can work anywhere between 60-70 hours a week.

Jesus is telling his disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. In other words, there are many people in the world ready and ripe to hear the gospel message that Jesus saves sinners. Broken and helpless people who are suffering from depression, anxiety, fear, difficult relationships, addiction, and countless other issues are looking for the Good Shepherd to guide them on the right path, but they are lost and confused. Who will help them? 

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls His people to go into the world, spread the seeds of the gospel, and labor and toil for men so they can have a right relationship with the Creator of the universe. Unfortunately, there are so few laborers. Why does Jesus tell us that not many are willing to serve the Kingdom of God and toil for the souls of men? Shouldn’t we toil day and night? Don’t we have much work to be done, with every season being harvest time? 

Application: I want to encourage you to meditate on this passage: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Then, ask yourself: How can I toil for the souls of this world? Here are some examples.

1. Build relationships with your sphere of influence. This could be in your family, at work, in your neighborhood. Think of ways where you can demonstrate the love of God in a practical way and then tell them about your own salvation experience.

2. When you are traveling, in public, or at a restaurant, ask God for an opportunity to share the gospel. When I worked at IHOP as a waiter in college, an elderly couple left a tract with a tip. I read through the tract, was encouraged, and ended up visiting their church. Make sure that if you leave a tract, you give a generous tip.

3. If you lack confidence in sharing your faith, start with prayer. Begin to pray that God would change the heart of your lost friend, neighbor, or co-worker. Then, read a few books on evangelism, such as Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever and The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. You may still be nervous when you share the gospel, but trust in God and He will help you overcome your fears.

POWERFUL PRAYER

In prayer

In prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples. And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation (Lk. 11:1-4). 

“A Dad took his small son with him to town one day to run some errands. When lunch time had arrived, they went to their usual diner for a sandwich. The father sat down on one of the stools at the counter and picked up the boy and placed him to the seat beside him. They ordered lunch, and when the waiter brought the food, the father said, “Son, we’ll just have a silent prayer.” Dad got through praying first and waited for the boy to finish his prayer, but he just sat with his head bowed for an unusually long time. When he finally looked up, his father asked him, “What in the world were you praying about all that time?” With the innocence and honesty of a child, he replied, “How do I know? It was a silent prayer.” – Our Daily Bread The disciple of Luke was just like this child in the story. He had an elementary understanding of prayer and needed guidance from the Lord, so he simply asked: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus, with eagerness, told him and the other disciples how to pray effectively. First, communicate with God as your Heavenly Father and reverence His holy name. Second, pray that the Kingdom of God would reign on the Earth and bring sinners to repentance and faith. Third, remember in prayer your dependence upon God since He is the Bread from Heaven from which we obtain spiritual nourishment. Fourth, confess sins to God and do not hold a grudge against those who mistreat you. Lastly, ask the all-powerful Father to protect you from the temptations of the devil, the flesh, and the world. Application 1. Pray through the Psalms. It’s like a GPS that helps you get to your final destination. Oftentimes in prayer we get side-tracked, but when you read through the Psalter, it helps guide you. For example, in Psalm 1 it says: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.” Make this statement personal to your own life by saying something like this: God, thank you for blessing me with your Holy Spirit. Thanks for delivering me from the ungodly influence in my life. Give me wisdom on how to pray and share the gospel with the ungodly so they can turn from their path of destruction and find life in Christ.”

FAITHFULNESS

English: Old Faithful Geyser as seen from the ...

“Therefore, holy brothers,1 you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house was a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Heb. 3:1-6).”

Can anyone tell me what this is a picture of? It’s the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone national park in Wyoming. Eruptions can shoot around 8,000 gallons of boiling water to a height of 185 feet, lasting from 1 to 5 minutes. Why do you think it’s called Old Faithful? Because it’s the most predictable geographical feature on Earth, erupting almost every 90 minutes. Just like the geyser, someone who is always consistent, on-time, and doesn’t break promises will be known for being faithful

In Hebrews 3, we learn that Moses was a great leader. He saved the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, took the initiative to fight with Pharaoh to let “his people go.” Moreover, he continued to serve the Lord in the wilderness for 40 years, despite the fact that the people who followed him constantly complained. If any of us were Moses, we would have lost our patience and temper long before he did.

However, Moses was not perfect. He was not always faithful. For example, God commanded Moses to speak to the rock, but instead he struck the rock with his staff. Also, Moses took credit for bringing forth the water as a miracle instead of giving glory to God. Let’s not give him too hard of a time. Haven’t all of us made similar mistakes?

Moses was a good leader, but he was a sinner. Jesus, however, was without sin and always obeyed His Heavenly Father. Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect was tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That is why Jesus is counted worthy of more glory than Moses. He is the God-Man, the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, and the Faithful Servant.

Throughout our Christian life, we will have heroes of the faith like Moses, Noah, Esther, and Elijah who do marvelous things for the Lord. There is nothing wrong with looking up to these people. Yet, because of human sin, our heroes will ultimately disappoint us because they are not perfect like Christ. We live in a world today where we desire to idolize the creation rather than the Creator. It’s no surprise to me that we are blatant about this concept, especially in the entertainment world: American Idol. There is an evil inclination for us to worship humans who are athletic, a brilliant scientist or doctor, or even charismatic preachers. Hebrews 3 reminds us that only God is worthy of receiving all the glory, honor, and praise because He is perfect in love, wisdom, strength, intelligence, art, you name it!

Application: This week, think of 5 times in your life when God was faithful to you. Give Him praise and honor for fulfilling His promises. Then, I want to challenge you to share with someone a time when God was faithful so that He receives glory from us. God bless!

HOPE

English: Red sunrise over Oostende, Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romans 8:24-25 “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

As Alexander the Great was preparing for his conquest in Asia, he examined the finances of his supporters. To assure that they would not be troubled over the welfare of their families during their duty at war, he distributed crown estates and revenues among them. When Alexander the Great got rid of nearly all the royal resources he had, his friend General Perdiccas asked Alexander what he had kept for himself. “Hope,” answered the king. Perdiccas cheerfully replied “In that case, we who share in your labors will also take part in your hopes.” He then refused the estate given to him, and many other of the king’s friends did the same.

In the letter written to the Romans, the Apostle Paul is encouraging them to have hope with patience. This is a man who received thirty-line lashes from the Jews, beaten with rods, shipwrecked three times, and almost stoned to death. He had been on frequent journeys, in danger from robbers, countrymen, and false brothers who endeavored to destroy the testimony of Paul.

However, like general Perdiccas, Paul refused material comfort for hope. Instead, he gave up all the resources he had to put his hope in the eternal King, Jesus Christ. This hope is infinitely better than what Alexander could provide. King Jesus provides resurrection from the dead (Acts 23:6), the redemption of the body and the whole creation (Rom. 8:23-25), eternal glory (Col. 1:27), eternal life and the inheritance of the saints (Tit. 3:5-7), and the joy of personally knowing the Creator God Jesus forever (1 Tim. 1:1).

APPLICATION: When you have time, memorize Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” When your at work, school, in the car, at home doing the dishes, mediate on this truth. The enemy will surely come and whisper words of discouragement, and instead of dwelling on those lies, think on the verse that is true; that is, our hope in Christ!