A few years ago I read through the Bible in a couple months time and documented the experience of it. It was one of the best things I have ever done. In fact, just yesterday I was thinking about how blessed I was because of it. I had one of the most fruitful and amazing years of life.
Why? Because I prayerfully read through God’s Holy Scriptures asking the author, the Holy Spirit, to teach me and change me. I let his word reshape the way I think, and subsequently behave. In other words I repented – allowing his truth to become my world view.
We all have a tendency to drift away from the truth. We can, as a culture come to celebrate pride – the very sin that caused the devil to become the devil – and the most shameful and degrading of sins.
Peter said to his first audience after the Holy Spirit came:
“And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”” (Acts 2:40 NASB)
So how do we do this? Through whats called repentance. Repentance is actually the process I described above. Allowing God and his truth to reshape our worldview – how we view reality.
I am due for another read through the Bible. I was thinking of reading through it in 90 days. Who is with me?
The following post is one of the most difficult posts I wrote during that time in my life:
This is the hardest post I have written thus far. It has been stalled for days as I pondered about how to, and whether I should, tell you the issues that the reading thus far has brought up for me. It opened a pandoras box of questions, doubts, and fears – like letting the smoke monster loose on the island. This reference may have been lost on some you. (Incidentally, after all the evil was let loose from the pandoras box, the last remaining item was hope.)
And so my blogging came to a screeching halt as I tried to sort through these issues. I have to warn you, not only is this post long, but it is regarding some very sensitive and grave issues regarding the Christian faith. I share this because it is the truth from Scripture, and it may even save the soul who takes it (the Scripture – not me) seriously. It is a deadly serious thing to continue to pursue a life of sin as a “Christian”. But there is always hope that things can change for the better in ways you can’t possibly imagine right now because God’s love always hopes, always perseveres, and never gives up on us! (1 Corinthians 13:7)
“Repent” was the first message that both the prophet John the Baptist and Jesus ever preached:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2 & 4:17 NIV)
The word “repent” just smacks us in the ears, doesn’t it? It reminds me of “turn or burn” messages like Jonathan Edward’s sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which to be honest, deeply offends me.
I don’t believe Jesus and John the Baptist are delivering a fiery “turn or burn” message to their audience here, but instead, calling them to change their minds and hearts regarding God and the truth He has for them. Jesus always told the truth because that’s what love does. Love doesn’t hide the truth from those they love, even when the truth may be difficult to hear.
The word “repent” meant something slightly different to the original hearers of Christ’s words than it does to us in the 21st century:
“Prior to the Christian meaning we have inherited, which for the most part is similar to Webster’s definition, the Classical Greek metanoia (repent) meant something quite different—changing one’s mind or heart about someone or something.” (http://www.metanoiaministries.org/Historical.html)
So “repent” meant to have a change of mind or heart about someone (God) or something. I like that. Repent then, in essence, means to take on a new worldview – to think about things from a radically different perspective.
We absolutely MUST first and foremost repent (change our heart and mind) about our notions of who God is!
Perhaps the most important Scripture in the Torah is when God reveals his Name to Moses. God tells Moses who he is and what He is like as a person. (In the book of Numbers, Moses reminds God of what he said in the passage below when pleading for forgiveness and for the lives of rebellious Israel).
Exodus 34:5-7 NLT:
“Then the Lord came down in a cloud and stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The Lord!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations.”
(Those last lines are regarding the far reaching consequences of our sin – see NOTE Regarding Exodus 34 at end of post.)
Just consider who this God is! He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe! The Almighty powerful God to whom we are all responsible to, and, as it turns out, he is GOOD! Have you ever considered how lucky we are that this is the One and only God? How fortunate and blessed we are that God isn’t a mean tyrant, that he isn’t seeking to make us all as miserable, spoiling all our fun… though this is how he may be portrayed by some. (Such as myself and others who have struggled with a self-righteous religion).
What if God were not these things? What if he was a capricious God? What if he was a God that demanded thousands of human sacrifices a year like the Aztec’s god? (Ever watched Apocalypto?) What if he was a harsh taskmaster, impossible to please? What if?
How thankful we ought to be that this is the God we are dealing with – a God of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, filled with unfailing love and faithfulness, lavishing love to thousands, forgiving iniquity, rebellion and sin… yet, he is also just, He does not let the guilty get away with anything! Does this sound like a God you could trust? Does this sound like a God you would like to get to know?
I’d like to pray about this before moving on any further.
Thank you for being God! Forgive our suspicion and our mistrust of you. We acknowledge that you are a good and loving God. We repent, inviting a change of mind and heart concerning all our past and present notions of who you are God. Reveal yourself to us and may we follow you and love you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Thank you for being you!
Repenting of our Sin.
Let’s face it. How can what God said about not excusing the guilty bring any comfort to us when every last one of us is guilty? All have sinned!
In the law, the sins of homosexuality, adultery, blashphemy, dishonoring your parents, treating the holy and sacred (and the Holy God) with flippancy, or contempt all carried the death penalty. Of these sins, I was guilty of more than one!
In fact, I doubt anyone in the world could not read the Torah, the books of Moses and the law, without coming to the awareness that, by God’s law, they too are under the death penalty. For this is precisely what the laws purpose is! To condemn!
“If the ministry that brought condemnation (the law of Moses) was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!” (2 Corinthians 3:9 NIV)
And it doesn’t help our situation that Jesus in his “Kingdom Manifesto” (Sermon of the Mount) actually increases the weight of the law and applies it to the very motives of our heart. Hatred is murder. Lust is adultery. I was guilty of both.
I squirmed under the realization that God’s law condemns me. His law had it’s intended effect. That same night after reading through the law, I had a dream about how I treated the sin of lust so lightly. God considers my sin to be a far more serious and dangerous than I do.
In the book of Numbers, when the seer Balaam was hired by Balak, the Moabite king, to come and curse Israel, God did not allow him to curse but instead compelled him to bless them three times. But Balaam’s heart was not for blessing Israel at all, as the story reveals. Balaam was more interested in the money Balak would have given him to curse Israel than in God’s interests to bless, so he told Balak how he could bring a curse to Israel. Send in the women!
His plan was to let the Moabite and Midianite women seduce the men of Israel into committing sexual sins and worshiping Baal Peor (a vile sex idol) to bring on God’s wrath. His plan succeeded and 24,000 of the men involved in this sin were killed in the subsequent plague from the Lord.
After considering this story in Numbers and my own sin, I felt the need to address and confront this particularly destructive sin of lust that afflicts 99.9% of all men.
Consider these two Scriptures regarding sexual sin:
“Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20 NLT – read more of the context here)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Jesus – Matthew 5: 27-30 NIV)
Cut off your hand? Gouge out your eye? This kind of hyperbolic language that Jesus uses here greatly emphasizes the gravity and deadly seriousness of this sin!
“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NLT) (See also: Ephesians 5:3-7 NIV)
We must recognize what a gift it is to be able to renounce and walk away from sin. What a gift! Praise God! What if there were no possible means of forgiveness for sin and you had to pay the penalty for sin yourself?
Remember earlier how God said, “But I do not excuse the guilty”? After pondering this, I realized that He didn’t excuse the guilty:
“God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)
God sent his son Jesus to be the “guilty one” – to be sin – to condemn sin once and for all on our behalf. Jesus absorbed all the fiery wrath of God in our stead. Not only that, but can you believe it? Now we are his righteousness?
Scripture is clear throughout that only God is holy. Man is not. And then he commands us to “be holy as I am holy”. With the command would he not also make a provision?
It is by grace through faith that we (believers in Jesus) become partakers of his holiness. (Please dispel any notion from your head right now of a puritanical somber, holier-than-thou, religious idea of holy).
You come to life when you are holy! You become who God always meant for you to be when you become holy! You had no idea how good life could be, how fun, exhilarating, and adventurous, so full of hope and promise, joy and peace and love that life could be before becoming holy! With holiness you start to actually enjoy God and you fellowship with him, and actually hear from him, and you “share a meal together as friends” and have “wonderful times of refreshing in his presence” when you are holy!
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NIV)
Guys, do you still want to pursue sexual sin, and dabble with porn? You have a free will. Go ahead. Indulge. But, don’t you realize that you are making yourself an enemy of love and therefore of God when you choose sin over him? It’s idolatry.
Consider the tenderness and forgiveness of Jesus in this story:
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8 NLT emphasis mine)
Jesus, thank you for the forgiveness of sin, victory over sin, and most of all, giving us your Holy Spirit, as we simply trust in you. Forgive us for running away from you. Forgive us for avoiding you. Forgive us for loving our sin more than you. We repent. Thank you for sharing your holiness with us as we simply trust in you. Please reveal to us all the vibrant beauty in what it means to be holy. May we pursue you with all our heart and remain pure in our devotion to you.
(NOTE Regarding Exodus 34)
I don’t believe God is just being vindictive in his statement, “laying the sins of the parents on the children and grand children”. For in other places in Scripture he says he doesn’t punish the children for their parent’s sin (See Ezekiel 18). He is speaking of consequences of the parents sin.
As parents, we can pass on a blessing or a curse depending on whether we follow and love God, or not. If not, then the practical implications of inviting and serving demons in your home by choosing to sin is that your children will be raised with demonic influences. Not only will this impair them spiritually but they in turn will, more than likely, continue in the same sin patterns the parents followed and bear the same curse.
When will the sin cycle be broken? That’s up to me and you. Whatever the sin cycle is for you, whether it be alcoholism, a porn addiction, or an internet or entertainment addiction, the victory has already been won for us by Jesus. Jesus actually did accomplish something on the cross!
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