Showing posts with label Repentance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Repentance. Show all posts

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (13)

Sin has consequences. The vast majority of these are no fun. The usual result of experiencing the consequences of sin is sorrow, and sorrow is an emotional mechanism designed by God to produce better things in the long run. Sadly, some people never get beyond their sin-induced misery to the state of mind God intended it to bring about, like prodigals in the pigsty to whom it never occurs to return to the father’s house.

Biblical repentance is not merely feeling bad about the consequences of your sin, but recognizing its offensiveness to God and doing something about it. That’s what this second message in Zechariah 7 is all about.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (2)

Two months before Zechariah began to receive messages from the Lord for the people of Judah, the prophet Haggai received his first recorded revelation, a message to the two men who represented civic and religious authority among the returned exiles, the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua. The Lord instructed these two to lead the people in rebuilding the temple, a project they had abandoned almost two decades prior.

Twenty-four days later, work began at the new temple site. Slightly less than a month after that, the Lord sent a word of encouragement to them through Haggai. Ten days later, Zechariah received his first message.

The people of Judah had shown their willingness to obey God when they realized obedience was the only alternative to unrelenting economic misery and personal frustration, but their hearts still needed serious spiritual work.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Mining the Minors: Joel (5)

Joel chapter 2’s appeal to return to the Lord has a timeless quality.

Unusually for prophetic scripture, Joel has left undescribed the specific sins of Judah for which God is calling her to account. We can only guess the “when” and the “what” he feels compelled to address. The prophet could be calling any generation of Israelites to return to behavior suited to a covenant relationship with their God — any generation, that is, that still understands the meaning of fasting and mourning, of grain and drink offerings, of the trumpet blown to call together the solemn assembly.

Israelite worship came with a lot of baggage.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Anonymous Asks (254)

“Should Christians experience regret?”

“Regret” is not a word that appears very often in scripture, though the concept is certainly there. Matthew writes about the regrets Judas had when he saw that Jesus had been condemned to death. Perhaps he saw his betrayal as an opportunity to cash in, but never imagined the Jews would be so successful in pressuring Pilate to carry out their wishes. Upon seeing that his betrayal had sent the Lord Jesus to the cross, he suddenly wished to dissociate himself from his previous actions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Flipping the Switch

I was sixteen, I think, watching a young man in his twenties give his testimony.

It was one of those beauties so full of clichés you might have been forgiven for mistaking it for the creative output of a team of Hollywood screenwriters or perhaps the lyrics to a Bryan Adams song. He had even been a sailor, if you can imagine. I mean, who goes to sea to act out these days? He’d tried the “broken cisterns”, as the old hymn goes, and “Ah, the waters failed.”

Except it seems they tasted pretty good to him at the time.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Anonymous Asks (189)

“Are there people who will never change?”

A friend of a friend served as an elder in his local church for many years. From all reports he was good at it. When he chose to step away from his responsibilities in his fifties, people wondered why, and a mutual acquaintance was nosy enough to inquire.

Here is the essence of his reply. Excuse the paraphrase.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (8)

It’s easy to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

In our previous post, God anticipates Israel’s response to its discovery that its false gods cannot deliver it from the invading Assyrian army. Like an adulterous wife whose new relationship goes sour, the nation compares its current situation with better days in the past, and concludes, “I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.”

Israel is finally prepared to do the right thing, but she has not actually repented of her idolatry. She is simply looking for the best deal she can swing for herself, a God who will take her back on her own terms.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (7)

Mining the Minors and Immanuel Can’s usual Thursday post have swapped spots this week. I’m sure you can guess why.

As I noted in the fifth instalment in this series, the latter verses of Hosea 2 — in my English translation at least — divide nicely into three sections, each of which conveniently begins with the word “therefore”. These divisions are not completely arbitrary. They reflect three movements in God’s program for idolatrous Israel, a program to which Israel must respond either positively or negatively. I also noted that the English translators of the ESV signal the intentionality of these movements with the words “I will”.

The first movement in verses 6-8 gives us two of God’s “I wills” and one of Israel’s.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Forgive Us, But …

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

In Islam, the word tawbah refers to the process of asking Allah for forgiveness. The ritual is comprised of three stages:

  • Recognizing your sins and mistakes;
  • Feeling ashamed to having violated Allah’s trust;
  • Making a promise to never repeat the mistake.

Western culture, on the other hand, has largely dispensed with the practice of seeking forgiveness, not least because a public confession of wrongdoing may create liability issues. So you get bafflegab like, “I regret if anyone was offended by ...” instead of a sincere apology.

Tom: Immanuel Can, can you recall the last time someone unsaved asked you to forgive them?

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (11)

Nineveh was the largest city in the world in its day, but it was also one of the most ancient. The Assyrians who lived there in the time of Jonah did not build it. When they conquered it and drove out the resident Amorites, Nineveh had already been around for more than a millennium, having been built, rebuilt, occupied and re-occupied under different names first by the Hatti, then the Akkadians and Amorites. This constant building and rebuilding was not just necessitated by the endless wars fought for the city over the centuries; the original city was also built on a fault line and was therefore subject to regular damage from earthquakes.

Other great walled cities of the Ancient East may have inspired a measure of overconfidence in their citizens. Nineveh probably did not. When Jonah announced Nineveh’s imminent doom to its people, it is very likely that his prophecy sounded all too plausible.

The reaction of the Ninevites may have been something like “Not again!”

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (10)

If you are in the habit of praying regularly, especially in the privacy of your own heart, you will surely have noticed that some of your prayers are more coherent and composed than others, depending on circumstances, distractions and the level of distress you are experiencing at the time.

This is fairly normal, I think, and gives us cause to be thankful for the Spirit of God, who helps us in our weakness.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Anonymous Asks (113)

“Does God give second chances?”

Absolutely. You might be having one right now.

By human standards of fairness, God gives people an inordinate number of chances. He is far more gracious when wronged than we are, and he is being wronged millions of times every moment of every day.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Inbox: ‘Systemic’ Racism

Israel had the greatest system in the history of our planet.

God gave a plethora of laws to Moses on Sinai, yet they did not make for a perfect society because people are not perfect. Individuals observed those laws from time to time, and in doing so, benefited from them. But on a national level, Israel would not — nay, could not — follow those laws, notwithstanding the fact that they were morally excellent, decent, orderly, and taught lessons humanity absolutely needed to learn, not to mention they pointed to Christ. So God gave them, man received them, and the result was systemic failure.

Or was it?

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Under the Tower of Siloam

Individual guilt differs from corporate guilt, and individual repentance from corporate repentance, not just quantitatively but qualitatively.

That’s going to require a fair bit of explanation, especially for Christian readers born into our hyper-individualistic Western culture. Most of us only think about the matter of corporate guilt when we find ourselves summarily dismissing Progressivist ravings about race- or gender-based privilege. We rightly reject being held responsible for the long-term social impact of patterns of historical behavior in which we have never engaged and from which we do not personally benefit. “Each of us will give an account of himself to God,” we say.

Full stop, move along now.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Breaking Your Own Compass

By the oddest of coincidences, the standard of the
Nineveh Protection Units looks like ... a compass.
“I did it my way.”
— Paul Anka

“I’ve got my own way. I can find my own way.”
— Duran Duran

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
— Judges 21:25

Ah, the conscience.

The Function of Conscience

On one hand, each individual’s conscience must be the final arbiter of his or her choices; a moral compass. While there is plenty of direction out there in the word of God to provide sound guidance for life, in the end, how that is applied and whether or not it is followed is down to each one of us. It can be no other way.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

His Own Place

“Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

I have often wondered what the apostles meant by saying that Judas went to “his own place”.

I’m not the only one. For example, I’ve heard at least one Bible teacher say from the platform that the apostles (or perhaps Luke, the writer of Acts, in summing up their prayer in his own words) were sort of hedging their bets; discreetly avoiding passing judgment on Judas’ fate since they could not be 100% sure what had really happened to him. In this — or at least so it is alleged — they are modeling for us Christian virtue.

I find that explanation weak tea.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Cheap Contrition and Hardened Hearts

“Rend your hearts and not your garments.”

There is a vast difference between the public displays of remorse we so regularly see in the media and actual repentance. The former is purely external and serves the purpose of notifying one’s community that the party subject to censure acknowledges his faux pas and hopes for a quick end to the unpleasantness of public disapproval so he can return to his former way of doing business as expeditiously as possible.

The latter is a matter of the heart before God.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Anonymous Asks (19)

“I keep praying the sinner’s prayer. I’m so anxious. Am I saved or not?”

I have some bad news: I’m probably the worst person to answer the question of whether or not you are really saved. In fact, I suspect nobody else can tell you that either, since salvation is a byproduct of faith. Faith is not something we human beings are particularly good at measuring, either in ourselves or in others, since we cannot see into the heart, very often even our own.

As for me, I actually had to look up the “sinner’s prayer” to see what it is. I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing to be found in the Bible, at least not under that name.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (10)

Disagreeing with other Christians online is a bit like pulling off a Band-Aid® stuck to the hairiest part of your arm.

There is what I call the “Big BUT” disagreement. This kind starts slowly, with a spate of complimentary disclaimers — “Now, I love this Bible teacher, he’s a great guy and I admire him immensely” — and always ends with a great big “BUT ...”

Or there’s the exquisitely self-effacing “We’re All Just Learning Here” disagreement, which makes every biblical issue a matter of opinion and gives you a convenient way of escaping with a few shreds of dignity intact if it turns out everyone thinks its your interpretation that’s out to lunch.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Inadequate Remedies

Some people live in active denial of the trends around them, oblivious to the spirit of the age and to all intimations of God’s coming wrath. They are dull by choice.

For example, the Lord Jesus criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees for failing to correctly interpret the “signs of the times”. They were skilled at predicting the weather and ordering their workdays accordingly, but blind to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy all around them. More evidence would not be given to them because they willfully ignored the signs they had already seen.

This is not that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

All the Time You Need

“Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.”

How long does it take to get saved?

Some people spend their whole lives working at it. They go to church, they provide for their families, they confess their sins, they contribute to religious causes, they try to treat people well, they “do unto others”. Some follow laws and religious regulations year after year.

But it’s not a trick question, nor a particularly complicated one.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Quote of the Day (38)

Moira Greyland on being raised by sexually abusive parents:

“I understand why it feels so hollow to forgive: I have no problem at all with never even getting mad at what they did to me. My response is frozen in time. I cannot even begin to forgive them for what they did to other people, which is why I was able to take action against them when a child was in danger.”

Walter Breen, Greyland’s father, died in a California prison at the age of 64. He was there because of his daughter’s testimony.

Monday, December 18, 2017

One Thing Worse

Sin serves a purpose. In fact, having observed a little of the way God works, I’m guessing it probably serves more than one.

But this at least sin does: it proves God right.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned … so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”

Oh, we can rationalize our desires with the verbal dexterity of a sophist, excuse them with petulance of a six-year old, or romanticize them with the eloquence of a poet, but the places they lead us are inevitably, inexorably and invariably bad.

Just as God has warned.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Desultory Spiritual Noises

I wrote recently about the subject of Christian confession in connection with Peter Ditzel’s comments on 1 John 1. Confession is how believers deal with disruptions in our fellowship with God that come from our tendency to sin.

Repentance is another part of that process.

Ideally the two go together, but they are not identical. As Ditzel demonstrates, like repentance, confession has both an attitudinal and an active aspect. Both involve changes of heart and life. But while genuine repentance gives rise to confession (where confession is appropriate), not every confession demonstrates real repentance, as we will shortly observe.

Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t just tell us what these things are, it also shows us what they aren’t.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Horse Plunging Headlong

I’ve been listening to unhappy people this week: people that have sinned, have hurt others and have hurt themselves.

It’s refreshing when someone gets it; when they realize that their own choices and desires took them places they do not want to be, and that these patterns need to be changed. It’s a good thing to see correctly the relationship between cause and effect, between actions and consequences.

But it’s even better when it dawns that our most significant sins are the inevitable consequence of refusing to take the Lord at his word.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Forgive Us, But …

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Doubling Down

KFC makes the single best sandwich in the history of the world, in my humble opinion.

If you haven’t heard this, prepare to be appalled: A Double Down is 541 calories of pure brilliance: bacon, two different kinds of melted cheese and the Colonel’s secret sauce in between (here’s the best part) two KFC Original Recipe chicken fillets. No bun. Just an artery-clogging, heart-stopping quantity of tasty deep-fried meat.

Fortunately the sandwich only shows up erratically on the KFC menu, usually for four weeks every year-and-a-half or so. If you need to justify consuming one, I recommend fasting the day before. And the day after. Or maybe for a week.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Impatient Over Their Misery

Okay, so your sin is impressive.

At least, I’m sure it seems gigantic and unforgivable to you. And since the awareness of the magnitude of sin in our lives, its toxic effects on others around us and its absolute repulsiveness to God is a necessary step in turning away from it, I wouldn’t want to downplay it for you.

Carry on. Be miserable. Have at it.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Flipping the Switch

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Work Your Way Upstream

Douglas Wilson is, in his own words, “evangelical, postmill, Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian, pretty much in that order”.

One out of five ain’t bad, I suppose.

But hey, I’m an equal opportunity reader. Despite my lack of common ground with many of Mr. Wilson’s expressed convictions, I find much of what he writes profitable.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Build a New One

So your testimony is blown to smithereens.

It might have been temper. It might have been unchecked desire. Maybe you were seriously provoked. Or maybe you had the bad judgment to get involved with dishonest business partners and let things slide rather than stand up. You look back on it and say, “How did I miss that?” or “I should’ve known that was over the line”. It might be something in which you were minimally at fault but — as they say in politics these days — the optics are terrible.

The point is, you did something no Christian should do, and it’s gone really, really public.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Forgive Us, But …

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Breaking Your Own Compass

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Horse Plunging Headlong

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Impossible to Renew [Part 2]

Having established the context, therefore, we may move on to a closer look at the passage in question:
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)
This Passage does NOT Refer to Christians

Several phrases are used here which seem to imply that the audience are believers: they have been “enlightened”, they have “tasted the heavenly gift”, they have “shared in the Holy Spirit”. This is strong language to use of the unsaved. Doesn’t it, then, refer to Christians? Despite the controversy on this subject, we believe that the answer is no.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

“It’s Not What We Came For”

The Daily Mail Online has this interesting headline:
‘I don’t want to be a jihadi ... I want to come home’: How dozens of British Muslims who went to Syria to join ISIS ‘plead to return to UK after becoming disillusioned with the conflict’
Of course, after the fashion of many news outlets, the actual story fails to provide sufficient facts to judge whether its headline is accurate or whether it is merely the fond wish of the British media. Other news stories about ISIS show at least some of its adherents demonstrating considerable enthusiasm for their cause, to say the least.

Assuming the story is accurate, this is one ISIS fighter’s reason for his disillusionment:
“We came to fight the regime and instead we are involved in gang warfare. It’s not what we came for but if we go back [to Britain] we will go to jail.”
I’ll decline to express an opinion on what the British government should do with individuals of this sort since I don’t have a dog in their fight. I’m more interested in the sort of regret they are expressing, because it seems rather insubstantial.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Inbox: Renewing Them to Repentance

A reader commenting on Hebrews 6 provides me with sufficient topical cover to link to a pair of earlier posts on the subject of eternal security.

The italics below are mine. JR has the following thoughts to add:
“[Hebrews 6] continues in the same vein as the previous chapters. Just as the Israelites who came out of Egypt came right to the edge of the promised land but didn’t enter because of unbelief, causing the Lord to seal them in their decision even though many of them lived for decades longer, so too these Hebrews had come to the edge of Christianity and were being warned that the Lord would seal their rejection — there’s a point at which unbelief is so insulting that the Lord seals a person in it even though they’re still alive. Also, this isn’t a danger that people face today. The Hebrews were being warned that since they had had an exceptional testimony of signs and wonders (something which isn’t present today), a choice to go back would be unforgivable.”
Then he adds three observations I haven’t read elsewhere:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Repent or Perish

Most people understand (or intuit) as they read a Bible that its chapter and verse divisions are a choice made by translators or copyists. They may be good choices or bad ones, but they are not part of the revelation of God. They are not ‘inspired’ in the sense the word itself is.

Usually they are pretty decent. However, I probably would’ve broken up the Lord’s speech in Luke 12 and 13 a little differently.

Just saying.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

All The Time You Need To Get Saved

The most recent version of this post is available here.