Repentance 5

Hebrews 12:22-25

As part of a project that Peggy and I worked on along with some friends, we visited many churches in our hometown to learn about their history and take pictures of both the outside and the inside of these great houses of worship. It was fascinating to see the different churches, the various architectures, the many stained glass windows and ornate décor within. It was such a spiritual thrill to feel the presence of God in so many diverse places, and to be made aware of how vast and all-encompassing God can be.

But it is not the place that connects us to God, although a place of worship is designed to help us make that connection. What brings us into communion with God is our own soul searching for our Lord and Savior.

The writer of Hebrews is talking about the need to search for God and to find him, connecting with him through Jesus. How does the writer describe this encounter with the Most High? Jewish tradition was to offer sacrifices, sprinkling blood before God to please Him. How does the blood of Jesus speak a better word than the sacrifices of Abel? What is the final warning given?

Where do we find holiness? Is it only in the large cathedrals, the high-ceilinged churches with stained glass windows and tall pulpits? Is God only in those places where thousands gather to worship and raise voices in song?

No. God is in every place made holy by those who come before him acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. The holy mountain that is spoken of, that holy place described here, is within the hearts of the faithful. When our hearts become humble before God, when we confess our sins and ask Jesus to rule our lives, then we are joined with all the angels and the saints everywhere and in every time. We become part of the living God.

We cannot miss this important fact of our faith. We have been taught and warned by those on earth, beginning with Moses and on through all the prophets until Jesus Christ, and then beyond Christ, by the writers of the New Testament and all who preach the good news of salvation even today. Now God calls you from heaven to accept his Son as Savior. Do not turn away from Jesus.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be part of thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly?

Repentance 4

John 3:1-5

Recently one of our children, frustrated with school, wondered out loud why anyone would need to study history. Our canned response was the old adage – “Those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it.” If we do not know and understand what happened in our history we are likely to make the same mistakes.

But when it comes to our faith we could say that those who do not forget the past are doomed to repeat it. If we can’t let go of our sinfulness, if we can’t get over our foolish mistakes and erroneous behavior, we are likely to keep living a sinful life.

Jesus was approached by Nicodemus, a religious leader and scholar of his time. In this encounter Jesus took the opportunity to give some spiritual teaching. What does Jesus say is necessary to see the kingdom of God? What specification did Jesus add to this comment in verse 5?

Most are familiar with the late night conversation with Nicodemus. Most are familiar with how the man could not understand the simple message of repentance and salvation. How can a man be born again? An adult can not return to the womb.

Well, of course not. But this is not what Jesus was talking about. Jesus was talking about spiritual rebirth. He was talking about shedding our old way of thinking and believing and acting. In its place we need to put on a new life, a life of holiness.

We can move forward in our faith and in our journey to perfection when we get rid of our old ways, ways of selfishness and sinfulness. We need to repent of our sins, seeking forgiveness from Christ. And when we seek that forgiveness we will be given the opportunity for a new life.

We can be born again – not physically – but reborn in the spirit. Our souls can be made new through the water of baptism, a reminder of our salvation. But we must also begin living with a new spirit of godliness.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What must you do to be reborn?

Repentance 3

Luke 24:45-48

Many years ago my uncle, the owner of a small business, made a decision about an almost daily opportunity. His business brought him in contact with people every day, and he said that many people would greet him with a cliché saying – “What’s the good news?” Never certain how to respond, he finally came to a realization. When asked what the good news was he should always say, “Jesus died for my sins.” In this simple way he could spread the Gospel message.

In this passage from Luke we see Jesus after the resurrection, at the close of his ministry. What did Jesus do for those who believed in him? What did he remind them about in verses 46 and 47? What is important about verse 48?

A common misperception is that only preachers or evangelists are able to tell other people about Jesus Christ. But the fact is that each of us can say something that at least serves as a reminder that Jesus died for our sins.

One of the most important things we must remember is that Jesus is our Savior. Through his death Jesus took on all of our sins. Jesus suffered the punishment for all the wrong you have done and all the sins you will ever commit. Your sins, past and future, are paid for. They are removed – if you accept Jesus as Savior.

But how can anyone accept Jesus as Savior if they have not heard about what Jesus has done?

This passage from Luke is Jesus talking to his disciples and followers, but the message is for all who take on the name of “Christian.” It is significant that this encounter involves more than just the eleven disciples (see Luke 24:33). What Jesus did – open their minds so they could understand – was done for all who believe and have faith, not just the elite eleven.

It is also significant that Jesus claims, “You are witnesses of these things.” I believe the term can apply in two ways. We have witnessed what Jesus has done because we have believed the Gospel story and experienced Jesus in our own lives. But we are also witnesses in that we can share the message of Jesus as Savior.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you witness every day?

Repentance 2

Luke 5:18-25

Jesus seems to have been misunderstood since the beginning of his life. I would even claim that he is still misunderstood by many. It would seem that those who came to see Jesus were coming to hear a good teacher speak and possibly see some amazing healing.

We recognize Jesus as the Son of God, as God in human form. But those who were around him were not always aware of who exactly he was. What do the friends of the paralytic do? What does Jesus say to the man in need of healing? How do the Pharisees and teachers react? What does this demonstrate about Jesus?

Jesus offers healing in a unique way when a paralytic is lowered through the roof and set before him. Rather than say, “Be healed” or “Get up and walk,” Jesus declares that the man’s sins are forgiven. And that draws a lot of negative attention.

The religious leaders in his presence take offense and claim that Jesus is blaspheming – insulting God. Their comments are a reminder that only God can forgive sins.

And that is when Jesus proves his point. He equates declaring the man healed with declaring the man forgiven. At his command the invalid is able to rise and walk away. He is physically healed and he is forgiven of his sins.

Jesus has proven that, just as the Pharisees and teachers claimed, God can forgive sins. Therefore, Jesus is the Son of God.

We may call Jesus “Lord.” We may call him “Savior” and “Messiah.” But we must remember exactly what we mean by that. Jesus is more than just a good teacher, a kind helper, a good man. Jesus is God in human form, and we are called to accept him as Savior so that we may be forgiven.

This requires that we confess our sins to Jesus and ask for the forgiveness we need. We are not asking a teacher or helper, but we are asking God to forgive us. We should never forget that Jesus is the Savior we need. And we should never forget that we are all sinners who need forgiveness.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you acknowledge Jesus as the Savior by asking forgiveness from him?

Repentance 1

Matthew 8:23-27

Although we say we believe in Jesus we may not always act as though we do. We may think we trust in Jesus, but often our trust falls short of where it needs to be.

This passage in Matthew is a familiar story of the miraculous ability of Jesus Christ. Where are Jesus and his disciples? What problem arises? What does Jesus do? How do his disciples respond?

I have often shared my perception of Jesus and the frustration he must have felt when dealing with the disciples. This story has been used again and again in messages usually focusing on the lack of faith that the disciples had. But I want to focus on the concluding comments that the disciples made.

The twelve have been following Jesus and his ministry for enough time that they have heard him preach and teach. If Matthew is written at all chronologically then Jesus has also healed many sick people prior to this trip in the boat. We might assume that these men are following Jesus because they believe he is the Son of God. But do they really?

Apparently not. If they truly believed him to be the Son of God, God in human form, then they wouldn’t have been amazed at the miracle of the calming of the storm. And if such a miracle did amaze them, the question arises – why did they ask him to save them?

But my fear is that so many of us who call ourselves “Christian” would be equally amazed by the power of Jesus. We claim that we believe Jesus is the Son of God. We claim him as Savior, but we seem to act as if we doubt his ability to forgive our sins or remove them.

Are we simply paying lip service to Jesus, or do we really believe in him as Savior. And if we really believe in him as Savior, can we have faith in the power of Christ? Our faith must be real and not a superficial, shallow cover to what we really believe.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Do you truly believe Jesus can remove your sins and save your soul?