Category Archives: Repentance

All Sufficient Grace

graceoutshinesguilt

Why is it that guilt often seems to cancel out God’s grace?  We yield to the temptation of sin, agonize about it, repent, and then wallow in guilt.  Even as a Christian of about 40 years, I’ve often fallen into this pattern.  Guilt is not always bad.  Guilt is a natural response to our having wronged God.  It is like a “check engine” indicator, to let us know something is wrong.  But, why after sincere repentance, we still feel that lingering sense of guilt and shame?

I did some thinking on my run this morning.  Some scriptures came to mind.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, “You will become free”?’

 “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'”
-John 8:31-36

Jesus said in this passage that sin places us in bondage.  We are a slave to its whims.  But, he has called us out of the bondage of slavery into sonship.  “But as many as received Him, to them he gave the power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12.  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14.

To those of us who believe, we have been given the position of children of God!  No longer are we slaves.

We are free.

“There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1.

So why do we wallow in guilt?

I’m convinced that this lingering guilty stain stems from the belief in a lie.  We believe that we have to suffer for our sins a little.  God’s forgiveness cannot possibly be handed out so freely.  We must have to pay for it somehow.  So, we pay for God’s grace with our guilt.  So, we wallow in it for as long as our narcissism lasts.  Woe is me, God.  You can’t possibly love me.  Our thoughts about ourselves go beyond what God thinks towards us.  We think too much of ourselves, that what WE’VE done is to too much for God’s grace.  It really is pride, which is also a lie, that keeps us in guilt.

Jesus’ work on the cross is sufficient. Jesus shouted “It is finished.” John 19:30.  This exclamation was not an announcement of his death.  It was a shout of victory!  He had accomplished all that His Father asked Him to do.  His death and resurrection completed the work of our eternal salvation.  Do you think  your sin can undo God’s grace and Christ’s work on the cross?  That is the lie that we believe when we hold on to our guilt.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9.  What Jesus said he will do, HE WILL DO.  “Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.

God’s grace is powerful, but it won’t impose on your will.  Stop believing in lies.  Open the window of your soul to Him, and let His grace outshine your guilt.

 

 

 

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Repentance Precedes the Rain

Elijah vs Baal4
I Kings 18 records Elijah’s confrontation with Jezebel’s prophets of Baal. The kingdom of Israel was ruled by a wicked king and a more ruthless queen. The land was in its third year of drought. Famine covered all of Samaria.

God told Elijah, who had been in hiding, to present himself before Ahab. After that God would send rain. Elijah obeyed God. He confronted the idolatrous worldview that enslaved Israel. He was not afraid of conflict. In fact, conflict was obedience to God.

The confrontation was not meant to win over the hearts and minds of the prophets of Baal, but to challenge the children of Israel to worship God exclusively.

“How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”  And the people answered him not a word. (I Kings 18:21).

The word halt translated in the King James Version is the Hebrew word pâçach (paw-sakh’).  This word is from the root word that means “to hop,” figuratively “to skip over.”  It literally means “to limp” or “to dance.”  It is typically used to mean halt, become lame, leap, pass over.  Here, Elijah seems to be accusing the children of Israel of hesitating between two positions.  They have become lame and will not definitively make a choice.  Even when Elijah challenged them they “answered him not a word.”  A spirit of moral cowardice held the people captive.

Elijah then stood against the prophets of Baal and their idolatrous worldview.  The prophets Elijah vs Baal7appealed to the god of their worldview.  But there was no answer.  Elijah mocked them.  The prophets didn’t give up. They simply got louder, more obnoxious, and began acting irrationally.  All day the prophets of Baal acted this way but still they received no answer from the god of their worldview.

To demonstrate that YAHWEH is God, Elijah made his part of the challenge even harder than it was for the prophets of Baal.  After the sacrifice was prepared, Scripture records that Elijah didn’t perform some religious ritual.  He didn’t “fall out in the Spirit.”  He didn’t dance around wildly or genuflect in just the right way. He didn’t recite a liturgy or incantation.  He simply said.  He prayed a simple prayer.  God heard him and fire fell down on the sacrifice and consumed it.

The children of Israel responded to that demonstration of God’s holiness and power.  They fell on their faces and said “YAHWEH, he is God! YAHWEH, he is God!”

rainOnly after the people’s repentance did Elijah announce that the rain would come.  The people left their idolatry, worshipped God exclusively.  Elijah then sought the face of God for rain.

I see a current application of this passage of Scripture.  America is falling apart.  Lawlessness plagues our land from the top offices of the federal government to the streets of America, like in Ferguson, MO, or Baltimore, MD.

We have rejected the God who provided the virtue necessary for our system of self-government.  We have loved other gods.  I am specifically talking about us, the Church, the Christians of this land.  We are the reason for the nation coming unglued.

I am not saying this in condemnation, but in recognition.  I include myself in this call to repentance. I have placed my throne above the heavens. I have disobeyed God’s commands.  I have loved other gods.  I have reduced God to being my buddy, my therapist where I turn to for helpful advice that I may or may not follow.

How long will we be lame, halting between two opinions?  If the  SEC (South Eastern Conference) is god, let us serve it and stop pretending that Sundays are more important to us than Saturdays.  If pop culture is god let us serve it unashamedly and stop putting limits on our pleasures.

But, if the LORD is God, let us repent for our idolatry.  Let us fall on our faces before an awesome, holy, and fearsome God.  Let us turn from our sins before we tell the world to repent from theirs.

Let us repent first.  Then, let us pray for rain.