Becoming Established Part 3

Another aspect of becoming established is knowing where we fit in His body. This is perhaps a greater challenge than blessing our city. Why? Think about how most congregations function when compared with what I am sharing below. Is how much of our church life has developed a good thing?

The key new testament verse on the functioning of congregational life is below.

26  How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)

Paul further says,

27  If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30  But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 1 Corinthians 14:27-32 (NKJV)

Granted, the house churches in the first century were smaller than many of our congregations (until the 4th century under Constantine the common expression of the church was house churches). That aside, there are a number of principles above. First, when we gather as the body we are expected to bring something. Secondly, a plurality of gifts should be expressed – we need one another has to offer.

The practice of creating space for people to exercise their gifts helps people grow in them. Making space for gifts was the fruit of Paul’s teaching. Lest we think this was abnormal and a plurality of gifts need to be curtailed, read 1 Corinthians carefully. Many view the Corinthian church through the lens of excess, which is simply poor exegesis. While there was excess and aberration in how gifts were expressed, Paul’s response to the many and varied uses of spiritual gifts was not to try and curtail them. Paul focused on trying to get the Corinthians to use their gifts properly while at the same time encouraging an even greater use of them (see 1 Cor. 14:1, 40).

What Paul encouraged was the exercise of gifts by many in the body in the context of corporate discernment; a practice that helps shape and refine one another. Functioning this way requires knowing one another’s gifts, creating space for their use, dialogue when the body gathers, and the exercise of spiritual leadership.

I strongly believe that we as the church need to once again be established in this type of functioning on a broad scale to see the body grow up into Christ (Eph. 4:9-16). We once again need to see His rule in His church on a broad scale. I recognize that for this to happen significant change will be required in our familiar cultural constructs. So be it. He is the head and He wants His body back and has every right to take it!

In closing, I believing we need to function in our gifts and calling to feel whole and complete. I recently watched the classic film Chariots of Fire after having not seen it since it was released decades ago. The key character is Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner who later died on the mission field in China. Eric’s story was made famous not so much for his speed as for his stand. He was one of the favorites to win the gold medal in the 100 meters in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. However he refused to run in the heats because they were held on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. He ended up being entered in the 400 meters and won the gold medal.

Leading up to the Olympics Jenny, the love of his life outside of the Lord, tried to dissuade him from running and to focus on mission work. His response is a famous quote and is featured in the movie. “Jenny, God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” (It works best if you hear it with a Scottish accent). Do you want to feel His pleasure? Love Him and learn to function in what He has called you to. It will bring pleasure to both!

Becoming Established Part 2

A few times I have referenced a prayer that I have developed over the years. Some use a prayer list of people, I focus on areas I believe are important in our lives and pray for myself and others. When I looked at it recently I realized that in 8 pages I had used establish, establishing or established 16 times! Clearly at some level I believe this to be important. The first area I focus on in my prayer list is Passion and Purpose and below are the prayer sections I have along with the supporting scriptures.   

Father, I thank You that You are drawing out and establishing Your purpose in our lives. Help us to walk uprightly that our prayers may delight You! Fill us with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Prov. 20:5, Prov. 15:8, Col. 1:9-11

Continually unveil to us Your glory (nature and character, love) and establish within our hearts a compelling vision of walking with You in Your passion for Jesus and His church, filled with Your grace and glory, flowing in You and Your anointing. Ex. 33:13, John 17:22-26, Eph. 1:17, 2:10, 5:18, Gal. 5:16, 25

Establish within us wise and understanding hearts to build Your house, a dwelling for You in the Spirit/spirit. Place Your hand upon us, impart Your plans and details. Ex. 25:8-9, 1 Chron. 22:13, 19, 28:9, 12, 19-20, 1 Kings 3:9, Zech. 8:9, Eph. 2:22

Jesus, establish our hearts in Your counsel and purpose, in the walk of the watchman. Is. 62:6, Jer. 23:18, Ezek. 3:17, Eph. 2:10, Ps. 25:12-14

As we settle more deeply into our relationship with Jesus and are further established in our prayer life, a key aspect is focus. In the many things we can pray about – ranging from personal needs to corporate and societal issues, are there key areas of focus. Given that what affects one affects all, a key corporate responsibility we have is lying in wait in a little verse in Proverbs 11.

11  By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. Proverbs 11:11 (NKJV)

This has great power if applied properly because when we break it down we are all applying it, the question is in what manner? As believers we all carry some degree of spiritual authority, so in the way we speak about it are we blessing or cursing our city? For a clear application of this verse see what was commanded by Yahweh in Jeremiah, a principle that I think it still applies to us.

7  And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 8  For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9  For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD. 10  For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:7-11 (NKJV)

The key verses are 7 and 11. The context is the captivity of Israel in Babylon and false prophets saying they would return quickly. Through Jeremiah, Yahweh said they would be there for 70 years so they needed to pray for the peace of the city. The key phrase is “in its peace you will have peace.” The principle being the need to bless the community we live in because when the community does well we as believers do well.

We tend to apply verse 11 individually but in context it refers corporately to the nation of Israel. I believe that if we as believers want to see Jesus move in our city and area then we need to take seriously the call to bless it by our words and prayers and seek the good of the city. In fact in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us to take this further than He did in Jeremiah.

13  “You are the salt of the earth… 14  You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:13-14 (NKJV)

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)

So, with whatever spiritual authority we carry, are we blessing our city and seeing Jesus established in it?

Becoming Established Part 1

For many years a very important scripture to me has been, and continues to be, Exodus 25:8.

8  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8 (NKJV)  

The context is the building of the Tabernacle of Moses and that Yahweh could only dwell in the midst of the people once the tabernacle had been erected, the proper sacrifices made and the Ark of the Covenant placed in the Holy of Holies. Once the proper preparations were complete Yahweh’s presence rested between the cherubim hovering over the Ark. In the NT context the proper sacrifice (Jesus) has been made and God’s justice satisfied. Once we repent of our sin and surrender to Jesus there is then a Holy of Holies created within us, a place for the Spirit to dwell in our reborn spirits.

Yet, do we experience this reality? It is not automatic as evidenced by Paul’s prayers in Ephesian’s 1:16-21 and 3:14-19. Paul prayed for believers to have a revelation of why and what the Father called us to and that we would experience the full breadth, length, height and depth of Jesus love. This of course requires the exercise of faith as Paul outlined in part of his Ephesians 3 prayer.   

17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, Ephesians 3:17 (NKJV)

In context the word ‘dwell’ above refers to the act of dwelling. It is a verb that means to “Settle down, dwell in, reside, inhabit.” (The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary). Again, Jesus settling down in our hearts requires us to exercise faith that He will actually do this out of His love for us.

 Now look at a portion of Ephesians 2 below.

21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22 (NKJV)

Here the word ‘dwelling’ refers to a place and is the dwelling foreshadowed by the Tabernacle of Moses, Exodus 25:8 language. He stills wants to dwell in a sanctuary among His people in a way that is both corporate and individual. I have been in corporate gatherings where His presence came in a tangible way that was obvious to anyone with even a hint of discernment, I have also many times experienced His active dwelling just by sitting alone with Him.

My more common experience is encountering Jesus by sitting with Him and opening my spirit. In fact this being the first day of 2017 I have purposed in my heart two things for the year. One, to spend more time just sitting with Jesus and to read through the entire bible. It has been a long time since I have gone through the entire OT.    

I don’t know if it is the same for you but I know these two activities further establish me in my relationship with Jesus, which to my mind is what Christianity is about. His word renews my mind and His presence renews my heart. In the process I express and reflect more of His heart to those I interact with and have something to minister to them. I also live out of and from a deeper place of rest.

I invite you to join me in this journey or pursue Him as to how He would have you deepen your relationship with Him this year. Our culture needs more of Jesus and He is manifested to our culture as He dwells in and is revealed through us, His people.

Carrying His Yoke Part 3

As we enter into this new year let us seek His yoke in terms of our own individual purpose and calling. If we have asked Jesus to bind us to His purpose and to loose us from the snares and plans of the enemy then what is that doing in our lives? I started this short series with the verses below.

28  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)

When I look at these verses it seems that in verse 29 Jesus is reinforcing what He said in verse 28. We come to Him, He provides rest. Coming to Him means voluntarily placing His yoke upon ourselves. In essence this is an expansion of His brief call, “Follow Me.” I recently shared a joke I saw a few years ago. Jesus was sitting on a park bench with a young man and the caption was Jesus saying, “No I don’t mean Twitter. I actually want you to follow Me.”

Have we heard that call? Once we respond we find that His yoke begins to shape our lives. We find ourselves laying down some things and picking up others. All in the course of following ‘The Lamb who was slain.”

This shaping process begins to unveil our calling and purpose. Very few of us will have a blinding light like Paul on the road to Damascus, or Mary having Gabriel appear and speak to her. Many of us may not even have prophetic dreams. Yet as we positon our hearts before Him in the place of humility we will hear His voice in our hearts. It may be a sense of direction or purpose, it may be a scripture verse or passage that comes alive to us, yet whatever it is faith will be required. Generally what we are called to will look different than what we expect.

I am now quite comfortable speaking before large or small groups. Yet even though I had a sense of a desire to teach while in high school I don’t recall connecting the dots that it meant speaking in front of groups of people! Strange but true. I had a desire to teach but no desire to be in front of groups of people. My point being that something in me was responding to my calling but later in life it meant taking risks and stepping out in faith to actually do it. I remember my first sermon, with no practice ones, in front of a small group and my next one in front of three to four hundred people. I remember how I felt, anxiety being the key descriptor.

Yet following Jesus meant doing something in spite of how I felt, not because of it. When I started writing teaching in the 90’s I don’t think I was that good. My writing has improved a great deal over the years. Not through some magical download, but through hard work, getting feedback on my writing, some of it painful to receive, and making changes. Much of this has taken place in the context of my work. Jesus using my job to deepen my gifts for ministry.

In the end, whatever our gifts and calling are, Jesus wants to reveal some aspect of Himself through us. Seeing it happen means cooperating with Him to develop our gifts.

Carrying His Yoke Part 2

The next area I want to talk about in relation to yokes is the role in our prayer lives. To do that I want to look at a scripture and share an experience I had in September of 1990. I was at the Vineyard Holiness conference at the Agricom in Edmonton. There were about 4,000 people there and while waiting for the evening session I was in the lobby area speaking with someone I knew and waiting for my wife. A lady approached us and said to me, “Excuse me, I don’t know if you noticed but I have been staring at you all day. Every time I look at you I see you with a Jewish skullcap, a long white beard and a big empty book in front of you. The Lord said to tell you he is going to fill the book and to give you Leviticus chapter 8.” The cap she referred to was a yarmulke, the small round Jewish cap.

Being deeply aware and spiritually astute I obviously asked the lady a bit about herself and immediately read Leviticus chapter 8. Actually no, I never knew her name and would not have recognized her if I saw her on the street the next day. The important piece was the message rather than the messenger. Something we would do well to remember as His servants. I did not read Leviticus 8 until I went home later that night and even then didn’t get much out of it. I have no question the word was from the Holy Spirit and my understanding of the application has continued to grow over the past 26 years. I deeply appreciate that this lady listened to the Holy Spirit and took a risk and shared with me and I would now appreciate the opportunity to speak with her about what she shared. I still don’t have a long white beard and suspect I never will. However that part of the message was about an image representing age, maturity and wisdom. 

So what is important about Leviticus 8? Many things, but for our purposes 8:8.

8  Then he put the breastplate on him, and he put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastplate. Leviticus 8:8 (NKJV)   

This doesn’t tell us much, it requires having scripture interpret scripture. Exodus 28:15-21 does that for us. I will share the first and last verse of the passage.

15  “You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it. Exodus 28:15 (NKJV)

21  And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes. Exodus 28:21 (NKJV)

Putting these verse together we know from Leviticus 8:8 that the Urim and the Thummim were in the breastplate, that it is a breastplate of judgment. This was judgment in the sense of governing or deciding. We also know the breastplate had twelve stones on it, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

I have long believed that the Urim and the Thummim correspond to the wisdom and revelation of Ephesians 1:17. We need spiritual wisdom and revelation to judge wisely. When the high priest entered Yahweh’s presence he carried the nation over his heart in an act of intercession, as represented by the 12 different stones. In a similar manner we are called to carry certain individuals, groups or other things over our hearts into His presence when we intercede. We are likely all familiar with the concept of the Lord ‘laying something on our heart.’ This is how we apply it. Standing in the place of intercession for others is a yoke He offers to all. Not many accept this yoke. Taking it doesn’t mean we need to become a fulltime intercessor. It does mean we commit to respond when He touches one of the stones upon our heart.

Do you know what stones He has asked you to carry? Are you responding when He touches one? Ask Him to reveal what He desires you to carry and to be sensitive to His touch upon them.   

Carrying His Yoke Part 1

As we prepare for a new year how many of us could use rest for our souls? Most of us I suspect. So, experientially how do we get to that place of our soul functioning from rest or being at rest? The easy answer is that we simply come to Jesus. After all that is what He instructed.

28  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)

There is as usual a ‘however.’ Jesus said if we come to Him then He will bring us to a place of rest. The however is that this rest is conditional upon taking His yoke. I will explore and explain what that means and explain the role of ‘binding and loosing’ in connection to Jesus yoke. Another area I will address is the role of the High Priest carrying the nation on His heart when he went into the Holy of Holies and the present day application in our lives.

So now that I hopefully have your attention. What does it mean to take Jesus yoke? There are a couple of applications. One is the idea of training a new ox by yoking it to an old ox. See the picture below of two oxen yoked together. The concept of yoking the old ox to the young ox is that the old ox would train the young ox around when to pull and stop; when to turn and so on. If the young ox pulled against the yoke it would eventually learn to submit to the older ox or be continually frustrated.

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In Jesus day being under someone’s yoke meant being their disciple. For example Paul was viewed as having taken the yoke of Gamaliel because he was Paul’s primary teacher and Paul (Saul at the time) was his disciple. Jesus was in effect saying become my disciple and allow me to train you and I will teach you to walk in and live from rest (see Heb. 4:1-13).

What does it mean in practice to be discipled by Jesus, to take His yoke? First it means we can’t have other yokes. Look again at the image of the oxen. What would it be like to have another yoke attached to another animal and pulling in another direction? Rest would not be the first response! Yet that is what I think most of us in the church have done. What are some ‘other’ yokes that are pulling at us? The first response may be to consider obvious sins. However, what about the yoke of human expectations? The yoke of the pressure to be ‘successful.’ The yoke of pleasing others? These are examples of things that keep us from true rest. Paul addressed this clearly and he was so effective in his ministry because he only had one yoke.

10  For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 (NKJV)

Some of the other yokes pulling at us are the result of both the secular and church cultures around us, and of course our responses to it, yet many of these yokes are internal, rooted in our own fears, insecurities and unwillingness to lay down our own agendas. What would our Sunday services look like if in actuality our only agenda was pursuing His heart and releasing His life to others? A little different than most services I think!

So, to address this I invite you to pray a prayer. “Lord Jesus I loose myself from the yoke of carnal thinking and expectations and I bind myself to your yoke and purposes and ask You to bind my heart to Your heart purpose for my life.”

27  It shall come to pass in that day That his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, And his yoke from your neck, And the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil. Isaiah 10:27 (NKJV) 6  THE SHULAMITE TO HER BELOVED Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Song of Songs 8:6 (NKJV)

Is this different than what you thought? Most teaching on ‘binding and loosing’ focuses on trying to bind the enemy and loose or set people free. While that is an application of Matthew 16:19 below (see also Matt. 18:18-20) we can also turn this around as in the Song of Solomon and seeing what Paul spoke in the verse below.

19  “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 (NKJV) 

22  And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, Acts 20:22 (NKJV)

So, as we prepare for a new year may we also pray that we are prepared for His purpose by breaking off wrong yokes and praying that our minds will be renewed to take only His yoke. To truly be Jesus disciples.

Restoring Repentance Part 5

My basic contention, which I have shared with many over the years, is that the salvation and sanctification of our spirit is instantaneous at conversion. We receive Jesus life in our spirit (2 Cor. 5:17). For our body it will also be instantaneous, either when we are resurrected or transformed if we are alive on the earth at Jesus return (1 Thess. 4:13-17). However the salvation and sanctification of our souls however is a process (Jas. 1:18-21). I will come back to this later.

To understand the distinction between spirit and soul it is helpful to lay a scriptural foundation. The scriptures below teach that there is a distinction.

23  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV) 12  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)
1 Thessalonians tells us there is a distinction between our spirit and soul and Hebrews tells us that while it is difficult, we can understand the distinction by applying His word. The verse below tells us we only need two or three witnesses to establish the truth of something, in this case the truth that spirit and soul are not the same thing has two witnesses above.

1  This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” 2 Corinthians 13:1 (NKJV)

While the two witnesses above are sufficient, according to scripture, when we actually apply Heb. 4:12 in practice the spirit and soul distinction become clearer. My qualifier is that I use a bible that is more literal in translation because much is lost in the translations that use more of a dynamic equivalence or paraphrase. This is clearer in the verses below.

9  With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9 (NKJV) 46  And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 (NKJV)

The tense in the NKJV and the other more literal translations is important. For example the same two verses in the NIV do not clearly bring out the different functions of the soul and spirit.

9  My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9 (NIV) 46  And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” Luke 1:46-47 (NIV)

The important distinction lies in the tenses, particularly in the Luke passage. Something is released by our soul after it has already happened in our spirit. Isaiah speaks of his soul desiring something but using his spirit to encounter Yahweh. Mary tells us that her soul magnifies Yahweh because, past tense, her spirit has already rejoiced in an encounter with Him.

I believe that our soul has three aspects, it expresses our mind, will and emotions. Similarly I believe our spirit has three functions, conscience, communion and intuition. The verses above speak of the result of Isaiah and Mary experiencing or desiring communion in their spirits.

So, back to repentance and sanctification. The task of seeing Christ formed in us is accomplished by submitting the desires of our soul to the leading of our spirit, the place where Christ dwells within ever true believer. Peter, a man who had more than a little experience with this said it well.

22  Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 1 Peter 1:22 (NKJV)

Our souls are sanctified when we repent of whatever He reveals to us in our spirits. What we carry from time into eternity is the degree to which the nature of Jesus has been formed in our souls (Gal. 4:19). The question is how our formation is going?

Restoring Repentance Part 4

How much attention do we give to the idea that salvation and the new birth are intended to bring about freedom from both the power and penalty of sin? To understand this it is helpful to read Jesus dialogue with Nicodemus in John 3.  Jesus spoke of the difference between seeing and entering the kingdom. I have been in high office towers in downtown Edmonton from where I can see great distances into the river valley. However, having entered and walked and biked in the river valley I can say from experience that seeing and entering it are not the same thing. Similarly I have driven by mountains and viewed their beauty. However, seeing them is very different from entering them and hiking up a steep mountainside with a heavy backpack on.

In a similar manner at conversion we ‘see’ or become aware of the kingdom of God moving in our lives. However, the degree to which we ‘enter’ depends upon the degree of ongoing repentance in our lives. Conversion frees us from the penalty of sin, ongoing repentance frees us from the power of sin. Look at the verse below.

21  “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (NKJV)

How we view this verse is very important. Without thinking about it, it may seem that this is about Jesus saving us from the penalty of sin. However, what about Jesus saving us from the power of sin? Believing that may require some repentance. That is, we may need to revise our thinking about this verse.

Understanding the verse requires understanding what the angel communicated to Joseph in his dream. The angel never spoke to Joseph in English. The language of the day was Aramaic (very similar to Hebrew). Understanding this requires a little side trip to Hebrews chapter 4.

8  For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. Hebrews 4:8 (NKJV)

14  Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Hebrews 4:14 (NKJV)

Joshua in verse 8 refers to Joshua who led the nation of Israel after Moses, and in verse 14 reference is made to Jesus the Son of God. The translators are being helpful in giving us the names we are familiar with but in Greek the words translated as Joshua and Jesus here are the same word. This is why the writer qualifies his statement by making it clear that he is referring to Jesus the Son of God. In Hebrew and Aramaic Yeshua/Joshua, means Yahweh/Jehovah is salvation. If we were being a bit more literal we would have translated Matthew 1:21 as, “You shall call His name Yeshua (Yahweh is salvation) for He shall save His people from their sins.” In fact the complete Jewish Bible translates the verse in a similar way,

21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, [which means ‘Adonai saves,’] because he will save his people from their sins.”

While the core of the NT teaches the need for the new birth and salvation, Paul in particular builds on that foundation by talking about how we get free from the power of sin. Look at the theology of Romans that goes from the foundation of conversion to how to walk in freedom from sin and encapsulates our call to be conformed to Jesus image in our character and behaviour (Rom. 6-8). If we miss that salvation from sin is a dual process we walk in half a salvation when a whole one is available.

To be clear I am not advocating some type of sinless perfection, though others have and some appeared to have walked in it. What I am advocating is that we seek to conform our lives to the scriptures rather than our culture! We will never fully arrive in this life but I think we can go much further than most of us ever attempt.

In my next post I will lay out the connection between repentance and sanctification and how they relate to our spirit and soul (which are not the same thing by the way).

Restoring Repentance Part 3

I will expand a bit further on repentance in general and then look at the post conversion role of repentance. I think we often assume that repentance is preceded by an emotional experience and guilt. That may be. Conviction of sin may create deep emotions or it may simply create an awareness of the need for a change of purpose in our lives. Brother Lawrence, the author of the teaching in the little book The Practice of the Presence of God, was converted when he saw a tree lose its leaves and be dead and barren while awaiting a ‘rebirth’ in the spring.

If we recognize that repentance leading to conversion is a “thoroughgoing change in one’s thinking, attitudes, and purpose” then post conversion repentance is not about a wholesale change in perspective. It is a shift in perspective when we recognize that our values or behaviour are out of line with scriptural values and behaviour (Rom. 12:1-2). If we have fallen to some gross darkness after conversion (Eph. 4:17-19) a more thoroughgoing change may be required.

Something I have noticed is that in some circles it is popular to say that ‘sin is sin and one is no worse than another.’ It sounds nice but it is not scriptural. Certainly the Mosaic Law, upon which English Common Law, and by extension our justice system were based, is very clear about different consequences for different transgressions. We may argue that the OT no longer applies. However Paul made a similar distinction when he referenced sins outside the body and how sexual immorality is a sin against our own body (1 Cor. 6:15-20). There are a number of other passages in the NT if we read the scriptures with an open heart.

What about the connection between repentance and judgment? While we may not think much about it, post conversion repentance is tied to the Judgment Seat of Christ. We are rewarded based on how we continue to respond to Christ after conversion. The passage below was directed to believers.

9  Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11  Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NKJV)

Below is something I have written over the years that is a regular part of my prayer life because I believe there is an inextricable link between repentance and the Judgment Seat. I encourage you to read not only the two introductory references but all of the scriptural references that accompany it. A key factor I reference is the need for us to discern the difference between conviction and condemnation. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin He shows us the path to freedom and wholeness through repentance. Condemnation focuses on making us feel bad and shows no healthy path to freedom and if followed leads to a downward spiral.

Judgment

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Romans 14:10-12 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. [11] For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” [12] So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

O Righteous Father, as I live my life before the great cloud of witnesses, and Your throne, I know I will give an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Knowing this I ask You; continually reveal Your heart to me that I might walk in Your will and ways. Fill me with Your holy perfect love and passion for Jesus that I may express and reflect Your heart. Grant me discernment and sensitivity between conviction and condemnation; that I may walk in wisdom, rightly dividing soul and spirit. Continually give me the grace, wisdom, courage and perseverance to pull down and break strongholds. Shepherd my heart into a holy passionate fear of You, that I might live a life that fully pleases You and is fruitful in every good work, that I may stand before You. Jn. 17:25, Ps. 25:12-14, 139:23-24, 51:10, Rom. 14:10-12, 2 Cor. 5:10, 10:1-6, Col. 1:9-11, Heb. 4:10-12, 12:1, 1 Jn. 2:28

In my next post I will continue with the points below. I have to some extent addressed the first two but believe there is also a need to understand the distinction between the sanctification of our spirit and soul and how they differ and relate to repentance.

  • What is the role of repentance in conversion and after conversion?
  • Is repentance after conversion qualitatively different than repentance leading to conversion?
  • Do we repent of our behaviour, nature or both?

Restoring Repentance Part 2

In this installment I will define scriptural repentance so that we can see it clearly. Remember, I noted previously that repentance is not ‘turning and going the other way.’ Turning and going the other way may be the result of repentance, or it may signify false repentance, but it is not in and of itself repentance. So how do the scriptures define repentance? The word translated as ‘repent’ in Mark 1:14 is used over 30 times in the NT.

3210. μετανοω metanoeō verb, To repent, change one’s mind, be converted.

The most extensive repentance is a thoroughgoing change in one’s thinking, attitudes, and purpose. This is the deep-seated repentance spoken of in passages like Matthew 3:2 and Acts 3:19 where a thorough change of mind is urged. When compared to metamelomai (3208) (used 5 times), metanoeō (used over 30 times) is much more prevalent, especially when referring to repentance linked to salvation. This repentance is stronger than remorse or emotional regret. Metanoeō portrays a change of mind so effective that Luke 15:7,10 assumes salvation for a sinner who has “repented.”

This “repentance” is required for entrance into the kingdom of heaven and is a subject of the apostolic preaching in Acts.

The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary.

So, if we look at the definition from this Greek-English dictionary we see the critical importance of repentance. The definition begins by saying, “repentance is a thoroughgoing change in one’s thinking, attitudes, and purpose.” An important point is that the precondition for repentance is the conviction of the Holy Spirit and His drawing our heart to Jesus.

When we see conviction and repentance as necessary to salvation how does it compare to the idea in our culture that we are supposedly saved by surreptitiously slipping up a hand with no one looking or repeating a prayer we don’t understand? This has more in common with a magic incantation than biblical salvation. If there is genuine conviction some people will be genuinely converted through this process, however the foundation we will have laid in their lives is that they need to be ashamed of Jesus.

My goal here is to discern rather than judge but if we have been ‘converted’ and there is no change in our “thinking, attitudes, and purpose” has anything really happened? Have we been converted to Jesus or instead to a congregation, denomination or social group? One leads to a change in purpose manifested as a change in behaviour and one leads to moderating our behaviour to fit in with the new culture we have now joined. This may go a long way toward explaining how difficult it is to engage many ‘believers’ in giving, evangelism and other scriptural activities.  

While repentance is not a change in behaviour, if there is no change in behaviour to scriptural beliefs and practices there has been no repentance. At the same time it is rather difficult to change our thinking, attitudes and purpose if we see nothing wrong with the current ones we hold. Coming to Jesus is not adding something to our life, it is recognizing that our goal and focus in life is wrong and needs to change. It is putting to death an old way of thinking and acting and seeing the need for new life. If this sounds hard or judgmental consider what Paul had to say when he addressed the ongoing issues with the church at Corinth.

5  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified. 6  But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 (NKJV)

When he did not see the heart contrition, behaviour change and commitment to his teaching that he expected from believers Paul questioned the genuineness of their conversion. In a similar manner, while we are not called to be judges, we are called to be fruit inspectors. Jesus taught this clearly in Matt. 7:15-23. If we are walking with Him the evidence will be there in our lives, not based on what we say, but based on the actions that flow from repentant hearts. If we are wise we will heed Jesus teaching and apply it first to our own hearts in the way Paul advised the Corinthians.

So, I have touched on the first half of my first point below and trust there is some understanding of scriptural repentance. I will continue to address these points in my next installment.     

  • What is the role of repentance in conversion and after conversion?
  • Is repentance after conversion qualitatively different than repentance leading to conversion?
  • Do we repent of our behaviour, nature or both?