I love the grace of God. It truly is amazing, awe-inspiring and mind-boggling.
I would be lost with out the grace of God. And hopeless.
But I heard someone mention something recently that got my attention. They said the message of the gospel has radically changed in the last 50 years - that it is presented almost completely different than it has been preached the previous 1950 years.
I am no theologian but I feel I have a fairly good grasp of the main ideas of what the bible teaches - at least as far as my salvation & Christian walk is concerned. (That does NOT mean I live them perfectly, it just means I know what they are. Uff-da.) We are to obey the 10 Commandments, produce the fruit of the Spirit, put on the Armour of God, pray daily with thanks and praise, provide for widows and orphans. We are to walk in the love and grace of Jesus Christ and know that we are special, created with detailed purpose and craftsmanship. We should love God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven.
It all sounds wonderful. So what is missing?
I've been asking myself that question for quite awhile now and yesterday I was reminded of the answer in a way that slapped me upside the proverbial head. Our God is a god of love and grace and tender mercies. But we have forgotten that he is also a god of judgment and righteousness - perfect and holy. He cannot be fooled and he will not be mocked.
We are in this boat we are in because of one thing only: sin.
And there is only one way out of this situation, and that is to repent.
But don't take my word for it:
"From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17)
"I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:3)
"So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." (Luke 17:3))
"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)
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30)
"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4)"
"Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance." (2 Cor 7:9)
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Cor 7:10)
"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God," (Heb 6:1)
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." (Rev 3:19)
According to the dictionary, 'repent' means:
- to feel sorry [sorrow]or self-reproachful for what one has done or failed to do; be conscience-stricken or contrite
- to feel so contrite over one's sins as to change, or decide to change, one's ways; be penitent
When is the last time I was 'conscience-stricken' over something I had said or done? Or felt so contrite over my sin's I knew I needed to seek God's forgiveness...now..before I waited one more moment? It makes me think of a spouse that has had an affair. The non-cheating spouse finds out but is willing to accept the other back - even after his/her horrible offense. The cheating spouse is more than happy and relieved to accept the grace and forgiveness of the other - but then does not apologize for the sin. In fact, they will not even acknowledge the affair and goes around acting like it never even happened. What is wrong with that picture? And do you believe that marriage will truly ever heal or be restored?
There over 30 verses in the new testament that tell us to repent. Could it be that for all our desire to assure people that they are loved and that God's grace is for them, we have forgotten to teach them one very vital truth? That without repentance, there is not forgiveness. I know that it is not politically correct to tell people they are sinners - but we are. Each and every one of us. And how dare we tell people they must acknowledge their own sin and tell God, whom their sin offends, that they are sorry for it?!?
Because I love you, I am saying it. God tells you and I what we need to do about that sin: repent and walk away from it. We wonder how millions of people can claim to be Christians but their lives never change and they are still mucking around in the same mud they were in 5 ...10 ... 20 years ago. And we blame it on God.
Could it be our own fault?
One, because we have not ever told them the truth.
And, two, because we have not repented ourselves - at least not in a long, long while.
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Cor 7:10)
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chron 7:14)
Father, we have shown contempt and apathy for the riches of your kindness, tolerance and patience - for your precious grace for way too long. Father, forgive us. Father, have mercy on us and continue to lead us to you and your throne and toward repentance - so that you may not only heal our land but more importantly, our hearts.
Those are my thoughts, and my prayer...