Tag Archives: Repentance

Caution in Observing the Sins of Others

 

Luke 13:1-5 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’

Scandal has a way of inciting the flesh, either out of curiosity, gossip, or in a self-righteous way that elevates the oneself above those involved in the scandal. Recently, there have been enough public scandals to keep those who revel in such things busy for a lifetime. As someone who maintains a blog in a small, obscure corner of the internet, I’m often tempted to blog on such scandals offering my own commentary on these issues. As I’ve learned, this is not always good practice. I don’t intend for this post to be a commentary on recent scandals, though they are numerous and some involving very public, Christian figures. Instead I’d like to focus on how believers should react when they see a brother or sister involved in a scandal or perhaps to a lesser extent, even non-believers. How should we react when we see a faithful minister caught in an adulterous affair that’s been  made public or how should we react when a professing Christian is caught in a public scandal? Should we rush to their defense saying “we’re all sinners”? Should we castigate them and say that they’ve shown evidence of never having been saved? Should we pile on the commentary? Or should we even comment at all?

In a world where scandal sells and social media rules, we are more prone to comment on things that used to be confined to the water-cooler so to speak. Instead of discussing our opinion in a small group of 5 or 6, we air our comments to the public adding to the social commentary. I know I’ve been guilty of this myself. But recent scandals have caused me to do some introspection on how to publically respond and here is my answer: Don’t.

In the passage from Luke 13 cited above, Jesus is using a very public example to convey a very personal response. He uses two illustrations, the first in verses 13:1-2 concerning Galileans and the second involving those who died when the tower of Siloam fell. Both examples are used to show that those in the illustration are no worse sinners than His audience, or us for that matter. Jesus’ words do not call for the people to offer social commentary, but rather personal reflection. In other words, He uses the sin of others (example #1) and public catastrophe (example #2) to call people to repentance. I’m inclined to see this application extend to those who are in the public eye whom we’ve seen involved in a personal sin or public scandal. It’s not a cause to throw stones; it’s not a call to raise public defense; it’s a call to personal reflection on the condition of our own hearts. It is a call to personal repentance, lest there be in us any unconfessed sin.

Similarly, writing to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul exhorts his readers to not think of themselves better than the Wilderness Generation who put Christ to the test and were “destroyed by serpents”, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” 1 Corinthians 10:9-13a The warning here is clear; observing the sins of others is not cause to elevate oneself into a position of moral superiority. Should that be the case, the warning is that the fall will be great. How then are we to respond when we see the sin of others?

Puritan Thomas Watson, writing on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount says the following in relation to Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”:

“As we must mourn for our own sins, so we must lay to heart the sins of others. God looks upon us as guilty of those sins in others which we do not lament. Our tears may help to quench God’s wrath.”[1]

When we see others who have fallen into sin, our first response should not be public commentary. Our first response should be one of repentant mourning over our own sins and then the sins of others. Secondly, our response should be one of gracious thankfulness to the Lord for His hand of prevention in keeping us from falling into the same sins. Thirdly, our response should be prayer for the individual(s). Fourthly, and likely most important, is that our response should be that God’s glory might be made known through the particular situation instead of the profanation that has been brought His name.

Because we are humans with a sinful nature, scandal is going to happen, both in the redeemed and in the unredeemed of the world and our introspective response should be the similar, mournful repentance. The difference is in observing how the individual responds. Is it in such a manner that reflects the genuineness of a professed faith in Christ? If it is with a truly repentant heart, reminiscent of King David after his own murderous, adulterous affairs, “My sin is ever before me. Against you and you only have I sinned”? Psalm 51 then let us praise the Lord for His grace. If the response is more similar to King Saul who gave evidence of worldly repentance because he got caught, then let us pray for God’s mercy to be extended to the sinner for the hope of bringing them to salvation and glory to the name of God.

Certain sinful situations demand public responses (see Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5), but those that we observe from a distance do not usually warrant our involvement or our commentary.  Instead, it would seem more appropriate to use them as an opportunity for prayer, reflection, and mourning on the condition of our own hearts.

[1] Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes, Banner of Truth., Pg 68-69

 

 

 

Regeneration and the Necessity of Faith and Repentance

In the last post, we looked at several New Covenant promises as detailed in 2 Old Testament passages, Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31.  Summarizing some key aspects of the New Covenant promises we focused on the gift of a new heart, i.e. regeneration, and the gift of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  Additionally, we observed that Ezekiel 36 was the likely background for Jesus’ statement to Nicodemas in John 3 that “you must be born again to see the kingdom of God.”  The conclusion was that regeneration is necessary to entering heaven.  Now with that in mind, we turn in this post to the necessary evidences of regeneration: faith and repentance.

In the Gospel of Mark, we find a fascinating account of Jesus unlike the other Gospels.  Much like the headlines of a newspaper, Mark is concerned with focusing on the details of our Lord’s ministry and rapidly advances his narrative with the phrase “immediately” (used at least 9 times in Chapter 1).  Whereas Matthew and Luke provide the genealogy of Christ along with details of His birth and childhood, Mark’s approach is to commence with the 3 year earthly ministry of Christ.  For this reason, we read Jesus inaugurating His ministry with the words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 So much could be said about this, but we’ll look briefly at the first two phrases before resting on the imperative statement of Jesus to “repent and believe in the gospel.”

“The time is fulfilled” – It’s not a mere coincidence that Jesus’ ministry begins just as John the Baptist’s is ending.  In fact, we learn that John the Baptist has just been imprisoned in the verse prior to this one.  John is the last of the Old Testament prophets.  He’s the one whom the prophets of old have foretold, “one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.” (Mark 1:3 quoting Isaiah 40:3) In the sense of fulfilled here, all that the Old Testament, both the Law and the Prophets, has foretold reaches its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.  Similarly, the time that God had planned to bring forth His son has come as well.  (See Galatians 4:4).  The time of waiting is over, the King has arrived.

“The kingdom of God is at hand” – Up to this point, John has functioned much like a herald for a king, “Hear ye, Hear ye, now comes the King!”  In Medieval times, a herald was one who preceded the king’s entrance to make the announcement of his arrival.  A working definition is “an official formerly charged with making royal proclamations and bearing messages of state between sovereigns.”  This is precisely the way in which John the Baptist performs his ministry, especially as seen in Mark 1:2, 3, 7.  Now that King Jesus is on the scene, He can officially state that the kingdom of God is at hand, or perhaps more literally in your midst.  Jesus’ use of kingdom of God here is significant in that it provides continuity with the Old Testament idea of kingdom.  William Lane points out that kingdom, “links his [Jesus’] proclamation to the self-revelation of God in the OT and stresses the continuity between the new and older revelation.”   It’s likely that Daniel 2:44 can be seen in the background here with the inauguration of Jesus’ kingdom, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever”

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” – We usually hear that the Gospel is “Jesus died on the cross for our sins” but here we see Jesus command belief in the gospel at least 3 years prior to His death, burial, and resurrection.  Is He demanding a future looking faith?  Is He calling people to believe that He will die on the cross?  Or is He properly defining the term Gospel for us?  It would seem to be more of the latter.  The Gospel here is an announcement, that the “good news” has arrived.  This gospel, or good news, is none other than Christ Himself.  Jesus is commanding repentance and belief in Him.  Repentance is more than simply turning from sin.  There must be a hatred of it, a rejection of past ways.  But repentance must be connected with faith, for to turn from sin without setting one’s gaze on Christ is pointless.  Repentance and faith can only be commanded in conjunction with the Gospel.  The Gospel must be announced, it must be preached (Romans 10:14).  Jesus is commanding repentance and belief in His Gospel, i.e. the very person that He is as the Son of God.

Some have tried to separate the necessity of faith from repentance resulting in easy believism.  Others have so over emphasized repentance that it would appear faith takes a backseat.  On some level, a logical order might seem to apply to these demands, i.e. faith first and then repentance.  But no such distinction is necessary because they are two sides of the same coin and to separate one from the other violates both.  Instead, a far more sane approach to understanding how repentance and faith are ordered is to view it as believing repentance and repentant faith.  Spurgeon comments:

“The repentance which is here commanded is the result of faith; it is born at the same time with faith—they are twins, and to say which is the elder-born passes my knowledge. It is a great mystery; faith is before repentance in some of its acts, and repentance before faith in another view of it; the fact being that they come into the soul together.”

As we’ve seen, a new heart is necessary, but so is repentance and faith in the gospel.  It follows then that the new heart given by God is the soil, the Gospel is the seed, and repentance and faith are the first fruits.

Bucket Drops 9/2/11

Youth Return to Apologetics –  I have seen this on display within my own youth ministry.  Teens want to hear the truths of the Bible and where the Bible stands on major issues in today’s culture.  Likewise, they are tired of not having answers or knowing where to find answers to questions that non-believers and people of other faiths bring to them.  Simply put, apologetics has its place among the youth.

Adam and Eve, Clarifying Again what is at stake – This article, by Albert Mohler, is a good follow up to the stories on evolution that I linked to last week.  In this post, Dr. Mohler shows what is at stake when the Bible’s creation account is discounted and rejected.

Burial Box reveals fresh clues about Jesus’ Death – What greater insight into the death of Jesus could anyone possibly want other than eyewitness accounts as recording in God’s Word? I don’t know what these “fresh clues” about Jesus’ death people are looking for, but the Bible gives a detailed, historical account of exactly what happened.  Maybe the scientists should read that for “fresh clues”?

DWTS and Chaz Bono – I think this is just another example of how far as a society we have fallen from Biblical morality.  Popular show, Dancing with the Stars, announced earlier this week that Chaz Bono, daughter of Sonny and Cher Bono will be one of the latest contestants on DWTS.  The controversy over this decision stems from Chaz Bono’s openly “transgendered” lifestyle choice.  Bono now considers herself a man, not merely dressing the part, but anatomically and hormonally as well.  Here is what one defender of Bono’s had to say, “Until you have walked in his shoes you have no right to judge. What would Jesus do? You are mostly all a bunch of hypocrites. Clean up your own backyard.

What would Jesus do?  He may say something to the effect of, “Go and sin no more.” John 8:11 The Word of God is clear on its stance against sexual immorality of any kind, specifically homosexuality as outlined in Romans 1:18-27 and generally in Ephesians 5:5 “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  She needs to repent of her sin and by faith, turn to Christ for forgiveness.

The Offense of the Gospel restored a man from homosexuality – This is an excellent follow up story to the previous one, as a former homosexual tells of his thankfulness that his family and friends “offended” him with the Gospel, by calling him to repentance of his sin. As he states, “Each of them offended me. Each of them made me angry. I viewed them as bigoted, unenlightened, ignorant, prejudiced and hateful. If they truly loved me, I told them, they would accept me and affirm me in the lifestyle I was living. I ignored their calls and I viewed them with skepticism. I did my best to sever my relationships with those who were offending me. But they would not let me go. They did not coddle me, but they refused to give up on me.”  He is now an associate pastor and concludes his article with, “Thank you, dear friends, for your offense to me. At the time, the truth you shared was the aroma of death to me (2 Corinthians 2:15) but today it is the sweet fragrance of life.”

Finally, the video below shows just how far technology has come, literally faster than an earthquake.

 

 

Isaiah 40:15a “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales.”