MSG 8-11 It’s true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the law code isn’t primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, lif, sex, truth, whatever! They are contemptuous of this great Message I’ve been put in charge of by this great God.
This is probably the toughest “first” chapter so far for me. I struggle with the use of the law. I want to understand the law as a standard for correction that results in the victory of restoration not a cattle-prod of control but when push comes to shove that’s pretty hard to live out. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “hate the sin but love the sinner.” That’s the ideal. That’s easy to believe but that’s also where all the confusion about the use of the law comes into play.
I found this quote in a commentary: “The demands of the law exceed our ability, and the knowledge of our sin that comes from these demands leads us to repentance.” That quote revealed some truth to me about my use of the law. My limited ability to understand the use of the law is as big an issue for me as it is for that sinner. The reality is the sin the law reveals in someone else has an impact on me. My response to the law and that sinner makes their sin my issue. God has planned for the law to correct the sinner, but wait…there’s more. The revelation of their sin that’s meant to lead their sinful heart to repentance and the use of “that moral guidance and counsel needed” that “exceeds” my ability…is meant to change my heart too. The law is not “us versus them.” Repentance for the inability of my heart to empathize with the needs of another heart is the victory God desires from His law. Lord, work that victory out in me too please.
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
This morning was a perfect object lesson for me. I spent 8 or 9 hours working on this title…Repentance of Gratitude…only to accidentally delete the whole thing as I tried to copy it. Despite my best efforts it was apparently meant just for me to practice what I preach. I hope this reconstruction is just what God had in mind for you to read.
Lent is fast coming to an end and I’m still learning about repentance. It’s easy to reduce it to it’s simplest definition, “being sorry.” Regret is certainly part of repentance but James has led me to another path of thought. What if there’s a another side to repentance that involves our ability to live a good life?
We work so hard in so many ways to live that “good life” that we can hardly escape our sense of entitlement that what we have, even our wisdom and understanding, comes through our own efforts. It’s the sacrifice of that entitlement that becomes the repentance of gratitude for all God has given. Those unplanned surprises and less-than-lovely tasks that happen daily are opportunities to practice “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” That’s what the repentance of gratitude is all about. Those object lessons come every day and last longer than Lent.
“Who is wise and understanding among you?” Remember to practice the repentance of gratitude every day and “show it by [your] good life…”
John 16:31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Quote from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
“Jesus was not rebuking the disciples in this passage. Their faith was real, but it was disordered and unfocused, and was not at work in the important realities of life.”
The idea of real faith being slightly unfocused isn’t really a surprise but Chambers comment made me look at the words of this Scripture more carefully. I can put myself there with those disciple’s hearing Jesus, the one I’ve pledged to faithfully follow, speaking these words to me; ‘You will leave me all alone.” Ever done that?
Of course you have! It hurts to remember failing him doesn’t it?
Remembering that reality is one way Jesus leads you to confession and repentance. Jesus knows…”In this world you will have trouble.” Jesus says remember and repent… “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” “I have told you these things, so that…IN ME…you may have peace.” That’s faith that works in the important realities of life. That’s the secret of the peace of repentance.
Repent: view or think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse.
Sequel: John 17:9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
I wrote about John 17:9 on July 27, 2015. “We can appreciate all the things our heart leads us to do for Christ but this is the most important thing we’ll ever have to offer back to him…to simply Be The Gift!” The fact that we are a gift God has given to Jesus is especially important to remember when your heart has recognized the need for the protection of repentance.
Have you ever received a handmade gift from a child? They’re not usually made with the highest quality materials and the craftsmanship is pretty simple. Those little pieces of torn paper, glue and maybe a smudged handprint with their name written on it get preserved and cherished because they’re the gift of themselves from that moment in time. I suspect that’s how God sees our repentance too.
Repentance is often a reflection of our own childishness; a little less than perfect but it’s all we have to give right then. It probably looks just like what it is, the amateurish efforts of a child still growing and learning. If you want to give the Father who has raised you something special during this Lenten season…give him a handmade gift from your own repentant heart. It will be protected and cherished for all time…and you’ll grow a little bit too.
Psalms 91:2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
I chose the theme of repentance as my focus for Lent. It’s a good topic, right? What I didn’t comprehend was just how serious God was about “his” choice to make “my” choice very personal this year. I could rightly describe some of my many years as a believer as “forgettably faithful” but not this one.
It’s so much easier to talk about repentance than to be confronted with the need for it. It’s exhausting and frankly painful. The “fowler’s snare” is the choice to accept this lie…’You blew it. You had the chance to get it right and you failed yourself and the Lord.’ That’s guilt…and that’s not how God chooses to change us.
OR…you can make this different choice; to be thankful that though your faith has taken a big blow in the light of reality, God has loved you enough to remind you of your need for him. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; [HIS] faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” That’s where repentance happens.
Matt 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
If you’ve had any experience with dieting you actually understand the challenges, and the need, for repentance better than most. Faith is like a diet; it requires consistent and persistent stepping on the scale and weighing in.
Repentance without Jesus may be possible, but like most diets it’s often only a temporary change that hopes for a permanent effect. The challenging part of any diet, even a diet of faith, is there are times we need to tweak our behavior. It’s an ongoing kind of repentance.
It’s very likely you’ve experienced the reality of repentance that’s permanent…your salvation. Jesus, in his grace, dealt with what we could clearly see had to go in that repentance but even then he knew there were things we kept hidden from ourselves that must be fixed.
These days leading up to Easter are not some “churchy” ritual to observe; they’re meant to be very personal. This is the time to weigh in. As hard as it is, we’ve got to step on the scale God has provided through his Spirit, examine our present reality, accept what is revealed…and…respond. That’s how we “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
I thought I clearly understood the relationship between repentance and forgiveness. I repented, God forgave. That’s the model to follow, right? “They” repent, “I” forgive. Hmmm…I’m having to think a little deeper about that because seven times in a day seems like too much to ask.
Could it be that there’s critical heart-change element tied to forgiveness just as there is for repentance? If my words speak forgiveness while my heart does not, isn’t that just a “prettified” form of judgment? In that case, who is more in need of forgiveness…them or me? Does that mean the reality of forgiveness is yet another part of my own repentance?
Why did that verse have to begin with “So watch yourselves?” I’m sorry Lord, that I even have to ask these questions. I thought I understood. Forgive me.