There are many biblical principles that have been defined by our traditions and preferences, resulting in confusion and division in the body of Christ. I believe that "repentance" is one of these principles that has been reduced to its lowest and least powerful denominator when it is applied only to our behavior.
I remember, as a young believer, the way that my tradition addressed repentance. It went something like this... Father, I think I really messed up this time, and the pastor says I need to confess and repent of my sins. He also said that I need to feel really bad and remorseful or it's probably not real. So-o-o, I'm confessing that I've sinned, and I feel really, really, really bad about it. And I'm really, really sorry about it. So please forgive me and I promise I'll never, ever, ever do it again.
Hmmm. Pretty powerful stuff, huh? Of course I'm exagerating a bit to get my point across, but I think my point is pretty close to home. In this case, repentance was reduced strictly to a remedy for my poor behavior. The goal of this exercise was for me to recognize my deviant actions (sins,) agree with God (confess) these sins, ask His forgiveness, and therefore be free (at least until next time) from the consequences of my terrible behavior and have unfettered relationship restored with my heavenly Father. Not a bad plan... except that repentance is SO much more than fixing errant behavior.
It was glaringly obvious to some that the presidential election result this week was a miracle of God. Sounds like millions of Americans turned their attention to the God of the Universe, humbled themselves and prayed fervently for God's deliverance for our nation. Deliverance from corruption, lies and deceit that have crept into our government and nation gradually through the years, and overtly in more recent times. God answered in a historical upset that confounded pollsters, media, and many or most of the American voters.
Edith and I were working at one of the polls on Tuesday, so we didn't get home until after 10 p.m. Poll workers are pretty much sequestered during the election and don't have access to news (or even phones most of the time), so I had no idea what was happening. I turned the TV on and listened to the most stammering and stuttering of the newscasters that I had ever experienced. They were dumbfounded, confused, shocked, without words. Their polls and confident assertions had been totally debunked!
I did not care for either of the presidential candidates in this election, but felt I should vote because of the platform differences (believed that the Republican platform was closer to Christian principle) and
the Supreme Court judges who would be installed. And perhaps we needed a "wrecking ball" to expose and confront some of the massive corruption that was ongoing.
Anyway, as I watched the election unfold, I experienced two very different thoughts. Seeing God confound the wise and totally change the hearts of many voters was exhilarating, but deep down there was also a sense that Christians had been aroused and energized into action for this election, but if they believed that it was all over and everything is fine again, stopped praying and went back to smelling daisies, then the problems which we have now would be multiplied many times over and this victory of grace would be of little long term value. In other words, if America experienced "revival" like it did in the month after 9/11, but then went back to sleep (like 9/11) the result would be similar to the "house being swept clean but not filled, and seven more demons would return and fill the void." The end would be worse than the present.
So, I believe the call to the Body of Christ is to be vigilant in prayer and stay in a watchful mode. Encourage one another in love and reveal that love into the confused and frustrated communities in which we live. Pray that the folks called into leadership remain safe and are not deterred by the swarms of ungodly folks who would try to lure them back into the status quo of graft and corruption. And, above all, pray for "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
I was recently reading the comments under a news article on the Fox News website. Wow, what an experience. What frustration, anger, fear and disrespect for others flowed out of the discussion. And that was mostly from folks who claimed to be "Christians," or at least referenced Christian values. Then there were the atheists who claimed that there was no evidence that God was real... Christians believed in a myth. I decided to take the last statements at face value and look at things from that perspective. AND to be objective about it as well. Not an easy task, but here's how it went.
First, I considered the Biblical account, but noted that atheists don't believe in the Bible, so I would have to look for evidence of God somewhere else. I remembered some of the scientific research and teachings of the creation scientists that look at the universe from a Christian perspective and attempt to prove the existence of God and the creation with real science. Hmmm... some good stuff, but would that be enough by itself to persuade the atheists that God exists. (See Psalm 19 and do a search on "creation science."
Next, I considered (trying to be logical here) that even in the worldly legal system, eyewitness accounts of a crime or event is highly valued and can determine the results of a trial. Physical evidence along WITH witness testimony is VERY powerful. Sooo, take some of the physical evidence (creation science,) add in eyewitness accounts, and let's see what this looks like.
Much of modern Christianity is about highly produced meetings, videos, movies and music. Seems many Christians feel that they have nothing to contribute if they aren't accomplished speakers or musicians. This is a lie that the enemy would love to have us believe. While we are thankful for every expression of Jesus' testimony and life in this hour, we have to wonder how the early church reached the entire known world without any of our modern conveniences. The early believers had ONE thing that revolutionized the world... the testimony of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. It did not depend on their theological training (many were illiterate) or their charismatic persona. It was "their story of Jesus' life" that they had experienced.
So, let's make this personal... YOUR story is IMPORTANT! YOUR story of JESUS' life being revealed in YOUR person is not about theology or Christian principles, it's about YOUR real experience of HIS life. YOUR comment or testimony spoken under the anointing of the Holy Spirit can be more powerful than a million dollar presentation to a person in need. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus known through believers, even in their (our) weakness. We are HIS instruments, HIS conduit, HIS temple on the earth. Remember Paul's declaration in Ephesians 1:22,23... that "Jesus is head of the church (ecclesia) that is the fullness of the manifestation of the presence of Jesus in the earth." That is NOT my opinion... that is the testimony of the Holy Spirit as recorded in New Testament scripture. How can we walk this out?
The world is overwhelmed with bad news. There is death, destruction and despair in every newscast. Terrorist groups are bombarding the internet with hundreds of thousands of propaganda messages daily, indoctrinating, spreading influence, and recruiting new converts. We believe it’s time for the Body of Christ to use the same technologies to bombard the airwaves with personal messages of faith, hope and goodwill. Not just from professional speakers, teachers and musicians, but from real people who have experienced blessing, salvation, healing, etc., and are willing to share that experience with others.
I recently shared this statement with a group of local pastors and got a variety of reactions. I think some agreed, some not so much, and one asked me to clarify my statement. It was a rather rash statement after all. And this is a dedicated group that prays together weekly for God to revive and restore our churches and community, knowing that it must be a work of the Holy Spirit, as all of OUR efforts have had very limited results. But I would like to present a few reasons that led me to make the statement, and also explain why I'm so excited about it! I'll save the best for last.
There are many things covered in scripture and the natural thoughts of man seem to gravitate toward the negative principles, such as judgement, division, punishment, sin shame, etc. Perhaps this is because natural man knows somehow that he is separated from God and even many Christians judge themselves harshly because they still don't measure up to expectations that they and others have established as Biblical standards. I have to emphatically state... "You don't measure up... EVER! Let's just get that out in front of everyone. Anyone who thinks they measure up to God's standards is living in complete deception. Ok, now I've said it, and stones should be thrown any moment. Where do we go from here?
The gospel (and the whole Bible for that matter) clearly defines the state of man without God. Man IS separated, he IS rejected, he IS unable to do anything that recommends him to God, BUT... God has made a way through Jesus Christ to bridge every division, separation and rejection from God. The blood of the cross covers ALL.
But this isn't only an evangelical statement. I believe the Christian community desperately needs to change its way of looking at things. That it needs to evaluate everything it hears and does by one question..."is what we're doing and teaching building and revealing spiritual life?" Let's take a look further into this.
We had an amazing Band of Brothers meeting in Carrizozo this morning. Got off into a discussion on the subject of Christian meditation. Several agreed that it seemed that the emphasis on Eastern religion and New Age in the 70's and 80's caused many in Christian circles to be overly cautious, or even antagonistic toward meditation. The Bible clearly commands us to meditate on HIS Word and person. Here are just a few scripture references: Jos. 1:8, Ps. 1:2, 63:6, 77:12, 119:15, I Tim. 4:15 etc. So why are we afraid to engage in scriptural meditation when it is so important to our faith?
In the previous article, (God, Horses and Green Slime) we looked at Gen. 1:26 where God says to God, "Let us make man in our image and in our likeness let us make them." We noted that it is difficult to think of human life as "slime or descended from monkeys" when we see that we came from the heart of God, who valued Adam (humanity) enough to declare that Adam was the best of all HIS creation. After all, man (Adam)(insert your own name) was created in the image and likeness of God.
However, there was another being in the garden that wasn't nearly so happy with the new revelation of man. This being was or would be cast out of heaven for pride, insubordination and citing rebellion among God's angels. This original rebel would get back at God by corrupting the image that God had cast in clay and filled with HIS life... God's Adam.
God is spirit, so we don't know whether Adam looked like God. We do know that Adam had the attributes of God. HIS personality, HIS character, HIS heart of compassion, HIS righteousness, HIS creativity, etc. These were the "image and likeness of God" that were placed in Adam when God breathed HIS life (spirit) into Adam. But the serpent had other ideas...
Our custom is to gather together at the El Paisano restaurant on Saturday mornings and have coffee, fellowship and Bible study. One Saturday morning fellowship included a friend of ours who had come in for the holidays and was staying for a few days. He happened to be a cowboy and a man who had spent a good deal of his life training horses, mules and donkeys. He also was a traveler and adventurer and told a fine story. We had several people there that were city folks, so the conversation of course moved toward the romance of the Southwest, cowboy life, and various tall tales from cowboy folklore. Our friend was in his element, with his cowboy attire and mannerisms (including the Mexican Spurs which he wore into the restaurant) and the folks were leaning forward listening and asking questions as he was doing his thing.
Our city friends were enthralled by the stories and the discussion soon turned to the mystic relationship that the cowboy had with his horse. As talk turned to “the horse whisperer,” Howdy explained that the horse only thought of his owner as a food source. As long as he had his hay and oats, he was content to stand in the corral and eat and poop. The horse didn’t know who he was or what his purpose was (other than feeding, breeding and surviving.) He could be an expensive and well bred horse, but until the master took him in hand and began to teach him who he was and what his purpose was, he was just another expensive hayburner in the corral. What a profound thought. And how much more applicable is the principal when applied to people. How many people in the world don't know who they are or what their purpose is? How many people who call themselves Christians don't know who God has called them to be or what they are called to do?
Let's DO Life!