July 9 “Repent!”

Repent!

When will we realize the smartest thing we can do is to repent of our sins?
Because sin comes from corruption in the heart—selfishness, lust, pride, hate and such wonderful things—when we do the sins demanded by these things, and never repent, these forces grow stronger in us. Result? Unrepentant hearts lead directly to stupidity on an amazing scale. Here are some cases in point.

Events Beyond Our Control
We all know that sometimes bad things happen to good people and bad people seem to prosper in spite of their sins. No one can explain this—except to say that we live in a fallen universe. Someone brought up one of these cases to Jesus concerning some deceased Galileans and bloody Governor Pilate. Jesus made no attempt to explain how such an injustice could happen; He merely exhorted the people to take care of their own sins with repentance. Then He referenced a well-known industrial accident and warned against trying to assign blame to the victims. He offered the same warning—Repent! Who knows what today or tomorrow may bring?

An Unproductive Fig Tree
Next came a parable about a man who planted a fig tree and worked with it for three years and it still did not produce figs. The man had had enough and was ready to cut it down and try something else. He told his servant,

“Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’

The keeper of the vineyard asked for one more year of intensive care for the useless tree. Jesus did not finish the story. It is unusual for Him to leave us hanging. Did a year of pruning and special care solve the problem? The implication is that it did. Of course, the intensive horticultural care in the story represents an intense reassessment of life—repentance—turning from sin. Stupidity avoided.

A Hard Case of Stupid
While teaching in the synagogue, a woman bent over at the waist with an infirmity 18 years in her broken body was miraculously healed by Jesus. Wonderful! Right? Not to the Pharisees. Loaded as they were with sins never repented of, they saw no cause for rejoicing. In their sin-induced stupidity, all they saw was an imagined violation of the Sabbath. Jesus had “worked” on the Lord’s Holy Day by healing someone. The height, breadth, and depth of this stupidity is hard for us to understand but it is the inevitable result to the brain of piled up sins. Jesus could not resist addressing their spiritual blindness. He compared the woman’s plight with that of an injured beast of burden.

“So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”

This answer swayed the worshipers in the synagogue to support Jesus and shamed the Pharisees. Lesson: Unrepentant hearts lead directly to stupidity on an amazing scale. When will we realize the smartest thing we can do is to repent of our sins? Can you hear Jesus saying, “Repent!”?

Scriptures:
Luke: 13:1-17

There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; 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 sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'” Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is simply no reason for me to carry around with me the record of my past sins! You have nailed them to Your Holy Cross! Because I confessed my sinful life and deeds to You and repented of them—seeking to reverse course and go Your way and not mine—those sins are gone, never to be remembered against me again! Thank You, Jesus. Each sin was a handle for Satan to grab hold of me but You have broken all those access points. When the old devil tries to grab me there, his hands slip away for my life is soaked by Your Holy Blood. Stupidity avoided! Praise the Lord!

Song:
Just As I Am

Words: Charlotte Elliot; Music: William B. Bradbury

1. Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

2. Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

3. Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

4. Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

April 11 “Unrepentant”

Unrepentant

Is there anything more personally destructive than an unrepentant heart?
The answer is no. According to the dictionary to be unrepentant is “having or exhibiting no remorse.” Despite the knowledge of personal sins, the unrepentant heart feels no remorse and is busy planning the next wickedness. This heart holds on to grievances, clings to wickedness, revels in the memories of vengeance in the past, and searches for cruel advantage over others. No amount of preaching gets through to the unrepentant heart for it does not hear. Suspicion rules the mind; everyone is evil, all plans are schemes, all words are lies, and all laws are meant to be broken.

Jesus Pronounces Woe
“Woe” is a term no longer in popular use but it is the right word for the pronouncements of Jesus here. It means, “grievous distress, affliction, or trouble.” At first glance, we may see anger in Jesus’ words. If anger is there, there is also something else in greater measure—grief. Jesus speaks from a broken heart. He did not pass through these cities to bring them woe, but to bring them blessing. Jesus and His men had walked through the marketplaces of Chorazin, Bethasaida, and Capernaum. He had preached the Good News and performed healing miracles without number. Demons fled at the sound of His voice, leaving clean but exhausted souls in their wake. Many people repented of their sins and started new lives.

Times have not changed.
Today the unrepentant heart retains its destructive power. God gave man a conscience, an innate knowledge of right and wrong. When Adam and Eve sinned, humankind lost its innocence and began to violate this conscience. God gave the Law to make the matter clear and He raised up the priesthood to teach the people the difference between the holy and the profane. With a repentant heart, the Old Covenant worshiper could get forgiveness and a brand new start each year. Those who refused to repent continued to accumulate sin and eventually brought woe on themselves. When unrepentant souls gained enough power to corrupt the nation, God lifted His protective Covenant and enemies conquered them. The only solution was spiritual renewal—a call to repentance and a renewal of true Worship. This happened time and again.

Under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of his/her guilt and need for a Savior. The Spirit then points the guilty one to Jesus, the Sin Bearer. Repentance of sin and faith in Christ starts the repentant one on a brand new life, a life full of blessing not woe. We are now in the Marketplaces to tell the Jesus Story. Through He is calling for repentance. Many will not listen but some will.

Is there anything more life changing than a repentant heart? No.

Scriptures:
Matthew 11:20-24
Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
1 Timohty 4:1-3
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…
1 John 1:8-10
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Prayers of Repentance:
From The Book of Common Prayer (adapted SRP)
Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. I have not loved You with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbor as myself. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ have mercy on me and forgive me; that I may delight in Your will, and walk in Your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Almighty God has mercy on me. He forgives me all my sins through our Lord Jesus Christ. He strengthens me in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keeps me in eternal life. Amen.

Song:
Just As I am
Words: Charlotte Elliot; Music: William B. Bradbury

1. Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

2. Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

3. Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

4. Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved