Saturday, January 23, 2016

Remember Lot’s Wife

Dear God seekers,

I want to compare and contrast the wives of Lot and Noah. There were both similarities and differences between them.

Lot’s Wife
Let’s begin with the words of our Lord Jesus, who said, "Remember Lot's wife.” (Luk 17:32). This is one of the shortest verses in the Bible, and yet has very profound meaning.

In the context, Jesus was giving instructions for those of us who are living in these last days when He returns. He told us that if we are in the field at that time, we must not turn back to get anything in the house. And if we are on the rooftop, we should not go back down to retrieve any goods inside. He reminded us of Lot’s wife as a warning to us if we do turn back. And He explicitly said, "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luk 17:33). Therefore, His admonition to remember Lot’s wife is a very important one, since she lost her life when she sought to keep it. These things happened to her as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come, as a warning to keep us from doing what she did and coming under the same judgment (1 Co 10:11).

It would be useful for us at this point to review the account of what happened to Lot’s wife in its proper context, in order to fully apprehend the lesson we are supposed to learn from it.

When Abraham (then called Abram) moved to Canaan from Haran with his wife Sarah (then called Sarai) and his nephew Lot, God promised to give him the land of Canaan (Gen 12:5). Both Abraham and Lot had flocks and herds and the land could not sustain them, so strife erupted between their herdsmen. Then Abraham proposed a way to resolve the strife by separating from each other. He offered Lot to go any place he wished in the land, and Lot chose to settle in the beautiful, well-watered valley of the Jordan, which was like the garden of the Lord. So he journeyed eastward and eventually settled in Sodom, while Abraham settled in Canaan, so this is how they separated.

“Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.’” (Gen 13:13-15)

A few years later, the Lord appeared to Abraham at his tent by the oaks of Mamre. And the LORD said, "The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know." (Gen 18:20-21). So Abraham proceeded to negotiate with the Lord to spare the righteous, rather than destroy them with the wicked who lived in that place. Because of Abraham’s intercession, the Lord sent two angels to Lot in Sodom, in order to rescue him and his family before they destroyed the city.

“Then the two men said to Lot, ‘Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.’" (Gen 19:12-13)

For Lot’s sake, the Lord would have spared anyone who belonged to his household. But as it was, neither of his sons-in-law believed Lot when he tried to warn them. So the only family members that escaped with Lot were his wife and two daughters.

“When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.’ But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, one said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.’" (Gen 19:15-17)

Lot's Wife pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel
Lot was the only righteous person in his family, but his wife and daughters were spared for his sake. They were strictly warned not to look behind them, and not to stay in the valley, but to run for their lives and escape to the mountains. Lot negotiated with the angel to escape to the nearby town of Zoar, rather than the mountains, which they did with the angel’s permission. However, on the way, Lot’s wife looked back.

“By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Gen 19:23-26, NIV)

It is very likely that the angel of the Lord was leading them as they escaped to Zoar, followed by Lot’s wife and daughters, with Lot in the rear to make sure everybody made it safely. When Lot’s wife looked back, she may have been in front of Lot in the group, so that he saw her at the moment she turned around and became a pillar of salt. If she had been behind him, as the NASB version states, he would not have seen this happen, since he was forbidden to look behind him. However, the NIV version agrees with the Hebrew text of Scripture, which does not indicate that Lot’s wife was behind him, but that she looked behind her.

Based on this account, we may conclude that Lot’s wife was a worldly woman, who loved the city of Sodom and its unprincipled men, and who was not oppressed by their sensual conduct as righteous Lot was, nor was she tormented as he was in his soul day after day by their lawless deeds (2Pe 2:7-8). All she had to do was obey the angel’s orders to escape and not look back. But she ignored the Lord's command and looked back, because she loved this world and the life she had in Sodom. That is why she came under judgment with that city and lost her life. She had been shown grace by being given the chance to escape destruction, but she resisted the grace of God, because of her worldliness.

It did not matter that she was related to a righteous man by marriage. You can be the wife of a godly preacher, but still perish. You can be the son or daughter of righteous parents and still perish.

The fact that Lot's wife perished when she looked back is a warning not only against loving our lives in this world, but also against worldliness. James warned, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jas 4:4). And John said, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1Jn 2:15).

Noah’s Wife
Now let’s look at the wife of Noah to see the similarities and differences she had with Lot’s wife.

God decided to destroy the earth because of the wickedness of men.

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” (Gen 6:5-8)

The reason why Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and why the Lord decided to spare Noah was that He was a righteous and blameless man who walked with God. It says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.”(Gen 6:9b)

The reason the Lord spared his family was not that they were righteous, but for Noah’s sake and to repopulate the earth. The apostle Peter said God, “preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.” (2Pe 2:5). Peter emphasized that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and the seven others were spared with him.

He preached righteousness to a wicked generation, while he built the ark, but nobody took heed to what he said. Noah himself did not come up with the pattern for the ark or its dimensions and specifications. God gave him the instructions with all the specifications, and Noah obediently followed them by building the ark accordingly. “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.” (Gen 6:22)

Before the flood came, God commanded Noah to enter the ark with his family. “Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.’” (Gen 7:1). Again, the Lord emphasized that he saw Noah alone as righteous before Him in that time.

Entering the ark was the condition the Lord gave Noah for salvation. If Noah, along with his wife and household, were to be rescued from destruction, all they needed to do was enter the ark and remain in it. Once they entered, there was no going outside for fresh air while they waited for the rain to begin. Noah’s wife obeyed and stayed in the ark. That’s a key difference between her and Lot’s wife, who disobeyed. Noah’s wife did not love the world as Lot’s wife did.

The ark is a type of Christ, according to Peter (1 Pe 3:20-21). If you don’t stay in Christ, who is the ark, you cannot be saved. It’s not a guaranteed salvation, which is certain to happen, no matter what you choose to do. You have to remain in Christ. You must obey Him.

Jesus taught us to abide in Him when He said, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Joh 15:6-7)

Jesus also taught us to obey Him when He said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. (Joh 15:10)

The apostle John taught us to abide in Him. “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”  (1Jn 3:24)

Putting it All Together
In summary, Lot’s wife was a bad example of what not to do, and Noah’s wife was a godly example for us to follow. Both women were married to righteous men at a time when God was sending destruction upon the wicked people of the earth. While neither woman was named in Scripture, God extended grace to both of them, and gave them some simple commands to follow.

Noah’s wife received the grace of God unto salvation, but Lot’s wife received God’s grace in vain. Noah’s wife believed and obeyed the Lord’s command, but Lot’s wife did not believe and disobeyed. Noah’s wife cared not for this world, and had no problem separating from it, but Lot’s wife loved this world. Noah’s wife lost her life and in doing so preserved it, but Lot’s wife sought to keep her life and in doing so lost it. Noah’s wife escaped destruction, but Lot’s wife did not.

Remember Lot’s wife. Don’t look back. Jesus said, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luk 9:62). Rather than love this world or the things of this world, separate from it. Escape for your life! If you don’t, you will be swept away. Flee from the coming wrath. Save yourselves from this corrupt generation (Ac 2:40)! If you don’t know the Lord, then repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins. If you do know Him, then remain in Christ and obey His commands.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The photo of the Lot's Wife salt pillar is a geological formation on Mount Sodom, overlooking the Dead Sea (from Wikimedia Commons). Wikipedia states: "The site of the present Dead Sea Works, a large operation for the extraction of Dead Sea minerals, is called 'Sdom' (סדום) according to its traditional Arab name, Khirbet as-sudūm. Nearby is unique Mount Sodom (הר סדום in Hebrew) consisting mainly of salt. In the Plain of Sdom (מישור סדום) to the south there are a few springs and two small agricultural villages."

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like No Turning Back, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Separation from the World, Don't Look Back (poem), Come Out of Her, Garments of Godliness, Keeping Your Body Pure and Holy, Keeping Sundays Holy, Faith Works!, Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Two Divine Revelations, The Straight and Narrow Path, and Ask for the Ancient Paths. I highly recommend reading, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Conditions of the New Covenant, and Holy Fire Baptism. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Keeping a Good Conscience

I want to talk to you about something we don’t hear much about any more, which is the conscience. This is one of the faculties of perception that God has given to each human being. Not only do we have our five, natural senses, which enable us to taste, touch, see, smell, and hear, we also have the ability to know right from wrong. We have this ability to consider whether something is good or evil and be conscious of it. In other words, we can be aware of what we are doing or thinking, and at the same time know if it is morally right or wrong. It’s like a built-in heat detector or fire alarm, which God gave us for our protection.

Bearing Witness to Right and Wrong
You conscience will bother you when you have sinned. “It came about afterward that David's conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul's robe.” (1Sa 24:5)

Your conscience will tell you when you have done what is right and when you have done what is wrong. “In that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,” (Rom 2:15). Your conscience either defends you or accuses you.

Your conscience will testify to you whether you are telling the truth, once the Holy Spirit has enlightened it. “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,” (Rom 9:1)

Your conscience will also bear testimony to you, when you have conducted yourself in holiness and godly sincerity, so that you can be confident that you have done so. “For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.” (2Co 1:12)

Keeping a Good Conscience
You can be sure that you have a good conscience. “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.” (Heb 13:18)

We should live our lives with a perfectly good conscience. “Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.’" (Act 23:1)

You have to keep a good conscience, meaning you have to hold it or possess it. It does not stay good on its own. Some people have rejected a good conscience and become shipwrecked. “Keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (1Ti 1:19).

“And keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” (1Pe 3:16)

Love should come from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1Ti 1:5)

We should always maintain a blameless conscience before God and men. "In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men. (Act 24:16)

We must serve God with a clear (pure, clean) conscience the way the apostle Paul did. “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2Ti 1:3)

Deacons should hold to the mysteries of the faith with a clear conscience. “But holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” (1Ti 3:9)

A Clear Conscience Does not Acquit You
While Paul emphasized the fact that he maintained a clear conscience, he acknowledged that it alone did not mean he was innocent. He declared that Christ was His judge. “For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” (1Co 4:4). Therefore, while a clear conscience is important, it does not guarantee you are innocent. You must still stand in judgment before the Lord, and He will examine you.

Tending to Your Own Conscience
One reason we submit to both secular and spiritual authorities is for the sake of conscience, and the other reason is to avoid wrath. “Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.” (Rom 13:5)

However, even when we submit to authorities, we may still suffer under them unjustly. If we endure it for the sake of conscience, this is commendable. “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.” (1Pe 2:19)

Your conscience can be weak, when it is not properly strengthened by God’s grace and the knowledge of the truth. And committing sin will defile any conscience. “However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.” (1Co 8:7)

A weak conscience can also be strengthened by the bad example of a fellow believer. Once a weak conscience is strengthened in such an ungodly way, it will be able to commit sin without being offended. “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?” (1Co 8:10)

We don’t want to sin against the brethren by being a bad example, wounding their weak conscience, and thereby strengthening it in an ungodly way. This is a sin against Christ. “And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” (1Co 8:12)

Sometimes it is better not to know too much about the prior history of the meats we eat, or else we may learn of something that prohibits us from eating it, and that our conscience would be offended if we ate it with that knowledge. So don’t ask questions about the meat. “Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake…If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake.” (1Co 10:25,27)

However, if you find out about the prior history of the meat, because someone tells you, and realize you are not supposed to eat it, according to the Word of God (Act 15:28-29), then you should not eat it. The reason you should not eat it is both for the sake of conscience and for the sake of the other person. As Paul said, “But if anyone says to you, ‘This is meat sacrificed to idols,’ do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake;” (1Co 10:28)

Tending to the Consciences of Others
When Paul said that you should not eat it for conscience’ sake, he meant that you would be sinning if you ate it, since the other person knows you are not supposed to eat it, and if you do eat it, their conscience would be emboldened in an ungodly way by your bad example. Paul said, “I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience?” (1Co 10:29)

Live your life in such a way so that you can commend yourself to every man’s conscience in God’s sight, meaning you avoid sin, shameful secrets, and the mere appearance of evil. “But we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” (2Co 4:2)

Your Conscience Can Become Seared
You need to take good care of your conscience, and don’t ignore it, because it can become seared from repeated overheating, and then it won’t work correctly any more. “By means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” (1Ti 4:2). Once a person’s conscience has been seared, it is like when an animal has been branded. Just as the animal hide that is seared by branding with a hot iron cannot be restored to its original condition, the conscience cannot be restored back to its original condition after it has been seared, except by a miracle of God’s grace. This is a fatal mistake, because without a properly functioning conscience, a person cannot even repent. And if they cannot repent, they cannot be forgiven.

Your Conscience Can Become Defiled
We understand the dangers of being contaminated with nuclear radiation, but do we understand the seriousness of tainting the conscience. People who are defiled and unbelieving have contaminated their consciences. “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” (Tit 1:15)

Relationship Between Baptism and Conscience
There is a connection between water baptism and conscience. Which comes first, baptism or a purged conscience?

In speaking of Noah’s ark and the flood, Peter said, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. (1Pe 3:21-22)

Peter said baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” The Greek word for “appeal” is “eperotema” meaning “an inquiry: - answer.” (Strongs). Water baptism is an answer to God for a good conscience. An answer is something you give in response to something else.

John Wesley said it best like this in his comments on 1Pe 3:21-22: “That is, through the water of baptism we are saved from the sin which overwhelms the world as a flood: not, indeed, the bare outward sign, but the inward grace; a divine consciousness that both our persons and our actions are accepted through him who died and rose again for us.”

The KJV says, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” (1Pe 3:21). This is a correct translation. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God.

It is not “a question to God,” as other versions incorrectly state. For example, the YLT refers to baptism as “the question of a good conscience in regard to God” and the ASV refers to it as “the interrogation of a good conscience toward God”.

The Blood of Jesus Purges the Conscience
It is the blood of Christ that cleanses, purges, or purifies your conscience, not water baptism. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:13-14).

As the sprinkling of animal blood formerly cleansed the flesh of the worshipper, the blood of Christ now cleanses your conscience. One must obtain a purged conscience before water baptism.

We do not receive a purged conscience from water baptism, but from the sprinkled blood of our great high priest, Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb 10:19-22)

Without the blood of Jesus applied to our hearts and the waters of baptism applied to our bodies, we would not have confidence to enter the holy place; we would not be able to draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. It is the sprinkled blood that purges our hearts from an evil conscience, and it is the water that washes our bodies. That is the proper, Scriptural order – first the blood-sprinkled conscience, then the washing of the body. Therefore, when a person is water baptized, it is the godly, biblical way of responding to the cleansed conscience he has already received.

Putting it All Together
While God has given us each a conscience, through which we are conscious of right and wrong, we have all defiled it through sin before coming to know Christ. There is none righteous. But when you repent and give your life to Jesus, His blood purges your conscience. You are not guilty, because you’ve accepted the atonement, not only because of a purged conscience, but because of destroyed records. In His great mercy, God forgives all your past sins, destroys all the records of them, and remembers them no more. This is a miracle of God’s amazing grace in your life.

Once you have received a good conscience through repentance and faith in Christ, then you should be baptized with water. That is an outward ceremony expressing the grace that you have experienced in our heart. It’s the answer of a good conscience.

But then you need to keep a good conscience all your life from that point forward. Now your conscience must be trained by and taken captive by the Word of God. You need to take care to maintain a clear conscience toward God at all times, so that it does not become defiled.

Going against your conscience is neither right nor safe. Neglecting your conscience, and ignoring its warnings, leads to it eventually becoming seared. In that case, it no longer works correctly, and we lose the benefit of its protection. That’s why you need to listen to your conscience, acting according to its dictates, and always do what is right. If at any point you commit a sin, you should immediately repent and receive a cleaning in our conscience once again. This will help to keep it in good working order, functioning properly as it should, so that you can live a blameless life before God in Christ and make it to heaven.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The "Washed by the Blood" painting © 2012 is by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. 

Author's note: I also recommend reading Repentance That Leads to Life, Bowing Low in Worship, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Ask for the Ancient Paths, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Should you fear the Lord?, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell, The Judgment Seat of Christ, Tattoos and Body Piercing, Divorce -- Three Divine Revelations, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Six Divine Revelations, Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, and The Book of Life. You may access the Main Directory for this Seeking the Lord blog for more articles like this, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Repentance That Leads to Life

I would like to explain repentance, because it is a critical aspect of our salvation that is neglected and misunderstood. Human nature is to either not repent at all or else to repent insincerely. Yet the only way we can receive forgiveness from God is by genuinely repenting. In fact, this is one of the basic, fundamental teachings of our faith.

Paul said, “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,” (Heb 6:1). Repentance from dead works and faith in God are the essential first steps to becoming a disciple of Christ, but they must also a daily part of our ongoing walk with Jesus all throughout our lives.

So let’s look at the two Hebrew words for repentance.

In the Old Testament, the most frequently used Hebrew word for "repent" is “shub” meaning “to turn back (hence, away)…literally or figuratively (not necessarily with the idea of return to the starting point); generally to retreat; often adverbially again:..bring (again, back, home again), call [to mind], carry again (back), cease…come again (back) …convert, deliver (again), + deny, draw back, fetch home again…go again (back, home)…pull in again, put (again, up again)…restore, retrieve, (cause to, make to) return, reverse… slide back…(cause to, make to) turn (again, self again, away, back, back again, backward, from, off), withdraw.” (Strongs).

Turning Back and Reversing Your Direction
For example, the word “shub” is used in this passage in Ezekiel about repentance:

"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct," declares the Lord GOD. "Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions, which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live." (Eze 18:30-32). If you want to live, you must repent. Otherwise you will surely die. But when you repent, you must turn away from all your transgressions and cast them away from you.

The word “shub” is also used to refer to the way man returns to the ground from which he was taken (Gen 3:19; Job 10:9; 34:15).  It is used to refer to the way the water receded from the earth after the Great Flood (Gen 8:3).  It is used to refer to the dove returning to Noah while the waters were still upon the earth after the flood (Gen 8:9). It is used to refer to Hagar the slave woman returning to Sarah her mistress (Gen 16:9). It is used of the Lord returning to Abraham one year later (Gen 18:10,14). It is used of Moses returning to his father-in-law Jethro (Exo 4:18). It is used of  the waters of the Red Sea returning and covering the Egyptians who had gone after the Israelites (Exo 14:28; 15:19). It is used for the Israelites desire to return to Egypt (Num 14:3-4). It is used to refer to the Israelites turning away from following the Lord (Num 14:43; 32:15; Jos 22:23,29; Jdg 2:19; 1Ki 9:6; 2Ch 7:19). It’s used of the waters of the Jordan returning back to flood level after the Israelites crossed over (Jos 4:18). It’s used of the Israelites returning from exile (Ezr 6:21). It’s also used of the Israelites returning to the Lord (Deu 4:30; Deu 30:2,8; 1Ki 8:46-50; 2Ch 7:13-14; Neh 1:9). It’s also used of sinners turning to the Lord (Psa 51:13).

Turning to the Lord and Obeying Him Again
Repentance is turning to the Lord and obeying Him again, as used in the following passages:

“And you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons,” (Deu 30:2)

"And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.” (Deu 30:8-10)

Repenting With All Your Heart And Soul
When you repent, it is important to repent with all your heart and with all your soul, as it says in the following passage:

"When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, 'We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly'; if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to You toward their land which You have given to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name; then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them.” (1Ki 8:46-50)

"If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2Ch 7:13-14).

Being restored to God is conditional, based upon you repenting, which is returning to Him, and removing unrighteousness far from your tent like it says in the following passage:

"If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored; If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent, And place your gold in the dust, And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks, Then the Almighty will be your gold And choice silver to you. For then you will delight in the Almighty And lift up your face to God.” (Job 22:23-26)

There are serious consequences, if you do not repent. “If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.” (Psa 7:12). God will sharpen His sword and use it on you. This verse depicts God aiming an arrow at you with a bent bow, ready to shoot, unless you repent.

David spoke of sinners repenting to the Lord. “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.” (Psa 51:13)

Being Truly Sorry
There is also another Hebrew word for "repent," which is “nacham” meaning “properly to sigh, that is, breathe strongly; by implication to be sorry, that is, (in a favorable sense) to pity, console…or comfort (self), ease [one’s self], repent (-er, -ing, self).” (Strongs).

It is used of the Lord being sorry He had made man on the earth (Gen 6:6,7). It is used of the Lord relenting from sending calamity (2Sa. 24:16; 1Ch. 21:15; Jer. 18:8; 26:3; 42:10; Lam. 1:21; Eze. 14:22; Jon. 3:10; 4:2). It is used of the Lord changing His mind about the misfortune that He had pronounced against Judah (Jer. 26:13,19). It is used of the Lord comforting those who mourn (Jer 31:13,15). It is also used of man repenting (Job 42:6; Jer. 8:6; 31:19)

Job said to the Lord, “Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes."  (Job 42:6). This speaks of laying on one’s face, prostrate before the Lord on the ground in self-abasement. See my article on Bowing Low in Worship.

God doesn’t need to repent, since He is not a man. "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Num 23:19). This passage speaks of the fact that God will do what He said He would do. When He said He would punish the wicked, He meant it and He will surely do it, unless they repent.

There is a passage in which both the Hebrew words “shub” and “nacham” are used together as synonyms. In the following passage, note how the word “shub” is used to mean both “turning away” from the Lord, as well as “repenting” and “returning”, and “nacham” refers to the aspect of repentance in which one shows remorse by “grieving” and “being sorry.” It states:

"You shall say to them, 'Thus says the LORD, "Do men fall and not get up again? Does one turn away (Hebrew, shub) and not repent (Hebrew, shub)? "Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away (Hebrew, shub) in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return (Hebrew, shub). "I have listened and heard, They have spoken what is not right; No man repented (Hebrew, nacham) of his wickedness, Saying, 'What have I done?' Everyone turned (Hebrew, shub) to his course, Like a horse charging into the battle.” (Jer 8:4-6)

We learn from this passage that if a person is truly repenting and remorseful, God expects him to have an attitude that is described by the words, “What have I done?” If a person continues in his sin like a horse charging into battle, after he has said he repents, then his repentance is not sincere.

The New Covenant Repentance of Ephraim
In this next passage about the New Covenant (Jer 31), the Lord prophesies of a future time when His people will weep in repentance and turn back to Him. In the following verses, both the Hebrew words “shub” and “nacham” are used, along with other words that describe the actions that accompany genuine repentance:

"I have surely heard Ephraim grieving, 'You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained calf; Bring me back (Hebrew, shub) that I may be restored (Hebrew, shub), For You are the LORD my God. For after I turned back (Hebrew, shub), I repented (Hebrew, nacham); And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed and also humiliated Because I bore the reproach of my youth.' Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD.” (Jer 31:18-20).

In this passage, in addition to the two Hebrew words “shub” and “nacham” we also have Ephraim’s grieving, which the Lord says He heard, so it is audible, and the words of Ephraim in his grief are recorded. The word “grieving” comes from the Hebrew word “nud” (pronounced like the English word nude), which means “to nod, that is, waver; figuratively to wander, flee, disappear; also (from shaking the head in sympathy), to console, to take pity...deplore...bemoan, flee...mourn...remove, shake...be sorry.” (Strongs).  So when Ephraim repented, this word vividly describes how. This word may refer to the nodding of the head in acknowledgement that God is right to punish him, the shaking of the head in remorse and sorrow, fleeing from sin, deploring his sin, bemoaning himself, mourning for what he has done, shaking, and being sorry.

The words of Ephraim grieving are, “You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained calf; Bring me back that I may be restored, For You are the LORD my God. For after I turned back, I repented; And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed and also humiliated Because I bore the reproach of my youth.” Let’s look at these words he spoke in his grief as he repented.

He acknowledges that the Lord has chastised him for his own sin. The word “chastise” is the Hebrew word “yasar” meaning “to chastise, literally (with blows) or figuratively (with words); hence to instruct: - bind, chasten, chastise, correct, instruct, punish, reform, reprove, sore, teach.” (Strongs). So he acknowledges that he has been properly beaten with blows, punished by God, and he is sore now. He has been corrected, reproved, and instructed. He has learned his lesson. He is saying, “Lord, You beat me and I deserved it.” We are supposed to accept hardship as discipline, and endure it as being our Father’s punishment (Heb 12:7). That’s what Ephraim did.

He compares himself to a young calf that has acted in an untamed manner and needs to be brought back. He asks God to bring him back that he may be restored. The words “bring back” and “restore” are both the same Hebrew word “shub.” We can’t even repent unless God grants us repentance, so Ephraim asks for God to do so and bring him back to the Lord. When we are sorry for our sin and grieving, we must do the same, asking God for genuine repentance and to bring us back to Him, as Ephraim did.

He says, “You are the Lord my God.” This is an important statement that reestablishes his rightful relationship with the Lord. It is no longer idols and foreign gods whom he serves. Rather it is Jehovah who is his God. Everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved (Rom 10:13). His name is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephraim says, “For after I turned back, I repented.” So he first turned back to God (Hebrew, shub), from whom he had gone astray. Then he repented (Hebrew, nacham). It’s similar to the prodigal son, who first returned to his father (Lk 15:20), and then expressed to him his sorrow for what he had done to sin against heaven and in his sight (Lk 15:21). We need to do the same as the prodigal son when we repent. That’s what Ephraim did.

He says, “After I was instructed, I smote on my thigh.” So once he realized his mistake, he struck himself on the thigh. The word in Hebrew for thigh is “yarek” meaning “by euphemism the generative parts; figuratively a shank, flank, side: loins, shaft, side, thigh.” (Strongs). So where exactly he struck himself is uncertain, whether it was on the buttock, or the side of the thigh, or the loin (generative parts), but it was probably painful. The Hebrew women would also sometimes beat their breasts when they repented, and I am sure that was also painful (Isa. 32:12; Nah. 2:7). That’s like the sinner in the temple did, as recorded in Luke 18:13. Jesus said, "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' That’s what the apostle Paul did. For he said, "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1Co 9:27, NIV). Also see my article, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian.

According to the statement Ephraim made while he was grieving over his sin, after he smote himself on the thigh, he “was ashamed and also humiliated” because he bore the reproach of his youth.  Let’s look at these words, too.

The word for “ashamed” is “bush” (pronounced “boosh”), meaning “properly to pale, that is, by implication to be ashamed; also (by implication) to be disappointed, or delayed: - (be, make, bring to, cause, put to, with, a-) shame (-d), be (put to) confounded (-fusion), become dry, delay, be long.” (Strongs). To be ashamed is to be affected by shame, abashed or confused by guilt, or convicted of sin. Shame itself is “A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by of that which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal. Shame is particularly excited by the disclosure of actions which, in the view of men, are mean and degrading. Hence it it is often or always manifested by a downcast look or by blushes, called confusion of face.” (Webster’s). This is what Ephraim experienced, which is one mark of genuine repentance. He was ashamed, because of his sin and disgrace.

He said he was also humiliated. The Hebrew word for humiliated is “kalam” meaning “properly to wound; but only figuratively, to taunt or insult: - be (make) ashamed, blush, be confounded, be put to confusion, hurt, reproach, (do, put to) shame” (Strongs). This is very similar to his being ashamed. He felt the pain of the emotional wound caused by his sin. This is an excellent picture of true repentance.

And let me remind you how God responded to this. "’Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer 31:20)  You see, God is so full of love and mercy that He yearns for us to repent sincerely, so that He may show us mercy. He remembered Ephraim when he repented genuinely and He promised He would surely have mercy on him. 

Tearful Repentance
The following is an excerpt taken from Baptized by Blazing Fire by Yong-Doo Kim, Book #2:

”For a pastor and his wife, it would be much more difficult for their spiritual eyes to be opened, a very painful process. There are many different types of prayers, but the most powerful prayer that will speed up the process is one of tearful repentance.”

”Compared to others, I don’t shed tears very often. It may be because of my strong personality. No matter how hard I’m praying and calling out to the Lord, I can’t cry, even though I have tried. I asked the pastor for help and he said I lacked a contrite spirit. He encouraged me to ask the Lord for a contrite heart.”

“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

”All afternoon I prayed with a contrite and repenting heart and the Lord poured onto me the blessing of tears of repentance. The Holy Spirit covered me with tears and sweat. I was choked up with tears as I cried uncontrollably. Speaking through Joo-Eun, God told me my tearful repentance was acceptable to Him.”

”Jesus took me to visit Heaven. I always love and enjoy visits to Heaven. When I got there, Yae-Ji and I began dancing before the Lord. We asked him, ‘Lord, please pour down the tears of repentance on Deaconess Shin Sung-Kyun, and Joseph. They both desire to pray the prayer of repentance tearfully but can’t cry.’ But the Lord replied, ‘I can only give the tears of repentance when people are sincerely praying for repentance with their hearts.’”

The Gospel
I have read some who think that the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ does not require repentance, because repentance requires work or action on the part of the sinner, and we are saved by grace, not by works. This is deception from the devil to keep people from repenting. One thing God cannot do for you is to repent. He can grant you repentance, but He will not repent for you. You must repent yourself.  There is no other way to receive His forgiveness for your sins.

Jesus taught the two men on the road to Emmaus about this after his resurrection. “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luk 24:45-47)

Jesus said we must proclaim repentance for forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations. These days, you usually hear preachers say that you only need to believe in Jesus Christ to be saved. They tell people that all they need is to accept Jesus into their heart, but they don't mention repentance. However, the true gospel we are commanded to proclaim is one of repentance for forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. This is what Jesus preached, as well as John the Baptist and the apostles of Christ.

It says of John the Baptist that “He came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luk 3:3; cf., Act 13:24). He preached, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat 3:2). So did Jesus.

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’" (Mat 4:17). Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mar 1:15)

The Greek word for “repent” is “metanoeo” meaning “to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): - repent.” When you repent, you will reconsider what you have done, you will feel moral compunction. It is in complete harmony with the Hebrew words “shub” and “nacham” that were used in the Old Testament. The act of repentance has not changed, just the covenant and the terms of it. The shed blood of God’s Son Jesus, not the blood of animals, has made atonement for us. Paul said, "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” (Act 13:38-39).

Repentance is an essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it's a core component, so let’s look at some of the New Testament Scriptures on repentance.

Calling All Sinners
The purpose for which Jesus came was not to call righteous people to follow Him, but to call sinners to repentance. "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luk 5:32)

Repent or Perish
There is no other way to have eternal life. Repent or perish. "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luk 13:3)

Repentance Leads to Life
“When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’" (Act 11:18)

Joy in Heaven Over a Repentant Sinner
"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luk 15:7)

"In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luk 15:10)

The Unrepentant Are Denounced
“Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.” (Mat 11:20)

Paul said, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” (Rom 2:5)

Paul said, “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.” (2Co 12:21)

Jesus Commended the Repentant
Jesus commended the men of Nineveh for repenting at the preaching of Jonah. "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Mat 12:41; cf., Luk 11:32)

Rebuke Your Brother if He Sins
The fact that repentance is a condition for forgiveness is why we must rebuke our brother who sins, so that he may repent. "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him.” (Luk 17:3-4)

The Apostles Preached Repentance
When Jesus sent out his disciples, they preached repentance, too. “They went out and preached that men should repent.” (Mar 6:12)

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Act 2:38)

Peter said to Simon the sorcerer, "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. (Act 8:22)

Paul said, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” (Act 17:30)

Paul was “Solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Act 20:21)

Times of Refreshing
Peter said that repentance is the only way to receive times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Act 3:19)

God Grants Repentance and Forgiveness
Speaking of Jesus, Peter said, "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Act 5:31)

His kindness leads us to repentance. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4)

Paul said, “With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” (2Ti 2:25). Notice that true repentance leads to a knowledge of the truth.

Bearing the Fruit of Repentance
It is not enough to simply say we repent, we must bear the fruits of repentance.

John the Baptist said, "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” (Luk 3:8)

Paul, “Kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” (Act 26:20)

The Danger of Continuing in Willful Sin
If we do not bear the fruit of repentance after we come to Christ, and we continue to sin, this is very dangerous. We risk getting to the point where we are no longer able to repent.

Paul said, “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” (Heb 6:4-6)

Don’t sell your birthright like Esau, who sold his for a single meal. “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (Heb 12:17)

Also see The Dangers of Disobedience.

Sorrowful to the Point of Repentance
It’s not enough to have worldly sorrow, which only produces death. We must be sorrowful to the point of repentance, which leads to salvation. Paul said, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.” (2Co 7:9)

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2Co 7:10). It’s a repentance without regret, once you are forgiven.

God Wants All to Come to Repentance
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2Pe 3:9)

Repentance is for the Church, too!
It seems to me that some Christians must think repentance is just for “those sinners out there.” They think it’s for other people outside the Church. But it is most certainly for those in the Church, too.

“Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.” (Rev 2:5)

“Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” (Rev 2:16)

“I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. (Rev 2:21-22)

'So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” (Rev 3:3)

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev 3:19)

Turning Sinners Back
As we have just seen in the book of Revelation, the call to repentance even goes out to the Church. We are not only trying to reach those who have never known the Lord, but trying to turn back our brethren among us, who have strayed from the truth into error.

James said, "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (Jas 5:19-20)

The Greek word for the expression "turn back" and "turn from" in these verses is "epistrepho", meaning "to revert (literally, figuratively or morally): - come (go) again, convert, (re-) turn (about, again)." (Strongs). This means the same as the Hebrew word "shub" that we have examined in this article. In fact, "epistrepho" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "shub" in some verses of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Septuagint.

So this same notion of "turning back" that we see in the Old Testament is also found in the New Testament, such as this passage in James. Any time you are able to turn away a sinner from the error of his way, you will save his soul from death.

Returning to the Lord
Other New Testament passages where this word "epistrepho" is used for "turning to God" or "returning to God" include the following:

"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." (Act 3:19)

"For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls." (1Pe 2:25)

"And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord." (Act 11:21)

"But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." (2Co 3:16)

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luk 22:31-32)

Also see Mat 13:15; Mar 4:12; Luk 1:16-17; Luk 17:4; Act 9:35; 14:15; 15:19; 26:18; 26:20; 28:27; 1Th 1:9.

Putting it All Together
Repentance is not a bad word; it's a good word! It means turning back and reversing your direction. It means turning to the Lord with all your heart and soul and obeying Him again. It includes being sorry and sometimes even weeping in repentance.

We can’t even repent unless God grants us repentance. When we are sorry for our sin and grieving, we must ask God for genuine repentance and to bring us back to Him. You may even ask Him for tears of repentance. He can only give the tears of repentance when people are sincerely praying for repentance with their hearts. It’s not enough just to be sorrowful; you must be sorrowful to the point of repentance

First return to the heavenly Father, and then express to him sorrow for what you have done to sin against his sight. Allow yourself to be sincerely ashamed and humiliated before the Lord, so that He may show you mercy.

This is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of salvation. The gospel we proclaim is one of repentance for forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. This is what Jesus preached, as well as John the Baptist and the apostles of Christ. You yourself must repent, since nobody else can do it for you.  There is no other way to receive His forgiveness for your sins.

This gospel is for all sinners, both inside and outside the Church. God is not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. You will surely perish, unless you repent. There is no other way to have eternal life. The Scripture teaches that repentance leads to life, when combined with faith in Jesus Christ.

There is joy in heaven over one repentant sinner, but the Lord denounces those who are unrepentant. Just as it was with the Church in Corinth, there are today those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the sin which they have practiced. If you are unrepentant, you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

If you want to experience times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, then repent. Once he shows mercy and forgives you, He will comfort you and restore you. But it is not enough to simply say we repent, we must bear the fruits of repentance. If we do not bear the fruit of repentance after we come to Christ, and we continue to sin, we risk getting to the point where we are no longer able to repent.

A daily life of repentance is the shortest path to God's mercy. Repent immediately not later. Repent immediately after sinning. You cannot wait a day or even a minute. You must repent immediately. One of the biggest traps of the devil is to say, “later, later,” because he knows that would create a gap in your life, which would gradually widen up.

If you want to know what you should repent of, ask the Lord to expose anything in your life that is hidden, and to convict you by the Holy Spirit. Then please read Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Ask for the Ancient Paths, and The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The image of the water color painting, "Abraham and the Three Angels," c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902).

Author's note: I also recommend reading Bowing Low in Worship, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Ask for the Ancient Paths, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Should you fear the Lord?, Eudoxia Varga Testimony of Heaven and Hell, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell, The Judgment Seat of Christ, Tattoos and Body Piercing, Divorce -- Three Divine Revelations, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Six Divine Revelations, Godly Attire & Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, and The Book of Life. You may access the Main Directory for this Seeking the Lord blog for more articles like this, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org