This year we combined 5 studies to form one study which we named "Walking in Christ, Expecting His Return". I have loved it and I hope the class members have as well. We know we are living in a world that is becoming increasingly God-less and seems to be on the fast track to destruction. So the question is, how do we live our lives today as if we would be called to stand before Almighty God tomorrow and account for what we have done. Are we living our lives in such a way that others take notice and want to believe the Gospel is true? We began with Amos and learned that God takes sin seriously, especially sin in the lives of His own people. Colossians reminded us who Christ is, what He did for us and then what should be our proper response to Him. Colossians 2:6 tells us, "Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him". Malachi jolted us as we were reminded that what Stephen Hawking and many prominent scientists see as a coming cataclysmic and destructive event is what the Bible calls "the Day of the Lord". Malachi addressed people who could not see God at work among them because even though they were back in the land following their exile, nothing was the same. The priests were only half hearted and the people slipped into spiritual malaise just going through the motions of religion and dead orthodoxy. Another warning was that when we become frustrated by the toxic climate in this nation and the rest of the world it is easy to spend more time expressing that frustration at the expense of our call to be salt and light. Frustration gives way to anger and a sense that God has simply wiped His hands of this world. Sides are drawn and churches become liberal or conservative, each taking sides against the other. While feelings are strong, spiritual malaise sets in because 'things aren't the way they used to be'. Malachi made us examine ourselves and ask if our present attitude was the attitude of one who is "walking in Christ" or that of raging against the present world systems.
1 John is where we are now learning what it actually looks like to "walk in Christ, expecting His return”. We are learning that walking in Christ is based on right doctrine (that Jesus is the divine Son of God and the propitiation for our sin). Walking in Christ is evidenced by right living - with changed lives as children of God. Walking in Christ is also expressed by right loving - loving even those with whom we disagree - and this is possible because His Spirit and His word abides in us. We will end the year with Thessalonians which will prepare us to 'expect His return'. I hope we will finish these studies understanding that it is IMPORTANT how we live our lives. Walking in Christ is intentional. It can't be done until we realize our own vulnerabilities and sinful tendencies while at the same time understanding what it means to be a child of God and how that knowledge should shape our perspective. Do we waste the time that we have left hating the world and avoiding those who have a different world view or do we remember that Christ came to seek and to save the lost and He has entrusted us with the responsibility to be salt and light even among people with whom we disagree. He IS returning (possibly sooner rather than later). How am I living my life? Am I raging against the world or am I walking in Christ as He is still about the business of seeking and saving the lost? I have loved this study of these 5 books. I do hope the others have as well! I hope you have seen that these 5 books make a wonderful study of "Walking in Christ, Expecting His Return".
This week I was reading through the Book of Joel, with thoughts of a future Disciplers’ study. I have read Joel before, but this is the first time that I saw Joel as a watchman, sounding the alarm and calling the people of Israel to repentance. You know, repentance is an important subject for Christians also. Repentance is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. The Bible tells us that all are sinners and all have come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There is none who does right, not even one (Romans 3:10). This seems to be an insurmountable problem because God is holy and it is impossible for a sinner to find favor in His sight. Sinners are estranged from God and doomed to God's wrath and judgment. Only God could provide a solution to that problem and by his grace and mercy He has! God has provided a way of salvation, through the death and resurrection of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
But how does a person tap into that grace and mercy? How does one take advantage of Christ’s gracious gift of Himself as a sacrifice for sin? It is through faith -- believing that Christ died for your sins and repenting of them. But what does repentance really mean? If God demands repentance, this is an important question and I would like to venture an answer. First of all, repentance is much more than just being sorry. It is much deeper than regret, and it requires much more than merely speaking the right words. Repentance is not that simple. Many years ago, I learned that repentance requires three things: confession, contrition and conversion.
Confession means not only that I must admit I am a sinner, it means I must confess my sins as specifically as I know them. I must ask God to search my heart and show me my waywardness (a polite word for rebellion, which is sin) and admit that He is right about sin. It has no place in the lives of His people. I must agree with God when He reveals many of my thoughts and actions to be sinful. And I must not make excuses. The devil may have tempted me to sin, but he did not MAKE me do it. I am the one who sinned.
Contrition is my sacrifice to God in the face of my sin (Psalm 51:17). Contrition is more than just regret or saying I'm sorry. Contrition is my heart being broken over the damage my sin has done to myself and to others and, above all, the way it has dishonored Christ. The Bible tells us that Esau sold his birthright for a one morsel of food and that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it diligently with tears (Genesis 27:30-40 and Hebrews 12:16-17). Esau was sorry for what he had done, but did not have a repentant heart. His tears were not a sign of repentantance. Judas, one of the twelve apostles, betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, but later he was remorseful. He returned the money and went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). Judas felt guilt from what he had done and regretted it. But remorse is not repentance.
Conversion is from the Latin words “con” which means “around” and “verto” which means “to turn”. It means, “to turn around”. Conversion is actually a military term. What happens when a drill sergeant gives his men the command “about face”? They immediately, without a second’s hesitation, turn on their heals and face the opposite direction. Conversion is an about face! It means to be going in one direction, your own way, and then to make a one hundred and eighty degree turn and go the other way, God’s way.
To summarize, repentance is to admit your sin, to be so sorry about it that you remove it from your life, to change your way of life, and to start living for God instead of for yourself.
So my question to you is, have you repented? Not just one time way back when, but how recently have you repented of your ongoing, habitual sins? How recently have you humbled yourself before God and repented? Have you been content with glossing over sin because you think the world is different today or that it’s okay because every one else is doing it? Have you been content with just saying "sorry"? Have you failed to make an “about face”?
As Christians it is often easy to criticize the world and those around us, bemoaning the gross sins of our society, but how can we expect the world to be any different when we do not repent and set a godly example in our homes, churches, and neighborhoods. The prophet Joel stood as a watchman in Israel and pointed to the destruction that takes place when people glibly speak of turning to God without true repentance. We need watchmen in our world today who live holy lives (lives of intentional repentance) and proclaim with their lives the truth of God’s word.
Will you be a watchman?
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.