Hidden Treasures

The Bible is much more than a book of religion.

Bound and Bowed Down

The woman was bent over and bowed down so severely that her eyes could only see the ground. Her infirmity had grown steadily worse for eighteen years. This woman, whose story is told in Luke 13:10-17, had not given up on God.  She attended the synagogue to hear the Word of God and this day she met Jesus.  She  was not seeking Him.  Perhaps she was not even aware of His presence in her bowed down  condition. 

Then she heard His voice.  “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmities!”  Immediately she found herself standing up straight.  The pain was gone.  She found herself looking up into her Healer’s eyes and began to praise the Lord Jesus. 

It’s not that she was immoral or demon-possessed. Jesus identified her as “a daughter of Abraham.” Galatians 3:6-9 teaches us that sons or daughters of Abraham are those who have put their faith in Christ. Whether we are Jews or Gentiles, if our faith is in Christ for salvation, then we are in Abraham’s spiritual family. If our faith is not in Christ, then regardless of whether Abraham’s blood flows in our veins, we are not his spiritual children. So we would refer to this woman today as a Christian, for her faith was in Christ. 

A Christian?  Yes!   But the record tells us that Satan had bound her all those years. She had given up all hope of recovery and had patiently resigned herself to being this way.  This was to be her lot in life. How can that be?  Does not Isaiah 53:5 promise us that “with His stripes we are healed?”   If you will read the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah which prophecies the crucifixion of Christ,  you will see that the healing spoken of in that passage is the spiritual healing from sin. The passage has nothing to say about our physical health.   How many Christians have been made to feel guilty for their lack of faith because they are not healed of their  infirmities?  How wrong and how cruel to tell a suffering Christian that he would be healed if he just had greater faith!  

Let’s take a look at what the Bible clearly teaches about Christians and their infirmities.  Let’s start with Romans 8:22-23. It is so clear. “For we know that the whole creation  groans and travails in pain until now.  And not only the whole creation, but we ourselves also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our bodies.”  

This passage teaches that the whole creation has been cursed by Adam’s sin. That curse is upon the earth itself with it’s storms, droughts, fires, earthquakes and tsunamis.  The curse is upon the animals and upon all mankind.  Observe the curse of sin all around you. It is recorded in the morning newspapers and described in the evening television news daily. There is no question that the whole world groans under the curse of sin.  

But the truth that many Christians fail to see or are unwilling to admit is that though we are free from the condemnation of sin and though we have the Holy Spirit living in us and controlling our lives, are still living under the curse of sin upon our bodies.  Those Christians who claim that “healing is in the atonement” are only partly correct.    Yes, total healing will one day take place in our bodies when we stand glorified in Christ’s presence.  But until then we will continue to groan with our pain and physical maladies.  

Read the book of Job and then tell me that God’s people do not suffer pain and suffering along with the rest of the sin-cursed world.  The first chapter of that book makes it clear that Satan, under the permission of God, had a major part in bringing suffering to godly Job.  As we read the rest of the story we learn that God was glorified in it all.  

Paul, one of the greatest Christians who ever lived, was also plagued by suffering throughout his life as a Christian. Not only did Paul suffer persecution for Christ, but in II Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul writes of a thorn in his flesh; some incurable malady caused by Satan. He prayed about it three times, but God did not deliver him from it. Instead, he heard God say to him and we hear God say to us, “My strength is sufficient for you; for My strength is perfected in your weakness.” 

“Well then”, Paul responds in faith, “Most gladly will I rather glory in my infirmities, that I may experience the power of Christ upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, reproaches,  necessities, and distresses for Christ’s sake. (for I have learned) that in my times of weakness, I discover His strength.” 

I think of a young couple we knew back in the early 60’s.   The Thompsons operated a small Christian book store in
Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.  My wife and I often visited them, not just to buy books, but to be blessed by them.  John, the husband operated the book store from a hospital bed in his bedroom; totally paralyzed and  unable to move his arms or legs. Even speaking was difficult for him. He knew his inventory and the location of all the books on the shelves. His faithful, loving wife took care of him and all the details of the book store.  What a blessing they were to us and to all who entered their store.  God was glorified; not by healing him, but by using him in his weakness.  

Yes, healing is in the atonement.  Though  most of us can improve our health  by living a healthy life style;  yet ultimately, we will not enjoy perfect health until we are glorified and in God’s presence.  

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January 21, 2007 Posted by | Health | Comments Off on Bound and Bowed Down

Repentance

Are we saved simply by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul answered the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31?  What does repentance have to do with salvation?  Can one be saved without repenting of his sins?  Let’s go to the Bible to learn what  repentance has to do with our salvation.  The Greek word for repentance means to have a change of thinking or a change of heart.  Repentance is related to conversion.  It has the idea of making a 180 degree turn around. We preachers have a way of confusing the vital issue of salvation by using terms that may be misleading.  These are good terms if they are properly explained, but I note that they are not usually explained when inviting people to salvation.  Some of these invitations include:

Make a commitment.

Commit your life to Christ.

Surrender to Christ.

Give your heart to Christ

.Invite Jesus into your heart.

Come to Christ.

Look to Christ.

Believe that Jesus died for sinners.

Come and follow Christ.

Make Jesus Lord of your life.

Repent and be baptized.  This last one, found in Acts 2:38,  was Peter’s invitation to his Jewish audience.  Today it is sometimes used to lead people into the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration. 

It is possible to be led astray into a false assurance of salvation by going forward on an invitation by the preacher to “Come follow Christ.”   That could lead a person to pride and self-righteousness as a person tries his best to follow the example and teachings of Christ.  

I understand that you could have come forward on one of these invitations and be truly saved.  The issue is not the words the preacher used to invite you to salvation.  I came forward as a child on the invitation to  “invite Jesus into my heart.”  If the lady dealing with me had not made salvation crystal clear to me,  I might have only had an emotional experience that night as a nine year old.  

What is God’s part in salvation? 

Salvation is all of God from start to finish. God draws us to Himself. He convicts us of sin. He, in the person of His Son, Jesus, took the full punishment for our sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. God leads us to repentance.  He justifies us.  He sanctifies us. He keeps us saved by His power and one day He will glorify us when we are in His presence. 

What must I understand to be saved? 

First I must understand that I am a lost sinner, helpless and hopeless to save myself. I must understand that no church and no rites of a church can save me. 

Then I must understand that Jesus is God come down to this earth in human flesh to shed His precious blood and die as an offering to God for my sins. As Israelites who were bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness were instantly healed of the snake venom by simply  looking  to a serpent of brass that Moses had fashioned and put up on a pole, so I must simply look to Christ as my Saviour from sin.  This is how Jesus explained it to Nicodemus in John 3.  He was referring to an incident recorded in Numbers 21. 

As a young woman who has fallen in love with a young man who loves her and has called her to be his wife, entrusts herself and her future completely into the hands of her husband in the sacred act of marriage, taking his ring and his name and completely identifying herself with him; so is our relationship with Christ when we are saved. Read carefully Ephesians 5 for this wonderful analogy of salvation to marriage. 

To be saved, I believe intellectually that Jesus is God in human flesh and that He died on the cross for my sins.  Not only do I believe intellectually, but I trust Him fully with my heart.  I receive Him as my Saviour.  Read the first three chapters of the Gospel of John for a clear explanation of this.  Read also  Romans 3:10, 23,   6:23,  10:9-10  and I John 5:11-13.  Saving faith comes by reading the Word of God. 

If salvation comes by simple faith in Christ, what part then does repentance play in salvation? 

We are not saved by confessing our sins.  That is required only of Christians when we sin. See I John 1 on this.   

Rather, repentance is a total change of thinking and heart attitude.  Another term for this is a 180 degree turn around or conversion. In Acts 15:3  we read of the Gentiles who were saved as being converted. They  turned from their sins and self-righteousness to Jesus.  

In Acts 20:21  we see the link between repentance and faith in Christ.  These two steps to salvation go together.  This was the message to both Jews and Greeks.  It is the message for both Jews and gentiles.  Which comes first,  repentance or faith in Christ? They go together.  Saving faith in Christ is preceded by repentance, and a life of repentance follows faith in Christ. 

Christians should repent of sin by confessing it to God as sin whenever they are aware of it.  That is illustrated in the story of the Prodigal Son who went astray and then repented and returned to His father. His father gladly received him back into  fellowship. 

The repentance of the lost is shown in Philippians 3:1-6  There Saul of Tarsus who was renamed Paul after his conversion, recounts life before Christ  and then after he had repented and received Christ as his Saviour and Lord.  In Philippians 3:7-8 he describes his transformed life.  The transformation was the work of our sovereign God who began the work in his heart as he watched Stephen the first Christian martyr die in Acts 6-7.  The Holy Spirit began pricking his conscience from that time forward.  Acts 9:5. 

The glorified, risen Saviour confronted Saul on the Road to  Damascus as it is recorded in Acts 9.   Saul immediately repented, recognized Jesus, the one he had hated and persecuted,  as his Saviour from sin.  There never was a more radical transformation of an enemy of Christ as Saul and there has never been a greater Christian than this former enemy of Christ who became the great  Apostle Paul who wrote much of the New Testament. 

  Saul’s repentance was not a fleeting emotional experience.  It was a total, radical permanent change of direction and lifestyle that Christ brings about in one who repents and puts his trust in Christ.  As Paul describes it in II Corinthians  7:10, repentance is permanent.  It is a total 180 degree turn around or conversion.  This conversion is mentioned in I Thessalonians 1:9  Psalm 51:13  Matthew 18:3  and Acts 3:19. 

What was Paul’s message to the gentile jailer in Acts 16:31? 

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy household.”  Why did Paul not command him to repent of his sins?  Because it was evident that he had already done that.  Was he converted?  Did he repent?  Absolutely.  Look at the change in his life as you read the rest of the story in Acts 16.  Only a converted, repentant Christian would act this way.  In fact, his life was so changed that his entire family followed him in trusting Christ and being baptized as a testimony to their new found faith in Christ.   Such repentance results in joy in Heaven. See Luke 15:7

.  Can one be a Christian without repenting? 

Or to put it another way, is one a Christian who has never had a change of heart that has resulted in a changed life?  The answer is NO.  When one is trusting in Christ,  he is a new creation of God.  Old things are passed away.  Everything is new about his life. See II Corinthians 5:17.  I’m not teaching sinless perfection. We will not be perfect until we are in Heaven.  But in the meantime, we have a changed, purified heart that longs to do right and turn from sin.  There is no one more miserable than a Christian living in sin. 

Who repented or preached repentance? 

Job, a man of God, repented of his wrong thinking and wrong attitudes.  Job 42:6 

Repentance was the message of the Old Testament prophets.  See Ezekiel 14:6  18:30-32    Jonah preached repentance to  Nineveh, Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:41.

Besides the Old Testament prophets,  John the Baptist preached it. Luke 3:7-14 

Peter preached it at Pentecost.  Acts 28  He also taught it in II Peter 3:9 

Paul preached it everywhere.  Acts 17:30 

Jesus preached it in Luke 13:1-5 

Preaching repentance is part of the Great Commission. Luke 24:46-51 

Christians need to have repentance preached to them. See Jesus’ message to the seven churches of  Asia Minor as found in Revelation 2 and 3.   Five of those seven churches needed to deal with sin by repenting. 

  The Christian life that began with repentance and faith in Christ, continues with a life of repentance concerning sin.  II Corinthians 7:10 

God leads us to repentance.  Romans. 2:4.  Those who refuse to repent treasure up God’s wrath and their heart grows harder.  Romans 2:5. 

If you are a Christian and God deals with you about sin in your life, you had better repent now or your heart will grow harder and you may come to the place where you no longer have any desire to repent.  Read the solemn warning in Hebrews 12:5-17. 

If you are unsaved and God is dealing with you about your sins; repent and turn to Christ now for salvation.  II Corinthians 6:1-2 

If you are a Christian who has wandered away from God,  like the prodigal son in Luke 16,  repent; leave the pig pen of sin and come home to your Heavenly Father right now.He’s waiting for you and wants to restore you to full fellowship with Him. 

January 2, 2007 Posted by | Repentance | Comments Off on Repentance