Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sin Conquered



"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members 
as instruments of righteousness unto God."  
Romans 6:12-13

   Romans chapter six is a most encouraging passage.  It lays out the fact that the old man (the sin nature) has been rendered ineffective (destroyed v. 6).  Through Christ's death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, all who believe in Him are made a new creature in Him.  This involves the death of the old man and the raising of the new man in Christ.

   The two verses before us follow this vein of thought.  Verse twelve is quite interesting.  At first glance, it appears to be a command given directly to the believer; however, as the Greek text is examined, we find that it is a 3rd person command with sin as the object of the command.  The same type of command was displayed when Jesus said, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."  The truth is, it is God's desire that all who are willing hear and obey His truth.  This is the same idea here in verse twelve.  God, through His work of bringing about salvation, has given a general command to sin that it may no longer supremely rule in the body of a believer.  Consider this illustration.  A boy is being bullied by his older brother.  The older boy is accustomed to doing this and yet the younger boy chooses to continue being around him even though he knows that he will be mistreated.  Finally, tired of hearing the younger sibling's complaints of pain, the father of the two steps in and says, "John, stop bullying your younger brother and go sit in the corner."  This is what God has done to sin's power over the believer.  To view this verse as a command to an individual is not entirely incorrect, but this view is somewhat incomplete, because apart from God removing sin's power over me, I cannot hope to accomplish His command to forsake it.

   Verse thirteen is then directed to us as believers.  The commands in this verse are given in the 2nd person.  After abolishing sin's death grip on us, God turns to us as individual believers and says, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."  Consider the above illustration again.  After disciplining the older brother, the father turns to the younger and says, "Now stay away from him.  You know that he is going to beat up on you so don't play with him."  The father has rescued the younger boy from the power of the elder one, but the younger has a responsibility to keep his distance from the older brother.  Such is the case with us.  We have been delivered from the power of sin, but each has a choice to live the old lifestyle or to live a new, holy, regenerated life before God through the power of Christ.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

True Peace


"And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.  And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships.  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?  And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?  And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"  Mark 4:35-41


   True peace in the Christian life comes only with the understanding that circumstances do not have to govern peace and joy.  Christ is not only sufficient in death; He is also sufficient in life.  Peace, by faith in God, in any circumstance is a leading thought in the passage before us.

   He commanded that they "pass over unto the other side."  He gave this command understanding exactly what lie ahead.  He chose to send His chosen into the midst of a turbulent storm so that their faith in Him might be strengthened.  They did obey immediately which is to be commended.  They themselves were fishermen, and they knew the weather patterns of the lake.  The Galilean sea is adversely affected by the cold evening air moving down the mountain range and sweeping over the top of the water thus causing large waves.

   The text says, "And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full."  God allowed for the boat to become full of water before He intervened.  Human thinking would tend to seek a resolution far before this point, but God often allows the situation to become very dim so that when He does deliver none but He may receive the glory.  Consider this truth and how it is displayed in John 11:4-6 where Christ allowed Lazarus to die before interjecting His help.

   "And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow...."  The prophet Isaiah said, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee" (Is. 26:3).  Christ was a living example of this.  He could rest completely with the waves crashing all around and beating into the boat because He knew that all would be well and that He would not die in a lake but on a cross.  The Christian life that is surrendered to God's design can too experience such peace.

   "...and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?"  Does Jesus truly care?  What a foolish question; of course He does!  But, we all have said this in our hearts, if not audibly, at some point or another.  Instead of going to Him first, we go last after the waves have filled the ship, and instead of calmly trusting in His faithfulness we bark at Him in terror, confusion, and resentment.  Yet, He is ever patient and faithful.  Christ was not moved to fear by their fear.  He simply said, "Peace, be still."  This type of imperative statement is very unique and seems to occur only here.  It carries with it the idea of, "Be silent, and stay that way!"  Jesus demonstrated absolute control over the circumstances.  He is the Lord Who allowed the situation; therefore, could He not control it?  The result of Christ's intervention was a great calm.  The work of God's Spirit tends toward that which is calm.  Yes, God does display great wrath toward sin, but His nature is not violent.  He is the Prince of peace.  The true work of God will tend toward peace, order and love; but the works of the flesh will always tend toward chaos, confusion and trouble.  Consider James 3:13-18 for this doctrine.

   Christ's question to His disciples at this point truly displays the heart of the matter.  He says to His wind-blown, sea-tossed, disheveled disciples, "Why are ye so fearful?"  This would seam like a silly question to most, but God wants His people to know perfect peace and consistency in all situations, and so He goes on to say, "How is it that ye have no faith?"  Ah!  This was and is the heart of the matter.  A child who sits in the rear seat of a vehicle is not concerned about the weather or the traffic outside because he believes that Daddy will get him safely to their destination.  The faithful child of God rests perfectly in the Master's ability.  At this point we must examine a truth.  The disciples could have rested in this storm only because they were in the boat that Christ told them to get into.  Too many Christian's are running about, flustered and beaten because they have climbed into their own boat instead of Christ's.  Thus when the storms arise they cannot wake Christ because He is not asleep in the stern but standing on the shore.  This is not too say God will not accept repentance, because He will; but let none think that they may sail on in their own boat and not experience the storm of God's chastening if they are a true Christian.

   The men were then amazed and began to wonder about this Man, and His incredible power.  True liberty comes when the child of God realizes that they may rest continuously in His ability and His alone.  In God's will (in His boat), the Christian truly has nothing to fear, because "He hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."  Have faith in God.  Flee to Him first.  Walk with Him daily and know the joy of victory over circumstances.  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Picture of True Repentance


"And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner.  And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.  There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.  And He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.  Thou gavest Me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment.  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.  And He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.  And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?  And He said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."  Luke 7:36-50


   In this modern day, many so-called theologians have various theories concerning the true meaning of repentance.  Some say it is simply a change of mind, and they ignore the effect that this is supposed to have on the heart.  Some go too far and claim that repentance is giving up certain sins once and for all before salvation can be obtained.  Neither view is correct, because, in the first place, a change of mind always results in some change of action if the change of mind is sincere.  On the other hand, salvation is entirely by grace and not of works; therefore, no one is saved by simply determining that they do not want to sin.  Biblical repentance is a change of mind that results in some change of action.  It is the fertile ground from which true biblical faith springs forth.  As God deals with the heart of an individual, they have the opportunity to have a change of mind and heart toward Him and place their faith in the sacrifice of His Son.  This passage gives a very clear example of true Bible-based repentance; therefore, we shall let this passage guide our thinking as to what repentance is and is not.

   First we see The Proud One's Request.  "And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat."  This Pharisee did not invite Christ to his home out of a sincere desire for fellowship.  His motives were tainted and faithless.  This is clearly brought out later when he begins to ridicule Christ in his thinking.  Many people want Christ to make an appearance into their lives for show or favor, but they do not desire for Him to be the Master of the meal.  The word sat literally means to recline for a meal or to lie down.  In typical middle-eastern fashion, Christ is resting on one elbow with His feet exposed in an ideal posture for the humble sinner to perform her act of devotion.

   Second we see The Humble One's Repentance.  "And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment."  This woman's name is not revealed.  She is known only as a sinner.  It is a title with which we all may identify.  Not all of us have high positions of rank or authority.  Each has talents that differ slightly than the other, but all of us are sinners, and Christ can and will heal sinners if they come to Him on His terms, and His alone.  An alabaster box was a valued receptacle for holding expensive ointment.  It is thought to have been made from some thin, transparent material, and was easily broken.  This expensive ointment could have cost the average working person up to or over a years wages.  In those days, as people experienced life's tragedies and joys, they would save their tears in a bottle (See Ps. 56:8 for an example of this).  Obviously, these tears were a very valuable thing to their owner, because they represented every tragedy and joy of that person's life.

   This woman's change of mind concerning her sinful life prompted her to some certain actions and behaviors.  First, she was unconcerned about who saw her weeping over her sin.  She was displayed in full view of all, but was not preoccupied with who realized that she had made a mess of her life; she simply wanted to be right with God.  Second, she assumed a posture of submission at the feet of Christ and demonstrated great humility in cleansing one of the dirtiest parts of the human body.  She bestowed upon Him that which was most emotionally valuable to her, her tears.  She bestowed that which was most financially valuable to her, her ointment.  The change of mind that she had concerning her sin was not a dormant, passive thing.  It was powerful enough to prompt some change in behavior.  As we shall see, the change in behavior did not save her, but the faith that her repentance led to did.  She also showed love for God as she kissed His feet, again showing submission to His position in her life.  All through this love scene she is driven by a desire to simply be right with her Creator, and she saw this as possible through the Person of Jesus Christ.

   Next, we see The Holy One's Rebuke.  "Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner.  And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on."  This man's cold, uncompassionate, unbelieving, and arrogant response to such a humble heart must have angered the heart of God.  In omniscience, Christ answers the thoughts of this proud sinner which must have been unnerving.   The Lord then spends seven verses demonstrating that only those who know they need help will seek and value it.  He says, "There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both."  Both the Pharisee and the woman were sinners; both had debts, but only the woman was willing to admit it.  He goes on, "Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged."  The humble heart that recognizes its great need will seek divine help, and it will show its gratitude for receiving that help by demonstrating love toward God and man.  The Lord then turns to the woman, but He has nothing to say in rebuke to her.  Why?  Because she already understands and acknowledges her place before a holy God; therefore, He speaks to Simon while using this woman that Simon despised as an example of "pure religion and undefiled."  He says, "Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.  Thou gavest Me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment.  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."  Simon showed no love for Christ.  He did not even offer Him the common courtesy of the day which was water to wash off the dust of travel.  He gave Jesus no devotion.  He showed no gratitude.  He simply asked Him into his home for show and reputation.  Many today would look at a person who acts like this Pharisee and say, "They must be saved; they invited Jesus into their life."  However, we tend to ignore the absence of the fruits of true Bible faith.  Simply inviting Christ in through mental ascent is not enough; the heart must be brought down in submission to His authority.  This Pharisee's attitude was void of the fear of God.  He did not believe in the person or the work of Jesus.

   Lastly, we see The Humble One's Reward.  Having nothing more to say to Simon, Christ then turns to this penitent sinner and says, "Thy sins are forgiven."  Forgiven!  What a glorious word.  The tense of this verb is very strong.  It carries with it the meaning of now forgiven and always forgiven.  Nothing could steal this woman's soul from the tender care of God's hand.  "God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plentious in mercy" according to Psalm 103.  He simply demands that we come to Him on His terms, and that is "...repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21)."  Of course, the scoffers were not far away.  They spoke with themselves, because they had no fellowship with God due to pride, and discounted the power and forbearance of God.

   The Lord then declares what it was that saved this woman's soul, her faith.  He says, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."  Her repentance concerning her spiritual condition led her to a faith in the only One Who can take away sin.  Alone, her broken spirit would have meant little because all the tears in the world won't wash away sin; however, when those tears stir up faith in the blood that can wash away sin, they are most profitable.