We Must Repent (But We are Not Able)

We do not have what it takes to offer repentance to the most high God. No matter how hard we try, we cannot djinn up enough moxie to repent of our sinful past.

Now, I realize that what I am saying seems contrary to what you have heard, that you must repent or you will die in your sins. But, in fact, it is not contrary…both are true. You must repent of your sins or you are lost; and, you cannot repent. What then are we to do. In his great novel, the Puritan Daniel Defoe had Robinson Crusoe experience this very dilemma. Crusoe was in agony over his misspent life, his load of sin. He tried mightily to repent several times, but found that it was but a passing repentance; and when time went by and the punch bowl went around, his repentance evaporated.

In the gracious providence of God, a Bible came into his hands, and in agony of soul, he began to read. He came at last to the passage in Acts 5:31, where, speaking of Jesus, the bible reads:

Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

In transport of joy, Crusoe cried out:

Jesus, prince and savior, give me repentance.

At that moment, he truly and effectually repented. Not by his own strength or will, but by means of the gift of an exalted prince and savior, Jesus.

In like manner, Jesus who has ascended to the right hand of the judge of all the earth stands ready to give you repentance. Freely does He give this gift to all His children:

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A Clash of Religions

Whenever people associate for social purposes, the subject of justification is always at play. It is often hidden by assumptions; and it is not usually identified by that name; but justification underlies all human relationships. There must always be some means for citizens to be justified. There is a flip side: this provision for approval not only recognizes some people as justified, but it also locks out some others from the company of the justified. “Do this (we are told)… approve of this, conduct yourself like this, behave in this way and you will be justified. If you do not approve, if you fail to work or behave in the accepted way, you will not be accepted…rather, you will be condemned. This sorting process occurs from the highest levels of society down to that unique social order that is gathered under the overpass in Spokane. It takes place both in the cathedral and in the beer hall.

It is crucial for us to understand that a the present time in Western civilization, there is new sorting going on. People whom were formerly acknowledged as justified are now increasingly outside the circle of the justified. And people whom were formerly condemned are increasingly held up for public approval and are regarded as justified.

We ordinary folk see what is going on and we shake our heads in disbelief. Just look at the double standard! we complain. This guy is an habitual and notorious womanizer and engages in the most flagrant kind of degrading sexual harassment in high places…but is given a pass? What is the deal?! Well, His actions, his behavior is overlooked because he is among the justified. Another man…(let us say, a candidate for president? Another man) favors paintings in his private residence that depict his reliance upon Christ in his professional life…and he his ridiculed, scorned, and frog-marched off the stage. What is happening is much deeper than a double standard. It is a religious sorting out. The Christian presidential candidate is sneered at, not for any trespass, but rather because he is outside of the company of the justified. The highly placed official with the roaming hands is invulnerable because…he is part of the company of the justified.

Sexual perversion of the most degrading and public kind is no longer a cause for societal condemnation; rather this sort of thing is increasingly taken as evidence of the justified status of the participants! You don’t have to be too diligent to discover all kinds of examples of who is justified and who is not in our rapidly changing culture. Those who for conscious sake refuse to bake cakes are condemned. The sexual perversion that was demanding the wedding cake?? the homosexual activists that forced the issue?…they are justified.

In the end, it comes down to a clash of religions. Those who hate the most high God, those who are in rebellion against the God of the Bible now feel themselves secure enough in their mutiny to abandon the pretense of neutrality. With a voice that is increasingly strident they are proclaiming “we will not have this man to rule over us.” Consequently, they are in the “anything but” stage of their revolt—anything but…Christ and his people. Christians and everyone who even behaves sympathetically to Christian precepts, these must be condemned, for they are not of us…they are not justified. And so, even Muslims must be justified because they are not of Christ and His hated laws. Every manner of perversion, of wickedness, and of the corruption of the soul of man must be applauded because it represents a break with the Triune God.

The separating out, the sorting, the dividing between the justified and the unjustified? This does not depend upon works. Some acts and behaviors might be deplored as repugnant or unfortunate, or distasteful, or even wrong; but these lapses do not change the status of the justified. What matters is who do you belong to? Do you belong to us? Or do you belong to the rival religion? That is the question. The consensus of society, the dominant media, the influential…and the elite will always come to the defense of those who are justified…who are justified according to the precepts of the prevailing religion.

This of course, reminds us to find comfort in our justification. We are justified not by our own works, but by the foreordaining plan of the Triune God. The scripture says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So let us confess our sins now, in faith believing that the blood of Christ has covered them and that we are therefore justified.

 

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Hag-ridden by the Future

Some of you have perhaps red and appreciated the Screwtape Letters written by C. S. Lewis. You may recall that it was a literary device that Lewis used to warn fellow Christians against the wiles and the stratagems of the ancient enemy of our souls. Screwtape was a senior apparatchik in the host of Lucifer. He wrote to advise a fiend in training…Wormwood’s diabolical efforts to destabilize the man to whom he had been assigned. I commend the little book to you.

In one chapter, Screwtape instructed Wormwood, “we want a man hag-ridden by the Future — haunted by visions of an imminent heaven”… or a looming hell upon earth…prepare your subject…he advises…to be ready to break the Enemy’s commandments in the present..and make him think he can bring about heaven on earth or avert the other. See to it that his faith depends upon the success or failure of schemes, the outcomes of which he will never live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always sacrificing every real gift of the enemy upon the altar of an unattainable utopia’.

I would not have Holy Trinity Church develop a reputation for being hag-ridden by the Future…as those who are forever ready to chase rainbows. Most of our nation’s problems can be effectively addressed only by true repentance…and by a wholesale embrace of the gospel of Jesus.

Isaiah was overwhelmed with the awful realization that his people were in outright rebellion against Holy God. His first response was a prayer of confession and repentance.

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Hopelessness

Hopelessness and discouragement often result from a brooding memory. Despairing minds frequently dwell on a dark and foreboding past, and focus upon every gloomy feature of the present. Thus discouraged, people forecast the future with the same joylessness that past memories elicit.

There is, however, no necessity for this. Wisdom can readily transform memory into an angel of comfort. Jeremiah writes “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.”—Lamentations 3:21.

That same recollection which on the one hand brings so many gloomy recollections, may, on the other hand, be trained to produce a wealth of hopeful signs.

Thus it was in Jeremiah’s experience: in the previous verse, he writes that memory had brought him to deep humiliation of soul:

My soul continually remembers [my afflictions]
and is bowed down within me.

and now this same memory restored him to life and comfort.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

Like a two-edged sword, his memory first killed his pride with one edge, and then slew his despair with the other. Spurgeon says that this is a general rule of life: “if we would exercise our memories more wisely, we might, in our very darkest distress, strike a match which would instantaneously kindle the lamp of comfort.”

Spurgeon goes on to say: “There is no need for God to create a new thing upon the earth in order to restore believers to joy; if they would prayerfully rake the ashes of the past, they would find light for the present; and if they would turn to the book of truth and the throne of grace, their candle would soon shine as aforetime.”

We have a duty to remember always the lovingkindness of our God, and to regularly review His mercy and grace toward us. If you have lost your joy of living, think deeply upon God’s gracious provision for you. Then, as the poet wisely says, memory will become “the bosom-spring of joy.”

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Assumicide

Assumicide:  That’s a word I discovered this week. It’s what happens when you make false assumptions about others so that you can portray them in a bad light…often, the worst light possible.

We are so prone to be suspicious. When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to begin finding evidence that someone did us wrong. It’s quite remarkable, isn’t it?  how often we are quick to assume that someone has it in for us.

Assumicide leads to the death of relationships because we end up believing the worst about someone. We’ve all been guilty of drawing wrong conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of evidence:

I think he planned this all along!

I think she’s trying to ignore me.

He’s probably a jerk at home too

She’s just so full of herself.

On the other hand, if you are the victim of assumicide, it’s very hard to fight back against false assumptions. Few things hurt more than being misunderstood by close friends...or people you have trusted.

It almost always starts over something relatively small. From a tiny spark of discontent…a mighty flame of unhappiness grows. That flame soon becomes a wildfire that threatens to destroy a relationship, a business arrangement, a church, or a family.

When that happens we discover a lot about ourselves. How we respond when we’ve been maligned or misunderstood tells us a great deal about our Christian faith.

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Tuskegee

In P.G. Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters, Bertie uses the word “Eulalie” to turn his inflated and threatening opponent, Spode, into a concordious second. This special word was bestowed upon Bertie by his faithful valet, Jeeves, and had its power because it was the name associated with a secret that the now Earl of Sidcup would like to keep hidden: that he owned a business designing ladies’ lingerie. As Bertie says, “You can’t be a successful Dictator and design women’s underclothing.” Exactly.

Call me Jeeves. If you haven’t already peered into the Junior Ganymede Club’s official Book for yourself, I would like to bestow upon you the word “Tuskegee.” And the wannabe dictator you need to use this word against is autonomous science. Tuskegee is short for “The Tuskegee syphilis experiment,” a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama. It was overseen by the U.S. Public Health Service in order to learn about the natural progression of untreated syphilis. In the name of science about four hundred men were unknowingly enrolled in an experiment and then left to slowly suffer and die over a period of forty years. The scientists continued this experiment even while knowing (since the 1940’s) that penicillin was an effective cure for the disease. And all of this was for, in the words of Dr. John Heller, Director of the Public Health Service’s Division of Venereal Diseases, “…the glory of science.”

Do not imagine that this happened because the particular scientists involved were unusually bad men. Like the scientists in Nazi Germany, these were just run-of-the-mill bad men, like you and me. The only difference is that these men faithfully served “autonomous science.” And this god has no morals. In the name of science nothing can ever be considered out-of-bounds, because science can only determine what is, not dictate what ought to be. Science makes a frightening first. For a society that has given itself over to this monster, it would be good for us to remember to invoke the word “Tuskegee” the next time you see a man in a white lab-coat who does not acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. You can’t be an autonomous scientist and have grounds for distinguishing good from evil.

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