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Summer 2002 Newsletter: God's Ultimatum
Publish date: Oct 13, 2009
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The last word of our loving Lord to His Church was not the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20. This is indeed to be our work until the close of probation, nevertheless, Christ’s last word to the Church was “Repent!”
This was His command to five of the seven churches in Asia. The fact is, this ratio still stands. Five out of seven Christians and churches today need, first of all, to repent. God’s ultimatum is “repent or lose your place with Me” (Revelation 2:5,16).
Repentance is a frowned-upon word in 21st century religion, but it was an indispensible word in New Testament theology. John the Baptist, we are told in Mark 1:3, was the first to preach the Gospel in preparing the way of the Lord. His message was that of repentance (Matthew 3:1-2).
In Mark 1:14-15 we read the same of Jesus. In Luke 13:3 He said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
We All Must Repent
The problem today with sophisticated society can be summed up in the experience of the evangelist who asked a man, “Are you saved?”
The man replied, “No, but I’d like to be.”
“Is it because you realize that you are a sinner?” asked the minister.
“Well, of course, we’re all sinners!” was his reply.
“But you are a sinner yourself?” the evangelist pressed.
“Well, I suppose I am, but not what you’d call a bad sinner. In fact, I think I’m a fairly good person—as good as the average, at least!”
“Then,” replied the evangelist thoughtfully, “as long as you feel that way, there is little I can do to help you find the way to salvation. Good sinners, along with truthful liars, honest thieves, and upright scoundrels, are far from being ready to accept of the offered grace of God. This grace is for the poor, unworthy sinner with no goodness to plead and no personal merit to build upon. God can help and save only one who is ready to be saved by the works and merits of another. That one is the Lord Jesus Christ. I appeal to you to repent and seek Him with your whole heart.”
The problem we face today, not only in the world but in the Church, is that so many “good sinners” call themselves Christians, but they have never taken the essential first step in finding the peace and joy in Christ Jesus (Luke 13:3).
Whether we are overt sinners, never having given our hearts to the Lord, or halting, failing, defeated saints, there is only one way to God. We must repent. We must come to Jesus in full and complete surrender, falling, as it were, upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, to be broken. We’ve got to spill it all out to him. This is not easy for proud-hearted men and women.
What Repentance is Not
Many people do not understand the word “repentance.” They are like the young man who came to evangelist D. L. Moody to discuss the subject of repentance. “It never struck me,” he declared.
“What do you mean?” Moody asked.
“Well,” the youth replied, “Some it strikes and some it doesn’t. I’ve seen many repent and take their stand for Christ, but it has never struck me.”
This young man had the mistaken idea that repentance is something like lightning. This is not true. We are moved to repentance but repentance is not an emotion. It’s a deep conviction of wrongdoing that leads the individual to turn to God for cleansing from sin. The Greek word for repentance is metanoeo, which means “to change one’s mind.” Repentance is a gift from God, and like all gifts, it can be rejected or we can choose to receive it and act upon it.
Repentance and confession are inseparable. Those who accept the gift of repentance will confess their sins and “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
When we do this we are justified, which means we stand before God as if we never committed a sin in our lives. If we are “justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). That’s not only good news about something to happen in the future, but it’s a joyful experience that we can have here and now.
The reason Jesus said, “Repent or else,” which may seem rather harsh to some, is because it’s one of His loving gifts that He so freely gives to whoever will accept it. Repentance is the first step in our acceptance of Him, the only Way of salvation.
Most people think of repentance as something that we do when we get ourselves into trouble. But it shouldn’t just be our guilt that drives us to repentance; “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Romans 2:4). We read in Matthew 11:20 that Jesus accused the cities where most of His mighty works were done because they did not repent.
Repentance is too often motivated by the things we do. While it is true we need to repent of our sins when we do wrong, Jesus not only forgives us our sins but He delivers us from the power of sin.
There is only one way to be free from sin. We must be born again, born from above. There has to be a power working from within. We read about it in Ezekiel 36:26-27:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
You may say, “Yes, of course, that’s what I want for my life. But how can I make it happen?” That’s what this article is all about. I want to help you understand and have this kind of an experience by sharing with you what has been given us in love by way of the “testimony of Jesus.”
Please read the following statements prayerfully. Pause and reflect over each thought expressed.
We read this in Messages to Young People:
You will be in constant peril until you understand the true force of the will. You may believe and promise all things, but your promises or your faith are of no value until you put your will on the side of faith and action…You feelings, your impressions, your emotions, are not to be trusted, for they are not reliable, especially with your perverted ideas; and the knowledge of your broken promises and your forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in yourself, and the faith of others in you.
But you need not despair. You must be determined to believe, although nothing seems true and real to you...You must win back your confidence in God and in your bretheren. It is for you to yield up your will to the will of Jesus Christ; and as you do this God will immediately take possession, and work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. Your whole nature will then be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; and even your thoughts will be subject to Him.
You cannot control your impulses, your emotions as you may desire, but you can control the will, and you man make an entire change in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, your life will be hid with Christ in God and allied to the power which is above all principalities and powers.
Pure religion has to do with the will. The will is the governing power in the nature of man, bringing all the other faculties under its sway. The will is not the taste or the inclination, but it is the deciding power, which works in the children of men unto obedience to God, or unto disobedience (MYP, 151-152).
Notice what it says here in the book Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing about what happens when we surrender our will to the Lord. This is most encouraging because it shows us the miracle of grace that takes place when we surrender our will to the Lord. This is something that we cannot do for ourselves. Our part is to surrender:
Our will is to be yielded to Him, that we may receive it again, purified and refined, and so linked in sympathy with the Divine that He can pour though us the tides of His love and power. However bitter and painful this surrender may appear to the willful, wayward heart, yet “it is profitable for thee” (MB, 62).
When we have this experience we are automatically doing His will and this is when it becomes a joy to be a Christian. Our will becomes one with His will.
In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve…The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan’s control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God (DA, 466).
All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us (DA, 668).
It is through the will that sin retains its hold upon us. The surrender of the will is represented as plucking out the eye or cutting off the hand. Often it seems to us that to surrender the will to God is to consent to go through life maimed or crippled…
Only through the surrender of our will to God is it possible for Him to impart life to us. Only by receiving His life through self-surrender is it possible, said Jesus, for these hidden sins, which I have pointed out, to be overcome (MB, 61).
If you cling to self, refusing to yield your will to God, you are choosing death. To sin, wherever found, God is a consuming fire. If you choose sin, and refuse to separate from it, the presence of God, which consumes sin, must consume you (MB, 62).
Many are inquiring, “How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?” You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself five to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus our whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.
Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians (SC, 49).
Right now, why not pray and ask the Lord to take your will and sanctify it, and purify it. Say, “Lord, please help me and change me from the inside out. I choose to fully surrender my will to you now.”
Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith (SC, 49).
Isn’t this wonderful? But there is something even more beautiful. Consider these Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing:
When the thought of evil is loved and cherished, however secretly, said Jesus, it shows that sin still reigns in the heart. The soul is still in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. He who finds pleasure in dwelling upon scenes of impurity, who indulges in the evil thought, the lustful look, may behold in the open sin, with its burden of shame and heart breaking grief, the true nature of the evil which he has hidden in the chambers of the soul. The season of temptation, under which it may be, one falls into grievous sin, does not create the evil that is revealed, but only develops or makes manifest that which was hidden and latent in the heart. As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he;” for out of the heart “are the issues of life.” Proverbs 23:7, 4:23.
No one can occupy a normal position; there is no middle class, who neither love God nor serve the enemy of righteousness Christ is to live in His human agents and work though their faculties and act through their capabilities. Their will must be submitted to His will; they must act with His Spirit. Then it is no more they that live, but Christ that lives in them. He who does not give himself wholly to God is under the control of another power, listening to another voice, whose suggestions are of an entirely different character…
The strongest bulwark of vice in our world is not the iniquitous life of the abandoned sinner or the degraded outcast; it is that life which otherwise appears virtuous, honorable, and noble, but in which one sin is fostered, one vice indulged. To the soul that is struggling in secret against some temptation, trembling upon the very verge of the precipice, such an example is one of the most powerful enticements to sin (MB, 94).
Do you want to be such a person? I think not. I certainly don’t.
As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command, may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enabling (MYP, 101).
But you must remember that your will is the spring of all your actions. This will, that forms so important a factor in the character of man, was at the fall given into the control of Satan; and he has ever since been working in man to will and to do of his own pleasure, but to the utter ruin and misery of man…
There is no such thing as following Christ unless you refuse to gratify inclination and determine to obey God. It is not your feelings, your emotions that make you a child of God, but the doing of God’s will. A life of usefulness is before you, if your will becomes God’s will (MYP, 153-154).
A noble all-round character is not inherited. It does not come to us by accident. A noble character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ. God gives the talents and powers of the mind; we form the character. It is formed by the hard, stern battles with self. Conflict after conflict must be waged against hereditary tendencies. We shall have to criticize ourselves closely, and allow not one unfavorable trait to remain uncorrected.
Let no one say, I cannot remedy my defects of character. If you come to this decision, you will certainly fail of obtaining everlasting life. The impossibility lies in your own will. If you will not, then you cannot overcome. The real difficulty arises from the corruption of an unsanctified hear, and an unwillingness to submit to the control of God (MYP, 99).
The sense of sins forgiven will bring that peace that passeth all understanding. There will be an earnest striving to overcome all that is opposed to Christian perfection. Variance will disappear. He who once found fault with those around him will see that far greater faults exist in his own character (MYP, 73).
Are you beginning to see the truth in the call from Jesus to repent? The fact is He’s coming soon. He’s coming for His bride, and the bride has made herself ready.
Are we ready?
That’s the question that should concern each and every one of us.
When Jesus came the first time He entered by way of a seed in Mary’s womb and no one saw Him come. The next time He comes, “Every eye shall see Him.”
The first time He came as a Lamb. The next time He is coming as the Lion of Judah.
The first time He came to redeem. The next time He’s coming to rule and to reign.
The first time He came to die. The next time He’s coming to raise the sleeping saints.
The first time He wore a crown of thorns. The next time He will be wearing a golden crown of glory (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 14:14).
It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh...And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be delivered (Joel 2:28,32).
“It shall come to pass” after what? What will precede the great outpouring of the Spirit of God that He has promised in these last days? We find the answers in Joel 2:12-13, when God says, “turn ye even to me with all your heart…And rend your heart, and not your garments.” This is a call for genuine repentance.
My appeal is that we take seriously the call of our Saviour: “repent or else.” May God bless us all to this end.
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