Repentance – How do You understand it?

Yesterday afternoon my eyes flew open when I realized that I had allowed myself to drift down into a deep dark pit of lustful thoughts. Despite immediate confession I still felt contaminated this morning, so this is what I heard the Lord say. Then notice how today’s reading fits the situation like a glove.

I see a bright light, like a lighthouse shining in the dark – ” I am that light – I don’t only shine on you from the outside, but light-up your heart and soul from the inside, as well. Reaching into those darkest spots – to cleanse you and set you on the right road again. Everyone – everyone who is human has areas like that where they are weak and need cleansing – judgementalism, legalism, muttering and complaining, joylessness, lust, greed, pride – desire to be noticed and recognized and admired, whether for physical attributes or some skill or ‘achievement’ – all those seeds are in everyone – you too, so you need My holiness – to be totally holy. It does not mean that you should not be striving in your own life for holiness – but in reality you are always seen by Me as ‘in Jesus’ who is absolutely holy. Now here is My grace – I lavish My grace on you for redemption of sin and sins through the blood of Jesus”.

My reading is Luke 13:1-9. This is a discussion and then a little parable which seem to have one main message. I wonder if you can see what that is. So lets tackle the discussion first (1-5). What is the point that Jesus is making? There is a repetition of some words and ideas which should point you to the answer.

Firstly vs 2 “do you think these Galileans were worse sinners? And vs 4b do you think they were more guilty….? What is He saying? Obviously the answer is no in both cases. Conclusion? Bad things happening to people is not necessarily a sign of sin or even more sinfulness. In other words the real message is that all people are equally sinful. This is confirmed by the instruction Jesus gives after each example. Do you see it? “Repent or you too will perish”!

So what is the little parable in vv 5-9 saying? It may seem simple at first glance but I came across 5 different things that commentators suggest come from it. But this is about what Jesus is saying to you and me today so let’s look at the simple straight-forward meaning. So how do you read it? Well it seems the Owner of the vineyard has a clear problem – there is a fig tree that has not produced fruit for three years. The Owner wants to pull it out, but there is a Gardener who intervenes and asks for another year’s grace. The real point behind the story, of course is that a fig tree only has value if it produces fruit. So how do you interpret it?

Seen in the light of the previous section and instruction on repentance it seems the real sign of true repentance is the production of fruit. We see this principle repeatedly in the NT Remember the parable of the sower? The sign of good soil is it helps the seed to grow and produce fruit. The three years here seem to indicate the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth and so who is the Gardener? Surely, Jesus Himself, acting as advocate which will only happen after His death and resurrection. Then of course we see that the action of the Gardener is to treat the tree so that it will produce fruit from now on. It is also a picture of God’s patience with us, not judging us immediately when we sin but giving us time to repent and here we have the help of Jesus, as advocate in the matter.

Now I found myself meditating again on the true nature of repentance. What do you understand by that term? The word is translated from the Greek word “metanoia”, which means to change one’s mind. Easy? Well maybe not so fast. You see, faced with our sinfulness or a specific sin situation, we can make up our minds to stop it. But that does not always really help does it? Because we are weak and likely to fall back into the same trap again. So this is how I see it. We sin because we like it. It is attractive to us and we enjoy doing it. So, to find true repentance from our hearts, not just our minds, we need to focus on something or rather Someone who we can enjoy more than our sin. So true repentance starts with our recognizing the immensely greater value of Jesus than our sin and the fact that He can give us far greater joy than the temporal enjoyment we get from our sin. So we need to regularly turn to Jesus and find Him giving you more joy than anything in this world and finding His beauty and majesty so much more desirable than what the world can give. And of course, being the Gardener He will help us in that quest because that is why He has come.

Frightening words “repent or you will perish”. That is why repentance is such an important first step to becoming a Christian. But although our initial repentance is absolutely vital, we need to continue on a daily or even more often than that, path of repentance and the way to make that second nature, is we should cultivate that relationship and joy In Jesus.

Where is your treasure?

Before I start to-day’s blog, some house-keeping. Just a reminder that part of the exciting journey I have been having is to experience a growing ease with the concept of “listening prayer”. I don’t want to repeat what I have already written so I invite you to visit my blog of the 21st Dec, to read more about it. To find that blog tap the title of this blog. It will open up a new section below it and if you scroll down you will find a section headed “archive”. If you tap Dec it will open all the Dec blogs and you can scroll down till you get to the 21st. So welcome anyone who is new to our blog family and feel welcome to just read or to contribute if you would like.

Now to what I received from the Lord yesterday: “It is ‘I Am’ talking to you – I am talking to you just as I talked to Moses from the burning bush – only now Jesus is replacing the burning bush. I am talking to you through Him. Just as I used mighty works to release the Israelites from slavery in Egypt – so Jesus used mighty works – only they were in His own body – His death – on your behalf – His resurrection – His action as the ‘Sacrificial Lamb’ that set you free from the slavery of Satan and sin – now I am leading you through the desert. Jesus is acting like Moses He is the Leader, He is the Pillar of Smoke, He is the Pillar of Fire by day and by night – He is the Tabernacle – He is the High Priest, the Sacrifice and the Prophet all these in His majestic hands – as you travel as a stranger through the desert, He will provide water – Living water, He will provide manna, He is your Manna. He will protect you against the snakes that Satan will send at you – just keep looking up at the brass snake on a pole – look in faith to Him – He is your shield to protect you from sickness and pandemic. He has appointed you as an elder to serve under Him…..just be obedient and stay close to Me and I will give you daily bread to feed those whom I have given you to minister to”.

Today I am reading Luke 12:22-34 (but this is actually part of a larger section so maybe add vv 13-21 to that if you are joining me). So read through the passage to get a broader perspective before we focus on individual things. What do you think is the key vs of this section which reveals to us what the central message is (the telos)? This is obviously about priorities, so why are they so important to God? In what way do our priorities towards our possessions and our security in this world, tell us about our relationship with Jesus? Now within this passage what do you feel Jesus is saying to you today? I am going to share some of what He spoke to me, but first do business with Him in the passage above if you want Him to speak to you today.

So to me the key vs is v 34 “where your treasure is there also your heart will be”. This is almost a barometer of your progress with Jesus, something like what fruit you produce. The hyperbole of the first parable should not put us off considering in what ways we perhaps are being rich towards ourselves instead of God. How much, even a tiny bit, is there of covetousness still lurking deep down?

Of course then the section from vs 22 shows us the benefit of trusting God completely for all our needs. So are you able to put all your living concerns completely in God’s loving hands? One of the most comforting verses in the bible is vs 31, “seek His kingdom, and these things will be given you as well”. I have often reminded myself of this vs when faced with difficulties

So for me, I have to remind myself every time I come to a passage like this that although the passage may be familiar, to what extent am I really believing it and living it out in practical trust. We will always fall short of the perfection that God plans for us, but it is our desire and preparedness to grow and change that is the measure of our genuine trust in Him.

The spirit of the Pharisees, Lives on in the Church.

“Open my eyes Lord, I want to see Jesus”.

“Open your eyes – I am all around you – I am especially present in My Word – but I am also present in My creation – and in the love shown you by others. I am present but you can only see Me with the eyes of faith, hear Me with the ears of faith, feed on Me and obey me with the heart of faith. I am there with you ‘active’ in My Word, as in Hebrews 12, like a two-edged sword.”

Yes Lord I want to meet with You, not just in the written word, but in the Spirit who inspired that word, to understand the purpose, the ‘telos’ of each passage- verse- word – story – injunction. The written Word must lead me by the hand to meet the majesty of the Author of the Word – spoken to all, jointly – but to me personally – to meet me at the point of my need and instruct me. So Lord please continue to open your word to me, so that I may enter your rest (Hebrews 4:3, 11) that I may fully experience the state of blessing I am in.

My reading in Luke today 12:1-13, is a continuation of the confrontation that Jesus is having with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. The various specific sins Jesus highlights are not difficult to understand. As I meditate on this whole section, it comes to me that it is often the “religious” people who are the biggest problem in the church and the world. Their witness is distorted by hypocrisy – the danger of their teaching is that they twist the word of God, taking away its power to liberate and laying burdens on people’s backs. It is the religious people who often turn on each other and tear each other apart, often over unimportant points of doctrine. It is they who seek to form cliques of “like-minded” individuals, effectively excluding others from the gospel. It is the religious people who so distort the word of God to make it suit their particular petty sins eg the whole gay issue.

My unbelieving son Jean recently made a telling statement: I asked him how the people in England are taking “Brexit”. His answer was it is a fait accompli, now people either believe in it and embrace it or reject it completely. It is like religion he said. In other words you either believe in “religion” or you don’t. How much of a role have religious people played in causing him to make choice not to believe? So the outsider often sees the church as a sea of frowning religious faces looking down on them, ready to condemn them, instead of a kaleidoscope of beautiful flowers in the garden of God, ready to enfold and welcome others into the warm embrace of a relationship with the Father.

The frightening thing is that the seeds of the Pharisees lie within each one of us, hypocrisy, showing one face to the world and the church and having another private one, the seeds of pride, wanting to be seen doing good works to get accolades from others and maybe even from God, The seeds of legalism, finding your Christianity a burden and laying burdens on other’s backs and so on, the list is there in Luke. The solution is simple yet difficult to maintain. The writer to the Hebrews writes “Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall…..” (Heb 4:11) Yes the abundant life, the life of God’s promise is described as that rest, where we cease from striving to please God, but the apparent contradiction is that we must make ever effort to enter. There are so many forces working against our entering His rest on a daily basis, that we need to face them head on, with the knowledge that we have the full power of the Holy Spirit with us. Without being constantly alert we will fall into the trap of become legalistic, becoming religious.

Friends, let us go out there and become part of the solution and not part of the problem. We have the potential, through God’s Spirit of being the most beautiful, desirable flower in His garden.

Its the Inside that needs washing.

I see the sea – glassed off – calm, with light reflecting off the slow and slight swells – then I see Jesus walking on the water towards me – behind Him a great light is shining – brighter even than the sun. “Praise the Lord” the words of the hymn flow off my tongue, “let the whole earth rejoice – let the whole earth hear His voice”.

Then He speaks to me “Yes there are a myriad voices out there of those who love Me, who are praising Me – those past and present – you can look into the chambers of heaven and see all the saints you know who have gone before you – praising Me. Yes but even so, although the mighty throng sings in unison – each one is different – each one is unique – created and sculpted by Me as a masterpiece – together an enormous choir – individually fused to Me. You are not greater than any other, neither are you any less – I love each one of you to the same degree. Your eye is good so you will receive My word and understand it – so pass it on, that is your task at the moment”.

My reading is Luke 11:33-44, even though I already included 33-36 in yesterday’s reading. (Hence the reference to the good eye.) But reading 37 – 44 I realized that the previous few vv were really introductory to what I was reading today. So the message to the Pharisees was that they were so busy polishing up their outward appearance that they were completely neglecting the evil inside their hearts. Who did they think they were fooling? Was their view of God so small that they thought He would be satisfied with their behaviour. Well I suppose they were first of all spiritually blind and unable to comprehend the superficiality of it all. We have been reading in the last few paragraphs of the importance of “hearing” God speak through His word and demonstrating the transformation which takes place by our “obedience” to His word. 11:28. Secondly their motivation appears not to have arisen from the “love of God” 11:42, but rather the desire to be worshiped themselves 11:43. Their pride, like most unbelievers, was making it impossible to understand the real message of God.

So coming back to the piece describing the body being “full of light”, I can now see that the true believer’s whole body, especially the inside is lit up by the gospel and the Holy Spirit, which can be seen and appreciated by many.(Lamp on a hill). Whereas those who legalistically try to “live their Christian life” by applying a series of rules and rituals, find that the light only shines on the outside and the windows of their souls are ominously dark.

For me: The question I had to ask myself and I ask you dear reader, stop and take a deep draught of thought, is “how much of my life is governed by keeping rules and rituals, without my being sensitive to it?” If your answer is “none” then I ask you to apply to the Lord the question in Psalm 139:23,24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is ANY offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

So I again realized that I, and maybe you also need regular washing? It came to me that we should be seeking two biblical washings regularly: Ephesians 5:26, “a cleansing through the washing with the water through the word” and Hebr 9:14 “let the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences….” Which is just the practical way to reach the point the Ninevites had reached of true repentance Luke 11:32. What are you saying Ian? Read and study the word of the Lord, applying it through the Spirit to yourself and your heart and then run to Jesus to cleanse you in confession with His blood shed for you for this purpose. Then go out and obey.

Friends I have said it many times Christianity is often really unattractive to the outsider because all they see is a condemnatory set of rules to live by, whereas it is actually a life of great joy as we draw closer to God through Jesus who continually washes us from the inside.

What fuels your service for Jesus?

In my mind’s eye I see I hugely bright light. What is it? A Furnace – and I hear God say: “You have a furnace burning inside of you – a furnace which I have lit – a furnace which is burning with My love – a furnace which is empowering you, a furnace which is producing a burning light. It needs to be on a hill so that people can see it. But a furnace can only burn if it receives enough oxygen – enough air – that air is My love. So for the furnace to keep burning brightly you need a constant revelation of My love – you need to open the doors of your heart – so that I can feed the furnace burning inside you with my love – receive my love NOW – and continue to receive it. A furnace does not continue to burn brightly if it only occasionally receives oxygen – it needs to be fed repeatedly and continually – so keep reminding yourself of My love for you, so that your furnace burns more and more brightly”.

My reading today is Luke 10:38 – 42. Why don’t you join in by reading this very well known passage carefully and listening to what Jesus is saying to you from it, despite the fact that you may know it so well? Then though, reflect on the context from vs 25. How does this help you understand the purpose of Luke telling this story here, better. Now write down your observations as you remember to ask Jesus what He is saying to you.

What struck me immediately was the phrase in vs 39, which reflects what our blog is about again. But why does Luke tell this story here and what is the application? So the context helped me.

What did the expert in the law ask Jesus? How did the story of the good Samaritan fit with that?

OK so this is what I saw. I would be interested to hear what you heard Jesus say to you. The most important or the summary of God’s law is that we must love Him with all our heart, soul. strength, and mind and our neighbour as ourselves. But the question is how does this show? How do we demonstrate our love for God? Well here is a practical example. Treat the person who comes across your path in need, with compassion, in a practical, helpful and compassionate way, no matter who they are. That is a visible way of living out God’s law. And the next story? Well, mere practical actions on their own don’t necessarily show your love of God. Many people do loads of good without even knowing God. But in a way there is a difference here. the Samaritan is a despised outcast of a different race, who the average person would ignore.

But most important is what the story of Mary and Martha is about. Your actions need to arise from a living relationship with God, which here is reflected as sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. So the very act of listening to Jesus is the heartbeat of everything we do in His name! That is why our time of listening is so important. It needs to be the sort of listening where your heartbeat meets God’s. But equally important it must demonstrate its reality by practical fruit.

Oh and by the way, a little further back (vs 21), if you remember is the teaching of Jesus where He explains the secret of hearing His voice. He reveals Himself to us when our attitude is that of a little child.

So now, why don’t you open he door to the furnace which is burning in your heart and let the oxygen of God’s word feed it.