Have you ever asked, “How much of a Christian am I” or, “Do I really live the teachings of Jesus Christ”? You can discover the answers by taking a quiz to find out by going to: http://www.changingthefaceofchristianity.com/christianity-quiz/.
Do You Hate Religion But Love Jesus?
JESUS (the movie)
Who Is Jesus Anyway?
Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Isn’t that a great question? How would you answer it? Who is Jesus to you personally?
Who do you think that I am?
With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.
Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.
Consider what the Bible says about Him:
JESUS IS GOD
While Jesus was on earth there was much confusion about who He was. Some thought He was a wise man or a great prophet. Others thought He was a madman. Still others couldn’t decide or didn’t care. But Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). That means He claimed to be nothing less than God in human flesh.
Many people today don’t understand that Jesus claimed to be God. They’re content to think of Him as little more than a great moral teacher. But even His enemies understood His claims to deity. That’s why they tried to stone Him to death (John 5:18; 10:33) and eventually had Him crucified (John 19:7).
C.S. Lewis observed, “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity [Macmillan, 1952], pp. 40-41).
If the biblical claims of Jesus are true, He is God!
JESUS IS HOLY
God is absolutely and perfectly holy (Isaiah 6:3), therefore He cannot commit or approve of evil (James 1:13).
As God, Jesus embodied every element of God’s character. Colossians 2:9 says, “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” He was perfectly holy (Hebrews 4:15). Even His enemies couldn’t prove any accusation against Him (John 8:46)
God requires holiness of us as well. First Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
JESUS IS THE SAVIOR
Our failure to obey God–to be holy–places us in danger of eternal punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The truth is, we cannot obey Him because we have neither the desire nor the ability to do so. We are by nature rebellious toward God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The Bible calls our rebellion “sin.” According to Scripture, everyone is guilty of sin: “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And we are incapable of changing our sinful condition. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”
That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of performing acts of human kindness. We might even be involved in various religious or humanitarian activities. But we’re utterly incapable of understanding, loving, or pleasing God on our own. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished by death: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). That’s hard for us to understand because we tend to evaluate sin on a relative scale, assuming some sins are less serious than others. However, the Bible teaches that all acts of sin are the result of sinful thinking and evil desires. That’s why simply changing our patterns of behavior can’t solve our sin problem or eliminate its consequences. We need to be changed inwardly so our thinking and desires are holy
Jesus is the only one who can forgive and transform us, thereby delivering us from the power and penalty of sin: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Even though God’s justice demands death for sin, His love has provided a Savior, who paid the penalty and died for sinners: “Christ … died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ’s death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, thereby enabling Him to forgive and save those who place their faith in Him (Romans 3:26). John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He alone is “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13).
JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH
Some people think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. But without a valid object your faith is useless
If you take poison–thinking it’s medicine–all the faith in the world won’t restore your life. Similarly, if Jesus is the only source of salvation, and you’re trusting in anyone or anything else for your salvation, your faith is useless.
Many people assume there are many paths to God and that each religion represents an aspect of truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). He didn’t claim to be one of many equally legitimate paths to God, or the way to God for His day only. He claimed to be the only way to God–then and forever.
JESUS IS LORD
Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him
The New Testament reveals it was Jesus Himself who created everything (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Therefore He also owns and rules everything (Psalm 103:19). That means He has authority over our lives and we owe Him absolute allegiance, obedience, and worship.
Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Confessing Jesus as Lord means humbly submitting to His authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Believing that God has raised Him from the dead involves trusting in the historical fact of His resurrection–the pinnacle of Christian faith and the way the Father affirmed the deity and authority of the Son (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31).
True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is more than simply being sorry for sin. It is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin and pursue holiness (Isaiah 55:7). Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15); and “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).
It isn’t enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2:19), but they don’t love and obey Him. Their faith is not genuine. True saving faith always responds in obedience (Ephesians 2:10).
Jesus is the sovereign Lord. When you obey Him you are acknowledging His lordship and submitting to His authority. That doesn’t mean your obedience will always be perfect, but that is your goal. There is no area of your life that you withhold from Him.
JESUS IS THE JUDGE
All who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior will one day face Him as their Judge: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
Second Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?
Who does the Bible say Jesus is? The living God, the Holy One, the Savior, the only valid object of saving faith, the sovereign Lord, and the righteous Judge.
Who do you say Jesus is? That is the inescapable question. He alone can redeem you–free you from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can transform you, restore you to fellowship with God, and give your life eternal purpose. Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A335 COPYRIGHT ©2010 Grace to You
Are You Saved or Self-deceived?
Do you know Him?
The most important question for you to have the answer to in life is knowing where you will spend eternity. One hundred years from now, it will not matter how much money you earned, how much fun you had, how many friends you made, or how successful you were in life. The only thing that will matter after death is whether you knew God while alive on this earth.
Jesus prayed to His Father in John 17:3,
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
But this is not just an intellectual assent to knowing God, or knowing any false god (perhaps a god created in your own image to suit your sinful lifestyle). Jesus equated eternal life with knowing God, which is to say having eternal life is to have an intimate relationship with the Sovereign Lord and Creator of all things, the one and only true living God – the Lord Jesus Christ.
So the eternally significant question for you is: do you know Him?
The Problem of Sin
Knowing God is not something that comes natural to us. We cannot know God if we are separated from Him. King David confessed in Psalm 51:5,
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Romans 5:12 explains this is due to the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
This means every man and woman inherits a sinful nature from their parents, including you, and is therefore separated from God from birth.
Every sin that you’ve ever committed, whether lying, stealing, sexual immorality, or not loving God with all of your heart, you’ve done these things because by nature you are a slave to sin, a child of wrath, and a son of disobedience (Romans 6:17; Ephesians 2:3; 5:6). What’s worse, God has been keeping record of every thought, word, and deed you have done that has been contrary to His holy and righteous nature. God will judge you for every crime you have committed against Him if you die in your sins, and He will throw you into the lake of fire where you will be physically tormented forever (Revelation 20:11-15).
If you do not know God and continue in your rebellion against Him, eternal hell is what you can expect for yourself and there will be no escape from God’s wrath for you. Psalm 7:11 says,
God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
Hebrews 10:31 tells us,
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Whether you are rich or poor, the worst of criminals or a Nobel Peace Prize winner, you will stand before God and give an account. Does this concern you, dear friend?
While God must punish guilty criminals because He is a righteous judge, He is also rich in grace and mercy and has provided a way of reconciliation; however, He cannot forgive guilty sinners at the expense of His justice. A price had to be paid, and the cost was the life of the Innocent One, Jesus Christ. 2,000 years ago, it pleased God the Father to send His only begotten Son “to save His people from their sins” (John 3:16; Matthew 1:21). Jesus was born of a virgin and became a man (John 1:14; Luke 1:26-38; 2:4-7; 2 Cor. 5:21). In coming to earth, Christ renounced His privileges of heavenly glory to become the Suffering Servant in order to redeem and forgive sinners just like you (Phil. 2:5-8; Isaiah 53; Titus 2:14). The Father spared not His own Son so He could graciously give forgiven sinners all things (Romans 8:32). That was the cost of salvation – the very life of the Son of God!
Jesus lived in perfect obedience to His Father, performed many miracles, healed the brokenhearted, and showed us perfect love, kindness, humility, patience, and compassion. In God’s perfect timing, Jesus sacrificed His own life on the cross so that sinners could be saved from eternal death (Romans 5:6-11). Not only was Jesus punished for crimes He did not commit, and not only did He shed His blood to wash away the sins of His people, but He suffered the furious, eternal wrath of God in the place of all who would believe in Him. It actually pleased the Father to crush and bruise His only Son to satisfy His justice so that He could justify (declare ‘not guilty’) the one who has faith in Jesus (Isaiah 53:10; Romans 3:21-26). That is the perfect, sacrificial love that God demonstrated toward sinners (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10). After God’s wrath was satisfied, Jesus then victoriously gave up His spirit and died on the cross (Matthew 27:45-54).
On the third day, the most glorious event recorded in history took place when Jesus Christ was resurrected from the grave (John 20:1-18; 1 Corinthians 15). Satisfied with the sacrifice of His Son, the Father raised Him up and made Him King and Ruler over all (Philippians 2:5-11). Because Jesus defeated death, those who believe in Him do not need to fear death any longer (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus was raised for the pardoning of sinners (Romans 4:25), and because He lives, those who hope in Him will live forever (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Repent and Believe
God commands you to repent (turn away from your sins), and turn to the Living Christ by putting your complete trust in who He is as God and what He did on the cross. Jesus’ blood is sufficient to cover all of your sins past, present, and future (Hebrews 10:12-14), and He commands you to repent from your sinful lifestyle and your self-righteous good works to follow Him (Mark 8:34-38). There is only one good work that will bring you salvation, and that is the work of Jesus Christ alone. Your righteous works are but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-11), so you need the perfect righteousness of Jesus to meet God’s perfect standard to enter heaven (Matthew 5:20; Romans 5:15-21).
One day, this glorious King will return to earth and judge sinners in righteousness (Romans 2:5). The Lord Jesus Christ will not return as a meek Lamb, but as a mighty Lion to destroy all who do not know God and who disobey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10). So do not harden your heart to God’s offer of mercy to know Him and receive eternal life through obedience to the Gospel.
The Great Exchange
You see, the moment a person repents and trusts Jesus, God transfers Christ’s righteousness to their account, because their sin was placed on Jesus on the cross. Even though Jesus was innocent, He was punished for the sinner’s crimes against God, so God could give the sinner Jesus’ perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). God now sees this person as sinless, blameless, holy, and perfect as they are now clothed with the righteousness of the perfect Son of God. This is known as the “Great Exchange”, and it is a glorious truth that every sinner depends upon for justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
But be warned that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
That is why you need the righteousness (or perfect obedience) of Christ to enter heaven, and to those who possess His righteousness by repentant faith, verse 11 promises,
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Does Jesus Know You?
Even more important than the question of whether you know Jesus, is the question of whether Christ knows you. Does He know you? Jesus says in John 10:27,
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
Do you hear His voice? Will you follow Christ and be His disciple? If Jesus knows you, you will have ears to hear the voice of the Son of God and you will follow Him as His disciple through the door of life (John 5:25; John 10:1-10).
Come to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you can be sure you will never be lost again (John 10:27-30). God makes many promises to and about those He forgives and adopts as His children (Ephesians 1:3-14). Romans 8:39 says nothing in all of creation can separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus calls for the weary and the burdened to come to Him and they will find rest for their souls. In John 6:35, Jesus promises,
I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
Finally, Jesus declares in John 11:25-26,
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?
Rejoice in the Lamb
Proverbs 3:7-8 admonishes,
Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.
Turn from your sins and lay your burdens at the foot of the cross, dear friend, and be healed by the Living Son of God. Cry out for the Spirit of God to set you free from the bondage of your sin (John 8:31-36; Romans 6:20-23). May the Lord be glorified in your salvation, lest He be glorified in your destruction. Do not harden your heart from this free gift of salvation any longer, dear one, come to Christ and live. Believe in Him, that you would “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, and obtain as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your soul” (1 Peter 1:3-9).
Warning to Professing Christians
In closing, 2 Corinthians 13:5 gives the following warning to all professing Christians:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
Do not trust in any so-called “sinners prayer” or in a one-time “decision for Christ” for the assurance of your salvation. There is only one way to obtain biblical assurance and that is through the objective Word of God. Jesus warned in Matthew 7:13-14,
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Many people have a false profession of faith because they have never truly come to repentant faith. They have not been born again and are still dead in their sins. Sadly, some will wake up in hell one day, completely shocked. You are encouraged to read the Book of 1st John to test whether you are truly in the faith.
I invite you to watch the following short video, and contact godlife if you have questions about what you have read today or would like help finding a biblical church home.
“…Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” ~ Revelation 5:12-13
Do you love God? Do you know how to love God? Find out about the one disciple who loved God and the one who didn’t love God on the page A Tale of Two Sorrows – (one disciple who loved God and one who didn’t love God); Loving God
The Bible says in Philippians 3:13, “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” The Bible also tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that “It is by grace (God’s gift) we have been saved and not by works (human effort). Please go to www.godlife.com/look-to-jesus to learn more about what it means to be a Christian.
The website www.godlife.com/begin is full of great resources for Christians at every stage of growth. If you have recently decided to follow Christ, you may want to start with www.godlife.com/learn . If you have known Christ for a while, go to www.godlife.com/following-the-path for more in-depth lessons.
We can summarize our complete salvation by which God changes us by:
Please do not let those big theological words intimidate you. These big words carry big meaning. These big meanings reveal to us the bigness of our God and the greatness of our salvation.
Consider these summaries of the grandest words in the world:
- Justification: “To your sin and condemnation, the gospel says, ‘You are forgiven and declared not guilty.’”
- Reconciliation: “To your lostness and aloneness, the gospel says, ‘You are accepted. You are family. You are pursued, wooed, won, and will never be let go. Welcome home.’”
- Regeneration: “To your fallenness and heart of stone, the gospel says, ‘You are born again, made new, re-created like Christ.” You were once dead, but now you are alive in Christ.’”
- Redemption: “To your enslavement to sin and defeat at the hands of the world, the flesh, and the devil, the gospel says, ‘You can do all things holy and loving through Christ.’”
- Salvation and Suffering: “To your pain, the gospel says, ‘You are heard, seen, and known by the God who loves you. Mourning does not have the final word. Joy does.’ To your disgrace, the gospel says, ‘Grace.’”
Have you ever felt a little lost and wished there was a quick-start guide to your relationship with God? This is it!
In 6 easy lessons, you will learn why you can be sure of God’s love, how to talk and hear from God, and what God wants you to do with your life. Be inspired by the testimonies of real people who have experienced God and share your stories as you experience God yourself.
- Part 1: Jesus Has Saved Me
- Part 2: New Life from the Holy Spirit
- Part 3: Get Direction from the Bible
- Part 4: The Church is Your Family
- Part 5: God Hears Your Prayers
- Part 6: Help Someone Find God
New Believer Lesson Guide
So you want to follow Jesus. But you have baggage from the past and doubts about the future. How do you cope? The answer lies in knowing the truth about Jesus and about yourself. The New Believer’s Guide is designed to show you just how much Jesus has saved you and how to walk in His new life — a life of faith and freedom. It’s 30 lessons, each with a short video, Bible teaching, thought question, and application for everyday life.
You can go at your own speed. Take your time, answer all the questions and use these lessons as an opportunity to focus on your relationship with God.
- Section 1: Knowing God
- Part 1: Be Sure
- Part 2: Who is God?
- Part 3: Knowing Jesus
- Part 4: Saved by Grace
- Part 5: Created for a Purpose
- Section 2: Life in the Spirit
- Part 6: The Holy Spirit
- Part 7: Filled with the Spirit
- Part 8: Holy Spirit’s Work
- Part 9: Holy Spirit’s Power
- Part 10: Living in the Spirit
- Section 5: Prayer
- Part 21: What is Prayer?
- Part 22: Why Pray?
- Part 23: When to Pray
- Part 24: Where to Pray
- Part 25: How to Pray
- Section 6: Sharing your Faith
- Part 26: Great Commission 101
- Part 27: Why Share?
- Part 28: What is the Gospel?
- Part 29: How Do I Share?
- Part 30: Don’t be Scared
Following the Path
Following The Path is designed to help you walk with God. Each step you take down the path provides training, lessons, skills and insight, teaching you how to walk with God everyday.
Following the Path Outline
- A. The Holy Spirit
- B. Spirit Filled Life
- C. Walking in the Spirit
- D. Fruit of the Spirit
- E. Mind of the Spirit
- A. What is Prayer?
- B. Prayers of Worship
- C. God’s Word – The Guide
- D. Active Prayer
- E. Battles in Prayer
- F. Praying for Others
A 30-Day Guide to Spiritual Growth
As with a natural birth, the period immediately following a spiritual birth can be a time of great risk. We don’t adapt instantly to our new environment. The change to a life in Christ takes time, patience and special care.
To help you get a good start, what follows is a brief, but powerful, series of life lessons called Next Steps: A 30-Day Guide to Spiritual Growth. This guide will enable you to begin your journey on a solid footing. It is designed for use each day for the next 30 days.
- Day 1: Personal Transformation
- Day 2: Beginning The Journey
- Day 3: God Works Inside Out
- Day 4: The Bible: A Word For All Ages
- Day 5: God is Love
- Day 6: Responding to God
- Day 7: The Meaning of Life
- Day 8: Why 30 Days?
- Day 9: The Helper
- Day 10: The Renewed Mind
- Day 11: Loving Others
- Day 12: Loving Ourselves
- Day 13: Overcoming the old Nature
- Day 14: Resisting the Devil
- Day 15: Abiding: The Heart of the Christian Life
- Day 16: Enjoying the Lord
- Day 17: Truth: The Key to Freedom
- Day 18: Workers with Him
- Day 19: Assembling Together
- Day 20: Worship
- Day 21: Prayer
- Day 22: Temptation
- Day 23: Trusting God for the Future
- Day 24: An Eternal Perspective
- Day 25: Calling
- Day 26: In, But Not Of…
- Day 27: When We Stumble
- Day 28: Near the Cross
- Day 29: Next Steps
- Day 30: Bearers of Light
You Can Be Sure of Your Salvation and Have Assurance
In spite of what many theologians and pastors are saying today, you can be sure. Certainty is found in taking God at His Word. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” If you believe Him, then you know you have everlasting life. Read the page First Steps with Lord Jesus which is a series of short, culturally-neutral studies written in simple language for the non-native English speaker. This page is very useful in laying a basic foundation if you are a new believer or seeker.
The 4 steps to God:
1.) God Loves You!
The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”
The problem is that…
2.) All of us have done, said or thought things that are wrong. This is called sin, and our sins have separated us from God.
The Bible says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God is perfect and holy, and our sins separate us from God forever. The Bible says “The wages of sin is death.”
The good news is that, about 2,000 years ago,
3.) God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins.
Jesus is the Son of God. He lived a sinless life and then died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. “God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
Jesus rose from the dead and now He lives in heaven with God His Father. He offers us the gift of eternal life — of living forever with Him in heaven if we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
God reaches out in love to you and wants you to be His child. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name.” You can choose to ask Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and come in to your life as your Lord and Savior.
4.) If you want to accept Christ as your Savior and turn from your sins, you can ask Him to be your Savior and Lord by praying a prayer like this:
“Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you in to my life and heart to be my Lord and Savior. I want to serve you always.”
Did you pray this prayer?
Christians are sinners. That’s who Christ died to save. That’s what the Holy Spirit convicts us about. We’re sinners throughout life, and because the Spirit is in us, we are unhappy about our sin. Instead of doubting our salvation, which is what the Devil wants us to do, we need to continue to believe the promise of God that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness for Jesus sake. We trust Christ for forgiveness of what we do wrong, but also for the gift of His righteousness so we know we are accepted by God for Christ’s sake, and not because we lived up to our intentions or promises to Him. Remember that only Christians struggle with the issue of assurance, and that is because the Holy Spirit in us constantly brings us into to the light of the Father’s love and the grace of Jesus Christ. Accept what Christ has done for you and apart from you. Meditate on the promises in the Gospel: they are yours and are always all true for you. Read about Jesus’ tender love for sinful people. Rest in the finished work and gracious righteousness of Christ. If you go through a time of being unsure, expect your assurance to return as you focus on Christ, and not on yourself.
If you are a Christian struggling with having the assurance of salvation, read one of the following blog pages:
If you want to know the steps to take to develop you into a real follower of Jesus and building a strong Biblical foundation for a lifetime of walking with Jesus, read the page Steps of Discipleship. Also, see the ‘Fundamentals of the Faith’ bible study series which includes Thirteen lessons that blend basic biblical truths with personal obedience and service. Many believers take these classes to grow in their understanding of biblical truths. With topics ranging from the character of God to church participation, it’s an ideal study for discipling new believers or returning to the basics of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
If you have a Bible, I encourage you to begin reading the Gospel of John in the New Testament and the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, or online at http://www.esvbible.org/esv/browse/ or, https://www.youversion.com or, http://biblia.com/
In your spiritual search for significance, consider asking God this prayer: “God, I don’t fully understand Your character or how to relate to You. Will You please reveal Yourself to me, so I can discover and experience who You are and the eternal security You alone offer?”
Christianity, unlike all other religions, is developing a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. In order to have a relationship with God, you need to understand four principles that govern your relationship with God. Go to www.godlife.com/gospel to learn more.
Here are a few of web sites that do an excellent job of describing Christianity and the claims of Christ…
Christianity Explored – What is Christianity?: The message at the heart of Christianity is pretty simple. On this three-minute video, find out what it’s all about: http://www.christianityexplored.org/what-is-christianity
Two ways to live – the choice we all face: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/
www.JesusFactOrFiction.com is a series of excellent multi-media presentations from notable sources exploring the life and claims of Jesus.
www.WhoisJesus-Really.com is translated in multiple languages and explains the life of Jesus, the miracles he performed, what others said about Him, how He has influenced the world and what all this means to you.
The Gospel (good news) of The Kingdom of God Teaches Five Truths:
- Pride, selfishness, and the Ego deconstructs us but Jesus, and life under Jesus, the King — the Lord — the Savior, restores us under God to a new kind of life.
- God is reconciling you in all your relationships.
- God is at work.
- God has put the power of sin to death and is calling you into life.
- God is calling you into mission.
There is *nothing* more important than knowing and following Christ. Acts 4: 12 says of Jesus, “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Wherever you’ve been in your life, God is always waiting to welcome you with open arms. You may have attended church all your life, or been baptized, or responded to an invitation at church. But how do you know you are really a believer, truly “born again?”
Walking an aisle in response to the emotional and caring invitation of a pastor does not save anyone. Asking Jesus into one’s heart does not save anyone. Writing the date in the back of one’s Bible to commemorate the day a decision was made to follow Jesus does not save anyone. And praying a prayer does not save anyone.
When we say we have received Jesus, we are saying the following:
• I believe that Jesus is the eternal, unique and sinless Son of God
• I believe he died to pay the penalty for my sins and rose from the dead
• I know there’s no way to reach the Father apart from Jesus
• I believe I can be saved and have eternal life only through the free gift of God’s grace.
From the Bible, here are some important things you need to know about eternal life:
God said to Moses…”you shall say this to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I AM…if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins…No one is good except One, God! But unless you repent, you too will all perish…God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life….”
He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me…Whoever comes to me, I will never drive away…My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”
(See Exodus 3: 14; John 8:58, 24; Matthew 19:17; Luke 13:3; John 3:16, 14:6, 6:37, 10:27-30)
For those of us who are real and genuine believers and we have the witness of the Spirit in our hearts in that regard, we’ve seen His fruit evidenced in our lives, our love for the Lord, our love for the truth, our love for the Word, our love for other believers, our love for things that are holy and pure and good – Our salvation is forever secure. The Father planned our eternal salvation, the Son provided and purchased our eternal salvation, and the Holy Spirit produces and perfects our eternal salvation.
Did you know that Jesus begins making the following changes in your life when The Holy Spirit comes to live in you:
1. Before, you may have ignored your sins. Now you agree with God about them. (1 John 1: 7-10) You are not content to continue sinful practices. (1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:18)
2. Before, you broke His commands or ignored them. Now you highly regard them. (1 John 2: 3-5) You’re not perfect—but you love His perfection.
3. Before, you may have cared for others. Now, you have a greater love for them, especially for other Christians. (1 John 2: 9-11; 3:16; 4:20-21; James 2:14-17)
4. Before, you were spiritually dead. Now the Holy Spirit lives in you. (Ephesians 2: 1; 1 John 3:24; 4:13; 2 Corinthians 13:5)
5. Before, you may have worried about God’s coming judgment. Now you love Him and want Him to rule in your life. (1 John 5: 2)
6. You have a steady and growing trust in what the Bible says about Jesus. (1 John 4: 2, 3, 15, 5:1-13)
The difference between having the Holy Spirit and not is the difference between being saved and lost. If you’re in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in His fullness. If you lack the Holy Spirit, you’re still lost in your sins.
So how do you know if the Holy Spirit is within you? Look at the fruit of your life.
- Do you want to obey Jesus—and do you strive to do so? (Matt. 7:15-18)
- Do you love others—especially those who are unlovely? (Matt 5:43-48)
- Are you seeing increased evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in your life? (Gal. 5:22-23)
- Do you have a growing hatred of evil and love for what is good? (Rom. 12:9)
- Are you increasingly generous with your time, talents and treasure? (Matt 6:19-24)
- Are you increasingly aware of your own sinfulness and need of God’s grace? (1 Tim. 1:15-16)
What we all need to recognize is that apart from the Spirit’s work within us, the answer to all of these questions is going to be a resounding “no.” It’s impossible to do any of them without the Spirit at work, bringing life into what was dead. So perhaps we ought not to worry so much about whether or not we lack the Spirit. Instead, let’s examine the fruit of our lives and see what is revealed.
Without doubt the greatest proof of the new birth is changed life. Children of God now suddenly love the following:
a. They love Jesus. Before conversion sinners might hold Christ in high esteem, but after conversion they love the Savior (1 John 5:1, 2).
b. They love the Bible. We should love God’s Word as the psalmist did in Ps. 119. He expresses his great love for God’s Word no less than seventeen times! See verses 24, 40, 47, 48, 72, 97, 103, 111, 113, 127, 129, 140, 143, 159, 162, 165, 168.
c. They love other Christians. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14).
d. They love their enemies. See Matt. 5:43–45.
e. They love the souls of all people. Like Paul, they too can cry out for the conversion of loved ones. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1). See also 2 Cor. 5:14.
f. They love the pure life. John says if one loves the world, “the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15–17). See also 1 John 5:4.
g. They love to talk to God. “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).
I am not what I once was
In his old age, when he could no longer see to read, John Newton heard someone recite this text, “By the grace of God—I am what I am.”
He remained silent a short time and then, as if speaking to himself, he said: “I am not what I ought to be—ah, how imperfect and deficient!
I am not what I wish to be—I abhor that which is evil, and I would cleave to that which is good. I am not what I hope to be—soon, soon I shall put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection!
Though I am not what I ought to be, what I wish to be, and what I hope to be—yet I can truly say, I am not what I once was—a slave to sin and Satan!
I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge, “By the grace of God—I am what I am!”
Even the Apostle Paul said that in his own strength he could not live the way God wanted. But “through Christ,” he said, “I can do all things.” You need to know how the Holy Spirit provides this same power to do God’s will. Please visit http: //tiny.cc/holyspirit to learn more
Jesus is the greatest man to have ever lived. Not only that, but He is God and the only Savior of the world. By following Him, you will experience the richest life possible. Discover who Jesus was and is today in the following series.
- Part 1: The Son of God
- Part 2: The Birth of Jesus
- Part 3: His Life and Ministry
- Part 4: Prophecies About Jesus
- Part 5: Jesus’ Love and Compassion
- Part 6: Jesus’ Character
- Part 7: His Teachings
- Part 8: Jesus’ Miracles
- Part 9: A Sinless Life
- Part 10: Jesus is Salvation
- Part 11: Jesus’ Death
- Part 12: Jesus’ Resurrection
- Part 13: Prayer to Accept Christ as Savior and Lord
- Part 14: Jesus Forever in Glory and Our Relationship to Him
- Part 15: Future Coming King
If you were to die tonight, do you think you would go to Heaven?
If you were to explain to God why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?
If God judges you on Judgment Day, do you think you will be innocent or guilty? Do you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven? Or, is that something you would say you’re still working on? Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” what would you say?
Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell. God, who the Bible says is “rich in mercy,” sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for guilty sinners. We broke God’s Law, but Jesus paid our fine. That means He can legally dismiss our case. He can commute our death sentence: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Then He rose from the dead and defeated death.
Are you broken over your sin, contrite, and desiring salvation through Jesus Christ? Is there any reason why you wouldn’t turn from your sin, turn to God, and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior right now?
The Bible, as God’s Word, proclaims how a person can come into a living and vital relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Acknowledge you are a sinner. While some may think they are “good people,” everyone has committed sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
- Recognize you deserve death. Because God is holy, He must judge sin. The penalty for sin is eternal separation from God. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)
- Understand Christ died for your sins. The Good News of the Bible is that God graciously supplied a substitute for the penalty you deserve. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
- Put your trust in Christ as your Savior. God invites you to come into a relationship with Him through faith in Christ’s death on your behalf. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If you put your faith alone in Christ alone, you will come into a loving and eternal relationship with Christ. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
Which of the following causes motivated your desire to rededicate your life?
- A lack of fulfillment, perhaps described as a feeling that “there must Be more to the Christian life than I have experienced.”
- A search for freedom from sin and guilt, because of carelessness in Daily repentance and confession.
- A desire to better know the will of God for one’s life.
To recommit means that something caused you to stray away from God…usually it is a specific sin. Have you repented and turned away from that sin? You can’t continue in the sin that drew you away from Him in the first place because sin separates us from God. He is still our Father, but we can’t be in His presence when we have unconfessed sin. The bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1: 9) – That is great news! So I am excited that you have decided to recommit to Christ, but I want you to understand that this means putting away what separated you from Him in the first place.
What Is the Meaning of the Parable of the Prodigal Son?
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is found in Luke chapter 15, verses 11–32. The main character in the parable, the forgiving father, whose character remains constant throughout the story, is a picture of God. In telling the story, Jesus identifies Himself with God in His loving attitude to the lost. The younger son symbolizes the lost (the tax collectors and sinners of that day, Luke 15:1), and the elder brother represents the self-righteous (the Pharisees and teachers of the law of that day, Luke 15:2). The major theme of this parable seems not to be so much the conversion of the sinner, as in the previous two parables of Luke 15, but rather the restoration of a believer into fellowship with the Father. In the first two parables, the owner went out to look for what was lost (Luke 15:1–10), whereas in this story the father waits and watches eagerly for his son’s return. We see a progression through the three parables from the relationship of one in a hundred (Luke 15:1–7), to one in ten (Luke 15:8–10), to one in one (Luke 15:11–32), demonstrating God’s love for each individual and His personal attentiveness towards all humanity. We see in this story the graciousness of the father overshadowing the sinfulness of the son, as it is the memory of the father’s goodness that brings the prodigal son to repentance (Romans 2:4).
We will begin unfolding the meaning of this parable at verse 12, in which the younger son asks his father for his share of his estate, which would have been half of what his older brother would receive; in other words, 1/3 for the younger, 2/3 for the older (Deuteronomy 21:17). Though it was perfectly within his rights to ask, it was not a loving thing to do, as it implied that he wished his father dead. Instead of rebuking his son, the father patiently grants him his request. This is a picture of God letting a sinner go his own way (Deuteronomy 30:19). We all possess this foolish ambition to be independent, which is at the root of the sinner persisting in his sin (Genesis 3:6; Romans 1:28). A sinful state is a departure and distance from God (Romans 1:21). A sinful state is also a state of constant discontent. Luke 12:15 says, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” This son learned the hard way that covetousness leads to a life of dissatisfaction and disappointment. He also learned that the most valuable things in life are the things you cannot buy or replace.
In verse 13 we read that he travels to a distant country. It is evident from his previous actions that he had already made that journey in his heart, and the physical departure was a display of his willful disobedience to all the goodness his father had offered (Proverbs 27:19; Matthew 6:21; 12:34). In the process, he squanders all his father had worked so hard for on selfish, shallow fulfillment, losing everything. His financial disaster is followed by a natural disaster in the form of a famine, which he failed to plan for (Genesis 41:33–36). At this point he sells himself into physical slavery to a Gentile and finds himself feeding pigs, a detestable job to the Jewish people (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8; Isaiah 65:4; 66:17). Needless to say, he must have been incredibly desperate at that point to willingly enter into such a loathsome position. And what an irony that his choices led him to a position in which he had no choice but to work, and for a stranger at that, doing the very things he refused to do for his father. To top it off, he apparently was paid so little that he longed to eat the pig’s food. Just when he must have thought life could not get any worse, he couldn’t even find mercy among the people. Apparently, once his wealth was gone, so were his friends. The text clearly says, “No one gave him anything” (vs. 16). Even these unclean animals seemed to be better off than he was at this point. This is a picture of the state of the lost sinner or a rebellious Christian who has returned to a life of slavery to sin (2 Peter 2:19–21). It is a picture of what sin really does in a person’s life when he rejects the Father’s will (Hebrews 12:1; Acts 8:23). “Sin always promises more than it gives, takes you further than you wanted to go, and leaves you worse off than you were before.” Sin promises freedom but brings slavery (John 6:23).
The son begins to reflect on his condition and realizes that even his father’s servants had it better than he. His painful circumstances help him to see his father in a new light and bring him hope (Psalm 147:11; Isaiah 40:30–31; Romans 8:24–25; 1 Timothy 4:10). This is reflective of the sinner when he/she discovers the destitute condition of his life because of sin. It is a realization that, apart from God, there is no hope (Ephesians 2:12; 2 Timothy 2:25–26). This is when a repentant sinner “comes to his senses” and longs to return to the state of fellowship with God which was lost when Adam sinned (Genesis 3:8). The son devises a plan of action. Though at a quick glance it may seem that he may not be truly repentant, but rather motivated by his hunger, a more thorough study of the text gives new insights. He is willing to give up his rights as his father’s son and take on the position of his servant. We can only speculate on this point, but he may even have been willing to repay what he had lost (Luke 19:8; Leviticus 6:4–5). Regardless of the motivation, it demonstrates a true humility and true repentance, not based on what he said but on what he was willing to do and eventually acted upon (Acts 26:20). He realizes he had no right to claim a blessing upon return to his father’s household, nor does he have anything to offer, except a life of service, in repentance of his previous actions. With that, he is prepared to fall at his father’s feet and hope for forgiveness and mercy. This is exactly what conversion is all about: ending a life of slavery to sin through confession to the Father and faith in Jesus Christ and becoming a slave to righteousness, offering one’s body as a living sacrifice (1 John 1:9; Romans 6:6–18; 12:1).
Jesus portrays the father as waiting for his son, perhaps daily searching the distant road, hoping for his appearance. The father notices him while he was still a long way off. The father’s compassion assumes some knowledge of the son’s pitiful state, possibly from reports sent home. During that time it was not the custom of men to run, yet the father runs to greet his son (vs.20). Why would he break convention for this wayward child who had sinned against him? The obvious answer is because he loved him and was eager to show him that love and restore the relationship. When the father reaches his son, not only does he throw his arms around him, but he also greets him with a kiss of love (1 Peter 5:14). He is so filled with joy at his son’s return that he doesn’t even let him finish his confession. Nor does he question or lecture him; instead, he unconditionally forgives him and accepts him back into fellowship. The father running to his son, greeting him with a kiss and ordering the celebration is a picture of how our Heavenly Father feels towards sinners who repent. God greatly loves us, patiently waits for us to repent so he can show us His great mercy, because he does not want any to perish nor escape as though by the fire (Ephesians 2:1–10; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Corinthians 3:15).
This prodigal son was satisfied to return home as a slave, but to his surprise and delight is restored back into the full privilege of being his father’s son. He had been transformed from a state of destitution to complete restoration. That is what God’s grace does for a penitent sinner (Psalm 40:2; 103:4). Not only are we forgiven, but we receive a spirit of sonship as His children, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, of His incomparable riches (Romans 8:16–17; Ephesians 1:18–19). The father then orders the servants to bring the best robe, no doubt one of his own (a sign of dignity and honor, proof of the prodigal’s acceptance back into the family), a ring for the son’s hand (a sign of authority and sonship) and sandals for his feet (a sign of not being a servant, as servants did not wear shoes—or, for that matter, rings or expensive clothing, vs.22). All these things represent what we receive in Christ upon salvation: the robe of the Redeemer’s righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), the privilege of partaking of the Spirit of adoption (Ephesians 1:5), and feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, prepared to walk in the ways of holiness (Ephesians 6:15). A fattened calf is prepared, and a party is held (notice that blood was shed = atonement for sin, Hebrews 9:22). Fatted calves in those times were saved for special occasions such as the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26–32). This was not just any party; it was a rare and complete celebration. Had the boy been dealt with according to the Law, there would have been a funeral, not a celebration. “The Lord does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:10–13). Instead of condemnation, there is rejoicing for a son who had been dead but now is alive, who once was lost but now is found (Romans 8:1; John 5:24). Note the parallel between “dead” and “alive” and “lost” and “found”—terms that also apply to one’s state before and after conversion to Christ (Ephesians 2:1–5). This is a picture of what occurs in heaven over one repentant sinner (Luke 15:7, 10).
Now to the final and tragic character in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the oldest son, who, once again, illustrates the Pharisees and the scribes. Outwardly they lived blameless lives, but inwardly their attitudes were abominable (Matthew 23:25–28). This was true of the older son who worked hard, obeyed his father, and brought no disgrace to his family or townspeople. It is obvious by his words and actions, upon his brothers return, that he is not showing love for his father or brother. One of the duties of the eldest son would have included reconciliation between the father and his son. He would have been the host at the feast to celebrate his brother’s return. Yet he remains in the field instead of in the house where he should have been. This act alone would have brought public disgrace upon the father. Still, the father, with great patience, goes to his angry and hurting son. He does not rebuke him as his actions and disrespectful address of his father warrant (vs.29, “Look,” he says, instead of addressing him as “father” or “my lord”), nor does his compassion cease as he listens to his complaints and criticisms. The boy appeals to his father’s righteousness by proudly proclaiming his own self-righteousness in comparison to his brother’s sinfulness (Matthew 7:3–5). By saying, “This son of yours,” the older brother avoids acknowledging that the prodigal is his own brother (vs. 30). Just like the Pharisees, the older brother was defining sin by outward actions, not inward attitudes (Luke 18:9–14). In essence, the older brother is saying that he was the one worthy of the celebration, and his father had been ungrateful for all his work. Now the one who had squandered his wealth was getting what he, the older son, deserved. The father tenderly addresses his oldest as “my son” (vs. 31) and corrects the error in his thinking by referring to the prodigal son as “this brother of yours” (vs. 32). The father’s response, “We had to celebrate,” suggests that the elder brother should have joined in the celebration, as there seems to be a sense of urgency in not postponing the celebration of the brother’s return.
The older brother’s focus was on himself, and as a result there is no joy in his brother’s arrival home. He is so consumed with issues of justice and equity that he fails to see the value of his brother’s repentance and return. He fails to realize that “anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him” (1 John 2:9–11). The older brother allows anger to take root in his heart to the point that he is unable to show compassion towards his brother, and, for that matter he is unable to forgive the perceived sin of his father against him (Genesis 4:5–8). He prefers to nurse his anger rather than enjoy fellowship with his father, brother and the community. He chooses suffering and isolation over restoration and reconciliation (Matthew 5:24, 6:14–15). He sees his brother’s return as a threat to his own inheritance. After all, why should he have to share his portion with a brother who has squandered his? And why hadn’t his father rejoiced in his presence through his faithful years of service?
The wise father seeks to bring restoration by pointing out that all he has is and has always been available for the asking to his obedient son, as it was his portion of the inheritance since the time of the allotment. The older son never utilized the blessings at his disposal (Galatians 5:22; 2 Peter 1:5–8). This is similar to the Pharisees with their religion of good works. They hoped to earn blessings from God and in their obedience merit eternal life (Romans 9:31–33; 10:3). They failed to understand the grace of God and failed to comprehend the meaning of forgiveness. It was, therefore, not what they did that became a stumbling block to their growth but rather what they did not do which alienated them from God (Matthew 23:23–24, Romans 10:4). They were irate when Jesus was receiving and forgiving “unholy” people, failing to see their own need for a Savior. We do not know how this story ended for the oldest son, but we do know that the Pharisees continued to oppose Jesus and separate themselves from His followers. Despite the father’s pleading for them to “come in,” they refused and were the ones who instigated the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:59). A tragic ending to a story filled with such hope, mercy, joy, and forgiveness.
The picture of the father receiving the son back into relationship is a picture of how we should respond to repentant sinners as well (1 John 4:20–21; Luke 17:3; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19–20). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are included in that “all,” and we must remember that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” apart from Christ (Isaiah 64:6; John 15:1–6). It is only by God’s grace that we are saved, not by works that we may boast of (Ephesians 2:9; Romans 9:16; Psalm 51:5). That is the core message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
The Fruits of Repentance
by John MacArthur
What kind of evidence substantiates authentic repentance? When the crowds asked that question of John the Baptist in Luke 3:10, he told them to share with their needy neighbors (v. 11). To tax collectors he said, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to” (v. 13). To soldiers he said, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages” (v. 14).
In each case, he was calling for a selfless attitude and kindness to one’s neighbors. That short list doesn’t exhaust all the possible fruits of repentance, of course, but it demonstrates that genuine repentance ought to produce the kind of character change that results in a qualitative difference in the way we live. James wrote, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). In a similar way, repentance that doesn’t produce works is barren and useless. A person who has genuinely repented is never left unchanged.
The apostle Paul likewise looked for proof of repentance. “I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision,” he said, “but kept declaring… to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:19-20, emphasis added).
The emphasis on self-examination is consistent throughout Scripture. Because true repentance is one of the first indications of salvation, believers can and should look to the fruit of repentance for assurance. As Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Scripture presents self-examination as an essential prerequisite for authentic assurance (2 Corinthians 13:5). The evidences of true salvation cited in Scripture include the fruits of one’s behavior (1 John 3:18-19), pattern of life (1 John 3:24), and way of thinking (1 John 5:1-2).
Don’t be misled: salvation is in no way merited by our works, and therefore true assurance is not ultimately grounded in our performance. Self-examination can destroy false assurance, but you’ll never find settled assurance merely by looking at yourself. In the end, we have to look away from ourselves and rest in the objective promises of God’s Word. True, lasting assurance is anchored in the promise of salvation to all who believe. That promise is as true as God Himself and needs no empirical verification.
Still, self-examination is a necessary and biblical aspect of gaining assurance. It is the process by which we evaluate the quality of our own faith. And the fruits of repentance are the evidence we must seek.
This is especially crucial in the contemporary evangelical environment. Multitudes believe they are saved merely because someone told them so after a cursory conversation, the simple reciting of a canned prayer, the raising of a hand in a public meeting, or sometimes even less. People have not been challenged to examine themselves. Rarely do they test their assurance by God’s Word. As a matter of fact, many have been taught that doubts about their salvation can only be detrimental to spiritual health and growth.
But Scripture demands self-examination. In fact, we’re supposed to examine ourselves regularly, every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28). Paul’s famous challenge to the believers at Corinth clearly has the doctrine of assurance in view: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5 emphasis added). And Hebrews 10:22 indicates that “full assurance of faith” comes from “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.”
So we need to examine ourselves in the process of coming to grips with assurance. Nowhere is this made more plain in Scripture than 1 John, one of the key passages of Scripture on the subject of assurance. In fact, the epistle was written with the express purpose of building the assurance of true believers. John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). His aim is to deepen the assurance of genuine Christians—those “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” He’s not trying to provoke doubts in the presence of authentic faith; he is giving us a basis to “assure our heart before Him” (3:19).
Notice again, however, that our faith in Christ is the ultimate ground and foundation of true assurance. Self-examination is simply the process by which we examine whether our faith is genuine and our repentance real.
True believers should not be unnerved by the biblical call to self-examination. Unbelievers and mere hearers of the Word, on the other hand, need to have their self-confidence shaken. So the apostle John names several practical tests that may be used to determine the authenticity of faith—including such things as obedience (2:3-6; 3:1-10), sound doctrine (2:21-28; 4:1-6), and love for the brethren (3:14-19; 4:7-11). Those are fruits of true repentance.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B120828 COPYRIGHT ©2013 Grace to You
When God Can’t Forgive
Do you know when God can’t forgive?
Is there a Christian obligation to forgive when there’s no repentance?
Can there be forgiveness without reconciliation?
What are you to do in a situation where there’s no sign of repentance and reconciliation seems impossible?
How does God look upon the person who doesn’t repent?
How are repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation related?
Does God call me to forgive someone who hasn’t repented?
Can I forgive without being reconciled?
What should my attitude be towards someone who shows no sign of repentance?
Does God forgive sinners who do not repent? No He doesn’t. God’s forgiveness is always tied to repentance. What happens to those who don’t repent? You will die in your sins – not be forgiven nor reconciled (John 8:21). God can’t give what you won’t receive by you not opening the door of opportunity through repentance.
The prodigal son journey began with repentance. Repentance is something that develops over time. We don’t realize or see the full extent of our sin right away but only a little bit if it. We begin to take ownership of our sin as we see our sins more clearly over time – i.e. the gradual sun rise from morning to noon over time.
Repentance is turning with as much as you know of yourself from as much as you know of sin to as much as you know of God.
Repentance is not a onetime act but is a deepening process throughout life as I come to know more about myself, more about what sin really is and more about God. As I see more clearly and as God gives me more light, my repentance deepens. John Calvin says, “the whole of the Christian life is one of repentance”. There is never a time in this life where we see the full extent of our sins against God but only a growing in that knowledge. We will also never realize the full extent of our offenses against others either. The whole of the Christian life is a growing and grasping of the truth of who God is, what sin is & of whom I really am.
How should we respond to a person who begins to repent? The prodigal son shows the father eagerly coming at the first sign of repentance. God embraces the first sign of repentance. That is what people who really want reconciliation will do. At the first sign of repentance you go rushing out to greet it. Repentance isn’t easy. If we’re really interested in reconciliation then it’s important to affirm any progress that’s being made even when the prodigal is still some distance from home.
In the situation of conflict with another don’t ask if there is full ownership. Ask if there is any ownership. Is there anything in the process where reconciliation can begin? If there is, then ask how can I go out to meet it? The best way to help them on their journey home is to assure them that they are welcome. Thank God that’s how He has reached out to you and to me. God does not ask the question “is your repentance complete”? (It never is in this life). He asks the question, “has it begun”? And as it’s begun He meets us. That’s how repentance and forgiveness are tied together with God.
Can I forgive without being reconciled? The answer is found in the question, “Does God ever forgive without being reconciled”? Is there any evidence showing where God forgives but has the attitude that says, “I forgive you but I don’t want to have anything to do with you ever again. ” the answer is No.
God has joined forgiveness & reconciliation together just as He’s joined repentance & forgiveness together. The reason God forgives is so that there may be reconciliation. We get into trouble when we try to separate what God has joined together. Forgiveness involves the reconciling of two persons – one who repents and one who forgives. Reconciliation is where the lines of repentance & forgiveness meet. You can’t have reconciliation without repentance and you can’t have reconciliation without forgiveness. Reconciliation occurs with the joining of forgiveness being offered and then having that forgiveness being received by the one who repents.
How does God treat those who have no sign of repentance? He doesn’t say, “Let’s forgive him anyway.” What does He do? He loves them as He does with all His enemies. That’s what we are to do. Love them & pray for those who persecute you.
God is seeking reconciliation. Where does that lead the relationship if He just forgave His enemies with no sign of their repentance? What God does is love His enemies and by winning His enemies with His love there can now be reconciliation because there is forgiveness which is at the heart of reconciliation. This is important for us to understand in situations of alienation, enmity and conflict that exist in human relationships. Love your enemies. He wants us to win our enemies to a place where they become our friends.
The problem we have today is that we’ve bought into a cheapened view of forgiveness – A view that’s divorced from repentance and doesn’t lead to reconciliation – Forgiving but never reconciling. By separating reconciliation from forgiveness we’ve made forgiveness cheap because it doesn’t cost us much. And we’ve made reconciliation unusual because we don’t feel that we need to worry about it. We’ve torn apart what God has put together.
In heaven, all who have been forgiven will be reconciled. If that’s true in heaven then should we not do what we can to move in that direction here on earth? The more we move in that direction the more we will mirror the heart of our Father in heaven and bring joy to His heart.
The world can’t see forgiveness but it can see reconciliation.
What should then be my attitude towards someone who shows no sign of repentance? The answer is in asking, “How does God show himself to those who have no sign of repentance”? He shows compassion & pity. This is how Christ calls us to be towards the unrepentant. He doesn’t say to forgive your enemies but rather, to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Jesus prayed for the Father to forgive those who crucified Him. He didn’t announce their forgiveness – He didn’t declare them forgiven. They weren’t looking for forgiveness or wanting it. How can you give that which will not be received? Forgiveness is always tied to repentance and reconciliation. It is both given & received. If it’s not received, it can’t be given.
God wants you to mirror His compassion. What do you feel for that person who’s unrepentant in light of eternity? Wouldn’t you want them to come out of their blindness and into a position where forgiveness & reconciliation are possible? Compassion reflects the heart of Jesus. We grow in compassion by praying for those who’ve wounded us & those who are difficult for us.
How do we love our enemies? We pray for them. You don’t have to be locked into bitterness against the one who shows no sign of repentance. You can pray for them. Then your heart will become soft as compassion grows. Then you’ll be ready to forgive at the first sign of repentance in them.
Compassion may be the very thing that brings about a change in the person who has wounded you (Romans 2:4). God draws us and moves us by His loving kindness, compassion and love. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. He does this reaching out to us so that we may receive all that He has for us – the gift of forgiveness & enjoy reconciliation with Him.
Do you feel distant from God? He hasn’t hidden Himself from you. He’s come near to you through Jesus & wants to reconcile with you. God isn’t against you. His nail pierced hands reach out to you. He’s offering a costly forgiveness that leads to reconciliation. He wants to make you a son or daughter & wants to have a relationship together with you. The manger & the cross show that God offers forgiveness in Jesus. If you will draw near to Him in repentance, you can receive what He wants to give. The lines of God’s forgiveness and your repentance can meet at the cross today resulting in reconciliation to God.
Fruits of Repentance
The apostle John names several practical tests that may be used to determine the authenticity of faith—including such things as obedience (1 John 2:3-6; 3:1-10), sound doctrine (1 John 2:21-28; 4:1-6), and love for the brethren (1 John 3:14-19; 4:7-11). Those are some of the fruits of true repentance.
Repentance is turning with as much as you know of yourself from as much as you know of sin to as much as you know of God.
The Bible talks about “godly sorrow,” and this is the kind of sorrow that leads to repentance 2 Corinthians 7:9-10.
Three distinguishing marks of genuine repentance: 1. You have light (understanding) from God about your sin; 2. You have desire (hunger) for God to obey; 3. You have faith (trust) in God for His forgiveness.
Three practical applications in how to use these three distinguishing marks of genuine repentance:
1. Use these marks as a guide for discerning true repentance in another person. i.e… “He says he is sorry but how do I know that he has really changed?” – (you are wanting to know if it is safe to trust). “She says that she has come back to the Lord but how do I know her repentance is real?”. What are the criteria to use to answer these questions? How do you discern how to answer these questions? These are important questions for us as Christians and elders of the church in the issues of church discipline, restoration and trust in regards to responsibility.
How do you measure true repentance? You look for the distinguishing marks of true repentance to determine the type of questions to ask such as: does this person have light from God with regards to what they have done – Do they see it clearly? Is there ownership? Have they faced it without excuse or evasion without blaming other people and without trying to trivialize it or minimize it? Do they hate, not only what came as a result of their actions but hate the sin itself? Is their focus on their own pain, reputation like King Saul’s was or are they taking genuine ownership for what they have done like King David? Do we see a desire with the person to walk more close to God? Is there evidence of a new commitment and hunger for the word and prayer? Are there changing patterns that we see that reflect a drawing near to God in this person’s life? Is this person laying hold of the grace of God as one who evidently and deeply believes the gospel? When you see these things (distinguishing marks of true repentance) you have every reason to be joyfully confident that real and lasting change has happened and will continue to happen in their life.
2. These distinguishing marks are useful as a guide for deepening repentance in our own lives. What are you to do about the sin that you have fallen into again and again and again – the repeated sin? Your repentance needs to be deepened. The distinguishing marks can be used as a guide to how to proceed – i.e… Do I really see this sin as God sees it? Have I felt the weight of this thing that I keep doing as Jesus felt the weight of it as He was dying for my sin on the cross? Do I hate this sin honestly as much as God hates it or is there a secret part of me that still cherishes it and holds on to it? Have I really faced the darkness in my own soul that makes me keep behaving like this? Am I sincere in my desire to walk with God and am I ready to embrace the gospel in this regard to trust Christ for forgiveness not as some form of cheap grace that allows me to go out and do the same thing again but recognizing that this forgiveness flows from His pierced hand to me for this sin. Do I in embracing the gospel therefore believe and trust in the power of His Spirit that I may overcome it and gain victory over it in the days that lay ahead.
3. These distinguishing marks are useful in directing our prayers in how to pray when you find yourself in great sorrow. Ask God to deliver you from their worldly sorrow from where that sorrow might take you. Ask Him to give you light as you examine your heart. Ask Him to walk with you by His Spirit as you commit yourself to the path of obedience. Ask Him to give you hope as person who truly now in your sorrow embraces the gospel. Godly sorrow brings repentance. This gets you on the path to a transformed life and salvation. It will leave you without regret.
My Brief Story
Years ago, I gave my life to Jesus Christ and have followed Him from that time without regret. I have experienced Jesus’ power to lead me to truth, light, forgiveness, and new life. I learned from the bible that I was a sinner who disobeyed Gods laws, and that Jesus came to earth to forgive sinners like me. I asked Jesus to come into my life as my Lord and savior – and He forgave me, cleansed me, and made me a new person.
Jesus has been my faithful Lord, guide, teacher, friend, comforter, savior, provider, and healer. He has never let me down. He has always kept all His wonderful promises, and I am sure you will find Jesus completely faithful to His wonderful promises, too. Through Jesus Christ, we have the gift of salvation, peace with God and forgiveness of sins for which we all are longing.
I have experienced the suffering and consequences of allowing selfishness and sin to rob me of my relationship and intimacy with God. As a prodigal son, I pursued the lust of the world and flesh only to become destitute. I have experienced the quilt and shame of my sin. I have experienced the forgiveness of The Father. I have experienced the critical and judgmental attitudes along with the forgiving and loving attitudes of others. As the prodigal repented and returned to his fathers fellowship, so have I found restoration and reconciliation with Him.
There are churches, pastors and small-group leaders who probe into members’ personal lives and shaming them for real or perceived sins — sometimes ostracizing members who were deemed unrepentant, wounding them spiritually and cutting off close friendships. I do not believe God is honored or glorified - desires or wants - abusive leadership within local churches and heavy-handed shepherding denominations that shoot their wounded brothers and sisters or exile them as moral lepers. The church is to be a spiritual hospital for those who are sick, wounded, hurting, learning, struggling and fighting to conquer sin as well as glorify God. The church is not to be a museum showcase for the saints – the chosen frozen. The local church is to be an organized body of believers gathering for the purpose of edification of the saved, and the evangelization of the lost.
It is hard to know or see God’s love, mercy and forgiveness for us when others judge or condemn us when we have sinned. The proper biblical Christian response is to hate sin but love the sinner, and never condemn anybody or judge anybody but try to help them. If you are a Christian who has sinned, failed The Lord, backslidden or stumbled – there is grace, love, forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation available. Do not let a church, pastor or group of “Christian” brothers or sisters judgment or condemnation deter you from the truth of what God says to His Church. If they turn their back towards you, gossip or slander you, offer no helping hand to you, ignore you, give you the silent treatment, offer you no love – grace – mercy – forgiveness . . . This may be the bigger sin than yours. (i.e.. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Matthew 18:21–35; The Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9–14)
Key Bible Verses:
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. 
For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Co 13:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ga 6:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Co 2:6–8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Co 5:17–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Peace with God Through Faith – Romans 5:1-11
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:1-11 Commentary
In developing his argument against the destructive notion that believers must live in uncertainty about the completion of their salvation, Paul presented six links in the chain of truth that binds all true believers eternally to their Savior and Lord: peace with God (Rom. 5:1), standing in grace (v. 2), hope of glory (vv. 2–5), possession of divine love (vv. 5–8), certainty of deliverance (vv. 9–10), and joy in the Lord (v. 11).
No More War
Paul begins Romans 5 by saying, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The first word connects Paul’s present argument with what he had already said, especially in chapters 3 and 4 , in which he established that, as believers, we have been justified by faith in Christ. Peace with God is one of the many great results.
The peace spoken of here is not subjective but objective. It is not a feeling but a fact. Apart from salvation through Jesus Christ, every human being is spiritually at war with God—regardless of what his or her feelings about God may be. In the same way, the person who is justified by faith in Christ is at peace with God, regardless of how he or she may feel about it at any given moment. Through trust in Jesus Christ, a sinner’s war with God is ended for all eternity.
Most non-Christians don’t think of themselves as enemies of God. Because they have no conscious feelings of hatred for Him and do not actively oppose His work or contradict His Word, they consider themselves—at worst—to be neutral about God. But no such neutrality is possible. The mind of every unsaved person is at peace only with the things of the flesh, and is therefore, by definition, “hostile toward God” (Rom. 8:7). It cannot be otherwise.
After missionary David Livingstone had spent several years among the Zulus of South Africa, he went with his wife and young child into the interior to minister. When he returned, he discovered that an enemy tribe had attacked the Zulus, killed many of the people, and taken the chief’s son captive. The Zulu chief didn’t want to make war with the other tribe, but he poignantly asked Dr. Livingstone, “How can I be at peace with them while they hold my son prisoner?”
Commenting on that story, Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote, “If this attitude is true in the heart of a savage chief, how much more is it true of God the Father toward those who trample under foot His Son, who count the blood of the covenant wherewith they were set apart as an unholy thing, and who continue to despise the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29)?” (God’s River: Romans 5:1–11 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959], p. 26)
Not only are all unbelievers enemies of God, but God is also the enemy of all unbelievers—to the degree that He is angry with them every day (Ps. 7:11) and condemns them to eternal hell. God is the enemy of the sinner, and that enmity cannot end unless and until the sinner places his or her trust in Jesus Christ. To those who think God is too loving to send anyone to hell, Paul declared, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things [the sins listed in Eph. 5:5] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (v. 6).
A professional football coach once said during a pregame devotional service I held for his team, “I don’t know if there is a God, but I like having these chapels, because if there is one, I want to be sure He’s on my side.” Sentiments such as that are frequently expressed by unbelievers who think that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe can be cajoled into doing one’s bidding by giving Him superficial lip service. God is never on the side of unbelievers. He is their enemy, and His wrath against them can be placated only by their trusting in the atoning work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
On the cross Christ took upon Himself all the fury of God’s wrath that sinful humanity deserves. And those who trust in Christ are no longer God’s enemies and under His wrath, but are at peace with Him.
The most immediate consequence of justification is reconciliation, which is the theme of Romans 5. Reconciliation with God brings peace with God. That peace is permanent and irrevocable because Jesus Christ, through whom believers receive their reconciliation, “always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). “For I will be merciful to their iniquities,” the Lord says of those who belong to Him, “and I will remember their sins no more” (8:12; cf. 10:17). If anyone is ever to be punished in the future for the sins of believers, it would have to be the One who took them on Himself—Jesus Christ. But that is impossible, for He has already paid the penalty in full.
When a person embraces Jesus Christ in repentant faith, Christ Himself establishes eternal peace between that person and God the Father. In fact, Christ not only brings peace to the believer, but “He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14), which points out how crucial it is to see the nature and extent of Christ’s atoning work as the basis for our assurance.
Although the peace spoken of in Romans 5 is the objective peace of being reconciled to God, awareness of that objective truth gives the believer a deep and wonderful subjective peace as well. Knowing you are a child of God and a brother or sister of Jesus Christ cannot help but quiet your soul.
Knowing you are eternally at peace with God prepares you to wage effective spiritual warfare on Christ’s behalf and in His power. When engaged in battle, a Roman soldier wore boots with spikes on the bottom to give him firm footing. Because you as a Christian have your feet shod with “the Gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15), knowing God is on your side, you can have the confidence to stand firmly for Christ without the spiritual slipping and emotional sliding that uncertainty about salvation inevitably causes.
A Secure Standing
In Romans 5:2, Paul tells us that “through [Christ] also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.” A second link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds us to Christ is our standing in God’s grace.
For the Jewish people, the idea of having direct access or “introduction” to God was unthinkable. To see God face-to-face was to die. After the tabernacle was built, and later the temple, strict boundaries were set. Gentiles could go only into the outer confines and no farther. Jewish women could go beyond the Gentile limit, but not much farther. And so it was with the men and the regular priests. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, where God would manifest His divine presence—but only once a year and very briefly. Even the high priest could lose his life if he entered unworthily. Bells were sewn onto the special garments he wore on the Day of Atonement, and if the sound of the bells stopped while he was ministering in the holy of holies, the people knew he had been struck dead by God (Ex. 28:35).
But Christ’s death ended that. Through His atoning sacrifice, He made God the Father accessible to any person, Jew or Gentile, who trusts in that sacrifice. That’s why the Book of Hebrews urges us to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
To make that truth graphic, when Jesus was crucified, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” by God’s power (Matt. 27:51). His death forever removed the barrier to God’s holy presence that the temple veil represented. The writer of Hebrews, commenting on that amazing truth, said, “Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19–22).
On the basis of our faith in Him, Jesus Christ ushers us into this grace in which we stand. The Greek word translated “stand” in Romans 5:2 (histemi) carries the idea of permanence—of standing firm and immovable. Although faith is necessary for salvation, it is God’s grace—not the believer’s faith—that has the power to save and to keep him or her saved. We are not saved by divine grace and then preserved by human effort. That would be a mockery of God’s grace, meaning that what God begins in us He is either unwilling or unable to preserve and complete. Paul unequivocally declared to the Philippian believers, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Emphasizing that same sublime truth, Jude spoke of Christ as “Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). We do not begin in the Spirit to be perfected by the flesh (Gal. 3:3).
Believers will often fall into sin, but their sin is not more powerful than God’s grace. They are the very sins for which Jesus paid the penalty. If no sin a person commits prior to his or her conversion is too great for Christ’s atoning death to cover, surely no sin he or she commits afterward is too great to be covered. “For if while we were enemies,” Paul reasoned, “we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). If a dying Savior could bring us to God’s grace, surely a living Savior can keep us in His grace.
To Timothy, his beloved son in the faith, Paul asserted with the utmost confidence: “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). With equal certainty he wrote, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies; who is the One who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:31–34).
Since God sovereignly declares those of us who believe in His Son to be forever just, who can overturn that verdict? What higher court can overrule that divine acquittal?
Now it is not that believers may be free to sin that God has so soundly secured their salvation. The very purpose and effect of salvation is to free men and women from sin, not to free them to do it. Paul later reminded the Roman believers, “Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18). Yet Scripture repeatedly details the sinfulness, frailty, and weakness of men and women, including believers, and sensible and honest people can see those self-evident truths for themselves. Only self-delusion can lead Christians to believe that, in their own weakness and imperfection, they can preserve the great gift of spiritual life that could only be bought by the precious, sinless blood of God’s own Son.
For believers to doubt their security is to question God’s integrity and power. It is to add the merit of human works to the gracious, unmerited work of God. And it is to add self-trust to trust in our Lord, because if salvation can be lost by anything that we can or cannot do, our ultimate trust must obviously be in ourselves rather than in God.
Hope for the Future
A third link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds us to Christ is this: “We exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations; knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint” (Rom. 5:2–5).
Since every aspect of salvation is solely the work of God, it cannot possibly be lost. And the end of that marvelous work is the ultimate glorification of every believer in Jesus Christ, for those “whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (8:29–30).
As Paul has already established, salvation is anchored in the past because Christ has made peace with God for all those who trust in Him. It is anchored in the present because, by Christ’s continual intercession, every believer now stands securely in God’s grace. Now Paul proclaims that salvation is also anchored in the future because God gives every one of His children the unchangeable promise that one day they will be clothed with the glory of His own Son. (We will explore that promise in more detail in the next chapter .)
Jesus Christ guarantees the believer’s hope because He Himself is our hope (1 Tim. 1:1). In His beautiful high-priestly prayer, Jesus said to His Heavenly Father, “The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are One” (John 17:22). We as believers don’t earn our future glory in heaven but will receive it from God’s gracious hand, just as we received redemption and sanctification.
In addition to exulting in our certain hope of the glory of God, we also have reason to exult in our tribulations because they contribute to a present blessing and ultimate glory. Thlipsis (“tribulations” ) has the underlying meaning of being under pressure and was used to describe squeezing olives to extract oil and squeezing grapes to extract juice.
Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and that hope will not disappoint us in the end. Our afflictions for Christ’s sake produce increasing levels of maturity in handling the trials of life. It should not seem strange then, that God’s children are destined for affliction in this life (1 Thes. 3:3).
Our Heavenly Father increases and strengthens our “hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2) through the process of tribulation, perseverance, and proven character—the end product of which is a hope that does not disappoint. In a sense, godly hope begets godly hope. The more believers pursue holiness out of hope for the final outcome, the more they will be persecuted and troubled, and the greater will be their hope as they see themselves sustained through it all by God’s powerful grace.
Receiving a Unique Kind of Love
A fourth marvelous link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds us as believers to Christ is our possession of the love of God, which “has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:5–8). When a person receives salvation through Jesus Christ, he or she enters a spiritual love relationship with God that lasts throughout all eternity.
In verse 8, Paul makes it clear that “love of God” does not here refer to our love for God but to His love for us. The overwhelming truth of the Gospel is that God loved sinful, fallen, rebellious humanity so much “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And, as Paul goes on to proclaim in Romans 5:9, since God loved us with so great a love before we were saved—when we were still His enemies—how much more does He love us now that we are His dear children!
Taking the truth of eternal security out of the objective area of the mind, Paul revealed that, in Christ, we are also given subjective evidence of permanent salvation. It is this evidence that God Himself implants within our deepest being: We love the One who first loved us (1 John 4:7–10; cf. 1 Cor. 16:22).
“Poured out” in Romans 5:5 refers to lavish outpouring to the point of overflowing. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t proffer His love in measured drops but in immeasurable torrents. God’s gift of His Holy Spirit to indwell believers is a marvelous testimony to His love for us, because He would hardly indwell those whom He did not love. And it is only because of the indwelling Spirit that His children are able to truly love Him. Speaking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’ ” (John 7:38–39). Those rivers of blessing can flow out of us only because of the divine rivers of blessing, including the blessing of divine love, that God has poured into us.
Knowing we his readers would want to know more about the quality and character of the divine love that fills us, Paul reminds us of the greatest manifestation of God’s love in all history, perhaps in all eternity: While we as ungodly sinners were utterly helpless to bring ourselves to God, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us—notwithstanding the fact that we were completely unworthy of His love. When we were powerless to escape from our sin, powerless to escape death, powerless to resist Satan, and powerless to please Him in any way, God amazingly sent His Son to die on our behalf.
Natural human love is almost invariably based on the attractiveness of the object of love, and we are inclined to love people who love us. Consequently, we tend to attribute that same kind of love to God. We think that His love for us depends on how good we are or how much we love Him.
But God’s immense love is supremely demonstrated by Christ’s dying for the ungodly—for totally unrighteous, undeserving, and unlovable humanity. It is rare for a person to sacrifice his or her own life to save the life of someone of high character. Fewer still are inclined to give their lives to save a person they know to be a wicked scoundrel. But God was so inclined, and in that fact is our security and assurance. Saved, we can never be as wretched as we were before our conversion—and He loved us totally then.
In Romans 5:9–10, Paul says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” As if the first four were not enough to overwhelm us completely with assurance, there is a fifth link in the unbreakable chain that binds us to Christ: our certainty of deliverance from divine judgment.
Since God had the power and the will to redeem us in the first place, how “much more then” does He have the power and the will to keep us redeemed? Not only did our Savior deliver us from sin and its judgment, but He also delivers us from uncertainty and doubt about that deliverance. Since God has already made sure of our rescue from sin, death, and future judgment, how can our present spiritual life possibly be in jeopardy? How can a Christian, whose past and future salvation are secured by God, be at risk during the time in between? Sin was no barrier to the beginning of our redemption, so how can it bar its completion? Since in its greatest degree sin could not prevent our becoming reconciled, how can it in any lesser degree prevent our staying reconciled? Since God’s grace covers the sins of even His enemies, how much more does it cover the sins of His children!
Paul was reasoning from the greater to the lesser. It is a greater work of God to bring sinners to grace than to bring saints to glory. That’s because sin is further from grace than grace is from glory. Therefore, rest in the promise of His glory.
“And not only this,” Paul concluded, “but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (v. 11). A sixth and final link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds us as believers to Christ is our joy or exultation in God. It may not be the most important or most profound evidence of our security in Christ, but it may be the most tender. And although this divine joy is subjective, it is nonetheless real.
Perhaps nowhere outside of Scripture has this deepest level of Christian joy been expressed more beautifully than in these stanzas from Charles Wesley’s magnificent hymn “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” :
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
Hear Him ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come;
And leap ye lame for joy!
Because of these six links binding the believer to the Lord, there is true eternal salvation and every reason for full assurance of it. 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ro 5:1–11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 MacArthur, J., Jr. (1992). Saved without a Doubt. MacArthur Study Series (40–51). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
How do you think God feels about you?
The Bible tells us that God created everything and that he is a God of love. It also tells us that He is also holy, completely without sin and therefore perfect. And our sins (wrong thoughts, words and actions) have separated us from God.
The great news is that God Himself provided the solution by sending His Son. Jesus lived a perfect life, and then died on the cross. He willingly took the punishment for our sins, and now freely offers the gift of forgiveness and hope to all who will accept it and follow Him.
To fully understand God’s love for you and to receive the peace, joy and hope that can only come from God himself you can read it for yourself in the Bible at https://www.bible.com/ or if you prefer to watch a video version of the Bible, click here http://www.thehopeproject.com/
This video takes you from Creation to Resurrection. By viewing this film you will begin to see so many truths about the redeeming love of God. You will begin to see how the God who created the world has been at work through history to rescue us (sinners). You will see that the Bible is where we learn of God’s great promise of HOPE that we all can have because of Jesus Christ.
God’s Love Letter to YOU
Scripture: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.” Isaiah 49:16
Just How Much God Loves You
If you’re anything like me (or most everyone else I know), you have no idea how much God loves you. He died for you, sacrificed His only Son, and would do it all over again. But even if you’ve heard it once, you need to hear it again. So if God wrote you a love letter, here’s what it might sound like…
Dear Child of Mine,
I saw you before you were born, and I destined you for a great purpose (Jeremiah 1:5). While your mom was pregnant with you, I personally designed you with incredible detail and precision (Psalm 139:13,14). From the get-go, I planned so many amazing things for you, you could never even count them if you tried (Psalm 40:5).
But I knew in advance that you would go astray and forget me, so I asked My perfect Son Jesus to take your punishment Himself (Isaiah 53:5). He was willing to be humiliated and murdered so that you could be eternally healed (Isaiah 53:5). He loved you so much that He came down to earth to show you what I’m really like (John 14:7).
When you first believed in Me, I immediately accepted you into My own family (John 1:12). I forgave all your sins through My Son Jesus (1 John 2:12). And now Jesus is in Heaven with Me, preparing a place for you (John 14:2). In fact, I am living inside of you because You believe in My Son (I John 4:15).
I am forever committed to you; there is no circumstance under which I will leave you or take my love away from you (Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:38). Even when you go through the hardest trials, I will be with you and carry you through them (Isaiah 43:2). In fact, I will cause EVERYTHING to work together for your good, because you have loved me back and I have a great purpose for you (Romans 8:28).
Is there anything you need right now? Ask Me. I am your Good Father and I won’t give you something bad in return (Matthew 7:11). Actually, I have My own Spirit readily available to you to help you in your weakest hour (Romans 8:26). I know you get tempted to lose faith, but even when you do, I will remain faithful to you (2 Timothy 2:13). I want you to ask Me for great things, because I want to answer you (John 16:23). Take a look up at the heavens; My love for you goes even higher than that (Psalm 108:4). Don’t lose heart: I want you to know that I am coming back for you (Revelation 22:12).
And just remember: I AM LOVE (1 John 4:16). I am always patient, always kind. I’m never envious, proud or boastful. I’m not rude, and I only want the best for you. I don’t get easily irritated with you or hold a grudge toward you. I am sad when you are hurt or wronged, but love when the truth prevails in your life. I will never stop being patient with you, never lose hope or give up on you. I WILL NEVER QUIT ON YOU (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
My love for you is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3).
I know how you feel. You look at yourself in the mirror and think, “Does God love me, just as I am? How can I know, for sure?”
This video will answer that for you. I personally promise if you watch ‘til the end, you will have a glimpse of God’s great love for you.
Beware of sin; Come Home
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:21-24)
This is Charles Spurgeon expounding upon our text verse above; you will seldom hear this truth today:
Now this tendency is in every case the same, “the wages of sin is death” everywhere to everyone. It is so not only where you can see it operating upon the body, but where you cannot see it.
I may perhaps startle you when I say that the wages of sin is death even in the man who has eternal life. Sin has the same deadly character to the one as the other; only an antidote is found.
You, my Christian brother, cannot fall into sin without its being poison to you, as well as to anybody else; in fact, to you it is more evidently poison than to those hardened to it.
If you sin, it destroys your joy, your power in prayer, your confidence toward God. If you have spent evenings in frivolity with worldlings, you have felt the deadening influence of their society.
What about your prayers at night? You cannot draw nigh unto God. The operation of sin upon your spirit is most injurious to your communion with God.
You are like a man who has taken a noxious drug, whose fumes are stupefying the brain and sending the heart into slumber. If you, being a child of God, fall into any of the sins that easily beset you, I am sure you will never find those sins quicken your grace or increase your faith; but on the contrary, they will work you evil, only evil, and that continually.
Feeling condemned; good, you’re supposed to. So the key question comes emerging: Who will deliver me from this body of death? Now, you’re ready for the only answer there is; God’s glorious Gospel — Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25) This is what brings us real relief and strength.
It’s not about you; it’s about Jesus. Dear Christian, you are beloved by God and you don’t have to stay in your sin. Come home. Jesus took your sin on the Cross; He paid it all, and He will give you the strength. Embrace the truth; ask God to help you repent. Beware of sin…and come home. Now hear the Voice of God:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
Can you see now; the truth is, you never even left home…you only thought you did. God be praised.
 Charles Spurgeon, At the Master’s Feet [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005], January 23.
I urge and encourage you to take the following steps to gain victory with your rededication.
1. Confess all known sin and to trust God for cleansing (Hebrews 9: 14; 1 John 1:9)
2. Give total submission to God in an act of complete obedience (Romans 12: 1–2 and Ephesians 5:15)
3. Seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5: 18 and Ephesians 3:16–19)
4. Read the Bible daily, studying and memorizing Scripture passages in a planned and disciplined way (Psalm 119: 9, 11, and Colossians 3:16)
5. Focus on making prayer a daily exercise (1 Thessalonians 5: 17; Ephesians 6:18–19)
6. Be a witness for Christ on a daily basis:
A. In actions (Ephesians 2: 10).
B. In word (Romans 1: 16; Philippians 2:16).
7. Pray and make a commitment in the light of the above six steps.
There are eight biblical attributes of discipleship that are at work in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity:
•Bible Engagement •Obeying God and Denying Self •Serving God and Others •Sharing Christ •Exercising Faith •Seeking God •Building relationships •Unashamed (Transparency)
Here are a few basic tips to help you develop your relationship with God, using the letters GROWTH:
G – Go to God in prayer daily (John 15:7)
R – Read God’s Word daily (Acts 17:11) – begin with the gospel of John
O – Obey God moment by moment (John 14:21)
W – Witness for Christ by your life and word (Matthew 4:19 & John 15:8)
T – Trust God with every detail of your life (1 Peter 5:7)
H – Holy Spirit – Allow Him to control and empower your daily life and witness (Galatians 5:16-17; Acts 1:8)
Seeking Forgiveness and Restoration (For a person who has received Christ, but has failed Him and now seeks forgiveness.)
1. Repent and Confess to God
The BIBLE says: “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). What must we do to be forgiven? __________ ________ ________.
What does God say He will do if we confess? _________ ________ ________.
To confess means to “agree” with God. I agree that I lied or cheated or was unkind or lost my temper. Be specific as you silently confess your sin to God.
Sin takes us off God’s pathway to peace and joy. Confession puts us back on God’s pathway.
2. Determine to Forsake Any Known Sin in Your Life The BIBLE says: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). What happens if we cover our sins?
We ________ _______ ____________.
Following confession we must ______________ our sins.
3. Make Right Any Known Wrongs
It is important not only to confess and forsake sin, but also to make things right with anyone we may have wronged.
The BIBLE says: “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16, NIV).
4. Renewed Fellowship Will Be the Result
The BIBLE says: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7, NIV).
How do you know you are forgiven? you are cleansed? you are restored? I know because God said it . . . in His Word. I believe it . . . in my heart. That settles it . . . in my mind.
After your spiritual renewal, use these follow-up steps:
1. Now that you are restored to fellowship with Christ, take a firm stand for Him. Tell someone about your decision.
2. Read and study God’s Word faithfully.
3. Pray every day.
4. Identify with a Bible-teaching church for worship, fellowship, and service.
Visit the following internet web sites for further assistance:
An Unforgettable Tale
Luke 15:11-32, Luke 15:2
The Prodigal Son is one of the most beloved (and most misunderstood) stories of all time. Discover for yourself what Jesus was really driving at—you’ll never read it the same again.
Most people today are somewhat familiar with the parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32. Even those who know next to nothing about the Bible know something about this tale. Its themes and its language are deeply ingrained in our spiritual and literary traditions.
Shakespeare, for instance, borrowed plot points and motifs from the parable of the prodigal son and adapted them in The Merchant of Venice and Henry IV. The Bard also alluded to this parable repeatedly in his other dramas. Arthur Sullivan used the exact words of the biblical text as the basis of an oratorio titled The Prodigal Son, Sergei Prokofiev cast the plot in ballet form, and Benjamin Britten turned the story into an opera. At the opposite end of the musical spectrum, country singer Hank Williams recorded a song called “The Prodigal Son,” comparing the prodigal’s homecoming to the joys of heaven. The world’s great art museums are well stocked with works featuring scenes from the prodigal son’s experience, including famous drawings and paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Dürer, and many others.
Contemporary language is likewise full of words and imagery borrowed from the familiar parable. It is fairly common to hear a wayward child referred to as “a prodigal son” (or daughter). People also sometimes speak of “killing the fatted calf” (a metaphor for extravagant celebration) or “riotous living” (a dissolute or profligate lifestyle). You may have heard or read those allusions without recognizing their source. They are borrowed directly from the King James version of this best known of Jesus’ parables.
A Story to Remember
The parable of the prodigal son is one of several memorable parables recorded only in Luke’s Gospel. It stands out as the choicest of these parables for many reasons.
Of all Jesus’ parables, this one is the most richly detailed, powerfully dramatic, and intensely personal. It’s full of emotion—ranging from sadness, to triumph, to a sense of shock, and finally to an unsettling wish for more closure. The characters are familiar, so it’s easy for people to identify with the prodigal, to feel the father’s grief, and yet still (in some degree) sympathize with the elder brother—all at the same time. The story is memorable on many levels, not the least of which is the gritty imagery Jesus invokes. The description of the prodigal as so desperately hungry he was willing to eat husks scavenged from swine food, for instance, graphically depicts his youthful dissolution in a way that was unspeakably revolting to His Jewish audience.
Another thing that makes this tale unforgettable is the poignancy demonstrated in the father’s response when his lost son returns. The father’s rejoicing was rich with tender compassion. The younger son, who had left heedless and insolent, shattering his father’s hopes for him, came back an utterly broken man. Heartbroken and no doubt deeply wounded by his younger son’s foolish rebellion, the father nevertheless expressed pure joy, unmingled with any hint of bitterness, when his wayward son came dragging home. Who would not be moved by that kind of love?
Yet the elder son in the parable was not the least bit moved by his father’s love. His steely-hearted resentment over the father’s mercy to his brother contrasts starkly with the dominant theme of Luke 15, which is the great joy in heaven over the return of the lost. The central message of the parable, then, is an urgent and sobering entreaty to hard-hearted listeners whose attitudes exactly mirrored the elder brother’s. The parable of the prodigal son is not a warm and fuzzy feel-good message, but it is a powerful wake-up call with a very earnest warning.
That point must not be lost in our understanding and appreciation of this beloved parable. Unfortunately, the lesson of the elder brother is often overlooked in many of the popular retellings. And yet it is, after all, the main reason Jesus told the parable.
The Central Lesson of the Prodigal Son
The picturesque descriptions in the parable are not provided to add multiple layers of meaning; they are cultural details that help us understand the story in the context of first-century agrarian village life. By understanding the context, the main point of the story comes to light.
This parable spreads itself across twenty-two verses in this pivotal chapter in Luke’s Gospel. With so much lavish coloring, dramatic pathos, and fine detail carefully woven into this word picture, it seems clear that the vividness of the parable is deliberately designed to highlight the parable’s central meaning. We’re expected to notice and make good sense of the personalities and plot turns in this amazing story.
Indeed, the context of Luke 15, with its theme of heavenly joy over earthly repentance, makes perfect sense of all the major features of the parable. The prodigal represents a typical sinner who comes to repentance. The father’s patience, love, generosity, and delight over the son’s return are clear and perfect emblems of divine grace. The prodigal’s heart change is a picture of what true repentance should look like. And the elder brother’s cold indifference—the real focal point of the story, as it turns out—is a vivid representation of the same evil hypocrisy Jesus was confronting in the hearts of the hostile scribes and Pharisees to whom He told the parable in the first place (Luke 15:2). They bitterly resented the sinners and tax collectors who drew near to Jesus (v. 1), and they tried to paper over their fleshly indignation with religious pretense. But their attitudes betrayed their unbelief and self-centeredness. Jesus’ parable ripped the mask off their hypocrisy.
This, then, is the central and culminating lesson of the parable: Jesus is pointing out the stark contrast between God’s own delight in the redemption of sinners and the Pharisees’ inflexible hostility toward those same sinners. Keeping that lesson fixed firmly in view, we can legitimately draw from the larger story (as Jesus unfolds it) several profound lessons about grace, forgiveness, repentance, and the heart of God toward sinners. Those elements are all so conspicuous in the parable that almost everyone should be able to recognize them.
Seeing Ourselves in the Parable
There’s a good reason this short story pulls at the heartstrings of so many hearers. We recognize ourselves in it. The parable reminds us of the most painful aspects of the human condition, and those who take an honest look will recognize themselves.
For believers, the Prodigal Son is a humbling reminder of who we are and how much we owe to divine grace.
For those who are conscious of their own guilt but are still unrepentant, the Prodigal’s life is a searing reminder of the wages of sin, the duty of the sinner to repent, and the goodness of God that accompanies authentic repentance.
For sinners coming to repentance, the father’s eager welcome and costly generosity are reminders that God’s grace and goodness are inexhaustible.
For heedless unbelievers (especially those like the scribes and Pharisees, who use external righteousness as a mask for unrighteous hearts), the elder brother is a reminder that neither a show of religion nor the pretense of respectability is a valid substitute for redemption.
For all of us, the elder brother’s attitude is a powerful warning, showing how easily and how subtly unbelief can masquerade as faithfulness.
Regardless of which of those categories you fall into, my prayer for you as you listen to the series or read the book is that the Lord will use it to minister grace to your heart. If you are a believer, may you bask in the Father’s joy over the salvation of the lost. May you gain a new appreciation for the beauty and the glory of God’s plan of redemption. And may you also be encouraged and better equipped to participate in the work of spreading the gospel.
May listeners and readers who, like the Prodigal, have come to the end of themselves be motivated to abandon the husks of this world. And above all, may this message sound a reveille in the hearts of any who need to be awakened to the awful reality of their own sin and the glorious promise of redemption in Christ.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A115
COPYRIGHT ©2010 Grace to You
Read the sermon transcripts:
The Tale of Two Sons. Short summary version – http://truth4freedom.wordpress.com/gods-plan-of-salvation/recommitting-your-life-to-christ/the-tale-of-two-sons/
The Tale of Two Sons Expanded Updated version – http://truth4freedom.wordpress.com/gods-plan-of-salvation/recommitting-your-life-to-christ/a-tale-of-two-sons-updated-and-expanded-sermon-transcript-version/
What is the main feature of the parable of the prodigal son?
The parable in Luke 15:11–32, unlike most parables, has more than one lesson. The prodigal is an example of sound repentance. The elder brother illustrates the wickedness of the Pharisees’ self-righteousness, prejudice, and indifference toward repenting sinners. And the father pictures God, eager to forgive and longing for the return of the sinner. The main feature, however, is the joy of God, the celebrations that fill heaven when a sinner repents.
For the son to demand “the portion of goods that falls to me” (v. 12) is tantamount to saying he wished his father were dead. He was not entitled to any inheritance while his father still lived. Yet the father graciously fulfilled the request, giving him his full portion, which would have been one-third of the entire estate—because the right of the firstborn (Deut. 21:17) gave the elder brother a double portion. This act pictures all sinners (related to God the Father by creation), who waste their potential privileges and refuse any relationship with Him, choosing instead a life of sinful self-indulgence. The Greek word for “prodigal” means “dissolute” and conveys the idea of an utterly debauched lifestyle. “To feed swine” (v. 15) was the worst sort of degradation imaginable for Jesus’ Jewish audience; swine were the worst sort of unclean animals. His situation could hardly have been more desperate.
Nevertheless, when “his father saw him [he] had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (v. 20). Clearly, the father had been waiting and looking for his son’s return. The father’s eagerness and joy at his son’s return is unmistakable. This is the magnificent attribute of God that sets Him apart from all the false gods invented by men and demons. He is not indifferent or hostile, but a Savior by nature, longing to see sinners repent and rejoicing when they do. From Genesis 3:8 to Revelation 22:17, from the Fall to the Consummation, God has been and will be seeking to save sinners, and rejoices each time one repents and is converted.
Your prayer ought to coincide with the Puritan one: “Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, and the exceeding wonder of grace. I am guilty but pardoned. I am lost but saved. I am wandering but found. I am sinning but cleansed. Give me perpetual broken-heartedness. Keep me always clinging to Thy cross.”
Often, when we focus too much on our own failures, we don’t reach the point where grace changes us. That’s why the parable of the Prodigal Son is so comforting for people who are caught up and brought down by their failures. In this parable it’s not the younger son’s humility or the elder brother’s jealousy in the limelight. It’s the father’s pursuit of both his sons.
After living selfishly and squandering his inheritance, the younger son realized how foolish his actions had been. He realized that even his father’s hired hands received more love and attention than he had received after leaving his father’s house. Deciding to plead for mercy, the younger son rehearsed his request to the father: “I will set out and go to my father and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight! I am no longer worthy to be called your son! Make me like one of your hired workers.’ ” (Luke 15:18–19).
But his plan was interrupted. Before the son even finished his request, his father kissed him, put a robe around his neck, and ordered the fattened calf to be killed. And then the father repeated this action. When the elder son refused to attend the party in his brother’s honor, the father again went out to meet his son, imploring him to rejoice as well (Luke 15:28, 31–32).
God pursues failures of all types. It’s His grace extended to us that works in our hearts to prompt change in us. Even when we neglect Him, He pursues us. Even when we don’t return His attentions, He pursues us. Instead of focusing on our failures, then, we should focus on His love.
How do you take joy in God’s grace to you through His Son? How does His love change the way you relate to Him?
Every Christian hits rough spots at times where a particular sin just seems to get the upper hand for awhile. It might be a grudge….or impure thoughts….or jealousy….or whatever. By God’s grace, believers somehow manage to bounce back and get beyond these spiritual setbacks. It’s so much better to be living “in the zone” of God’s abundant love, power, and boundaries.
But what about the professing believer who never bounces back? He just continues charging into sin while pursuing those desires which are contrary to God’s will. What are we to make of such a person?
Well….the Arminian might say that such a person has lost his salvation….while the Calvinist might say that such a person was never saved in the first place….or that he will eventually repent and return to God. What does God’s Word say? Can deliberate sin negate your conversion experience? It’s a question worth addressing because it’s a question that comes up quite often.
Maybe the place to begin is to pose this question: “How reliable is a ‘conversion experience’ anyway?” Consider all the people who have gone forward to an altar call….or prayed “the sinner’s prayer” at a worship service or Christian event….or were baptized as a child or an adult….and then at some point just disappeared from everyone’s radar. It is very heartbreaking when you see a number of these “converts” go “missing in action.” Should folks like that, or anyone for that matter, ever be encouraged to rely upon their perceived conversion experience?
The problem with relying upon an experience is that it is just that….a subjective experience. That doesn’t mean God wasn’t right in the middle of it. He may have been….but is that personal experience really the best place to look in order to draw comfort and find assurance that you are saved?
Many professing believers have had various spiritual experiences. But those experiences are fleeting. The cross where Jesus died, on the other hand, isn’t fleeting. It is an anchor in history….and it will be an anchor for your soul if you rely upon it….and upon the One who hung there for you. Now there is something objective and solid to rely upon….rather than relying upon your walk down the aisle, or a prayer from your past, or any other subjective religious experience. Faith in Christ equals faith in His death for your sins….not faith in your spiritual experiences. Do you see the difference between the two?
If you are a Christian, there was indeed a moment in time when you were truly converted by the Holy Spirit. Having said that, you may or may not know the exact day when God worked the miracle of faith in your soul….and that’s OK. The main thing is that you now trust in Christ’s work on the cross to forgive your sins….rather than relying upon your obedience to God’s commands. In fact, you now understand the fallacy and the impossibility of trying to earn your way into heaven.
So then what about deliberate sin? Can it nullify your relationship with God? While we won’t come up with an answer from Scripture that will completely satisfy every Arminian and every Calvinist, there are nevertheless some clear insights on this matter in God’s Word.
In addressing the churches in Galatia, St. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7,8) Paul differentiated between those who were deliberately living for their Savior….and those who were deliberating living for sin. That is, after all, what tends to confirm or refute a person’s profession of faith in Christ.
You see….there is a human tendency to try to find assurance for salvation in your conversion experience. St. Paul was more interested in making sure that those in the church were truly saved through faith in Christ….and that they were sowing to “please the Spirit” as further evidence of their conversion.
St. John explained it this way: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.” (1 John 5:18) Obviously, this does not mean that believers never commit any sin. Rather, it means that believers do not live in continual and deliberate premeditated sin. Deliberate sin certainly negates the work of the Holy Spirit in my life at the present time….and this in effect negates much of His prior work in my life, unless I repent and turn away from the present sin which is threatening to devour me.
Therefore, it is not really an issue of whether or not deliberate sin negates my conversion experience. Scripture doesn’t seem to tackle it from that angle. The real issue is this….how born again people live, as compared to the way unsaved people live. Jesus said, “By their fruit, you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:16) Those who are not saved “sow to please the sinful nature.” That is the intent of their heart. Why debate whether or not their previous “conversion experience” was authentic? What matters most is where their heart and their life is at today.
God’s Word says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26,27) Not all Christians interpret this passage the same way.
The Arminian would likely say that those who “received the knowledge of the truth” refers to saved people who then fell from grace by continuing to live in deliberate sin. The Calvinist, on the other hand, would likely say that it does not refer to people who were previously saved. Both camps agree that deliberate sin ultimately leads a person to the “raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” So why debate whether or not a person was ever converted in the past? Isn’t their present state….and future state….a more critical concern? The biblical authors seemed to think so.
Christians are not in agreement concerning the state of King David’s soul while he persisted in an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. Was he still living “under God’s grace,” or not? The bottom line is that David did repent of his adultery and murder, and he did once again experience the joy of his salvation and the forgiveness of his sins. But what about the professing believer who never repents and never leaves a lifestyle of deliberate sin? In that case, as in every other, God cannot be mocked….and a man reaps what he sows.
You and I as believers don’t move in and out of salvation every time we sin. But does perpetual and intentional sin ever cause a professing believer to lose his salvation? Or is it only proof that the person was never saved in the first place? Those questions will be debated until the day when born again Calvinists and born again Arminians are united together in heaven. In paradise, there will be no man-made theological labels and no doctrinal controversies. What all believers can certainly agree upon today is that a person who truly knows Christ is someone who then sincerely wants to stop sinning. A Christian is someone who “sows to please the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:8)
Born again people have the will and desire to do the right thing. Lost people intentionally and continually point the compass of their affections in the opposite direction. It’s not a question of a previous conversion experience. It has to do with what you are relying upon for the forgiveness of your sins…..your religious efforts, or the cross….as well as your new attitude toward sin. Your attitude toward sin will help to reveal whether or not your perceived spiritual conversion was genuine.
The reason St. Paul warns those in the church not to be deceived is very simple. Self-deception happens all the time….especially when a professing believer is claiming Christ, while cuddling sin. Many people have been able to fool their spouse for awhile when they are smack-dab in the middle of an affair….but you can never fool the Lord. If you are traveling down the road of deliberate sin my friend, the only person being fooled is you.
Perhaps you have been living like Peter, whose sinful denials lasted for a short time….or maybe you have been living like King David, whose love affair with sin took him quite a distance from the Lord for a longer period of time. Either way, the way back home is through the cross….with a heart full of faith in the blood of Jesus to wash away your sins, and with an attitude of sincere repentance.
As long as your faith is in Christ alone for salvation and there is good fruit in your life, forget about trying to pinpoint the moment the tree of life was planted in your soul. You see….your theological system doesn’t have to get in the way of your relationship with the Lord, or the assurance of your salvation. At the end of the day, Christian discipleship really isn’t as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be.
In 1887, following an evangelistic meeting held by D.L. Moody, a young man stood up to share his testimony. His closing lines summarized his new relationship with the Lord this way: “I’m not quite sure….but I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.” Those words were delivered to John Sammis, who then developed the lyrics to the famous hymn, “Trust and Obey.”
The young man who inspired that hymn was just a simple Christian….like you, and me. Rather than deliberate sin, that young man stated his resolve to live in deliberate trust in the cross and deliberate obedience to Christ. May these words from that hymn continue to inspire us today as disciples of our Lord and Savior: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way….To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Can believers sin for extended periods of time? And how can such people know whether their sin is a temporary failure or proof that they are unsaved?
Psalm 51:12; 2 Samuel 11-12; Matthew 18:15-20; Ephesians 4:30
Obviously even in Scripture we see that believers sometimes sin grievously and over long periods of time. David is one example (2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51); Lot is another (2 Peter 2:7-9). Christians who sin in such a fashion should not expect to enjoy assurance, however. Of course, true believers do not lose their salvation when they sin (cf. Romans 8:35-39), but even David testified that he had forfeited the joy of salvation (Psalm 51:12).
When believers sin, they dishonor Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15-17). They grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). They subject themselves to the discipline of a loving Father (Hebrews 12:5-7). If people can continue in sin without experiencing divine discipline, something is terribly wrong: “If you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (v. 8).
As for how to deal with a sinning believer, our Lord established a step-by-step process:
- If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer. Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
- Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst. (Matthew 18:15-20)
Notice that the discipline process Jesus outlined is specifically intended to determine whether a person in sin is a true brother or an outsider. “If he listens to you [if he repents], you have won your brother” (v. 15). But ultimately, “if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer” (v. 17)–that is, regard him as an unbeliever and pursue him evangelistically. The Lord goes on to state that He personally mediates His rule on earth through that process (v. 20).
No one who persists in willful, deliberate sin and rebellion against the Lord should be encouraged with any promise of assurance. If you know someone like that who professes faith in Christ, follow the process of Matthew 18 and call that person to repentance. But don’t encourage him or her with the promise of security. Such a person may be clinging to a false hope.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA077 COPYRIGHT ©2012 Grace to You
King David – An example of repentance, restoration and reconciliation
2 Samuel 11:1–26
|David shirked his responsibility and avoided his work.||v. 1|
|David was restless and discontented.||v. 2|
|David turned to temptation not from it.||vv. 2–3|
|David acted out of lust not loyalty.||v. 4|
|David tried to cover not confess his sin.||vv. 8–13|
|David decided to give in to his desire.||vv. 14–15|
|David’s deceit brought death.||v. 24|
|David’s decisions and direction displeased God.||vv. 25–26|
2 Samuel 12:1–23
|David repented of his sin.||v. 13|
|David grieved his loss.||v. 16|
|David accepted the consequences of his sin.||v. 22–23|
The account of David’s adultery, Nathan’s confrontation with the king, and David’s subsequent repentance and restoration stand as a profound paradigm of salvation. The following exchange distills the message of redemption even today: David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. (1 Samuel 12:13). David’s reflection on this experience, Psalm 51, stands unsurpassed in Scripture on the relationship between confession of sin and divine forgiveness.
Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God – Psalm 51
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar. 
|Psalm 51.This is probably the best known of the “Penitential Psalms” (Psalms 6; 25; 32; 38; 51; 130; 143). According to the title, David composed this psalm as a result of Nathan the prophet convicting him of his sins, both in his committing adultery with Bathsheba and in his arranging for the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 12:1–14). At the same time, this is more than David’s personal prayer: its instructional elements (e.g., Ps. 51:16–19) show that, though the situation that led to the psalm was intensely personal, the psalm in its current form is well-suited to be a hymn by which the members of the worshiping congregation confess their own sins. As is the case with Psalms 25 and 32, the psalm enables its singers to appeal to God’s own gracious character as the grounds for their cry for forgiveness, echoing Ex. 34:6–7 (see note on Ps. 51:1–2). The psalm also reinforces the view, found in the Levitical system itself, that the sacrifices bestow their benefits only on those who use them in humble and penitent faith.|
51:1–2 Have Mercy on Me. The psalm opens with an appeal to God for forgiveness. The terms mercy and steadfast love, as well as transgressions, iniquity, and sin, all evoke God’s proclamation of his own name (Ex. 34:6–7), with its focus on his grace and kindness. The plea for mercy here is a humble one, based entirely on God’s mercy, frankly recognizing that the worshiper does not deserve it. The terms wash (cf. Ex. 19:10) and cleanse (cf. Num. 19:19) come from the ceremonial system, where they refer to rites that allow a person to come safely into God’s presence. Here the psalm focuses on the inner condition that the ceremony points to.
51:3–5 I Own Up to My Sin. The next section builds on the humility expressed in the opening section, freely acknowledging that the sin is the worshiper’s own and that God is free from all blame. Indeed, God would be fully justified in refusing the request for mercy and bringing judgment instead.
51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned. Of course, in doing wrong he has hurt others; the point here is that God is the ultimate judge for all sin (thus harming others is given not less weight but more). Cf. David’s response to Nathan, 2 Sam. 12:13. so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. The psalmist acknowledges his guilt before God “so that” God’s justice in all he does will be clear. In Rom. 3:4 Paul cites this part of the verse from the Septuagint in support of his argument that God is just and is entitled to judge.
51:5 I was brought forth (that is, from the womb) in iniquity. David thinks of himself as a sinful person from the time of his birth. in sin did my mother conceive me. The idea is not that the act of conception was itself sinful, but (as the parallel first line shows) that each worshiper learns to trace his sinful tendencies to the very beginning of his existence—not only from birth but even from before that, to conception. (This certainly attributes moral accountability, the most important aspect of “personhood,” to the developing baby in the womb. This is why many see this passage as implying that an unborn child should be thought of as a human person from the point of conception in his mother’s womb.) See The Beginning of Life and Abortion.
51:6–13 I Seek Restoration and Renewal. The proper posture of the penitent is to crave a fresh sense of God’s presence (vv. 8–9, 11), a deeper purification of the moral life (vv. 6, 10, 12), and a credible witness to the unfaithful (v. 13). The focus is on the inmost self, from which obedient actions flow: inward being, secret heart (v. 6); clean heart, right spirit (v. 10). The goal of this confession is not self-abasement but a renewal of the joy and gladness (v. 8) that the faithful have in God’s presence.
51:7 hyssop. A plant with hairy leaves and branches; bunches of the branches are good for sprinkling. For its use in a cleansing ceremony, cf. Lev. 14:6; Num. 19:6. As with Ps. 51:2 (see note on vv. 1–2), the psalm highlights the inner condition to which the ceremonies point.
51:7 Hyssop alludes to cleansing ceremonies (Lev. 14:4; Num. 19:18) that point forward to the final cleansing from sin through the work of Christ (Heb. 9:19–28).
51:8 bones. The feeling of God’s displeasure, and of his favor, penetrates into the whole person; cf. 32:3.
51:9 Usually when God is said to hide his face from someone, it means that he will no longer look upon that person with favor (cf. 13:1; 22:24; 27:9; 88:14; 102:2; 143:7; Deut. 31:17; 32:20; Isa. 8:17; 54:8; 59:2; 64:7). Here the singer asks God no longer to look upon his sins. To blot out (cf. Ps. 51:1) is to remove completely from the record book; cf. Ex. 32:32.
51:11 take not your Holy Spirit from me. Some have taken this to imply that the Holy Spirit can be taken from someone, at least in the OT; others have suggested that the Holy Spirit is viewed here in his role of empowering David for his kingly duties, and that this is a prayer that God not take the kingship and the divine anointing for kingship from David as he did from Saul (see note on 1 Sam. 16:14; cf. 1 Sam. 16:13). To evaluate these views, one should observe that the OT rarely discusses the Holy Spirit’s role in cleansing the inner life (besides here, Ezek. 36:27 is the main OT text on the subject), and certainly does not enter into technical questions of the Spirit’s permanent indwelling. Further, the fact that this is a psalm for the whole congregation argues against the idea that this is David’s personal prayer about his kingship. The whole tenor of this psalm is that, if strict justice were God’s only consideration, he would have the right to bring dire judgment on those who sin (which includes all of his own people), and that the only possible appeal is to his mercy. The function of the psalm, as a song sung by the entire congregation, is to shape their hearts so that they feel this at the deepest level, lest they ever presume upon God’s grace.
Psalm 51: Forgiveness and the Community
This psalm is classified as one of the seven penitential psalms (Pss 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143), a subdivision of the psalms of individual lament. The reason for this designation lies partially in the confessional nature of these psalms and partially in its use within the Christian community.
The superscription relates the context of the psalm to David’s heinous sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:1–12:25), after David had been rebuked by the prophet Nathan. The lament form of the psalm suitably fits the spirit of contrition and prayer for restoration. Gone are the questions. What remains is a soul deeply aware of sin, of having offended God, and of its desperate need of God’s grace.
The structure of the psalm combines both the personal concern as well as concern for the welfare of the community at large (vv. 18–19; see also Jack Barentsen, “Restoration and Its Blessing,” Grace Theological Journal 5 : 247–69). The psalmist hopes that through the process of confession, contrition, and prayer for restoration, the Lord will deal kindly with him and with the community, Zion.
The structure of the psalm is as follows:
A. Prayer for Individual Restoration (vv. 1–2)
B. Confession and Contrition (vv. 3–6)
C. Prayer for Restoration (vv. 7–12)
B′. Thanksgiving (vv. 13–17)
A′. Prayer for National Restoration (vv. 18–19)
I. Prayer for Individual Restoration (51:1–2)
1 In desperate need of divine forgiveness, the sinner can do nothing but cast himself on God’s mercy. The verb “have mercy” (ḥonnēnî) occurs frequently in psalms of lament (cf. 4:1; 6:2; 31:9; 41:4, 10; 56:1; 86:3). The same root (ḥ-n-n) is used in the priestly benediction “and be gracious to you” (Num 6:25). When sin disrupts the fellowship with the covenant-Lord, the sinner has no right to divine blessings. However, the Lord has promised to forgive, and his forgiveness is based solely on his love and compassion (Exod 34:6–7). Therefore, the psalmist appeals to the Lord’s “love” (ḥeseḏ) and his “great compassion” (cf. 25:6; Isa 63:7; Lam 3:32; Luke 18:13; 1 Peter 1:3).
2 Forgiveness is an act of divine grace whereby sin is blotted out and the sinner is “cleansed” by the washing away of his sins (vv. 2, 7, 9; cf. Exod 32:32; Num 5:23; Ps 32:2). The OT sacrifices and ritual washing symbolized the removal of sin and the renewal of fellowship with the Lord. The sacrifices by themselves could not affect so great a salvation (v. 16), but God is free to give his grace to whomever he wants. The prayer is for forgiveness and cleansing.
1 (3 MT) A few Hebrew MSS read כַּחֲסָדֶיךָ (kaḥasāḏeyḵā, “according to your acts of love” or “according to your great love”), so the LXX.
II. Confession and Contrition (51:3–6)
3–4 In his search for forgiveness, the psalmist opens his sinful heart. To this end he uses the three synonyms for sin: “transgressions,” “iniquity,” and “sin” (vv. 1–3; see 32:1–2). The variety of words for sin is for poetic reasons, as they express the seriousness of sin. The author is fully aware of his condition before God. He confesses “I know” (from y-d-ʿ) with an emphasis on “I.” He knows himself intimately and sees how rebellious he has been. His confession is more than introspection, as he knows that he has sinned against the Lord: “against you, you only” (v. 4; cf. Luke 15:18). A similar contrast is found in vv. 5–6: “Surely I was sinful at birth.… / Surely you desire truth.” Von Rad correctly observes that the OT rarely gives a theological reflection on sin but underscores the necessity of confession (OTT, 1:154). Between these two prayers of contrition is an affirmation of God’s justice (v. 4b). The psalmist does not reject or argue with divine justice (Rom 3:4), because the Lord’s verdict is “right” (ṣ-d-q, “be righteous”).
5–6 Confronted by God’s righteous verdict, the psalmist is more deeply pricked by his own sinfulness. Sin consists here of an overt act of rebellion whereby the creature despises divine laws and flaunts a sinful nature (v. 5; cf. Job 14:4; Rom 7:18). The confession of depravity is not an excuse for his treachery but serves to heighten the distance between the Lord and himself. God is just, whereas man is so corrupt that his whole being cries out for help. The Lord expects man to be “loyal” (ʾemeṯ; NIV, “truth,” v. 6) and to give an earnest, heartfelt expression of godliness. But man in his sinfulness cannot respond unless the Lord sends “wisdom” from on high. Divine wisdom alone can bring a remedy to the sinful heart condition of man. Man is sinful through and through (vv. 3–5; cf. Rom 3:9–20; 7:14). Man cannot help himself or justify his sinfulness but is in need of God’s wisdom from on high (v. 6; Nic.H. Ridderbos, “Psalm 51:5–6,” Studia Biblica et Semitica: Theodoro Christiano Vriezen qui munere Professoris Theologiae per XXV Annos functus est, ab Amicis, Collegis, Discipulis dedicata [Wageningen: Veenman, 1966], pp. 299–312).
The relation of the two bicolons in v. 6 is subject to interpretation. The verbs “desire” and “teach,” not being synonymous, suggest intensification of the second bicolon: “Surely you desire truth in the parts, therefore teach me wisdom in the inmost place,” as in the RSV: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.” Another way of interpreting the intensification is given in the NEB: “Yet, though thou hast hidden the truth in darkness, through this mystery thou dost teach me wisdom.” Only by receiving revelation from the outside (“you teach me,” from y-d-ʿ) can the inside become whole (v. 6; cf. 32:8). The godly cry out for God, confess their sins readily, and receive assurance of God’s forgiveness (cf. Prov 28:13; 1 John 1:9).
4 (6 MT) Herbert Haag argues persuasively that sin in the biblical sense is only against God. We may hurt our fellowman, but we sin against God (“ ‘Gegen dich allein habe ich gesundigt,’ Eine Exegese von Ps 51:6,” Theologische Quartalschrift 155 : 49–50).
6 (8 MT) The verb “you desire” could have two prepositional phrases: “in the inner parts” and “in the inmost place.” The reading of v. 6 would not significantly be changed: “Surely [or since] you desire truth in the inner parts, in the inmost place; teach me wisdom.” See Dahood: “Since you prefer truth to both cleverness and secret lore, / Teach me Wisdom!” (Psalms 2:1).
The meaning of the word בַּטֻּחוֹת (baṭṭuḥôṯ, “the inner parts”) is largely determined by the context, in parallelism with סָתֻם (sāṯum, “the inmost place”). KB3 gives the rendering “hidden” or “inner.” The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain (see NIV mg.).
III. Prayer for Restoration (51:7–12)
7–12 The prayer for restoration consists of (1) a prayer for God’s forgiveness (vv. 7, 9), (2) a prayer for renewal of joy (v. 8), and (3) a prayer for a heart of wisdom and for full restoration to divine favor (vv. 10–12).
First, the psalmist asks for God’s forgiveness (vv. 7–9). The forgiveness must meet the greatness of his need. He is sinful through and through. In the prayer for forgiveness, the author employs two verbs, used in vv. 1–2, in reverse order: “wash” (v. 7) and “blot out” (v. 9). In these verses the psalmist goes beyond the prayer for forgiveness (vv. 1–2). He prays that the Lord, like a priest, may cleanse him from his defilement. The unclean, such as lepers, used to present themselves before the priest on the occasion of their purification. The priest, being satisfied that the unclean person had met the requirements for purification, would take a bunch of “hyssop” and sprinkle the person with water, symbolic of ritual cleansing. Here the psalmist petitions the Lord to be his priest by taking the hyssop and by declaring him cleansed from all sin.
With God’s forgiveness and cleansing (v. 7) comes newness of life. The metaphor “whiter than snow” applied to clean garments and by extension signified forgiveness, cleansing, and newness (cf. Isa 1:18; Rev 3:4–5; 4:4). Renewal begins with the Lord, who alone can blot out sin, the guilt of sin, and any reminder of sin (v. 9; cf. 32:1; 90:8; 103:3, 10–12; Mic 7:18–19).
Second, the psalmist prays for restoration of joy (v. 8). Joy is the result of God’s work in man (cf. Isa 65:17–18). Even as God’s displeasure with sin brings judgment, metaphorically described as broken bones (v. 8, cf. 32:3; 42:10), so his pleasure brings joy of heart (vv. 8, 12). The joy is more than an emotional expression; it is a contented resting in God. The security of having been reconciled with the Lord and of having peace with him (cf. Rom 5:1) is of the greatest import. This joy is hence known as “the joy of your salvation” (v. 12; from yēšaʿ; cf. 9:14; 13:5; 35:9).
Third, the psalmist asks for a heart of wisdom. Forgiveness and cleansing are prerequisites for communion with God. Wisdom maintains communion. The sin of which the psalmist has spoken (vv. 3–6) clings to his inner parts so that man cannot respond in “truth” (fidelity) and wisdom unless God gives it (v. 6). For this reason the psalmist renews his prayer for divine wisdom and sustenance (vv. 10–13). This involves a radical transformation, expressed by the verbs “create” and “renew” (v. 10). Communion with God and morality are not natural gifts but supernaturally endowed graces (cf. Jer 24:7; 31:33; 32:39; Ezek 11:19; 18:31; 36:26; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:10; 4:24). Isaiah uses this language to denote the world of restoration from sin, judgment, and the vexations of life under the condemnation of God (Isa 65:17–18).
In the spirit of true contrition, the psalmist prays for a “pure heart,” a “steadfast spirit” (v. 10; cf. 57:7; 112:7), the “Holy Spirit” (v. 11) and a “willing spirit” (v. 12; cf. Exod 35:5, 22). Without the internal renewal (cf. Prov 4:23), the psalmist fears the possibility of divine rejection, as was the case with Saul (cf. 1 Sam 16:14). These verses say little about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the OT but much about the necessity of spiritual renewal. Spiritual renewal always leads to godliness and wisdom (cf. Deut 5:29; 30:6; Isa 59:21; Jer 31:33–34; Ezek 36:26–27). While the OT saints knew about regeneration and spiritual renewal, the assurance of the benefits of the covenant were conferred by the symbol of sacrifice. The OT saints had not yet received the fuller assurance of forgiveness and spiritual renewal granted to us in the revelation of Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice (Heb 10:1–18).
7 (9 MT) אֵזוֹב (ʾēzôḇ, “hyssop” [Syrian hyssop]) was also used for sprinkling blood (cf. Lev 14:4–8; Num 19:6–8, 17–21; Heb 9:19; see Zohary, Plants of the Bible pp. 96–97).
8 (10 MT) The Syriac suggests the alternate reading תַּשְׂבִּיעֵנִי (taśbîʿēnî, “satisfy me”), instead of “let me hear” (MT). So Kraus: “Let me be refreshed with joy and gladness” (Psalmen 2:382).
The Believer’s Confession of Sin (Psalm 51)
The church never worships more purely than when it confesses its own sinfulness because that’s the platform in which we enter into worship, recognition of our own sinfulness and our own unworthiness. Everybody understands David was a great worshiper, wasn’t he? Great worshiper. He wrote many, many, many Psalms, dozens and dozens of Psalms. And we use those Psalms to worship and they are worshiping Psalms. But David also understood the wretchedness of his own heart and he was a true worshiper who knew that while it was one thing to come to God and give Him glory, it was also an equal critical thing to come to God and recognize His own unworthiness. He is not a spiritual novice, this David, he is a man after God’s own heart.
He didn’t write this Psalm at some immature moment in his life. He wrote it at the pinnacle of his life, at the very pinnacle of divine blessing on his life. He was a man after God’s own heart. He was a man who hated iniquity and unrighteousness in others but hated it even more in himself. And so he’s going to be the one to lead us in our confession this morning.
Look at Psalm 51 for a moment. We’ll just get an overview of this great Psalm. Its characteristic is true confession, that’s what it’s about. He is the broken and the contrite heart that he describes in verse 17. That’s him. And he knows God will not despise a broken and contrite heart. This Psalm bears the mark of deep guilt. This Psalm bears the mark of penetrating pervasive almost debilitating remorse over sin. This is a Psalm written out of pain, anxiety, fear and reveals the essence of a true confession.
Now David had some problems. He was a man after God’s own heart. He was a great worshiper, a great writer of Psalms, a singer of Psalms. He had known the blessing of God. He had declared the blessedness of God. But he had problems. He was a man and he was a sinful man even though he had been forgiven by God. And he particularly seemed to have a problem with women. When he wanted a woman, he took her no matter who she might have belonged to. And his story is a sad story when you look at it from the vantage point of his many escapades with women and his wives. And he taught his dissolute lessons to his son very well, for Solomon far exceeded his own father’s sins with women.
It was at the height of his power, it was the height of his time of blessing under the goodness of God that he became infatuated with the beautiful Bathsheba who was the wife of one of his military officers by the name of Uriah. Bathsheba was not innocent in the situation. She put herself in a position to be seen by the king from the top of his palace, she was sunbathing, as it were, on her own roof. I don’t think she was innocent at all in what she was doing and David certainly was not innocent, being attracted to her. You know the rest of the story. He went to her and she became pregnant. David now has a dilemma. He sought to solve his dilemma by arranging to have her husband who is out fighting in his own defense, David’s defense, the defense of his nation and his kingdom. He has the plan to push a small group of men forward into conflict with the enemy and make sure Uriah was in the group and then have everybody else retreat, leave Uriah there where he will be killed. And that is exactly what they did and he was killed. It was a murder defacto.
Then conveniently forgetting his intrigue, David gave the man a military funeral with all honors and proceeded as if it was some noble act to marry his widow. There are many Old Testament historians who would date the beginning of the breakup of the Unified Kingdom of Israel with this particular sin. It finally shattered after the reign of Solomon, but this may have been where the seeds were sown. And the child…the child died. And there were other children born to David and Bathsheba, most notable Solomon. His life was certainly a troubled life. The other children had trouble as well, heart-breaking life experiences.
But for David, the whole ugly scene left its impact on him. He became obsessed with this sin. It preyed on his mind. It weighed him down until he got relief through real confession. And that is what you see in Psalm 51. Here is the confession of a man who feels the full burden of his own guilt.
If I were to sum up what David was feeling, I might say it like this, “Sin had made him dirty and he wanted to be clean. Guilt had made him sick and he wanted to be well. Disobedience had made him lonely and he wanted to be reconciled. Rebellion had made him fearful and he wanted to be pardoned.”
That’s what comes out of Psalm 51, a man who feels dirty, sick, isolated and afraid…all consequence of his sin. And out of that, he pours forth this confession and it has all the right perspectives of a true confession would be threefold…see your sin for what it is, see God for who He is, and see yourself for who you are. Any true confession is going to have to interact with those components.
First of all, it’s clear from this Psalm that David understood his sin for what it was and there are at least five aspects to his perspective on his sin.
Number one, he knew that his sin deserved judgment…he knew that his sin deserved judgment. In fact, at the end of verse 4, notice he says, “So you are justified when you speak and blameless when you judge.” If you speak judgment against me, if you judge me for this sin which would mean death and hell, if I am to be forever separated from you, if this is a damning sin, if this is permanently end for us, you are blameless, you are blameless. This is a confession of his own guilt and it deserves judgment.
Going in to verse 1, however, let’s look at it from the perspective of the opening statement, “Be gracious to me, O God.” Or in the second line, “According to the greatness of Your compassion.” He is appealing to grace and compassion. Why? Because he cannot appeal to justice. He cannot appeal to law. He cannot appeal to merit. He cannot appeal to achievement. He understands what he deserves. And he knows God would be blameless if He damned him. He cries for the only thing he can cry for and that’s grace which implies that he knew he deserved judgment. In Psalm 103:10 it says, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” If we received what we should receive, we would all perish everlastingly. Psalm 130 verse 3 says, “If the Lord should mark our iniquities, who could stand?”
So he knows what every true penitent knows, that he deserves judgment. He feels the weight of judgment. This is humility. He deserves the wages of sin which is death. There’s a great illustration of this among many in Scripture in what I think is probably the most instructive prayer in the Old Testament, it’s in Daniel 9, as Daniel prays for his people. It has this same sense that what they all deserve is judgment. Daniel 9 verse 4, “I prayed to the Lord my God confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.’” And then in verse 7, “But righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, to us open shame.” Verse 8, “Open shame belongs to us because we sinned against You.” Verse 11, “All Israel has transgressed Your Law.”
So the curse has been poured out on us. We deserve it. That’s where true confession begins, with a recognition that we deserve judgment, even as a believer, a recognition that I need to be chastened for my sin. David was a believer. He wasn’t talking here about everlasting eternal judgment in the more personal sense. He is saying, “I know that I deserve whatever just judgment should fall upon me for this iniquity.”
There’s a sense in which as believers then, we know that all the time we live in this world, God at any point has a right to bring judgment on our heads, to discipline us. We can appeal only to mercy and that’s the second point.
True penitence deserves judgment. True penitence recognizes its appeal is only to mercy. “According to Your loving kindness, be gracious to me. According to Your compassion.” He’s pleading for compassion. The word lovingkindness is chesed, that’s an Old Testament word for grace, or mercy. I can plead for nothing else. I can only ask for mercy or grace. What is that? Undeserved favor, undeserved consideration, undeserved, unmerited withholding of judgment.
The sinner understands then because he deserves judgment, because he cannot earn righteousness, he can only plead for grace. This is the essence of all Old Testament genuine salvation…sinners who knew they cannot get from God by their own desserts and deserving anything but judgment, pled for mercy and grace.
Thirdly, in his perspective on sin, a truly penitent person not only understands that he deserves judgment, he desperately needs grace, but he also understands his guilt…he understands real guilt. “Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.” Notice these personal pronouns. Cleanse me from my sin. I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Boy, there are a lot of me’s and my’s, right? Personal guilt.
And David uses all the words for evil. He says, “Blot out my transgressions, wash me from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin,” then uses the word transgression again, then the word sinned in verse 4. The three words, standard words for evil, transgression, iniquity, sin, he uses them all, implying the comprehensive problem that has fouled his life. He is overwhelmingly guilty of sin by every definition…by every definition. “I am guilty.”
What this is saying is, a fourth element, he accepts all responsibility. He knows he deserves judgment. He needs grace. He is genuinely guilty and he has to take full responsibility. Please notice, he blames only himself…my iniquity, my sin, my transgression, my sin. Verse 4, “Against You, You only I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” He doesn’t blame God, like Adam did when he said, “The woman You gave me.” He doesn’t blame another person like the woman did who said, “The serpent deceived me.” He doesn’t blame the serpent or Satan. It’s my sin, it’s my iniquity, it’s my transgression, I did it. Violence against Your holy majesty, rebellion against Your will, disobedience against Your Word, blasphemy against Your name, and I have done it…I have done it. I am fully responsible. He places no blame on circumstances, no blame on Satan, no blame on God. This is the essence of a true, true confession. He takes full responsibility. And again that is carried in the last words of verse 4 by the statement again, “You will be justified where You need to judge me. You would be blameless where You would have damned me and condemned me.”
Don’t blame anybody else. Don’t blame Satan. Don’t blame your circumstances. Don’t blame God. Don’t undo your confession by minimizing your responsibility. You are the sinner. You are guilty. You need grace and you are fully responsible.
And there’s one other component. He understands this is part of who he really is, this is part of his nature. This is powerful. Verse 5, “Behold…wow, in the vernacular, it’s a superlative…I was brought forth in iniquity. In sin my mother conceived me.”
What a statement! He doesn’t mean he was an illegitimate child, he wasn’t. He doesn’t mean he was born out of some adulterous affair, he wasn’t. What he means is that from conception he was a sinner. You can’t come to worship and say, “We reject all negative thoughts about ourselves.” You can’t do that. You’re a wretched, corrupt sinner from conception on. What David is saying is that this is not an anomaly, this is not, “Oops, something went wrong here, I’m basically a good person.” This is David saying, “In all honesty, this is really who I am.” This is full admission you are born a sinner, that you have congenital depravity. And who can make a clean out of an unclean? The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. In the flesh is no good thing and the flesh is still here, isn’t it?
You want to make a true confession of your sin? Then acknowledge that you deserve judgment and the Lord would be blameless if He judged you with the severest judgment. Acknowledge that you can appeal only to grace because you can’t merit God’s mercy and forgiveness and restoration. Understand that you are guilty and need deliverance from that guilt by the mercy of God. Accept full responsibility for your sin, laying the blame on no one but yourself. And be honest enough to admit this is you…this is you. That is a broken and a contrite heart and that the Lord will not despise.
But confession cannot end there. Its hope is found in the view of God. So you move from the view of sin to the view of God in verse 6. Several very important elements, first of all, you understand that God desires holiness on the inside. So a true confession recognizes that I am appealing to You, O God, to change me on the inside. “Behold…verse 6…You desire truth, or honesty, or integrity, or righteousness in the innermost being, in the hidden part You will make me no wisdom.” You want to clean up my inside. You want righteous wisdom to reign on the inside.
Now it is the element of a true confession to go to God and to come before God penitent, broken over your own sin and understand that what God wants is not some kind of a superficial outside cleanup but something that’s going to take the inside and thoroughly, cathartically cleanse it. You understand God doesn’t just want certain behaviors. God looks on the heart. True confession understands that. You’re coming to a holy God who won’t be content with a superficial change. So true confession understands that this is really me saying, “I want to be clean all the way down in the inside.” Don’t just stop me at the point of adultery, stop me long before that at the point of lust. That’s honest confession, recognizing that God is a God of holiness who wants purity deep on the inside.
Secondly, David recognizes not only God’s holiness but God’s power. That’s important. Why is it important? Because you don’t want to come for cleansing to a God who doesn’t have the power to do it, right? So he says, so importantly, verse 7, “Purify me with hyssop,” and what will be the result? “I’ll be clean. Wash me, I’ll be whiter than snow.” If You clean me, I’ll be clean. If You purify me, I’ll be pure. I can’t do it. This is the idea that you can’t lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. You can’t do it by well-intentioned resolutions, for example. I have to come to You. Hyssop, by the way, was a shrub used to apply blood and water in a purification ceremony and he just borrows that picture, just purify me, ceremonially. Wash me, You do it, O God, because if You do it, it will be done, it will be thorough. You have the power. You have the power. You can remove my transgressions, You can wash me. And though my sins are as scarlet, You can make them as wool. Though they’re red like crimson, they can be as white as snow, Isaiah 1. You come to a God who has the power to do a real cleansing.
You know, the next attribute that you would need to know was true of God was His willingness, or His goodness. He’s already stated that God is a God of compassion. Is He willing to do this? He’s a God of lovingkindness. According to Your lovingkindness, an already established reality there in verse 1. He has experienced that God is a God of grace and forgiveness and mercy and compassion and lovingkindness. That’s critical.
So he knows God desires that this take place. In verse 8, “Make me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.” He wants restoration. He wants reconciliation. God has broken his bones, metaphorically speaking, crushed him. He is now a broken and contrite heart. He wants the restoration that he knows God wants.
You know, when you go to the Lord in the time of confession and you pour out your heart in this true confession attitude, you already know that this is what God is waiting for. And when this confession comes, the discipline ends because God is by nature a forgiving God.
Verse 9, “Hide Your face from my sin. Blot out all my iniquities.” He knows this is consistent with the nature of God. Micah 7:18 and 19, “Who is a pardoning God like You?” Or as it says in the Psalms, “He removes our sins…Psalm 103:12…as far as the east is from the west. Buries them in the depths of the sea. Remembers them no more.” God is a forgiver by nature. Psalm 86:5; Psalm 99:8; Psalm 130 verse 4; everywhere, but Psalm 130 verse 4, good to remember, “There is forgiveness with You.”
So God is holy, that sets the standard. That sets the standard for forgiveness. He wants holiness. He is powerful, that establishes the source of this cleansing, He has the power to do it. He is willing because it is that which He desires. He is forgiving. So he understands his sin and he understands his God. And so here comes in verse 10 his prayer…this is the prayer of the penitent who understands his sin and understands his God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence. Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation. Sustain me with a willing spirit.”
I just want forgiveness. I want a clean heart, not a dirty one. I want a steadfast spirit, not a wavering duplicitous unfaithful one. I don’t want this isolation, this cosmic loneliness of being separated from You. I don’t want You to take Your Holy Spirit from me. This isn’t say a believer can have the Holy Spirit and have the Holy Spirit removed. David is king, he has a special anointing on his life, an anointing that was indicated as the coming of the Spirit. Remember in the Old Testament it says, “The Spirit of God came upon So-and-so and he prophesied and the Spirit of God departed?” This is a unique Old Testament gift from God, an enabling of the Spirit for some unique role within the purposes of God in the theocratic kingdom. David wants to have the anointing in the future, he wants to be a faithful king. He wants to be useful to God. And then in verse 12 he wants the joy that he once had in salvation. He didn’t lose his salvation, he just lost the joy. And he wants a willing spirit…a spirit that is devoted only to that which pleases God.
This is the heart cry of a truly penitent man. We could say a lot more about that but just to wrap it up. There’s a perspective on himself that’s at stake here. Looking at now his own purpose, his own life. If I as a believer deal with the sin in the right way, understand God in a right way, I still have to consider myself. And David did that. And I still have to ask the question, “What would forgiveness do for me? How would it change me? How would it impact me and make me impact others?” And he begins with sinners.
If he gets his life right, if he is washed and clean, how is that going to effect sinners? Verse 13, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways and sinners will be converted to you.” Wow! You want to have a life that matters? You want to have a testimony? You want to have a witness? You want to have an effective pattern of living that draws people to salvation? You want to be able to teach transgressors the ways of God so that they will be converted? Then you have to have your life washed and purged.
That reminds us of Isaiah, right? The angel takes the coal, puts it to his tongue, he’s cleansed. The Lord says, “Whom will I send and who will go?” Isaiah says, “Here am I, Lord, send me,” and He sends him. He’s looking for the cleansed.
Verse 14, he even expands it, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation. Do this then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.” This is more of his witness. He can joyfully sing of the righteousness of God. Verse 15 even expands it more, “O Lord, open my lips that my mouth may declare Your praise. Free me up from the burden of this guilt and I’ll teach transgressors Your ways and sinners will be converted and I’ll joyfully sing of Your righteousness and my mouth will declare Your praise. Touch the coal to my mouth, like You did to Isaiah’s, so I can be a witness to sinners.”
There’s a second consideration that he makes as he looks at himself. Verses 16 and 17, this has to do not with sinners but with God. “You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it. You’re not pleased with burnt offering.” That alone doesn’t do it. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” The key word here is “You do not delight in,” or “You are not pleased with.”
What’s David saying? I want a life that pleases You. I want my life to have an effect on sinners, lead them to conversion. I want my life to have a positive effect on You. I want You to delight in my life. Wow! I want my life to please You. I want You to find pleasure in my life.
And then finally, it’s the saints. He understands that if his own life isn’t right, he’s not going to be useful to the saints. But once he’s cleansed, then he’s useful to the saints. How? Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” right? If my life is impure, my prayers don’t get answered. That means I can’t pray for you and expect an answer. So in verses 18 and 19 he prays for his people. “By Your favor do good to Zion, build the walls of Jerusalem. Restore Jerusalem in righteousness. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices because they won’t just be offerings that are external, they’ll be righteous sacrifices and burnt offering and whole burnt offering and then young bulls will be offered on Your altar,” meaning with a right attitude. The point being that he now feels that he can pray for His people. The point is this, if my life is not pure, then I can’t be an effective evangel to the sinners, I can’t bring delight to God and I can’t be useful to intercede on behalf of the saints. The prayers of a righteous man produce much.
What’s at stake here? Your usefulness to the lost, your usefulness to the church and even your usefulness to God.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-353
COPYRIGHT ©2012 Grace to You
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 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ps 51:title–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
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