The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they REPENTED at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here (Mt. 12:41).So whatever the Ninevites did is what the Lord Jesus identified as repentance in the Bible.
The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they TURNED FROM THEIR EVIL WAYS, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened (Jonah 3:5-10).
When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men." So he got up and went to his father ... The son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Lk.15:17-21).Jesus declared the prodigal's humility, regret, acknowledgment of sin and return to the Father caused this son to become alive again from his dead and lost spiritual state:
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." So they began to celebrate (Lk. 15:24).This is obviously spiritual life and death, since the prodigal was not affected physically by this death, nor was he geographically lost.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).According to 2 Peter 3:9, one either repents or perishes. Hence, repentance is a salvation issue. Not only was repentance John the Baptist's message (Mt. 3:1,2), but Jesus' continued John's message after he was put in prison. There is no greater endorsement on the soundness of one's message than that of the Lord's:
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee ... From that time on Jesus began to preach," Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Mt. 4:12,17).
On the other hand, Saul was more concerned with being honored before the people than exhibiting true humility and repentance over his disobedience:
Saul replied, "I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God" (1 Sam. 15:30).Peter's reaction to his own sin (thrice denial of Jesus) was bitter weeping:
The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly (Lk. 22:61,62).How wise to follow the advice of James, who preached true repentance and refuted the "holy laughter" movement of our day, with its false view of revival:
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (Jam. 4:8-10).
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon" (55:7).[Notice it says God will "freely pardon," but in context it is conditional upon forsaking wicked ways and thoughts, and turning to the Lord.]
The prophet Daniel was highly esteemed (Dan 9:23) and gave wise (though unheeded) advice to King Nebuchadnezzar:
Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue (Dan. 4:27).Nebuchadnezzar's son, Belshazzar, did not humble himself either though he knew about God's judgment on his father, and he even set himself up against the Lord of heaven (Dan. 5:22,23). How much wiser he would have been to follow Daniel's own good example:
I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed ... we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws ... yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth (Dan. 9:4,5).Jeremiah advised the officials and people to "reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God" (Jer. 26:13).
Solomon prayed, "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them" (1 Ki. 8:35). He also knew the following about repentance:
"And if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly'; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name" (2 Chron. 6:37,38).
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!" (14:6).Ezekiel taught "The soul who sins is the one who will die" (18:20). However, God has a remedy:
But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? ... But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die ... Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezek. 18:21-23, 27, 28,30,31).There is not a Christian who ever lived that was not tempted to sin, but the Holy Spirit provided a relevant, comforting truth to the Corinthian Christians which extends to us today:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor. 10:13).All will be tempted but no one has to yield to the temptation. How else can we avoid sin? The Apostle Paul gave us insight which can be a safeguard for our souls:
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Rom 8:5,6)
IF we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).The saved Apostle John included himself here by using the pronoun "we." This confession of sin to God must also be combined with a willingness to renounce those sins:
He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy (Prov.28:13).The Lord Jesus gave another startling condition to receiving forgiveness that few in our day are willing to preach:
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins(Mt. 6:14,15).Jesus is directing this teaching to his own disciples who came to him (5:1,2). Notice also in Mt. 6:14,15 that Jesus told them "your Father" will not forgive your sins if you do not forgive men their sins. He can't be speaking to unsaved people since they do not have God as their spiritual Father.
King David wrote, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered" (Psa. 32:1) and told how he obtained forgiveness:
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"--and you forgave the guilt of my sin (Psa. 32:5).Forgiveness didn't come automatically, as evidenced by the above verse. David had to do something to obtain his forgiveness. Perhaps John had this and similar verses in mind when he wrote 1 Jn. 1:9.
The Sovereign God's counsel through Isaiah was to:
... wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (1:16-18).God is gracious and merciful, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9) but we must do our part as recorded in the holy Scriptures. The Bible does not teach that Christians are already forgiven even before their future sins are committed. Don't let the false teachers of our day deceive you. Heed the Scriptural message.
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God (Heb. 6:1).We'll soon examine some of the "acts that lead to death." Paul told the Roman Christians that sin leads to spiritual death (Rom. 6:16) and James warned how this "death" occurs:
But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers (Jam. 1:14-16).These were the basic, elementary teachings of the early church which are seldom repeated in our dark day and even worse, are denied by the eternal security teachers.
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father." For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. "What should we do then?" the crowd asked. John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be content with your pay."Notice the human responsibility involved. Was John teaching a works salvation? Not at all. John's father, Zechariah, prophesied about him under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:67) that John gave God's "people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins," v. 77. Though some might wrongly claim that John taught Old Testament "law" or "works," God gave the knowledge of salvation through him!
The Lord Jesus' teaching about the righteous was very similar and included action on the part of the redeemed or the "blessed":
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visitme" (Mt. 25:34-36).Jesus taught, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to" (Lk. 13:24). Yet "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1:17).
Although this conflicts with today's counterfeit "grace" message, it is the true Biblical grace of Almighty God. Choose whom you will believe -- the one with all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18) or today's ungodly grace changers (Jude 3,4).
...I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds (Acts 26:20).Jesus sets us free from the slavery to sin (Jn. 8:34-36) but after initial salvation, Paul taught Christians to be persistent about seeking immortality, to continue by the Spirit and to put sin to death in order to live:
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Rom. 2:7).Human responsibility and free will are also clear from Paul's advice to Pastor Timothy not to "share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure" (1 Tim. 5:22).
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Rom. 8:13).
Similarly, John counseled his children to "keep yourselves from idols" (1 Jn. 5:21). Someone might state, "but we're not under the law." True, we are not under the ceremonial law, but we are still under the moral law as seen by such verses as 1 Cor. 6:9,10; Eph. 5:5-7; Gal. 5:19-21; Jude 7; Rev. 21:8; etc.Remember that Paul told the Corinthian Christians not to be idolaters (1 Cor. 10:7). He knew the Christians could again become idolaters who would then end up in the lake of fire according to Rev. 21:8 unless they repent. Thus these apostles advised the Christians to keep themselves from such spiritual danger.
James taught what kind of religion is acceptable to God and what the Christians were to keep themselves from:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (Jam. 1:27).These are all true grace teachings. The problem, then, lies with those who have a distorted view of grace.
In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent (Psa. 4:4).These types of prayers will help us to keep a pure heart, which is vital since those are the ones who will stand in God's holy place (Psa. 24:3,4). "Holding on to faith and a good conscience" will keep us from becoming spiritual shipwrecks (1 Tim. 1:19).
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin (Psa. 38:18).
I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes (Psa. 119:59).
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psa. 139:23,24).
Peter and Paul gave us other important safeguards and commands:
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (1 Pet. 2:1,2).To rid yourself of sin in order to return to God has long been a Biblical command:
Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:10,11).
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this [the home of righteousness, v. 13], make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (2 Pet. 3:14).
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col. 3:5-10).
If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only (1 Sam. 7:3).
Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezek. 18:31).
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Rom. 6:20-22).NOTE: Repentance precedes salvation, based on 2 Cor. 7:10! That is the OPPOSITE of Reformed theology!
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter (2 Cor. 7:10,11).
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psa. 51:17).On the other hand, the wicked are void of the fear of God and the sorrow which leads to salvation:
... An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin (Psa. 36:1,2).A good checkpoint of your heart condition, then, is: do you fear God and hate your sin, or are you among the wicked as just described?
"...Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our fathers' labor-- their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our fathers; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the LORD our God." (Jer 3:23-25)
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:14)The repentance prayer of that humble and sincere tax collector (God have mercy on me a sinner) is also a backsliders prayer
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.(1 Cor. 6:9,10, NASB) .What hope does the unfortunate Christian have who would fall into such sins after initial salvation? These abominations must be confessed and forsaken with forgiveness being sought from God. Jesus taught that the prodigal became alive again after a complete break from being with the prostitutes (Lk. 15:24,32). The same can be stated regarding David after he humbly sought the Lord's forgiveness from his sexual sin and murder (Psa. 51). Was David saved all during his detestable sin before he repented? Not according to the Sovereign God, who spoke Rev. 21:8 from his own throne after the infinite work of the Lord Jesus was completed. God made no exception for anyone, including a man who wrote part of the Bible. Thank God David repented before he died. Many don't. Ezekiel explains what happened spiritually to King David during that dark time of his life:
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient (Eph. 5:5,6).
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death (Rev. 21:8).
"But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die" (Ezek. 18:24).Similar to what Jesus taught about the prodigal, Paul told the Roman Christians:
... "The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness." If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done (Ezek. 33:12,13).
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Rom 8:13)Those who are spiritual can help to restore the backsliding to salvation:
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (Jam. 5:19,20)
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Gal. 6:1)
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death (1 Jn. 5:16,17).
A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft. If the stolen animal is found alive in his possession--whether ox or donkey or sheep--he must pay back double. If a man grazes his livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in another man's field, he must make restitution from the best of his own field or vineyard. If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution. If a man gives his neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor's house, the thief, if he is caught, must pay back double .... In all cases of illegal possession ... The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to his neighbor .... But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, he must make restitution to the owner ... If a man borrows an animal from his neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, he must make restitution .... If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins (Exo. 22:3-17).Does restitution apply to us under the New Covenant? Yes! At Zacchaeus' willingness to make restitution to others that he cheated, Jesus declared this showed that salvation had come to him:
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, " Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk. 19:8-10).But in the case of the dying, repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus, he couldn't return what he stole under his condition, yet still got forgiven (Lk. 23:42,43).
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