Archive for October, 2016

Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation?

October 25, 2016

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I have recently discovered the shocking truth that there are an increasing number of people who do not believe that repentance is a prerequisite for salvation. “Just believe and receive,” they say – “no need to repent.”

I listened incredulously to a preacher who maintained that “repentance is works” and we are not saved by works. It is certainly true that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9) At the same time: “faith without works is dead.” (James 2v14-26) “Bring forth therefore fruits meat for repentance:” Jesus warned the Pharisees and Sad-du-cees. (Matthew 3v8) James said: “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2v17)

Perhaps I should relate my own experience here: for many months prior to giving my heart to the Lord, He had been dealing with me and convicting me of my sin. While the world looking on would have said to me: “seriously, you’re not that bad you know,” the Lord was showing me my life as He saw it – and I knew that it was not a life ready for heaven.

“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.” (Proverbs 16v1&2) He showed me that I needed work done in my heart – work which only He could do. I learned that by giving Him free rein in my life, that only He could make me a better person – one fit for His Kingdom.

Indeed it has always been my clear conviction that, spiritually speaking, the old must die – for new life to begin. The old leaves of autumn curl up and die, in order that spring can bring new growth and fresh shiny green leaves! The night that I trusted Him, I simply walked (spiritually speaking) from the darkness of my past into the light of the future that He wanted for me. Yes indeed, I was sorry for (and turned away from) that old life lived outside of His grace. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Corinthians 5v17)

“Repentance” this preacher shouted, “cannot mean turning from sin, since God repented… didn’t He?”

My answer to this is that when God ‘repents,’ He in effect is changing the course of action He was going to take on account of the fact that people have repented of their sinful ways. In the Book of Jonah we have a good example of this: The people of Nineveh said: “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3v9&10)

Denial of the fundamental doctrine of repentance is a very serious matter and one in which the devil plays a big part. If people think that they can make some sort of ‘commitment’ and then continue to live on in their sin, this awful doctrine has the potential to drag them to lowest hell – a horrific thought. This is why they should pray and search the scriptures diligently for we cannot rely on the words of mankind, regardless of their standing in the community or their achievements in Bible College.

With regard to “just believing,” James said: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2v19)

We read of John the Baptist that “he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;” (Luke 3v3)

Later in Luke 13v3 Jesus said: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The Greek word used in this verse for “repent” is “metanoia,” a transliteration of the Greek “μετάνοια,” which can be defined as “a transformative change of heart, especially a spiritual conversion.” If we merely believed without the “transformation” (which should include an entirely different attitude to sin) what change would have been wrought in our lives? Surely only the Lord can bring about this real transformation!

The devil somehow convincing people that they don’t have to have the sin in their lives dealt with is a story which has its evil roots in the dawn of time. “Yea, hath God said…” he said to Eve in the Garden of Eden, sadly convincing her that her action would have no dire consequences for the future of mankind. (Genesis 3v1)

The fact is… God hath said: “The soul that sinneth it shall die…” (Ezekiel 18v20)

In Acts 3v19 Peter stresses the need for repentance: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;”

Abhorrence is the only attitude that the Christian should have to sin. John says in his epistle: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1John 2v1-3)

And so we see that wherever repentance is talked about in the Bible in relation to mankind, it involves the issue of sin… something which the Lord wishes to eradicate from our lives. At the same time our adversary would prefer that people argued over semantics and the meaning of the word ‘repent,’ while turning a blind eye to sin – which will have eternal implications in their own lives, if the Lord is not permitted to deal with it. No sane person would ignore a cancerous tumour that they had knowledge of. They would be dismayed by its very presence and then they would go immediately to an authority who was qualified to deal with it, to have it expertly operated on and removed, for the good of their whole body. The thought that there might be a waiting list for such an operation would fill anyone with anxiety – and of course even the most ‘non-religious’ would find themselves praying earnestly that it would never return! Praise God, there is no waiting list where the disease of sin is concerned, for He is willing and able to deal with an entire world of repentant ‘casualties’ in the ‘here and now…’

 

A Christian Bookstall in Drogheda… “The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth…”

October 10, 2016

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Just recently, having noticed that people were selling all sorts of ware in the old town of Drogheda, I set up a book table in the town centre. Included on the long folding table were plenty of free Christian literature and booklets, CDs and DVDs, second-hand books, seasonal cards, bookmarks, my own four books and free John’s gospels in the language of many who now live in Drogheda: Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, French and Spanish. It was a pleasantly dry autumn day… but unfortunately also very windy!

I encountered a range of reactions on the day – everything from sheer apathy to mild hostility. In between there were many who were interested and curious, while one lady was very kind and friendly. “Oh you must be so cold standing there,” she said in motherly tones, “let me get you a cup of tea or coffee. Now what would you like? I’ll go now and get you something. Just tell me. I love your books, by the way!” She reached for a second-hand book and also two of my books, “Singing on the Journey Home” for herself and “Ricky the Runaway” for her little grandson. She was delighted with the scripture bookmarks too and I assured her with many thanks, that honestly I didn’t need a hot drink at that particular time. As she was in a hurry, we didn’t discuss spiritual matters but that lady warmed my heart with her friendly manner and I have prayed that the Lord will meet her at the point of her need.

A young man who had watched me put out the bookstall, now perused the books with interest and then asked me sincerely: “tell me, are you a nun?” to which I answered with an amused chuckle, “No, I’m married three children.” He was very interested in the testimony of an ex-nun which I gave him. He told me that he had been a Roman Catholic but was so fed up in the last few years of hearing about the child abuse scandal that he had left the church and had started to attend the Church of Ireland. After the short conversation, he had to hurry for a bus. It was so good to have these conversations, though, which under normal circumstances would never have happened…

Another elderly man came along and, not looking at me, proceeded to swiftly leaf through a few of the books, throwing them down again. “Do you realise,” he said angrily, “that all this literature you have here quotes from the Protestant version of the Bible? The church was built upon St. Peter you know!”

He went to walk off hurriedly and I called him back. “Here’s something to read,” I said, offering him an ex-priest’s testimony tract. He shoved it in his pocket and hurried away without another word… This incident reminded me of another one some time ago. This time a middle-aged woman approached me angrily. “You’re causing dissension between people, that’s what you’re doing!” she told me.

Another young woman (of Ugandan origin), after giving me much encouragement, hurried down to her church to get me some literature of interest. There were others who took an interest and still others who kindly helped in a practical way, when a sudden gust of violent wind sent my lighter literature (especially the tracts) down the street! Looking back on the scene, after leaving for the day, I didn’t see one tract on the street. The wind indeed, “bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3v8)

It was a tiring ordeal, but praise God, my hope is built on nothing less than the real Rock on which the true Church is built – the Church not built with man’s hands or devised by man’s schemes. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1Corinthians 10v1-4) Praise the Lord, once again I lean on this His faithful promise: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55v11)