Category Archives: Repentance

A Wrinkle In Theology

Robin Olsen PortraitSocial media definitely gives me a wealth of subject matter! Consider this quotation:

Joy is the infallible proof of the presence of God.  ~~Madeline L’Engle

When that quote showed up on my Twitter feed a few years ago, I vacillated between laughing, crying and throwing up. I have fond childhood memories of Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle In Time, but I rather wish she’d confined her writing to children’s fiction and left theology alone. That quote sounds pretty and poetic, admittedly, but it positively oozes with the sloppy theology that permeates today’s visible church.

L’Engle elevates the subjective emotion of joy as “infallible proof” that God is present. This “reasoning” reminds me of so many professing Christians who validate things like the Gay Christian Movement because they interpret the enthusiasm among “gay Christians” as an indication that He sanctions their misinterpretation of Scripture.

But truth must never be at the mercy of fleeting experience. People often feel great joy in the midst of extremely sinful behavior. Yet God, being holy, neither will nor can grace sinful  behavior with His presence. The joy at a college drinking party may, in some instances (such as celebrating the end of finals), be quite genuine, but any true presence of the Lord would bring the revelers to repentance in short order. Indeed, His presence brought the prophet Isaiah to humility.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)
Throughout the Bible, actually, God’s presence frequently evoked fear and trembling as people saw the contrast between their sinfulness and His holiness. Sometimes, joy followed. And we definitely will have joy in heaven, where those of us who are born again through His Spirit will be in His presence forever. But humility and repentance serve as much more reliable indicators of His presence for now.
Hopefully Madeline L’Engle ironed out her theology before she died.

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The Gospel: Pure And Simple

3D Cross Mother of PearlProfessing Christians use the word “gospel” all the time, but sometimes we get so caught up in tangential matters that we forget the Gospel itself. I’ve been guilty of this type of spiritual amnesia many times.  As I’ve confessed before, for example, my involvement in so-called Christian psychology led me to consider the possibility that anyone who espoused the principles of pop-psychology (whether they confessed Jesus Christ openly or not) might be saved. Obviously, at that point in time, I’d forgotten the Gospel.

In recent years, the Lord has graciously used a variety of Christian preachers, teachers and bloggers to help me appreciate the importance of preaching the Gospel to myself. Doing so reminds me that, apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I’m a vile sinner deserving of nothing but eternity in hell.

Simply put, the Gospel proclaims that Jesus Christ died as the substitute for all who believe in Him, bearing the wrath of God that our sins incur. He was buried, and tree days later God raised Him from the dead as evidence that He accepted His sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we respond to this grace by repenting of sin and believing in Him.

Now, the Gospel definitely has ramifications. True believers can’t remain in sinful lifestyles, for instance, because we understand what our sin cost the Lord. Titus 2:11-14 makes it clear that the Lord saved us with the purpose of making us holy.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

Throughout this blog, I write about various aspects of walking in holiness as redeemed women. And that’s definitely fitting. But all week, I’ve felt convicted that I needed to remind my readers (and  myself) of the basic Gospel. If we allow anything to obscure the fundamental truth that Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf and for His glory, we risk embracing a false gospel that, left unchecked will inevitability bring us to damnation.

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How To Love Gays

Rainbow HeartWhen a teenaged Christian posted a Facebook comment condoning same sex marriage a few years ago, the comment took me aback. Granted, the teen was not from a Christian family and attended public school, so she was heavily influenced by an increasingly liberal culture. And that culture shames those of us who uphold Biblical morality. I believe she considered her post to be loving toward the LBGTQ community.

Yet another friend of mine (a middle-aged man who had renounced his homosexuality in favor of living in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ) once complained to me that people who told him to accept himself as a gay man were the most  unloving people he’d ever met. “They wanted to keep me trapped in a lifestyle I hatred,” he explained, adding that real love would have affirmed his desire to honor the Lord.

I agree with him. He had found freedom to be the man God called him to be. True, he never developed attractions to women, but he had found victory over his enslavement to homosexual lust. He believed those who sought to pull him back to his old ways were the ones demonstrating hatred.

But, liberals will object, homosexuality celebrates love! They can say that as often and as loudly as they wish, but the “love” they celebrate is eros. It focuses on sexual gratification rather than building up others in Christlike behavior. For them, love demands unquestioning agreement with liberal values. Especially when it comes to LBGTQ issues, thank you very much!

In terms of Christianity, however, the Greek word rendered “love” is apape, not  eros. To clearly understand agape, I refer to 1 Corinthians 4-7:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (ESV)

God’s love, according to this passage, doesn’t angrily demand rights, as gay activists do, nor does it celebrate anything that contradicts Scripture’s teaching. Homosexual love may equal heterosexual love in terms of romance, but it cannot honor the very Lord who declares homosexuality to be sinful. Until very recently, even non-Christians held to a vague acknowledgment that homosexuality clashed against basic Christian values.

According to my friend who left the homosexual lifestyle, real love gave him hope. Real love called homosexuality a sin from which he could repent instead of an unalterable condition from birth. Therefore, truly loving people trapped by same sex attractions (or any other sin) means proclaiming the Gospel. Jesus died for their sin too!


My Alternative To New Years Resolutions

2017-resolutionsDo you make New Years Resolutions? I don’t. For one thing, I’m like most people, breaking them well before the page of the calendar turns to February. Like the Mosaic Law, New Years Resolutions basically function as painful reminders of my total depravity. They confront me with the truth that I can’t even live up to my own standards, let alone God’s!

But also, I believe that Christians should make resolutions every time the Lord convicts us of sin. We call such resolutions “repentance.”

I practically hear you moaning, “Oh DebbieLynne, please don’t bring up repentance on a holiday weekend!” And I agree that the idea of New Years Resolutions is much more palatable than the thought of actual repentance.

New Years Resolutions, to be honest, generally deal with surface behaviors like smoking, overeating or not exercising enough. These are, of course, serious issues that have tremendous health implications, but even so, they usually only address outward symptoms.  Okay, resolving to read the Bible daily or pray regularly for a loved one’s salvation is getting a little more spiritual, but those practices still can degenerate into legalism. In short, New  Years Resolutions point to our achievements rather than than our obedience to the Lord.

Repentance, on the other hand, insists on aligning our hearts with God’s Word. We confess thoughts, attitudes and behaviors we have as violations of His righteous standards, accepting full responsibility for those violations. Further, we now regard those violations as ugly things that break the heart of God. Thus, we change our direction, running away from sin in order to pursue holiness.

Do we repent perfectly? Only in our dreams! But our repeated repentance continues melting our hearts into conformity with His heart, so that we honestly desire for Him to change us. In other words, Biblical repentance transforms our hearts instead of merely reforming our outward behaviors. To our frustration, the outward behaviors may die slowly, but our hatred of those behaviors shows the beginning of true repentance.

So then, repentance differs from New Years Resolutions because it goes beyond surface behaviors to change our hearts. Rather than pointing to our supposed good works, repentance draws attention back to the Lord as the One Who both motivates and facilitates our transformation as a work of His grace.

Some of you may enjoy the fun of making New Years Resolutions, and I celebrate your Christian liberty to do so. But I prefer daily repentance, trusting that the Lord uses it toward my sanctification. Whether you make New Years Resolutions or not, I encourage you to repent promptly and joyfully throughout the New Year for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Twofold Grace Of Trials

When I go through trials (particularly ones that threaten to impose major consequences on my ability to live independently), the Lord  calls me to look to the cross, rather than to myself, remembering both the doctrine of human depravity and the doctrine of atonement. Actually, sometimes even minor trials expose my sinful attitudes and therefore my desperate need for a Savior. I’m quite sure that the Lord, wanting to remind me of His grace, places various trials in my life to help me look at the depth of my sin.

In seeing how hopelessly ingrained sin is in me–how it permeates every fiber of my being, I well understand the anguish of the apostle Paul.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 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. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:14-25 (ESV)

Like Paul, I do desire to live in obedience to the Lord, and too see evidence of His Spirit’s fruit in my life. Sadly, trials generally serve to expose my carnal nature, manifested (of course) in a variety of sinful attitudes and behaviors that, quite frankly, turn my stomach. In summary, I can’t escape the fact that I am completely and thoroughly vile.

Yet Paul, in verse 25, shifts the spotlight away from himself and on to Christ. Christ took the punishment for Paul’s incessant sin, as well as for mine. So often, I’ve written about the atonement. And when the Holy Spirit confronts me with my sins, He also wants  me to remember that I must rest in the Gospel. My attitudes and behavior assuredly stink, but they bring me back to the very heart of the Gospel, showing me my absolute dependence on His cleansing blood! He alone liberates me from the judgment I deserve because He bore my judgment when He hung on that cross.

Nobody enjoys going through trials. I’m no different. But The Lord uses our trials to accomplish two purposes. First, He uses them to show us that our old sin nature rebels against our new birth in Christ. And second, He again calls us to rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross. What a gracious God we serve!

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Saturday Sampler: November 6–November 12

fall-samplerJennifer, who blogs at One Hired Late In The Day, takes advantage of this year’s dismal election to prepare us for the loss of religious liberties our country faces. Her article, The End of Comfortable Christianity, reminds us of God’s sovereignty, especially in times of persecution.

I tremble at The Third Commandment because I violate it during times of panic. As Rachel of danielthree18 explains, this serious sin reveals a heart that doesn’t truly reverence the Lord. I rejoice that the Holy Spirit has given me grace to repent of this sin, and praise Him for using Rachel’s excellent blog post to deepen my conviction about this matter.

In her blog post,  Throwback Thursday: Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today?, Michelle Lesley examines the context of this popular Bible verse. What she has learned may surprise you. It may also help you read Scripture more carefully.

For a balanced comment on the results of this week’s election, you may want to read So What Now? by Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life. I like her perspective.

Yes, we’ve all heard that tired accusation, “Doctrine divides.” I therefore appreciate A Narrow Minded Woman for writing What Is Doctrine? Her straightforward explanation helps us understand the tremendous value of Biblical instruction.

If you’re like me, personal evangelism doesn’t come easily. So you might be  encouraged by Elizabeth Prata’s post,  How to witness-lite in The End Time.

As Christians, our response to Donald Trump’s election must reflect a Christlike attitude. Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center offers us guidelines for doing just that in his blog entry, 11 Resolutions For Living As A Christian in Trump’s America. All of  us, regardless of how  we voted, need to remember these Scriptural principles.

Basing his essay on 1 Timothy 4:16, Tim Challies gives us practical suggestions on how to Keep a Close Watch on Yourself. I particularly appreciate his emphasis on using the Word of God in this process.





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The Comfort Of Irresistible Grace: A Personal Account

544ed-tulip2bwaterThe Lord, in His mercy, blessed me with a husband who gently and patiently introduced me  to the doctrines of grace, and finally brought me to the idea  of Irresistible Grace. We’ll examine this doctrine in a little more depth tomorrow, but today I want to explain why this doctrine means so much to me. I’ll begin by giving you the back story.

But first, let me clearly state that I don’t know what may have transpired between my mother and the Lord just before she died two years ago. I begin today’s article with that admission, lest you suppose that I’m arrogantly judging whether or not she was saved. The evidence available to me indicates that she rejected Biblical Christianity up until the end, but 3000 miles separated us during the last nine years of her life. She didn’t even tell me she had been on Hospice for three months, or that her cancer had returned, until four days before her death, so she might not have told me about any conversion to Christ she may have undergone.

As a new Christian in 1971, I witnessed to Mom constantly. I continued being a typical teenager, rebelling against her authority, and I indulged my sins of anger and selfishness well into my 40s (I lived with her most of my life). So she saw, more clearly than most people, my failure to practice what I preached.

Whenever we’d talk about the Lord, she’d pretty much say that she  didn’t believe in heaven or hell and that the Bible, though inspirational and of tremendous literary importance, wasn’t God’s Word. Once, she declared that all my talk of Christ’s shed blood was rather gruesome.

At the time, I could only see that my hypocrisy kept Mom from “accepting” the Lord. I believed that God held me responsible for her salvation. Despite those convictions, I couldn’t seem to behave in a more Christlike manner, and I grew less bold in proclaiming the Gospel to her as years passed. I worried that I’d feel guilty if she died without coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If she went to hell, it would certainly be all my fault!

Yet my mom supported my Christianity, always making sure I did daily Bible reading, insisting that I give money to my church and letting us hold Tuesday night Bible Studies in her living room. Looking back, I believe she respected my faith. As imperfect as my witness was, obviously the Lord made sure that He showed Mom His presence in my life. Furthermore, in the five years before I moved to Massachusetts to marry John, He did help me model a lifestyle more consistent with a godly character. Still imperfect, mind you, but much better.

Have you noticed, in reading this blog entry,  how often I’ve emphasized my actions?  Yes, I did many things badly in my evangelistic efforts toward Mom, and I’ve confessed those sins with a repentant heart. But as God has exposed me to teachings on Irresistible Grace, He’s enabled me to understand that His effectual call would have brought her to salvation (and indeed may have done so) regardless of my sins and missteps. Although I had to confess those sins before Him, I also had to repent of believing that Mom’s salvation depended on anything I did.

In reality, He had exposed Mom to the Gospel long before she even met my dad, and He certainly made sure that she heard it several times from me and my friends. As I’ll show you tomorrow, when He calls a person to salvation, His Word gives that person the faith to respond to His call. Therefore, if He called Mom, even on her deathbed, nothing could have possibly prevented her from believing in Him. Conversely, if He didn’t call her, nothing I did could have given her saving faith.

God does command Christians to evangelize, both by declaring His Word and by living holy lives. But He makes it clear that only He does the actual saving. We can trust His sovereignty and wisdom, finding peace in knowing that He has prefect control.

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