Repentance in Action

The Return of the Prodigal Son (Le retour de l'enfant prodigue) by James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894. Kept at Brooklyn Museum.
The Return of the Prodigal Son (Le retour de l’enfant prodigue) by James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894. Kept at Brooklyn Museum.

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)

“Such is the manner in which we ought always to deal with men who are estranged from God. We must not confine our attention to one or a few sores of a diseased body but if we aim at a true and thorough cure, we must call on them to begin anew, and must thoroughly remove the contagion, that they who were formerly hateful and abominable in the sight of God may begin to please God.” – John Calvin

There are two things about repentance that we must keep in mind:

  • It is a gift.
  • It is a command.

I wrote about the first point in a previous blog. In this post, let us focus on the second point.

Isaiah 1:16-17 is a two-step call to action:

  • turn away from sin and evil, and
  • turn towards what is right and good.

Yes, repentance is practical. Always has been. Always will be. And we must do it. For the sake of our own souls (verses 19-20; see also Luke 13:1-5).

1. STOP

The Lord commands us in Isaiah 1:16 to turn away from our sinful and evil ways. We cannot do this with our own strength or ability (Romans 7:18-19). Therefore, let this difficult word lead us to Christ in humility and prayer (Luke 18:13). Let us ask Him to forgive us of our sins and to change our hearts and lives.

From "Zacchaeus" by Niels Larsen Stevns.
From “Zacchaeus” by Niels Larsen Stevns.

Then we can claim God’s promise of washing and cleansing through Jesus:

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14)

Then we can claim the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to cause and enable us to “remove the evil of [our] deeds” and “cease to do evil”:

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

But fellow believers in Christ, let us be careful to always remember these parallel truths:

a. The Holy Spirit gives us the grace and power to repent.

b. We must do the repenting. In deed. In action. Practically.

2. START

Through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, we must live in accordance with God’s goodness and righteousness (Isaiah 1:17).

Now, we cannot do this without the church. First, the Lord commands us to “learn to do good”, to be discipled in His good way for living.  This means that, above all, we must be busy learning and studying God’s word through church services, Bible studies, catechism classes, personal and family devotions, seminars, etc. Then trusting in His enabling grace alone, we can apply the Scripture’s teachings in our everyday lives.

keysSecondly, the Lord commands us to “seek justice”, to make His will (i.e. what is right) our new objective. We are to do so in two ways:

a. by “correct[ing] oppression”, and

b. by helping orphans and widows;

and in two levels:

a. corporately in the context of the local church, and

b. individually by all professing believers of Christ.

Corporately, this is a call for pastors and elders of local churches to faithfully exercise biblical discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:4, 5, 13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14; Titus 3:10), ensuring “that evil men are disciplined in a spiritual way and are restrained” (Belgic Confession, Article 30); and for deacons to fulfill their God-given duties (Acts 6:1-4), “that the poor and all the afflicted are helped and comforted according to their need” (ibid.).

Individually, as light and salt (Matthew 5:13-16), we must be faithful in championing what is just and right in society. And we must all do our best to demonstrate Christ’s love in word and in deed to the poor and needy, specially Christians (Galatians 6:10).

In conclusion, let me share with you a two-pronged application of the two-pronged “pillar” points that I shared in the introduction:

  • Repentance is a gift. Admit your sinfulness and hopelessness without God, and ask Him to change your heart and life.
  • Repentance is a command. Do it. Turn away from sin and evil, and turn towards what is right and good. Change.

Pray for Hong Kong

What started as a protest by pro-democracy students escalated into a paralyzing demonstration after riot police tried to clear the streets using tear gas, batons and pepper spray over the weekend. (Photo: Vincent Yu/AP)
CNN: What started as a protest by pro-democracy students escalated into a paralyzing demonstration after riot police tried to clear the streets using tear gas, batons and pepper spray over the weekend. (Photo: Vincent Yu/AP)

Protesters in Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution” have expressed determination to remain on the streets until Beijing agrees to their demand for free elections. With the Chinese government’s notorious reputation for “killer” suppression of pro-democracy protests, another Tiananmen Square Massacre is feared.

Demonstrators' use of umbrellas to protect themselves from choking tear gas and stinging pepper spray has caused the demonstration to be dubbed the "umbrella revolution." Hong Kong authorities say that more than 40 people have been injured. (Photos: Vincent Yu/AP and Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
CNN: Demonstrators’ use of umbrellas to protect themselves from choking tear gas and stinging pepper spray has caused the demonstration to be dubbed the “umbrella revolution.” Hong Kong authorities say that more than 40 people have been injured. (Photos: Vincent Yu/AP and Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

Newsweek’s Bill Powell reports,

“The Federation of students vowed ‘not to give up,’ and they have been in the vanguard of the current protests. But the likelihood of achieving what they desire seems bleak. The NPC [National People's Congress of mainland China] statement made it clear that Beijing at the highest levels is in no mood to compromise.”

From the University of Southern California’s U.S.-China Institute, Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow, who covered Tiananmen in 1989, tweeted,

“I see no way the Chinese government can tolerate what is happening in HK. Greatly fear this will end badly.”

Hongkong protests 2014 e
Philippine Daily Inquirer: A pro-democracy demonstrator gestures in front of a police line near the Hong Kong government headquarters. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill on Sunday in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days. AFP

Regarding the uncertainties of the present situation, Roderic White, an associate fellow at London-based Chatham House, comments,

“Everybody is in completely unknown territory. … How these things end, we just don’t know. A lot will depend on the attitude of the authorities, and whether at some time there will be room for somebody to talk to somebody.”

Pray for the people of Hong Kong. Ask the Lord to intervene on behalf of His children there and for the sake of the work of the gospel both in Hong Kong and in mainland China.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4, NIV)

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. He directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1, NLT).

First Catechism Class for Children and Youth

1

IMG_2233Finally, our church has weekly catechism classes for children and youth. This morning’s session was the orientation. Next week, Question and Answer # 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism will be taught in a joint session followed by discussions in 2 small groups – one for grade schoolers and another for high schoolers. In the afternoon, catechism classes will be conducted for college students and young professionals.

IMG_2265Thank you, Balulang Christian Alliance Fellowship, for providing the venue.

Please continue to pray for the work of the gospel at Kagay-an Reformed Church.

View more pictures here.

RCP webPraise the Lord!

Imperfect, Perfect, Perfecting, To be Perfected

2014-09-26 Imperfect, Perfect, Perfecting, To be Perfected

I am glad to learn that my blog post on Isaiah 1:10-15 titled God Hates Hypocrisy (read here) created quite a stir among our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Rhyse Furio posted,

I agree, Pastor Glem. It is so difficult to make our worship pure. In fact, a sister of mine said during a meeting, “We’re fooling ourselves if we say we’re not sinful. In fact, at this very moment, I’m sinning [in thoughts and emotions].” Truly, if not for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to cover our imperfect worship, it would never be accepted. Could our worship ever become completely hypocrisy-free this side of heaven?

“No”, I replied. “Our worship will never become completely hypocrisy-free this side of heaven.” But that doesn’t mean that we are hopeless.

'The Penitent Apostle Peter' by Anthony van Dyck, 1618
‘The Penitent Apostle Peter’ by Anthony van Dyck, 1618

We must think about our moral failings (in this case, worship that can never become hypocrisy-free this side of heaven) in terms of the order of salvation. For this discussion, let us focus on four:

1. Regeneration

By the grace of the Holy Spirit we have been born-again. Unlike non-believers, we now have a new Christlike nature (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26) that desires to worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). But like non-believers, our sinful nature remains, therefore our worship can never become hypocrisy-free this side of heaven (Romans 7:15; Galatians 5:17). As regenerated believers, we never claim perfection. As expressed in the Belgic Confession, “Although great weakness remains in them [us], they [we] fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their [our] life” (Article 29).

2. Justification

By faith, our sins have been forgiven (Isaiah 53:5-6; Colossians 2:13-14) and Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed/credited to our record in God’s heavenly court (1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). Therefore, even if our worship is never hypocrisy-free this side of heaven, sins of the heart, mind and eyes that we committed during worship are covered by Christ’s blood, and God accepts our worship as though it is perfect and pure, even if it is not. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, “Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart” (Lord’s Day 23, Question and Answer 60). This is the heart and core of the gospel.

Rembrandt, 'Jacob Wrestling with the Angel', circa 1659
Rembrandt, ‘Jacob Wrestling with the Angel’, circa 1659

3. Sanctification

The Holy Spirit causes and enables believers to grow in Christlikeness (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ezekiel 36:27). More and more, we are being set free from sin and hypocrisy. More and more, our worship is becoming Christlike in purity and sincerity. Because our sinful nature remains, we will never be perfect and our worship will never be hypocrisy-free this side of heaven. But because of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we are constantly and consistently growing in Christlikeness in all areas, which most especially includes worship.

4. Glorification

On the second coming we will be made perfect like the Lord Jesus (Philippians 3:20-21). Then, we will never sin again and our worship will be perfectly hypocrisy-free and Christlike.

In short, we, believers in Christ, are (a) imperfect though regenerated, (b) perfect in justification, (c) perfecting through sanctification, and (4) to be perfected on the day of glorification, the second coming of our perfect King and complete Savior.

Personal Application

Therefore, we must regularly do the following:

  1. Confess the heart, mind and eye sins that we commit during worship and ask the Lord for forgiveness.
  2. Believe and thank Him that (a) Christ paid for all our sins (including heart, mind and eye sins that we commit during worship) on the cross and that (b) through faith in Him we have forgiveness of sins.
  3. Ask the Lord to continue to sanctify us and make our worship more and more Christlike and hypocrisy-free through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s easy to remember because the acronym is ABC inverted. C-onfess, B-elieve and A-sk.

Science and Christianity Seminar in Cagayan de Oro

???????????????????????????????Here are some pictures of the Science and Christianity Seminar that we conducted in Cagayan de Oro (CDO), Mindanao, Philippines, on August 20-22, 2014.

3The seminar is part of the Theological Training Program (TTP) of Open Eyes Mission, our church planting ministry, in partnership with Kagay-an Reformed Church (KRC).

The TTP aims to raise up and equip future pastors and office-bearers of KRC and its mission congregations in CDO and Antique, towards the formation of our dream federation, the Reformed Churches in the Philippines (Dortian Federation).

IMG_1198Dr. John Byl, our guest teacher, is “a creation scientist with specializations and interests in Galactic Astronomy, Theoretical Physics, Applied Math, Science & Technology, and Christian Worldview” (see creationwiki.org/John_Byl). He is also an elder at Willoughby Heights Canadian Reformed Church (whcanrc.com).

RCP webMorning Devotions were served by yours truly.

The venue was at Balulang Christian Alliance Fellowship.

Pray for 130,000 new Kurdish refugees in Turkey

Turkey refugees 1f9850a8519f6325600f6a7067004026 - Copy

IS _77494621_areas_under_is_control_624_untitledThe United States and its Allies carried out air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, but not in Syria. There the self-proclaimed caliphate stormed through Kurdish villages, sending waves of at least 130,000 refugees into Turkey over the past two days. Carol Batchelor, the Turkey representative for the United Nations’ refugee agency, said in an interview with Reuters,

“I don’t think in the last three and a half years we have seen 100,000 cross in two days. So this is a bit of a measure of how this situation is unfolding and the very deep fear people have about the circumstances inside Syria and, for that matter, Iraq.”

Syria war 1Regarding the severity of the situation, Numan Kurtulmus, Turkey’s deputy prime minister laments,

“This is not a natural disaster… What we are faced with is a man-made disaster. An uncontrollable force at the other side of the border is attacking civilians. The extent of the disaster is worse than a natural disaster.”

Regarding the refugee situation in Turkey, BBC reports,

Before the latest influx, there were already more than one million Syrian refugees in Turkey. They have fled since the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad three years ago. Some of the new arrivals are being sheltered in overcrowded schools, as Turkey struggles to cope with the influx.

Turkey refugees 1

At Open Eyes Mission, we continue to monitor the war in Syria and Iraq, and the refugee crisis in Lebanon, Turkey and neighboring countries, praying and seeking the Lord for direction and guidance as we consult with partner agencies and firm-up our plans for both short-term and long-term outreach.

  • Pray for the 130,000 new Kurdish refugees in Turkey.
  • Pray for me and our team as we plan and pursue the expansion of our mission’s reach for the sake of our suffering fellowmen in the Middle East.

Repentance

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1662–1669 (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg)
Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1662–1669 (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg)

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 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 like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:16-18)

“[T]he Lord calls his people to the bar of his justice where of course, they can only be found guilty. But it is there that they hear words of free pardon based on the substitutionary death of a divinely appointed sacrifice.” – Alec Motyer

In the covenant, God demands from us (His children) true faith and it’s fruit of covenant-keeping righteousness. He calls us to turn away from our sinful and evil ways (verse 16). He commands us to live in accordance with His goodness and righteousness. (v. 17)

However, the human heart can never produce genuine repentance. Our “sins are like scarlet” and “red like crimson”; without God’s grace and saving intervention, they can never be “white as snow” or “become like wool” (18). Without the Holy Spirit’s repentance-producing work in our hearts, we are forever doomed.

"The Pharisee and the Publican" by James Tissot, 1894
“The Pharisee and the Publican” by James Tissot, 1894

Yes, in His word we can say that God commands what we can never do without His saving intervention. Indeed, the Bible teaches that “no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20).

But the good news is that God did intervene 2,000 years ago in order to save us.

  1. ATONEMENT – On the cross, the Lord Jesus paid for all our sins. (Romans 3:25)
  2. REGENERATION AND CONVERSION – In answer to our risen Savior’s prayer, God sent the Holy Spirit to give the grace of the new birth, faith and repentance to His people. (Ezekiel 36:26)
  3. JUSTIFICATION – By faith, our sins are forgiven and Christ’s perfect righteousness is counted as ours. (Romans 3:21; 4:5-8)
  4. SANCTIFICATION – The Holy Spirit causes and enables us to grow in Christlike righteousness. (Ezekiel 36:26)
  5. GLORIFICATION – On the second coming, we will be made perfectly righteous like the Lord Jesus. (Philippians 3:20-21)

Yes, in Christ we have been washed and made “clean.” “The evil of [our] deeds” have been removed “from before [God's] eyes” (Isaiah 1:16). By His Holy Spirit whom He has given us, we have been set free from our slavery to sin and “evil.” By His enabling power, we are learning more and more “to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (verse 17).

Yes, because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection… “though [our] sins are like scarlet, they [have become] as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they [have] become like wool” (v. 18).

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Praise the Lord!

Christian. Husband. Dad. Pastor.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers