I am pondering here upon the experience of being a unbeliever and wondering how they can go on in life. When I say unbeliever I am referring to those who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour; those who have not repented of their sins and believed in Jesus as their Saviour.
Now life can be tough for the believer; sometimes very tough. We read of Paul and Barnabas how they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said. (Acts 14:21b-22). Many hardships can be experienced by those believing in the Lord. However, always there is hope. There is hope of eternal blessings secured by our Lord and Saviour which we will fully enter into by-and-by. Moreover, there is knowledge that our sovereign kind Lord is watching over us to work out all things for His glory.
However, for the unbeliever there is none of this. They are ultimately cast out on the sea of life, with all its uncertainty, without any sure and certain hope concerning the future. They do not have faith and thereby they do not have God and that means no hope. Amidst all the camouflaging of eternal issues and the pursuit of the pleasures of this life, there still remains the great uncertainty of death and beyond.
Moreover, they have no anchor for the soul in the turbulence of life. There are no everlasting arms underneath them promising to strengthen them and comfort them.
Oh what a fearful position it is to be unsaved. Is that you? You may have plenty of religion, but if you do not have Christ then all is not well. So come and find Christ as Saviour and enter into the joyous privileges of being a Christian.
This post from last week leads me to think about how leaders should demonstrate their leadership in repentance. This is essentially counter-intuitive because the thinking of the world is that you have to prove yourself to be strong and in control if you are a leader. However the godly leader is not of that ilk.
The model of our leadership is a Saviour who was humble and lowly of heart. Now our Saviour never had to repent of any sin. However for us who are weak in our beings and prone to wander from the ways of God there should be the readiness to repent.
This so important because it is how we display the gospel into our family and into our church. Parents and church leaders who are not repenters set a bad example to those under their care. The gospel we affirm, after all, is a message which has its fulcrum in repentance. Gospel grace swings into our lives when there is repentance. Forgiveness is experienced when there is repentance.
So parents and church leaders make sure that you are a leader in repentance. Children and church members who see their leaders ever proving their strength and refusing to face up to their sins are hindered from seeing the gospel clearly displayed before them.
What happens when you are challenged about an attitude you have or something you have said or done? How do you react?
The people of the world respond by looking to self-justify. Their default position is to justify their actions and assert the rectitude of what they have done. Upon realisation of their rightness they smugly move on having proven themselves once again.
The people of God respond by looking to repent. They seek to examine the situation to see whether they have doing anything wrong. Having seen what is wrong they repent with brokenness of spirit. Whereupon they seek God for help to not sin again in the future.
Of course this is reflective of the world view of each. The people of this world have never seen the full measure of sin to which they are prone and vulnerable. They do not see the gravity of doing that which offends the Lord. Whilst the people of God are only too aware of their weakness and their tendency to fail the Lord and others.
We must note that we are speaking of generalisms here and the basic tendencies found in the godly and the worldly camps. There will be times when the people of this world realise they have done wrong and will apologise. And there are times when the people of God conclude that they have done right and will explain such.
These observations do not take away from my basic premise through of how the world and the church generally operate.
This is demonstrated in scripture when our Lord speaks of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17. Through the process of personal encounter, small group encounter and then church encounter the sinning man clearly sees what he has done wrong. However the ongoing (and concluding) action by the man is to refuse to repent. So we read If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matt. 18:17). This man is to be treated like the world because he has acted like the world. When a case of outright sin is brought before him he self-justifies rather than repents.
So – hey, what about you and me? What is our default position when we are challenged?
It is a grievous aspect of church life when the occurrence of sin in the church leads to someone being excluded from the fellowship. To have undertaken this and dealt with the matter can be seen as the necessary completion of church discipline. However, church discipline that is just left in such a situation is always a failure. Church discipline is only really fully successful when there has been the necessary repentance and restoration. Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 is working through, with the Corinthians, the need to restore a repentant offender who had been disciplined for his sinful actions. This man is most likely the man who has had an affair with his stepmother in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.
The Corinthians seem to have taken the matter too far and were reluctant to restore such a man. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow (2 Cor. 2:7) is Paul’s word to them. If they do not do this then there would be a danger of Satan making inroads in the church and the repentant man’s life. Paul says they must receive the broken man back in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Cor 2;11).
Church discipline is always very sad; we should never be satisfied until there is full restoration. When people are out of fellowship through unrepented of sin then there should be grief about such a situation.
Life is full of mistakes.
Some of the mistakes we make are because of willful stiff-neckedness. Whereas others happen because we are badly advised, caught up in unfortunate circumstance or simply through our frailty in understanding matters. Whatever the cause mistakes still happen, and will happen, in our lives.
In considering how we respond to mistakes in our lives we need to be aware that mistakes are not good. If we greet our mistakes with indifference then we are set for lives which accomplish little, are of little honour to God and of little help to others.
We need to commit ourselves therefore to responding well to our mistakes. Here are some thoughts.
- The source of many of our mistakes is sin. It is that selfish willfulness to reject God’s way and choose our way. In a sense these are not mistakes they are sins. Such sins need to be confessed. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Moreover, true repentance means we “never want to go there again”. We forsake those sins.
- When we fall into mistakes, through our own ignorance or weakness, the main response should be to learn. We are fools if we do not learn from our mistakes. If we fail to learn we are likely to repeat those mistakes. And if we continue to repeat our lives will be a total disaster.
- Some times the learning will mean training. This may be low-key training such as just speaking with somebody to gain insight into what went wrong. Or it may be more formal such gaining a new skill seek to avoid repeating the mistake.
So we want to eradicate mistakes from our lives as much as possible. But in this world with all its fallen-ness, with our own fallen-ness and weakness mixed in, mistakes are inevitable. The key to life, in the end, is not endlessly strategising to avoid mistakes, but rather learning from our mistakes.
As a footnote I would be suspicious of someone who makes no mistakes. Such people are very likely not fully living. This is because true living involves pushing on and pushing out. That means risk and where there is risk there is a likelihood of mistakes being made.
Here is our church newsletter for May 2018. It has an article about repentance and the Lord’s Supper.
Here is our church newsletter for April 2018. It contains an article about how to repent well. We live in a society and in churches whee we repent badly, I feel. So I encourage you to have a read.