The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 NLT
What does repent mean? The American Sign Language sign for change is making the “c” sign and twisting your hands signaling a change. The sign for repentance is the same motion, but with the “R” sign. So when a deaf person (or hearing for that matter) sees the word “repentance,” they see “change.”
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. Genesis 6:6-7 KJV
Jesus recognized Zachaeus’ salvation when he saw him change, and make things right with those he had cheated.
Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; Luke 19:8-9 NKJV
Judah gave my favorite demonstration of repentance. In Genesis 44:18-34 He basically tells Joseph, I have broken my father’s heart before, and I will die as a slave in a foreign land before I ever break his heart again.
I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that I think says it best.
“Repentance is not when you cry. It is when you change.”
We can’t change ourselves.
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah 13:23
God can change us!
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
A while back I was convicted that I was drinking too many sodas. I prayed about it. I started drinking a lot more water, and then one day decided to “splurge” and have a Pepsi. That was a waste of $1.06, because after two sips it tasted so sickening sweet, I dumped the rest out and refilled the cup with water. God changed and converted my taste buds when I was totally powerless.
The repentant thief on the cross never actually said he was sorry (at least there is no record of it). He repented by changing his attitude and behavior towards Jesus.
He called Him Lord and professed his faith in Jesus and the resurrection, while everyone else was still mocking Him.
Jesus saw repentance in the thief when He saw a change in attitude and action. I hope He sees a change in us today.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
One Sabbath afternoon I received a phone call from the mother of a child I had corrected earlier at church. The girl had smarted off to me when I told her to stay out of a room that was off-limits. The mother told me, “My daughter wants to tell you she is sorry, but before she gets on the phone, I wanted to ask you, when she says she is sorry, don’t tell her it is okay. Just tell her she is forgiven.”
When I share the gospel presentation, I always share this passage from the Desire of Ages. It is so clear and simple, and to me, sums up the whole plan of salvation.
“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 25
Now I would like to take this passage to the next level – beyond the plan of my personal salvation. I understand that Jesus took the punishment for my sins so that I can now be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Now I need to understand, that the sins my enemy committed have not been swept under the rug. Jesus was also treated the way my enemy deserves to be treated, so that I may now treat my enemy the way Jesus deserves to be treated.
Jesus did not only suffer for my sins, He suffered also for sins committed against me. Why do I need to take it out on my enemy when it has already been taken out on Jesus?
They made fun of me and humiliated me!
Jesus was mocked and humiliated on the cross in their place.
They killed my son! They deserve to die!
Jesus died because they killed your son.
They sexually abused me! They deserve to be sexually abused!
Jesus hung naked on a cross in front of the whole universe, including His own angels!
Earlier this year I was reading through the Old Testament, and when I came to Isaiah 53 something jumped out at me, when I read:
“With his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
Suddenly I realized something I had never seen before. I realized that retaliation against my enemy will never bring me healing. I am healed by the stripes of Jesus, and not the stripes of my enemy. Jesus suffering for my sins can only bring partial healing and partial reconciliation. I am made whole, and totally reconciled, not just to Jesus but to my brothers, when I realize Jesus suffered for their sins too.
In the story in Matthew 18:21-35 a man is forgiven who did not ask to be forgiven. He only asked for more time to pay the debt. However the master forgave the debt anyway. This is important for us to note, because the master represents God who forgave us without us even asking. In the Lord’s prayer we find we are to forgive as we have been forgiven, meaning that we are to forgive in the same manner. God expects us to forgive without being asked to forgive, just as the man was forgiven while only asking for more time to pay the debt.
After the man was forgiven, he goes out and sees a brother who owes him a much smaller debt. Even after being forgiven he refuses to forgive. In the parable the unforgiving man ends up in prison until his full debt is paid.
Wait a minute! Wasn’t his debt forgiven? Separated as far as the east is from the west and into the depths of the sea? How did it come back? I believe it’s this way: When I refuse to forgive my brother, what I am saying is, “I don’t think Jesus’ death on the cross was enough to pay for what was done to me.” Well guess what? If Jesus’ death is not enough to pay for my enemy’s sin, then it is not enough to pay for my sin either! By not allowing Jesus to pay for my enemy’s sin on the cross, I have just disqualified the cross as a payment for sin and therefore I must still pay for my sins – and the only way I can do that is to die an eternal death.
Forgiveness and reconciliation is not saying “It’s okay.” It is saying, “I realize Jesus suffered for your sins on the cross.” It is realizing I am healed by the stripes Jesus received and not by the stripes my enemy receives. We have to be pretty sick ourselves to think that in order for us to be healed, someone else has to be hurt. Jesus does not have to hurt my enemy in order to heal me.
“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves.” Christ was also treated as my enemy deserves, that I may now treat my enemy the way Christ deserves to be treated.
With His stripes we are all healed.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Just a few years ago, I was meeting a friend from church at the bank to handle some church business. I parked my car in what I thought was a secluded area of the parking lot away from the other cars. My friend followed behind in her car, and for reasons I still do not know, sideswiped the back of my car as she parked next to my car! All she did was scrape some of the paint, but I was upset by the senseless destruction. There was no reason! She could have parked anywhere else where she would have had plenty of room, but no! She had to park right next to my car, and then hit it. She said she was sorry and would pay for it. But as I kept playing the scenario over in my mind it just upset me that what happened to my poor car was so needless and senseless. It never should have happened.
Later that night I called my lifelong friend back home so I could vent. (After all I wasn’t going to gossip about it to my church family or anyone who knew her.) I told my friend back home all the tragic details but assured her my friend would pay for it. After listening, my friend replied, “William do you remember when I bought my brand new red Pontiac Fiero not long after we graduated from high school?” I replied, “Oh no! I remember now! Don’t remind me.” My friend still continued, “Remember at church while it was still new, you parked next to me and side scraped it as you left church ? Do you remember how you offered to pay to fix it, but I knew you didn’t have the money so I just forgave you?”
Immediately I realized out of all my friends on earth God directed me to call this particular friend,-the only friend whose car I have ever damaged the exact same way it just happened to me! A friend since early childhood who freely forgave me and never held a grudge. As a matter of fact in the 35 years since I side swiped her car in the church parking lot, she never mentioned it once. That is until I told her that I was having trouble forgiving someone who did the exact same thing to me. Then she had to remind me that I had been forgiven so I must forgive also. It was like the forgiving master telling his unforgiving servant,
Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Matthew 18:33 NLT
I found it was a lot easier to forgive someone once I realized I had to be forgiven for the exact same thing. It was good that my friend forgave me and forgot about it, but when my other friend accidentally did the same thing to my car I should have remembered on my own, how freely I had been forgiven, and then freely forgave my friend.
For example, Jonah was upset with God for being merciful on such a wicked city, forgetting that the same mercy that spared Nineveh was the same mercy that provided the fish to save him. Jonah should have rejoiced that the same mercy that saved him also saved a wicked city. Maybe Jonah forgot about the mercy that had been shown him.
When we remember all the things we have been forgiven it makes it so much easier to forgive others.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NKJV
In John 8:1-11 Some men with terrible motives and intentions seduced a woman and dragged her to Jesus to see if He would condemn her or even allow her to be stoned to death. As evil as their intentions were what they inadvertently did was they brought a woman to the feet of Jesus where she found salvation. As terrible as it was, and believe me it was not Jesus’ idea for them to do her that way, but in the end Jesus turned things around to work out in her favor and to God’s glory.
Terrible things happened to Jesus. Satan worked through evil men to make the Son of God a degraded spectacle on the cross. yet through it all Jesus became the Savior of the world. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that the one who was so despised, rejected and degraded is Lord. In the process a multitude that no one can number will be saved.
What a wonderful promise that nothing can touch us but what infinite love permits, and all these things work together for our good if we love God. Without ever reading Romans 8;28 or this passage from Mount of Blessing I just shared, Joseph realized that all the bad breaks he endured worked out to develop his character so he could save lives. Instead of being bitter and resentful Joseph saw even the bad breaks and evil intentions of others were working to his advantage. Not only did Joseph forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery but instead of blaming them he said it was actually God who did it- and He did it for the good of others.
But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. Genesis 45:5 NKJV
Not only did Joseph not blame his dysfunctional family for all the bad breaks in his life, but he refused to acknowledge them as bad breaks. Instead he realized through all of the evil intentions of his dysfunctional family and even Potipher’s wife’s terrible accusations God was working to refine his character in order to get him exactly where he needed to be in order to save many lives.
When bad breaks come our way instead of blaming others for our situation lets trust God the same way Jesus and Joseph did. Let’s share in their hope and encouragement. Surely God is working out something wonderful in our lives.
Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter.-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 679.
Instead of being resentful and bitter over supposedly bad breaks lets bask in the love of God! God’s great love is working through our tribulations and persecutions making us more than conquerors.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 NKJVYou may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.