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10 - X. Repentance and Faith

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31 Aug, 2008 AM

Tree of Life Wesleyan Church

Billings MT.

X. Repentance and Faith

Luke 13:2-3; 2 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 2:8; John 3:16-17; Romans 10:8-10

               

At nineteen, Al Johnson had joined two other men in robbing a Kansas bank. The case was closed by police after two other convicts were killed in an auto crash and mistakenly identified by bank officials as the robbers. Al felt sure he would never be caught.

He married a Christian girl and pretended to be a Christian before her. She knew nothing of his past crime. Then someone sent him a tract in the mail, titled “God’s Plan of Salvation.” Reading it, he noticed that one of the Bible verses said, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  The realization struck that salvation was for him. He could be forgiven and his conscience set free. He knelt in prayer and accepted Christ.   His life changed. He stopped a lifelong habit of lying. And after much thought and prayer he confessed his crime. His confession made television newscasts and newspaper headlines even in Canada.  Under a Kansas statute of limitations, he was set free, although he chose to repay his share of the stolen funds to the bank. Today, Al Johnson is the manager of a service station, the father of three admiring children, and an outstanding Christian layman.

A Sunday school teacher once asked a class what was meant by the word “repentance.” A little boy put up his hand and said, “It is being sorry for your sins.” A little girl also raised her hand and said, “Please, it is being sorry enough to quit.”

                A few weeks ago we talked about “personal choice”.  Our being able to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and being able to accept what He has done for us.  And what He has done for us is called “atonement” and we talked about that last week.  Atonement means that Jesus paid the price to set us free, that He made the apology to God for the sins we have done.  But for this atonement to mean something in our lives we must make a personal choice – we must repent and to repent we must have faith -- they go hand in hand.  Repentance and Faith make up article ten of our articles of religion and it states:

                We believe that for men and women to appropriate (or make correct) what God’s prevenient grace has made possible, they must voluntarily respond in repentance and faith.  The ability comes from God, but the act is the individual’s.

                Repentance is prompted by the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It involves a willful change of mind that renounces sin and longs for righteousness, a godly sorrow for and a confession of past sins, proper restitution for wrongdoings, and a resolution to reform the life.  Repentance is the precondition for saving faith, and without it saving faith is impossible.  Faith, in turn, is the only condition of salvation.  It begins in the agreement of the mind and the consent of the will to the truth of the gospel, but issues in a complete reliance by the whole person in the saving ability of Jesus Christ and a complete trusting of oneself to Him as Savior and Lord.  Saving faith is expressed in a public acknowledgment of His Lordship and an identification with His church. (Discipline)

                Let’s break this down into bite size pieces.  “We believe that for men and women to appropriate (or make correct) what God’s prevenient grace has made possible, they must voluntarily respond in repentance and faith.”  Some of you are reflecting back to atonement and saying, but I thought what Jesus did paid for everything – there is nothing left to do – think of it like this – Lets say I had a one dollar bill for every one of you and I placed them right here on the alter – I provided them, and I tell you they’re free – but there is something you have to do – you have to come up here and pick them up.  The choice is still up to you, some may take me up on that offer, others might think, well, I just want to get out of here – I’ll pick mine up later, or they might even think, it’s not worth going up front to just get a dollar.  The same is true for atonement.  Jesus is providing us something – a wonderful gift, but you do have to do something to receive it – you must respond in repentance and faith.  That’s what Jesus is talking about in the book of Luke the 13th chapter starting with the first verse it says: About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God,(in other words, repent) you, too, will die. (Lk 13:1-3, The Message)

                Even Jesus says that we must repent or ask forgiveness of our sins – this ability comes from God, but the act is the individual’s.  The ability comes from God, remember that personal choice we talked about, but the act of doing the repenting is up to each person – I can not do it for you, a priest can not do it for you – Jesus said, unless YOU repent – he said nothing about going to the priests and asking forgiveness – we, as individuals, on a personal level must repent.

                “Repentance is prompted by the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.”  Paul tells us in the book of 2 Thessalonians, the 2nd chapter, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth”.  Did you catch that?  God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit works on us, convicting us of our bad ways, and it even reminds us that we are all sinful because of original sin.  This repentance that the Holy Spirit brings about, according to article 10, “involves a willful change of mind that renounces sin and longs for righteousness, a godly sorrow for and a confession of past sins,” Lets stop there for a second.  It involves a willful change of mind.  That means that we must want to change, it means that we want to renounce sin –we understand that what we are doing is wrong and that we long for righteousness – we want to do good.  We should have a godly sorrow for and a confession of past sins -- not to me, but to God.  This is between you and Him.  It goes on to say, it involves “proper restitution for wrongdoings, and a resolution to reform the life.”  The Holy Spirit may even prompt you to go back and make amends for things you had done in the past – maybe go back and pay for something you stole as a child, or go and apologize to someone for something that had been said – these are not to be ignored, they are to be acted on, for the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do it.  The Holy Spirit also gives you the resolve the determination, the strength to reform your life from what it used to be, to what God intended it to be.

                Repentance is the precondition for saving faith, and without it saving faith is impossible.  What are we saying here?  Well, we can not have faith until we repent – how can we say we believe in Jesus Christ and the atonement without having repented?  We must ask to be forgiven of our sins, we must listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction on our hearts and we must want to change – it’s only after this repentance that we can truly find saving faith.  And “Faith, in turn, is the only condition of salvation.” 

                Faith.  Faith is a huge part of the Christian religion.  A African-American church congregation in the south had met to pray for rain to release a long dry spell. The preacher looked severely at his flock and said:  “Brothers and Sisters, you all know why we are here. Now what I want to know is—where are your umbrellas?”  It has been said, Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will!  Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith, is to see what we believe.

                Eph. 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” According to article 10, Faith “begins in the agreement of the mind and the consent of the will to the truth of the gospel, but issues in a complete reliance by the whole person in the saving ability of Jesus Christ and a complete trusting of oneself to Him as Savior and Lord.”  Faith is the trusting of the gospel and the saving ability of Jesus and it involves us giving ourselves to Him as Lord and Savior.  Faith is fully understanding John 3:16 and 17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” 

                God did not send Jesus to judge and condemn us first, He sent Him to save us.  We must have faith in that truth and believe in Jesus – that He made atonement for all of us.  We must give ourselves over to Him completely.  That means that we have to give up all those things that we have lived with all our lives and give them over to Jesus.  Even if we’ve been raised in a good Christian home and have never sinned, we still have original sin that we must confess and believe that Jesus gave His life for us.

                This “Saving faith is expressed in a public acknowledgment of His Lordship and identification with His church.”  You see, it’s more than just saying in your heart that Jesus is Lord, its proclaiming it to people.  Paul tells us in Romans chapter 10, “But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:  That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:8-10)

                It’s important for us to do this.  Why is it important for us to tell others that we are saved?  Because other Christians are blessed by seeing someone accept and make a public confession of faith, it also shows people that you are making a commitment to join a family, the family of God or as we also know it, the church.  When we talk about church here we are not talking about a building, we are talking about the true church – all the believers, those that proclaim there is only one God, one Son and one Holy Spirit – that Jesus came from heaven and was born of a virgin – that He lived among man, that He died and that He rose again and now sits at the right hand of God waiting the day that God says, Son go get my children.  Those that have repented of their sins, have found saving faith and are telling that they want to be identified with other believers – are the church.

                Repentance and faith – are huge, but necessary steps in becoming a child of the King and heir to the kingdom of God.

21 July, 2002 AM

Miles City Wesleyan Church

Miles City Mt

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