Tag Archives: repentance

Wacky Zaccy!

Nearly 2,000 years ago, a short guy got up into a tree to see and hear Jesus teach and then did something remarkable after being called out. Here’s what Luke reports about that guy and time (Luke 19:1-8):

He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

Luke tells us that Zacchaeus was a Chief Tax Collector. Is that important to the story? Yep! He was a Jewish man who collected taxes from his people for the Roman government. Think of it as the ancient IRS! So, you can imagine that Zacchaeus wasn’t very popular with the townspeople! Strike one! Here’s the rub: tax collectors could collect as much as they wanted as long as the Romans received a certain amount. Collectors were to keep a small portion for their trouble. Anyway, the problem was that many kept more than was reasonable. Strike two!

Why did Zaccy’s homies think he was a sinner? It’s because he likely stole from them by keeping more than he should’ve. He all but admits to the defrauding in the final verse above. But what appears to be a story about a short guy and a tree is a beautiful lesson in true repentance—a change of behavior that came about because of a new heart. Zacchaeus could’ve, like many of us, just said something like, “Well, I’m sorry!” But he didn’t stop there, volunteering to give back more than he stole.

As a result, Zaccy is likely someone who stands tall in God’s Kingdom. How can we do the same? To start, we must turn “I’m sorry” into something useful by changing our behavior and making things right, as Zacchaeus did. Then, we learn about God’s ways and do them consistently! What about next week? Well, I think we’ll test our priorities in What’s in Your Wallet?

God’s blessings and peace to you,

Dr. Ron Braley

New Beginnings

We think about a New Year in human terms and for new human beginnings. But, there is an ultimate and true start that brings new beginnings for Jesus’ followers – and will bring an end to all else (Revelation 22:11-13).

Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy. Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. —Revelation 22:11-13.
Examples of human New Year celebrations:
• American/European: January 1st
• Chinese (Also known as the Spring Festival): 23rd day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar
• Jewish: Religious – Pesach (Passover): The 1st Jewish month; Agricultural – Rosh Hashanah: 7th month on the Jewish calendar

Human New Year resolutions: We usually make them to bring hope of a new human beginning (perhaps that the next year will be better than the last). We also make them as ‘do overs’ – we want to change what we don’t like.

But, let’s look at a new human and spiritual beginning in Jesus. Why would we care? To move toward God and life, and away from judgment and spiritual wrath. Here’s how:
• Believe and Repent (our focus) (Mark 1:15)
• Be baptized as an outward, physical manifestation of new faith (Mark 16:16)
• Grow in faith, live right, and tell others the good news (i.e. Matthew 19-20)

Interestingly, both human and spiritual new beginnings require repentance.
• Defined: A change in heart that results in a change in behavior
• Enables forgiveness, and salvation (Luke 24:47 and Acts 11:15-18)
• It’s what God desires of everyone (2Peter 3:9-10) and often disciplines us for (Revelation 3:19)
• A beginning that leads to good habits and better health (relationship, emotional, physical, and spiritual)
• We don’t practice sin once we repent (Galatians 5:20-23, John 8:3-12, and 1John 3:2-10
• Not repenting will lead to judgment and wrath (Romans 2:5-10)

Repent, experience a new beginning, and don’t look back! The results will be spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally rewarding.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from http://www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

The “A-B-C’s” of God’s Law and Covenant

What is the Old Testament ‘Law’ (note the capital L) and what does it have to do with today’s New Testament Christian? To answer these questions, we must first understand where the Law came from.

Long ago, God formed a covenant with mankind through the nation of Israel with Abraham, reaffirmed through Moses. There was no formal Law before God revealed it to Moses in about 1445 BCE. The covenant God formed with Israel was to be as close and as binding as a marriage contract and the resulting relationship. This is why He called Israel His ‘wife’ and the Church is called the ‘bride of Christ’. The Law given to God’s bride through Moses and the prophets would serve to guide her in this relationship with God. It would also become an unachievable standard by which we realize our sinful and imperfect nature (i.e. Romans 5:20 and 7:7; Galatians 3:24).

Today, no one can truly be called ‘Christian’ unless they’ve entered into a similar covenant with God through our Christ. That marriage-like agreement and its “I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine” promise begins with a change of heart and corresponding behavior that moves our direction and actions toward God and His ways (repentance). We give ourselves to God and then reaffirm our commitment to Him and our Christ – the Savior of mankind as foretold by God through the prophets – whenever we drink from the Communion cup.

But . . . salvation from God’s wrath to come and eternal life with Him through a following of our Christ doesn’t nullify the Law as some suggest (see Paul’s response in Romans 3:31). Jesus fulfilled the Law by His coming, death, resurrection (i.e. Matthew 5:17-18), but it still serves a purpose and the words contained within it and the Torah (Old Testament) that houses it are very valid, even today. We may no longer be under the religious requirements of the Law (i.e. any of hundreds of rules from tithing to sacrifices), but that ancient guide can tell us a lot about how we’re to walk with God and treat our fellow man.

Want to know the mind of God – what He likes and what He hates? Interested in knowing where you came from, spiritually-speaking? Then study the Old Testament and the Law – the Scriptures referenced by the Apostle Paul (2Timothy 3:14-17)!

The old covenant between God and His bride, Israel, brought us the Law. God’s new covenant with the world through our Christ fulfilled the ancient Law and provides the Spirit to all who truly believe and follow. The perfect law is now written on the hearts/minds of followers through the Spirit (i.e. Romans 2:13-15; prophecy of Jeremiah in Chapter 31, etc.). And, we still have the ancient Law as it existed to instruct, guide, and provide a sanity check in our daily activities (i.e. Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:8).

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

The “A-B-C’s” of Repentance and Forgiveness

True repentance, which is a ‘change in behavior brought about by a change of heart’, is absolutely necessary for forgiveness. And, forgiveness is indeed necessary for salvation from God’s judgment to come. Therefore, as the Bible points out so well, repentance is necessary for salvation.

Is repentance a saying, “I’m sorry”? No (see 2Corinthians 7:9-10)! This is why we tend to repeat sinful behavior. Yes, we must be sorrowful as a natural component of the ‘change of heart’ necessary for repentance. But, we don’t truly repent unless we’ve taken action to remove whatever is causing us to stumble (Jesus discussed this in Matthew 5:29-30).

To reiterate, doing something that’s sinful can be remediated (and forgiven) through repentance – acknowledging that what we’ve done (or intend to do) is opposite of God’s ways and then taking action to ensure the act (or intended act) won’t be repeated. Do this and God will be more than willing to forgive the offense or intention to commit it.

“Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.” —Ezekiel 18:31-32.

“and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” —Luke 24:46-47.

 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” —Acts 3:17-19.

“You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.” —Acts 8:21-22.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1John 1:9.

On a related note, repeating sinful actions constitutes sinful behavior – something God has no tolerance for. In fact, we’re taught that He will leave us to our own rebellious behavior and execute wrath at His judgment if we continue to practice sin.

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” —Acts 17:30-31.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS —Romans 2:5-6.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. —Galatians 5:19-21. (See also Ephesians 5:5-6)

So, ‘feel’ sorry, but turn that sorrow into action in the same way that ‘belief’ must result in action – obedience – to our God and Christ. Repent, obey, and live!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

The “A-B-C’s” of Christianity

Absolute Belief Creates action . . .

What True Christianity is NOT:

  • A self-centered culture focused on pleasing the senses through music, dress, and ear-tickling self-help messages.
  • Founded on blind faith.
  • A belief system without action.
  • Appealing to most humans in its truest form because of its narrow and difficult way shaped by discipline, self-control, and benevolence.
  • A gateway to the giant Jinni, slot machine, one-way gift-giver, or however most people look at God these days.
  • Entitlement for sinful ‘do-overs’.
  • Promises of an illness-free materially-prosperous life where we will never suffer consequences of our actions or the actions of others while we wait to go to Heaven.

What True Christianity IS:

  • Action out of faith.
  • Born of faith that comes from confidence.
  • Ever-increasing confidence gained from prayer, fellowship, discipleship, and study.
  • A system of ‘paying it forward’ whereby those who are mentored and discipled do the same while also proclaiming what God and our Christ Jesus have done for us.
  • Representative of those who have entered into a two-way marriage-like relationship with God through Jesus.
  • Potential hardship and death on earth; Reward and life later.

~ Getting There from Here ~

Belief is the first step to obtaining salvation, which is available to everyone – not just a chosen few (Mark 16:15-16 and John 3:16-18). If we believe with all our heart, then a change of heart that results in a change of behavior – repentance – must follow.

  • Repentance is absolutely necessary for being rescued from coming judgment (Acts 17:30-31)!
  • Sinful behavior keeps us from God; repentance allows us to draw near to Him (Acts 3:19).
  • True belief and repentance lead to good fruit that comes out of obedience (Acts 26:20).

We’re also told in the Gospel to be baptized by water.

  • A person is born initially of water (through the womb) but must be spiritually born as well to enter God’s kingdom (John 3:5-6).
  • Baptism has become the symbolic of the washing away of sin that Christ offered through His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).

Because true faith comes from the heart, a person must believe completely that Jesus died for them and then confess this belief. Faith – belief – is obtained and strengthened from experiencing the testimonies and fulfilled prophecies contained in the Word of God. They serve to ‘convince’ men of the truth and build faith (Romans 10:17 and 1 Peter 2:1-2).

To obtain and keep salvation (which, by the way, is a ‘rescuing’ from God’s wrath to come):

  • Believe in the gospel – the good news of salvation through Jesus. True belief will bring a new heart.
  • Repent by using that new heart to change sinful behavior.
  • Be baptized as an outward sign of your new faith.
  • Increase faith through continual exposure to teachings contained in the Bible.
  • Don’t practice sinful behavior – those things that are counter to God’s ways!!

While the gift of salvation is given by faith and not because of anything we can do to earn it, faith must lead to obedience and therefore production of ‘fruit’. In fact, James tells us that faith – or belief – without obedience (works) is useless (James 2:14-20). So, learn, grow, care for others, and follow God’s ways . . . and live!

 

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part VIII

“We’re not to Judge Anyone!”

Misquote: “We’re not to judge anyone!” or “Who am I to judge?!?”  Well, we as followers of our Christ are indeed to judge those within the Church! The means we’re to hold one another accountable to the standard given by God through the prophets, apostles, and our Christ . . . and we do it for the sake of our brothers and sisters to help keep them on this path to our God and heaven. The following text supports this and is a reiteration of an earlier blog titled, “Judge Dread”.

The idea of judging really trips people up. Many know their own faults or past sins and feel they have no right to judge others about anything as a result. On the other hand, some people behave as though it’s their duty to inform everyone around them of every act they feel is contrary to God’s Word. The truth regarding judging others resides somewhere in the middle.

Are we to judge at all? Definitely! But, let’s take a look at what the word judge means before we go any further. It comes from the Greek word kree’-no, which means to ‘call into question’. Of course, we can’t call anything into question if we don’t know what should be questionable or why. Who should judge whom? According to Jesus, God will judge the world – those who aren’t Jesus’ followers – and Jesus will judge followers at His return and the end of this current age. Meanwhile, we’re to hold one another accountable for growth and moral positioning.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst . . . Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. . . . Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. —1Corinthians 5:1-13.

            So, how are we to judge other followers of Jesus? We are to be careful and gentle, basing the ‘questioning’ on adherence to the Christ’s commandments and not on emotion. The goal must always be to help those followers who are ‘sinning’ to turn back to the truth and be reconciled with the church (e.g. James 15:19-20).  The text below not only confirms that but also reminds us that we’re not to tolerate the unrepentant practice of sinful behavior within the Church.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” —Matthew 18:15-17.

Want to ‘love’ your brother or sister in the Christ? Then judge them according to God and our Christ’s commandments with a sense of urgency before it’s too late for those who are practicing sinful behavior that will earn them a one-way ticket to God’s judgment!

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Next week, we’ll look at more great examples of personal interpretation and bad hermeneutics as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture. The next topic: “Seven Years of Bad Luck”.

An Ounce of ‘cheek-turning’ Prevention is Worth a Pound of Relationship Cure!

We understand the value of repenting and asking for forgiveness, often demanding it of someone who has offended us – sometimes retaliating by severing otherwise good or productive relationships if we don’t get the apology or response we think we deserve.

I experienced this recently when someone terminated our friendship and discipleship relationship because of a perceived wrongdoing. Such destruction over perceptions! I’m sad that my friend was hurt. And, I’m grieved by the loss of the relationship.

What can be done in cases like this once the damage has been done (besides asking for forgiveness as necessary)? Giving forgiveness (even privately) and moving forward despite any negative emotions.

Jesus taught us that we should ‘turn the other cheek‘. This goes along with biblical instruction to be ‘slow to anger‘ and is the one thing we can do to give reconciliation with other humans a chance.

“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also . . .” (Luke 6:29)

He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19)

BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26)

For anyone who feels they’ve been wronged and the situation is unresolved: please consider turning the other cheek to give reconciliation with friends, family, coworkers, and others a chance.

Blessings.  Ron