Monday, April 27, 2009

Biblical Marriage

I’ve just read an article entitled “The Institution Formerly Known As Marriage” by Jennifer Roback Morse. In the article, Morse laments the recent redefinition of marriage by the Iowa Supreme Court. She argues that the Court has not merely made marriage more inclusive, but has radically changed the legal understanding of the purpose of marriage. She’s right...and she’s wrong.

She is right that the Iowa Supreme Court has changed the official view of the purpose of marriage. But she is wrong in regard to what the proper view is.

What is Morse’s view of the true purpose of marriage? “The essential purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another.” She cites this purpose several times in her article so that by the time I finished reading it, I could recite it verbatim. It becomes clear as the piece progresses that Morse’s primary concern is for the children. Indeed, her entire argument rests upon the good of the children: “Advocates of [traditional] marriage, as opposed to [gay] marriage, believe that society needs marriage to be a child-centered, gender-based social institution. We have been arguing all along that same-sex 'marriage' will be a gender-neutral institution, in which children are only a peripheral concern.”

I certainly admire the author’s zeal and her distaste for the modern attack on marriage, but I disagree with her about the purpose and nature of marriage. In the article, there is not a single reference to God or biblical morality. This is just speculation, but it may be that she believes a non-biblical argument may have more traction in a godless culture. Or maybe she doesn't believe in God at all. Either way, when God is removed from the picture, even when we are fighting against a truly immoral institution, such as gay marriage, we lose the only absolute standard of morality and are forced to make arguments that are based on biblically unfounded ideas, like “child-centered” marriage. The only way to frame this debate in terms that show it for what it is, is to look at marriage from God’s perspective through the lens of Scripture.

Before I deal with the idea of child-rearing as the purpose of marriage, let me just state quickly and clearly that we don’t need to argue the dynamics of social institutions in order to determine that gay marriage is wrong. God's Word is clear. Leviticus 20:13 says, If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. While the penalty prescribed there is no longer binding, the moral principle, which is rooted in the character of God, is still binding. Once an abomination, always an abomination.

Lest we think that such sayings are confined to the Old Testament, consider Romans 1:26-27, which shows both female and male homosexual relations as the last stop on the road to the depraved mind. 1Corinthians 6:9-10 is likewise explicit: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. If homosexual relations are an abomination, then a homosexual “one flesh” marriage (Gen 2:24) is also an abomination.

But what is the problem with the idea of “child-centered” marriage as an argument for traditional marriage? Certainly, child-rearing is one purpose of marriage. God created man and woman in His own image and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). However, this does not mean that the bearing of children is the “essential” purpose of marriage, as Morse contends. Rather, marriage should be God-centered, not child-centered.

As we will see in the coming weeks’ Sunday messages, God intended marriage to be a picture of Christ and the church (Eph 5:22-33). Paul spends the first three chapters of Ephesians developing the idea of God’s master plan to bring glory to Himself by united Jews and Gentiles into one body with Christ as the head (Eph 1:22-23; 2:11-16). The climax of the book shows this union as the culmination of God’s plan to bring eternal glory to Himself: …to [God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph 3:21).

As the church submits to Christ, her head, so also the wife is to submit to her husband (5:22-24). As Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her salvation and sanctification, so also the husband is to love his wife as his own flesh (5:25-30). After explaining this, Paul then shows the true significance of the “one flesh” statement in Gen 2:24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (5:31-32). In other words, while the relationship of Christ and the church is to be a model for the roles of husbands and wives, the more significant truth is that God has designed the marriage of one man and one woman to be a picture of the eternal covenant marriage of Christ and the church.

Though that biblical perspective will not persuade those blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor 4:3-4), we should not resort to arguing from the standpoint of pragmatism or a godless morality that places children at the center of the debate. If this issue comes up in conversation with your neighbors, family, or co-workers, I encourage you to keep Christ at the center of the issue rather than adopting Morse’s tactic. God intended marriage to be a picture of the gospel. Your explanation of that fact may be the very gospel presentation that the Holy Spirit uses to grace that person with repentance and faith, making them another member of the bride of Christ.

The Point Of The Gospel

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Process of Change: Replacement

So far in our brief look at the change process we have addressed guilt, repentance, and forgiveness. The next step is replacement. Essentially, in our dealing with sin, it is not enough to attempt to get rid of sinful habits. We must also replace those sinful habits with godly ones. This is sometimes referred to as dehabituation and rehabituation.

The replacement step of the change process is explained very clearly here. The site is from a biblical counseling center in Illinois. After reading this article, I realized I couldn’t write a better explanation if I tried, so I’ll simply refer you there. When you get to the end of the article, be sure to click the “Put Off/Put On list” link, so that you will know what godly virtue should be replacing the sin you are putting off.

Next week, I explain the next step in the process – mind renewal.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scripture Meditation Methods

Last week, we looked at the differences between worldly transcendental meditation and Scripture meditation. Beyond the initial resistance to the word “meditation”, I’d like to address the other big barrier to Scripture meditation – the “I don’t know how” syndrome.

Some folks don’t meditate because they don’t want to. Others don’t meditate because they don’t know how. Both groups will use the phrase above to explain why they don’t meditate. For those who don’t want to meditate, may this post take away your excuse. For those who want to meditate, may this post remove your restraints.

Dr. Don Whitney, a professor of Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, teaches on this subject at conferences and churches all over the country. Most of these methods I’ll share today are from his lectures.

The first step, of course, is to decide what verse you’d like to use. It could be from your devotional reading, from a sermon you’ve recently heard, from a passage that you have memorized, etc. It is a good idea to just take one verse at a time, so that you don’t rush through the job. Some of these methods will require you to be sitting down with a pen and paper. Others you will be able to do anywhere.

1. Write the verse in your own words.
This will require you to take the time to think about what each word means and how it is contributing to the overall meaning of the verse. You may find it beneficial to re-write it in your own words several different ways. You can then take the best of the best and make one final paraphrase. Remember, the objective is not to come up with our own translation, but rather to use this as a tool to help you think through the verse and what it means.

2. Look for applications of this text.
Come up with as many practical ways of living the verse as you can. Again, this forces you to think through exactly what the verse is saying in its context. And I'll say it here – just because you are only meditating on one verse doesn’t mean that you ignore the context. If you don’t know the context and how the verse fits into the material around it, you might as well not meditate on that verse at all because you will end up with wrong conclusions. That is why I prefer to meditate on verses from books I have studied or passages I have memorized.

3. Read or recite the verse with emphasis on a different word each time.
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:9).
Here also, the idea is to think through each word and find how that word is contributing to the meaning of the verse as a whole.

4. Discover a minimum number of insights in the text.
You simply set a number and make that many observations of the verse. Taking Eph 2:9 above as an example (with the context in mind), I could list the following insights:
- there is a right way and a wrong way to be saved
- works will not bring me to salvation
- God saves by grace so that I may not boast of myself in my salvation
- I can place no hope in my own works
- no one has a right to boast before God

5. Ask the “Joseph Hall” questions.
Click the link and you’ll find a pdf of these questions. They are thought provoking questions to ask of a text to generate insights.

6. Ask the Phil 4:8 questions.
Phil 4:8 says, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
With this method, you just take your verse and pose questions based on Phil 4:8. What is true about this, or what truth does it exemplify? What is honorable about this? What is right about this? What is pure about this or how does it exemplify purity? etc.
This method is particularly useful with narrative portions of Scripture.

7. Finally, pray through the text.
Again, using Eph 2:9 as my text, I could pray, “Lord, I humbly recognize that my salvation is all of grace and has nothing to do with any works done by me. Please convict me of any boasting in my heart related to my salvation. Help me to despair of works, knowing that I am saved by grace alone, and yet help me to be conscious that works should result from your work in my life.”

Let me emphasize that you don’t need to do all of these each time you meditate. Just choose one or two. Try them all eventually and you will find the methods you like best. Remember, this isn’t for super Christians only. We are all to meditate on Scripture. If we don’t, we are ignoring what Scripture holds up as a primary means to obedience (Psa 1, Psa 119:11, Jos 1:8,

May the Lord bless you in this discipline.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Enjoy Christ

Our life is meant to be lived for God. But so often I find myself bogged down with the busyness of this world rather than living for His glory. A short time ago, I came across the following list. I hope that it will challenge you the same way it has challenged me and that you will enjoy Christ, our Savior, each day.

John Bunyan meditated on the marks of a person who is coming (has come) to Christ for salvation. I have taken the liberty to update the language where I thought it would help with readability.

Do these things characterize your life?

1. Are you burdened with your sin, recognizing it as an exceedingly bitter thing?
2. Do you run from your sin as you would a deadly serpent?
3. Do you recognize and flee from the insufficiency of your own righteousness in the sight of God.
4. Do you cry to the Lord Jesus to save you?
5. Do you see more worth and merit in one drop of Christ’s blood to save you, than in all the sins of the world to condemn you?
6. Are you tender of sinning against Jesus?
7. Is Jesus’ name, person, and undertakings more precious to you than the glory of the world?
8. Is faith in Christ precious to you (as a means to connect you to Christ)?
9. Do you savor Christ in his Word, and do you leave all the world for his sake?
10. Are you willing (with God’s help) to run in harm’s way for his name?
11. Are his saints precious to you?

Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, Works, p. 279.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Process of Change: Forgiveness

So far in our look at the change process – how we kill sin in our lives and pursue righteousness – we have looked at the concepts of biblical guilt and repentance. The next step in the process is to seek forgiveness.

This post is not intended to be an exhaustive study on the subject of forgiveness in general. That would take a really long time. Rather, we simply want to understand our responsibility to seek forgiveness in our fight against sin.

Of course, every sin is a sin against God. David underscored that truth in Psalm 51 as he sought the Lord’s forgiveness for his sins of adultery and murder: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight… Our offense against another human being is meaningless compared to our offense against our infinitely holy God. Whenever we sin, no matter what the offense, we must recognize that our sin was first and foremost committed against God. Therefore, we should seek His forgiveness first.

The Bible is a seemingly unending stream of reassurance that God is a Father eager to forgive those who repent, confess, and seek His forgiveness. The classic reference that many would turn to is 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But aren’t all our sins forgiven at the time of our conversion? If we have to confess our sins to God on an ongoing basis, does that mean if we have unconfessed sin, we are not saved? Well, some have termed the forgiveness that God grants at our conversion “judicial forgiveness”. It is the forgiveness spoken of in Romans 4:3-8. This is a forgiveness of all sin that takes place in our justification. All our sin is removed from our account, and Christ’s righteousness is credited to our account. Once this has been done, it cannot be undone – we are saved and will inevitably be glorified, that is, we will be taken to heaven and given a glorified body when Christ returns (Rom 8:30). So no, unconfessed sin in the life of the believer cannot cause him to forfeit his salvation.

Unconfessed sin does cause a break in fellowship with the Father, though. Again, Psalm 51 is helpful here. David views his grievous sin as having come between Him and the Lord and he seeks to reestablish that fellowship: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit (vv10-12). Therefore, if we are to enjoy full fellowship with the Lord, we should confess our sins and seek His forgiveness as a pattern of our lives.

What is it that God does when He forgives? Isa 43:25 tells us that God promises “I will not remember your sins.” How can an omniscient God not remember something? There is a difference between forgetting and not remembering. When He promises to not remember our sins, He is simply choosing to never use that sin against us. He leaves it in the past and covers it (Psa 32:1, 85:2).

Once we have sought forgiveness from the Lord, we need to determine if there is anyone else whose forgiveness we should seek. It is our responsibility to seek reconciliation with those whom we have wronged (Matt 5:23-24). Let me caution you against “apologizing”. I’m not aware of such a concept in Scripture. It’s really quite meaningless. When you apologize, you are not explicitly expressing repentance or asking for forgiveness, both of which are necessary in order for someone to give you biblical forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4). We must love that person enough to let them know that we understand that we sinned against them, that we have repented of that sin, and that we are asking for forgiveness. Then that brother or sister can have the assurance that they are biblically cleared to forgive us. (For a message on the conditional nature of forgiveness, download the sermon from Jan 11.)

Be sure to use biblical language when asking for forgiveness. Don’t soften your offense by calling it anything other than what it is. Rather than “I’m sorry I was in a bad mood”, say “It was wrong for me to be sinfully angry with you.” Rather than “I apologize for fibbing,” say “I sinned against you by lying to you.” Don’t whitewash the sin. Confess it. Express repentance. Ask for forgiveness.

If you get through this point in the change process, the work has only just begun. But by God’s grace, you can kill that sin and pursue righteousness in your life.

Next week comes the next step, Replacement.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scripture Meditation

In past months we have spent some time looking at the spiritual disciplines of Scripture memory and Bible study. Next, I’d like to go a step further and consider another discipline that I believe is vital to our spiritual health, referred to often in Scripture, and rarely spoken of today: Scripture meditation.

Some people can get a little nervous when a pastor starts to talk about meditation. Unfortunately, some pagan groups have taken that word and used it to refer to the dangerous practice of transcendental meditation. Scripture meditation is nothing like transcendental meditation. In fact, in several ways they are diametrically opposed.

First of all, worldly transcendental meditation requires one to empty his mind. The goal is to get the person to a state “beyond thought.” There is no purposeful thinking involved. In a sense, the mind is disconnected. It is completely passive.

If we search the Scriptures, we find no exhortation to empty the mind, no instruction to disengage one’s thinking. Instead, Scripture speaks of meditation as filling the mind with one thing – Scripture. One of my favorite verses is Joshua 1:8, This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Clearly, meditation can’t be the absence of thinking. Rather it is focused thinking on God’s Law.

Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the full armor of God. The reason for this is that we are engaged in a war with an unseen enemy, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. This passage commands the believer to gird your loins with truth...and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. When we empty our minds of everything, as is done in transcendental meditation, we are laying aside that truth and relinquishing the sword of the Spirit. Of course, that leaves us open to attack from the demonic forces mentioned in that chapter. This is precisely why, this brand of meditation is so dangerous.

Second, transcendental meditation is done twice a day, for 15-20 minutes, in the absence of any other activity. On the other hand, numerous times Scripture speaks of meditation as being done day and night, such as the verse above in Joshua. Psalm 119:97 says, Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Likewise, in Psalm 63:6 we read, When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Of course, this is poetic language. It is doubtful that the writer meditated on the Word 24 hours a day. The point is that it was his common practice to meditate on God and His word throughout the day and night.

I personally find that the best time to meditate on the Word is while I’m in the car, getting dressed, mowing the lawn, or doing some other menial task that does not require my absolute attention. If you try transcendental meditation that way, you could end up dead!

Third, transcendental meditation is completely self-focused, or self-centered. One web site (I'd rather not advertise it here) says this kind of meditation “allows your mind to settle inward, beyond thought, to experience the silent reservoir of energy, creativity and intelligence found within everyone.” The benefits listed on the same site are all self-focused and man-centered.

Scripture meditation, on the other hand, is completely God-focused. In Psalm 63:6, referenced above, the psalmist says, “I meditate on You…” God and His Word are the total focus of this spiritual discipline. In Scripture meditation, we think God’s thoughts, not our own. We desire to comprehend what He has said (Ps 119:15), what He has done (Ps 119:27), who He Himself is (Ps 145:5).

Not only are God, His work, and His Word the focus of our meditation, but He is also the motive for our meditation. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD (Ps 104:34). Our meditation is ultimately an act of worship done for Him alone. I don’t meditate to "maximize my own potential", but simply to enjoy Him and please Him.

Psalm 1:1-3 shows a connection between the meditation of Scripture and the living of a godly life. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The godly man is the one who avoids the evil, shaping influence of the world and focuses his life, day and night, on the Word. He is like a tree planted by streams of water. In other words, by filling his mind and attention with the Word of God, he is plugged into the source of spiritual fruit. He is wise. He is mature. He is steadfast. He prospers in every way.

Scripture memory and bible study are how we put God’s Word into our heads and hearts. Scripture meditation is how we work God’s Word into our thinking, our attitudes, our affections, and our actions. It is a discipline in the truest sense of the word, but if you will take the time and effort to do it, you will reap tremendous rewards.

So, how do we meditate? We’ll look at that next week.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Messy Marriages In The Hands Of A Gracious God

In a recent interview Paul Tripp discusses the reality of marriage. Dr. Tripp says the biblical view of marriage is, "a flawed person married to a flawed person in a fallen world but with a faithful God."

His straightforward answers to questions are refreshing. Some of the questions are:
  • What would you say to a couple with marriage problems?
  • Why do so many people lack a Gospel-centered view of marriage?
  • What would you say to a couple with a good marriage?


Thursday, April 9, 2009

"A Christian Nation" vs the True Church

On Tuesday at a public appearance in Turkey, President Obama said of the United States, “we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.” Upon careful consideration I have a one-word response: Amen.

Conservative pundits and radio personalities have gone nuts over the President’s comment, arguing that the founders of this nation did indeed set out to build a country on the solid foundation of the Bible. Sean Hannity railed on his radio show Tuesday afternoon, producing a plethora of quotations from the fathers of the country, each expressing some kind of faith in the God of Christianity.

While I understand where the conservative talkers are coming from, I can’t help but think there is no such thing as a Christian nation, strictly speaking, unless there is a nation in which all of the citizens have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. I’m not aware of any such nation this side of the new heaven and new earth.

But even if we use the phrase “Christian nation” in a more generic sense, meaning that we are a nation that subscribes to Christian principles, I would have to agree with President Obama. Whether the founders of these United States intended for our country to be a Christian nation or not is a moot point. There can be little doubt we are in no way a Christian nation today.

But the main reason I give a hearty “amen” to the President’s comment is that this generic use of the word “Christian” is a detriment to the cause of Christ. It completely warps the popular idea of what it means to be an actual Christian. Seemingly, in the minds of many conservatives and perhaps the public at large, being a Christian means to identify with a specific moral code or ethic. It means believing in biblical principles. Certainly, every Christian should embrace the moral teaching of the Word of God, but that alone is not what makes one a Christian.

The New Testament uses the word “Christian” only twice, and the plural “Christians” only once (1Pet 4:16; Acts 26:28, 11:26). None of these verses refer to a moral code or generic people group. Rather, they refer to disciples of Jesus Christ, those who have repented of their sin and trusted the Son to save them from that sin. Biblically speaking, Christians are saints willing to suffer and die following after Christ.

I know some of you have come across the article in Newsweek noting the decline of “Christian America.” The piece reports that “the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent.” This doesn’t bother me even a little bit. It simply means that the word “Christian” is getting closer to its biblical meaning. To all those who fret over such statistics I would ask: is it the true church that is shrinking? Are some who have been redeemed from their sins losing their salvation? Of course not. We have to remember that the actual church never shrinks, but always grows because the actual church perseveres to the end. What we see in such statistics is that nominal Christianity (those falsely claiming to be Christians) is getting smaller.

I understand that these numbers represent a culture shift in America, but I am of the mind that this development only helps the cause of Christ. As nominal Christians decrease, the true church will become more visible and the mission field more obvious. The dividing line between the lost and the saved will become clearer. As nominal Christians decrease, the more uncomfortable it will be for fakers to follow Christ. The man-centered, seeker-driven, emergent, self-esteem, cotton-candy gospel will start to disappear also. Only true believers will have the fortitude to truly follow the Lord. Those who object to Christianity because of “all the hypocritical Christians” will begin to see what true Christianity really is – faith working through love in the lives of those redeemed by the blood of Christ (Gal 5:6).

When we look back at the history of the church, we find that in the eras of widespread opposition to the biblical gospel, God poured out His grace in extraordinary measure, not simply for the survival of the church, but for the revival and growth of the church. Times of persecution find the gospel spreading like wildfire and God greatly glorified in the church. If we truly desire to be lights for Christ, we should welcome times of darkness, knowing that the Lord might be setting the stage for another era of martyrdom and revival, in which we might be found worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41).

Things are not getting better in this country, from a moral standpoint. This week, the Vermont legislature overrode a veto in order to legalize gay marriage, making that state the first to do so via the congress rather than the courts. Some have speculated that as gay marriage becomes the law in more states, there will be a push to outlaw speaking against the homosexual lifestyle. Some day it may be illegal for a pastor to preach the Word on this issue. There is also talk of the President nixing the ‘conscience rule’ that allows doctors to refuse to perform certain medical procedures that they deem morally wrong. In other words, it is possible that Christian doctors will soon be faced with the choice of performing abortions or losing their jobs.

We should lament such things. But at the same time, we must recognize the opportunity to be the church and to stand out in a sinful culture in ways we have not been able to in the past due to the prevalence of nominal Christianity. As the number of “self-identified” Christians shrinks, the spotlight on true believers will grow ever brighter. Now is not the time to cower, but to shine (Mt 5:16). Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23).

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Process of Change: Repentance

Once we have recognized and understood our guilt and sin, the next step in the process of killing that sin is repentance. Repentance simply refers to our turning from sin, and is a necessary component of our conversion (Mk 1:15; Lk 13:5; Acts 2:38). In order to be saved from our sins, we must turn from them and trust in Christ to save us.

But repentance is an act that we continue to engage in throughout our lives (Ps 51; Lk 17:3-4). Even though we have been saved and given a new heart, our flesh still desires sinful things (Gal 5:16-17). As we recognize sin in our lives, we must systematically repent of that sin in order to grow in Christlikeness.

It is important to note that true repentance is not just turning away from sin, but also involves turning to something else. As we turn from sin, if we are to be free from that sin, we must also turn to God, asking for forgiveness and trusting Him for renewal.

The Bible also speaks of a false repentance that does not lead to life change (Mt 3:7-8; 2 Cor 7:10). In order to avoid this, it is necessary to know the elements of true repentance.

The first element of true repentance is confession (Prov 28:13; 1Jn 1:8-9). Now, God already knows all things. He knows our sin better than we do. So what is the point of confessing our sin to Him? Confession is a form of submission to God. When we confess our sin to Him, we are recognizing that we are accountable to Him for our actions and that His standards are the standards to which we are bound. We are submitting to His authority. But confession goes a bit further than that. Not only are we recognizing before God the fact of our sin, we are also agreeing with Him about the grievous nature of our sin. We are agreeing with Him that we have engaged in a wretched violation of His holy standard.

The second element of true repentance is resolve. Repentance involves the conscious, willful choice to turn from that sin and never to engage in it again (Is 1:16-17; Jn 5:14, 8:11). Without this resolve, we have not even taken the first step toward defeating the sin. Rather, we have essentially given it permission to stay. There must be the desire and decision to refuse to engage in that sin ever again.

The third element of true repentance is fruit (Mt 3:7-8; Acts 26:20). True repentance is an internal action to turn away from sin. However, if true repentance has taken place, there will be outward evidence of that internal action. One such fruit is restitution. Frequently, when we have sinned against someone it will be necessary to make things right in a tangible way. The OT spells out specific guidelines for making restitution for a sin against a brother's person or property (Ex 22:1). If we have stolen from someone or ruined property or sinned in such a way that our victim was hurt financially, we must compensate them in some way. The principle behind restitution is that we should do all we can to make whole the person we sinned against. If true repentance has taken place, there will be the strong desire to make restitution.

Another fruit of repentance is reconciliation. When our sin damages relationships, true repentance will compel us to repair those relationships and restore them to their former state of fellowship. If we are not moved to go to those against whom we have sinned and to be reconciled, it is very likely that our repentance is false repentance and that we need to re-examine ourselves with the Word, praying for godly grief for our sin (2 Cor 7:9-10).

We have now taken a brief look at the first two elements of the process of change, guilt and repentance. Next time, we will address the issue of forgiveness.

(Some of this material is adapted from lectures given by Dr. Stuart Scott at SBTS.)

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