Spiritual Perspectives


 

WHO IS ON YOUR SIDE?

Gary W. Summers

 

     In every sporting event, fans on both sides make their presence known.  They sit in the stands, decked out in their team’s colors.  In some instances their faces are painted—one hue on the left side, another on the right.  Perhaps football season rightly wraps itself around Halloween.  Some have been known even to die their hair to match the glorious combination of black and gold or blue and silver.  One thing is certain—one can usually tell whose side the spectators are on.

 

     In everyday life, however, it is not quite as easy to tell who is a friend and who is an enemy.  The fact is that, whatever field of endeavor a person is in, it is likely that there is a Joab passing himself off as a friend, but he is concealing the knife and ready to plunge it under the fifth rib.  The worst thing is that you will never suspect treachery until the pain begins to well up and engulf you.  You will wonder how you could have been so blind not to see it coming, but such recriminations are useless.  The kindnesses of those who kill appear as genuine as anyone’s—until you cease to be useful to them!  Such Machiavellian souls are truly pitiable.

 

Divine Assistance

 

     Nevertheless, many are on your side.  Of greatest importance, God is for you.  Even though you have ignored Him at times or even rebelled against Him, He has been patient with you.  He bears with His own people—even through times of weakness.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). 

 

     God has always been for human beings, since the day He created us.  He has defined and shown what is right and what is wrong; furthermore, He has given us commandments for our good (Deut. 10:12-13).  When mankind sinned, He was prepared with a plan to redeem us from them (Gen. 3:15).  God has always been as clear as He can be with crucial commands.  Eve knew and understood the very first one violated.

     When Israel inherited the land that God promised to them, He gave them many commands—for their good.  Moses told them ahead of time what would happen if they obeyed and what would happen if they disobeyed.  Both came to pass.  They obeyed for a few decades and were blessed.  They disobeyed, were punished, and ultimately taken into captivity.  God set their entire future out before them and even knowing what would occur, they disobeyed anyway.

 

     Adults frequently never grow up; they remain children.  They look physically mature, are taller, and may have muscles, but they behave in the same way they did as children.  “Don’t touch the hot stove; it will burn you.”  “Ouch!”  “Don’t take fire into your bosom; you will get burned.”  Yet there he sits, all alone, because his wife left him after the adultery he committed.  Was the command too difficult to comprehend?  Intellectually, it was grasped.  The heart and the will, however, did not agree or act in concert with the mind.

 

     Nothing could be simpler to understand than all the commands God gave forbidding idolatry, yet His people became idol worshippers.  Yet God, rather than exercising immediate wrath, urged His people to repent.

 

"Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'” (Ezek. 33:11).

    

     The choice was always Israel’s:  They could choose life or death.  Before they ever entered into the Promised Land, God set before them all the options.

 

"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:19).

     Likewise God is for us in this current Christian dispensation as well.  He does not want us to die in our sins; therefore, He sent Jesus to pay the price for us, that we could live (John 3:16).  He does not, however, remove our free will; we too must choose life.  God’s revelation to mankind was given for that very purpose—that we might know the truth and be encouraged to obey it.  God is on your side; He wants you to obey Him in all things so that He can reward you after this earth has been destroyed.

 

Angels

 

     The spiritual beings that God created before human beings want you to succeed, also.  How do we know that?  The angels have been greatly interested in the salvation of mankind.  They speculated how God’s plan would be fulfilled, because He had not revealed all of the information to them (1 Peter 1:10-12).

 

     Further evidence is presented in Hebrews 1:14: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?”  What do they do?  In some way they serve us; perhaps, they are instrumental in executing God’s providence, which involves the arrangement of certain things that cannot be seen with human eyes.  In eternity we may be able to look back and see all of the things that were done on our behalf. 

 

     The angels are on our side; they want us to be able to join them in heaven.  In fact, they escorted Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).  They have helped and assisted us in ways we have not even suspected.  What a joy it will be for us to meet those who have been pulling for us to remain steadfast to the end.

 

The Faithful

 

     How many faithful brethren are there who are telling us, in effect: “We have made it through the trials and temptations of life, and, although difficult moments abound, so can you”?  The heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 convey precisely that message.  After listing several of the faithful (imperfect people like us, who nevertheless put their trust in God), the writer of Hebrews refers to them as our encouragement.

 

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:1-2).

 

     Add to those all who have lived faithfully under the New Testament era and who can say with Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:8).  Many of our brethren were persecuted and put to death in horrible ways in the first century.  Yet they persevered and desire our company.

 

Brethren Today

 

     What an inspiration it is to know that God, the angels, and the faithful of all ages are anxious for us to arrive safely to the heavenly city!  We ought to be encouraged and built up to know that all of these are on our side.  One other category ought to be mentioned—members of the church today.

 

     If we have been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins and added by our Lord to His body, then we care about all other members of the body of Christ.  Like God our Father, we are for our fellow Christians.  We ought to love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, and do about twenty other things for one another that the Scriptures bind upon us.

 

     One of those things, however, is “restore one another,” which may necessitate a rebuke.  While no one objects to love, encouragement, or prayers, some immediately take offense at chastisement.   Yet one purpose of the Scriptures is for “reproof” and for “correction” (2 Tim. 3:16).  The easiest thing to do when a problem or perceived inappropriate behavior has occurred is to say nothing.  Rebuking someone brings unpredictable results.  In one instance, a young man whom this writer loved dearly has never again spoken a word to him.  In another instance, no remonstrance even occurred—only a question.  No communication has been received since from that individual, either.  These were not acquaintances, but personal friends.  In other instances, inquiries about certain matters are greeted with suspicion—and silence.

 

     If brethren did not care about others, they would not take the time and energy to make inquiries and try to clear matters up.  Some are unjustly accused of being negative and trouble-makers.  Some of those folks do exist, but why should everyone be lumped in that category?  For many, if we take the time to rebuke someone or to inquire as to the state of a matter, it is out of concern for the church, that individual, or that institution.  Being silent would be easier by far.

 

     Those who have been rebuked ought to be grateful that some cared enough.  Friends that give us a free pass on wrongdoing do not have our best interests at heart.  It is doubtful that Demas appreciated Paul using his name as one who had forsaken the apostle, having loved this present world (2 Tim. 4:10), but if it led to repentance, his pain was worth the embarrassment.

 

     Brethren ought always to be on each other’s side, but this attitude does not mean overlooking or ignoring sin, just as God, the angels, or faithful brethren of time past could not overlook it.  Sin always needs to be repented of—not minimized, not glossed over, not ignored.  It needs to be dealt with.  Love confronts people with sin.  Nathan probably was not eager to confront David, but he did it because it was the right thing to do.  If we genuinely love others, we will speak thus when it is necessary, also.  The personal cost does not matter.  It is irrelevant because we are on each other’s side.

     One who desires to go to Heaven must repent of his sins.  Jesus ties repentance with forgiveness in saying, “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).  To fail to re-pent is to fail to obtain forgiveness.  Repentance is defined by Thayer as “to change one's mind (heart), that is, to repent; to change one's mind (heart) for the better, to amend heartily with abhorrence of one's past sins.”

 

     Many definitions and ideals regarding repentance are woefully inadequate.  To understand what godly repentance is, let us first study what it is not.

 

     First, godly repentance is not simply being sorry for our sins.  The Bible teaches that there is a right kind of sorrow and a wrong kind of sorrow.  The apostle Paul affirms this truth in saying to the Corinthian brethren:

 

 “I now rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye were made sorry unto repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might suffer loss by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:9-10).

 

     Godly sorrow works or produces repentance because the person has a sincere desire to correct his sinful wrongdoing and live a life that pleases God. Worldly sorrow produces only spiritual death because the motivation (whatever it may be) is not to please God by conforming to His will.

 

     Second, godly repentance is not simply remorse over being caught in a sinful act.  One may be embarrassed and sorry for his family’s sake that his sin has become public.  He may also be sorry that he was not more careful so that he would not be caught.  This type of worldly sorrow, however, is not godly sorrow that leads to genuine repentance.

 

     Third, godly repentance is not simply making a change in the congregation that one attends.  God’s Word has long taught that a person’s sin will find him out (Num. 32:23).   Many brethren today, when confronted because of their sinful actions (or when their sin becomes known), simply make the decision to change congregations.  Brethren, others not knowing about our sins does not constitute repentance!  We may hide our sins from our fellowman, but we cannot hide our sins from God (cf. Heb. 4:12-13).

 

     Fourth, godly repentance is not simply slipping back in to the services of the Lord’s church.  Sometimes, brethren quit attending worship and are out of duty for months or years before deciding to begin attending again.  There is surely no more public and known sin than that of forsaking the assembly of the saints (cf. Heb. 10:25).

     One who is employed by some company does not walk away from his job one day only to return months or years later anticipating to resume his normal duties and to receive full salary while not saying one word about his absence.  Why do we convince ourselves that standards for worldly organizations are higher than those standards for the Lord’s church?  One’s confession needs to be as public as his sins, if repentance is genuine (cf. Jam. 5:16; 1 John 1:9).

 

     Let us now focus on what godly repentance is.  First, godly repentance is a change of mind about myself.  I am concerned about my spiritual condition and desire to do what is godly and right.  I understand that the sin I am committing will not be excused just because I am the one committing it.  The sorrow for my wrongdoing will lead to a change of heart and purpose.

 

     Second, godly repentance is a change of mind about sin.  No longer is sin a lighthearted matter but rather something that is hated and abhorred.  When one is no longer attempting to justify his sinful actions he will see sin for what it is.  Drunkenness (Gal. 5:19) will no longer be called a disease, homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9) will no longer be called an alternate lifestyle, and fornication (1 Cor. 6:9) will no longer be winked at as one “sowing wild oats.”

 

     Third, godly repentance is a change of mind leading to a change in conduct.  It was Hosea who said, “They return, but not to him that is on high…” (Hosea 7:16).  One may return to some duties or engage in some external exercises, but if he has not truly repented and returned to God, all these other things are to no avail.

 

     John the baptizer taught the people to “bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8).  Jesus said, “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). The prodigal son is an outstanding example of one who truly repented.  He extracted himself from the hog pen of sin and admitted his sinful situation was his fault.  He returned to his father and said:

 

“Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19).

 

     Let us make sure our repentance from sin is godly repentance!  May we also remember that we do have a choice:  It is repent or perish (Luke 13:3).

 

                        —from the October 1st Bonham Street

                           Beacon in Paris, Texas

 

* “Religion and Morality are the essential pillars of civil society”—George Washington.

 



 

 

 

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "Whatever the article name from above is (11/05/06)."

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