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Torn Up Repentance

Torn Up Repentance

This morning’s Morning and Evening might have been timelier for me a few months ago. One of my assignments required a few short Bible study notes on the difference between penance and repentance. Spurgeon’s text this morning is taken from the passage I chose for that assignment.

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster. — Joel 2:12-13

The study was titled: God Wants Torn Up Hearts, Not Torn Up Clothes. Here is a short outline from the passage (minus a few details):

  • What distinguishes repentance from penance?
    • Repentance is complete – both internal and external (the whole man)
      • Biblical definition
      • Repentance turns from sin and returns to God with…
        • All your heart (thought, intent, desire)
        • Fasting (prayer, self-denial)
        • Weeping and mourning (emotional response, remorse)
    • Penance is incomplete – external not internal
      • Historical definition
      • Penance relies on external signs of grief to appease judgment
        • God is more concerned with the heart (Matt 9:4; Mark 7:21; Luke 16:5)
        • Rend your hearts and not your garments
  • What assurance do we have that God will forgive us?
    • Why return to the LORD?
      • He is gracious and merciful
      • He is slow to anger
      • He is abounding in steadfast love
      • He relents over disaster
    • When should we repent?
      • Now! (“Yet even now…” beginning of verse 12; 2 Cor 6:2)
      • Don’t delay, today is the day

God doesn’t want part of us. He wants all of us. He is not interested in our personal treasuries of merit. We cannot consolidate our debts or pay for our crimes. All we can do is cling to the cross of Christ, repent of our sin, and trust in the graciousness of God. Repentance is more than remorse or the removal of sin. It is returning to God with all that we are.

Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.

* * * * *

…rend your hearts and not your garments.
— Joel 2:13

The tearing of garments and other outward signs of religious emotion are easily displayed and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will pay attention to the most minute ceremonial regulations—for those things are pleasing to the flesh. But true faith is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of people of the flesh; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly.

Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: But they are ultimately delusive, for in the face of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

Heart-rending is divinely worked and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief that is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked about and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating and completely sin-purging, but it is also sweet preparation for the gracious consolations that proud, unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally as hard as marble: How, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: A dying Savior’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men tear their garments in the day of lamentation.

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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Devotional, Study

 

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A Faith Worth Following (Hebrews 13:7)

A Faith Worth Following (Hebrews 13:7)

Here are brief, selected portions from the manuscript I put together for last night’s Bible Study (minus quotes, illustrations, etc).

* * * * *

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. – Hebrews 13:7 (ESV)

This verse contains three calls to action. One verse: three commands.

  1. Remember
  2. Consider
  3. Imitate

I recall things better when they are alliterate. So if you are like me… here are three Rs to help us retain them:

  1. Remember Your Leaders
  2. Regard Their Results
  3. Replicate Their Resolve

1. Remember Your Leaders

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God…

When we look at this verse, our minds are immediately flooded with an onslaught of questions:

Who are these leaders?
What makes them so special?
How do we remember them?

Let’s begin with what the text doesn’t say. This passage is not telling us to blindly follow a blind leadership. As Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 15:14:

Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.

Instead, the writer qualifies the leadership we are to follow by adding… those who spoke to you the word of God. He is talking specifically about those who share the gospel and divine truth of Scripture.

A few verses later, in v.17, the author instructs his listeners in the way they should remember their leaders. He says,

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In similar fashion, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 says,

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

So we are to respect those who labor hard for the gospel and obey the biblical instruction of those who will someday give an account for their ministry.

2. Regard Their Results

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life…

Let’s face it. Not everyone produces good results. It has been 104 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series of baseball. They currently hold the longest championship drought in baseball history. Entire generations have come and gone without ever seeing their beloved team win! If you are a Cubs fan, you are accustomed to a lifetime of losing.

Likewise, some people regularly attend church their entire lives… and never receive exposure to the transforming power of God’s Word in their leadership. The world is full of unhealthy churches, whose pulpits are filled with vile, self-seeking men. Often, though not in every case, these rascals hopscotch from church to church in search of greener pastures and fertile suckers.

By contrast, there are churches like Tenth Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania. They have employed only a small handful of pastors since their founding in 1829. Or even here at Grace Community Church… where John MacArthur has acted as the teaching under-shepherd for 44 years. That’s a long time to labor with one flock. Certainly longer than any church I grew up in the know of. You can learn much about the faith of your church leaders when they stick around.

That being said, what exactly are we being called to consider here within the text? I like how the New American Standard Bible says it,

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

So what is the result of their conduct? What characteristics mark the posturing of a faithful man of God? There are many good answers to the question, but the one I want to focus on for the next minute is: a faithful legacy.

Another verse that appears chummy with this one is found in chapter 6 verses 11-12. It says,

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

We are to imitate those who through faith and patience (the Holman Christian Standard says “perseverance”) inherit the promises. Like them, we should hold onto the faith with both hands and run this race to the end.

So we remember our leaders, regard their results, and finally, we need to…

3. Replicate Their Resolve

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

There is an easy misconception for us to make with this section of the text. As a hidden pitfall, we should take a moment to highlight it. The encouragement found here is not to mimic these men… but to evaluate their conduct and imitate their faith. We are instructed to observe the outcome of their faithfulness, not dress our actions with theirs.

Nowhere in the passage are we told to imitate their conduct. Rather, we are instructed to imitate their faith after evaluating the results of their faithfulness. Those are two totally different things.

The author knows we can’t perform open spirit surgery. None of us carry a magic knife that allows us to rip open a man’s chest and discern the condition of his soul. 1 Corinthians 2:11 says,

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?

So he is ordering us to observe the legacy that scripture soaked leaders leave behind… and pursue the same source of power that fueled their conduct… ultimately, their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does the verse that follows our text say?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

The author is not jumping from thought to thought between sentences. The flow is cohesive and connected. What is that faith (the faith of godly men) which we are to imitate? It is a faith in the one true Christ… who is Jesus Christ alone… and He never changes. He is always the same. The same in power, the same in purpose, the same in supremacy, the same in sufficiency… we could list the steadfast characteristics of our Savior through tomorrow’s breakfast and still not arrive at the beginning of His value.

It is comforting to know that the same faith in Jesus which sustained great men such as Calvin, Whitefield, and Spurgeon will sustain us. The source of our faith never changes. And He has been so good to us all… in providing us with teachers, the Scriptures, living examples of flesh and bone, and an unchanging faith in the unchangeable Savior. Our faith is in Him alone, and He alone is worth imitating. Let’s pursue Christ, heart and soul! As those men whose legacies attest to the goodness of God.

In summation:

  1. Remember Your Leaders
  2. Regard Their Results
  3. Replicate Their Resolve

We should follow in the faith of godly men, as they have faithfully followed Christ.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Study

 

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