Repentance Should Increase With the Increase of God’s Mercies

The season of sales is upon us. But I don’t usually buy clothing as gifts. However, the stores where I occasionally purchase clothing for myself are continually sending me discounts, catalogs, and special “deals” on clothing at this time of the year. I would normally wait for the sales to purchase needed items in the past, but this year I am on a crusade not to buy any new clothing. Over the weekend, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I have resisted the borage of text messages and emails. Although I have some “extra” cash for certain necessary expenses, previously, I spent it on nonessentials and was strapped later when I needed the funds for a medical or other expense. This year I am determined to resist the temptation. I am trying to remember my convictions and pay attention to God’s provisions as a good steward. Fortunately, every day, from the time of our redemption in Christ, God gives us more mercy, grace, and power to overcome our sins as He sanctifies us. Jesus taught his disciples to pay attention to what he taught, according to the grace God has given them. And the more God gives, the more responsibility we have to be good stewards of it. The more money we have, the more we can give to charity or save for our children’s education. The more peace we have, the more we will reach out to others, and the more comfort we have, the more we can comfort others. And the more we confess and repent, the more we will recognize the gift of God’s forgiveness and transformation in Christ, for His glory, and in service to him and others.

Paying Attention

Jesus taught his disciples to listen carefully to apply all that he taught with an abundance of grace and mercy. At least five times in Matthew and Luke, the apostles recorded Jesus’s admonition to listen carefully to what he said, implying that doing so includes applying his teachings to live out the gospel more effectively. “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:24-25; see also Matthew 13:12; 25:29; Luke 8:18; 19:26.) “Measure refers to the attitude with which the word of Jesus is being received. If the hearer embraces Jesus’s message of the kingdom in a rich and profound way, then still more will be added–that is, God will take up residence in that heart and give increased understanding and blessing, both in this age and in the age to come…the person who welcomes God’s rule and presence will be given more of God’s intended fruit; the one who depends on his own resources without receiving the word (the one who has not) will lose even that (what he has will be taken away).” (1) My illustration, albeit imperfect, is a way for me to remember this principle; money that I spend on nonessentials is “taken away” from me for those times when it is required. “All true Christians are regarded as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God…Moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). Peter exhorted us ‘as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace’ (1 Peter 4:10). Christ put a very strong focus on stewardship and on using whatever is given…With every increase of mercy your receive from God there will be an accompanying increase of responsibility. This principle is powerfully stated by Christ…As you grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and receive more and more of His mercies with each passing day, your  repentance must keep pace. Any failure here is an open demonstration of a lack of love and appreciation for the boundless mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ. Tragic is the case of any individual whose repentance does not increase with the gifts and graces of God he daily receives.” (2) We ought to show our appreciation of Christ’s grace and mercy through our increasingly deep contrition and sincere repentance. Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that we have been good stewards if we don’t apply God’s daily mercies sincerely. 

Materialism at Christmas Can Rob Us

We should not let ourselves be deceived, thinking that we can be materialistic consumers spiritually at Christmas. At no time did Jesus ever encourage his disciples to focus on material provisions as consumers, but always as grace from God. “Our hearts must go along with our confessions. The hypocrite confesses sin but loves it, like a thief who confesses to stolen goods, yet loves stealing. How many confess pride and covetousness with their lips but roll them as honey under their tongue…Repentance is a grace, and must have its daily operation as well as other graces…A true penitent has ever something within him to turn from; he can never get near enough to God; no, not so near him as once he was; and therefore he is still turning and turning that he may get nearer and nearer to him, who is his chief good and his only happiness, optimum maximum, the best and the greatest. They are every day a-crying out, ‘O wretched men that we are, who shall deliver us from this body of death!’ (Rom. 7:24). They are still sensible of sin, and still conflicting with sin, and still sorrowing for sin, and still loathing of themselves for sin. Repentance is no transient act—but a continued act of the soul.” (3) The Christmas season is an appropriate time to remember all that Christ did from his birth for us. During his three short years of ministry on earth, Jesus taught his disciples to listen carefully to him and apply all he taught for abundant grace and mercy. We can show our appreciation of Christ’s grace and mercy through deep contrition and sincere repentance.

Abounding in Grace

Jesus said “he that has Gospel light and knowledge, and makes a proper use of it, he shall have more; his path shall be as the path of the just, which shines more and more to the perfect day; the means of grace and knowledge shall be blessed, to him, he attending constantly thereon, that he shall arrive to such a knowledge of the Son of God as to be a perfect man…and shall come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, shall grow up to maturity, and be a man in understanding: and he that has the truth of grace, though its beginning is but small, yet that making and keeping him humble, as it always does, he shall have more grace, or that he has shall open and enlarge in its actings and exercises; his faith shall grow exceedingly, he shall abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost; and his love to God, and Christ, and to the saints, shall be greater and greater.” (4)

What Will You Give Jesus on His Birthday?

I often ask children this question to turn their thinking to Christ rather than themselves. After all, it is his birthday and not theirs. But I have also learned to ask myself the question as Christmas comes into view. This Christmas, I desire to have a more spiritual view of Christ, which I believe results from more repentance throughout the year. The more we repent, the more we can receive and put to use God’s mercy and grace. Our darkness from sin turns to light through his forgiveness and encouragement. “Whoever has the true grace of God implanted in him, has a saving knowledge of Christ, and a spiritual acquaintance with the doctrines of the Gospel, shall have more grace given him; he shall grow in the knowledge of Christ, and the Spirit of truth shall lead him into all truth: and he shall have more abundance: of grace, light, knowledge, and experience: all grace shall be made to abound towards him; he shall be filled with all the fulness of God, and shall arrive to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; and his light shall shine more and more unto the perfect day.” (5) This Christmas, do you want more stuff to give to others or more grace to share the light of Christ with them? Repentance won’t increase our material possessions but will dramatically increase God’s grace to overflow to others. “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Related Scripture: Psalm 51; Matthew 5:15; 7:2; 13:12; 25:29; Luke 6:38; 8:16-18.


  1. “English Standard Version Study Bible Notes,” Mark 4:24-25, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” pp. 296-7, Crossway, 2002.
  3. Watson, Thomas, “The Doctrine of Repentance,” pp. 29-30, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668).
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Mark 4:25,
  5. Gill, Ibid, Matthew 13:12, 

December 2, 2021

Appropriate Thankfulness With Repentance

When I walked by a woman’s house yesterday with my dog, her two barking canines brought her outside. I’m glad, because we had a friendly little chat. She recovered from Covid about two weeks ago and was staying home on Thanksgiving because she didn’t want to chance to infect her grandchildren. Perhaps she was overly cautious, but I think her conscience would have bothered her if she was with them today. I’ve been thinking about whether or not I have a clear conscience lately, and frankly, I don’t—about one personal matter that only affects me directly. But my guilty conscience may indirectly affect my other relationships and cause me to be a little less thankful than I should be today. Most of us feel guilty about something and hardly pay attention to the little voice talking to us about the thing or person we’ve neglected or wronged. In his book, “Discovering the Joy of a Clear Conscience,” Christopher Ash says one feature of our conscience is that speaks with a voice that is independent of us. “J. I. Packer says that ‘conscience is largely autonomous in its operation…It normally speaks independently of our will, and sometimes, indeed, contrary to our will. And when it speaks, it is in a strange way distinct from us.” (1) In our passage today, there are two men, one with a clear conscience, who should have realized his guilt, and one with a guilty conscience, who was relieved of his guilt after confessing. Confession brings relief and the ability to repent for a clear conscience. Christ calls us to be counter-cultural, to fight our tendency to tolerate guilt, to confess our guilt and  repent.

Both Men Praying

“[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.'” (Luke 18:9-14) “The Pharisee, proud as he was, could not think himself above prayer; nor could the publican, humble as he was, think himself shut out from the benefit of it; but we have reason to think that these went with different views. The Pharisee went to the temple to pray because it was a public place, more public than the corners of the streets, and therefore he should have many eyes upon him, who would applaud his devotion…The publican went to the temple because it was appointed to be a house of prayer for all people (Is. 56:7).” (2) Unfortunately, many of us have relegated all the Pharisees to a group of stubborn unbelievers with no faith. I will refer to the Pharisee as a man because, in truth, the Pharisees were the most religious people of their day among the Jews. After all, here he is praying at the temple. Although this parable is primarily about repenting of unbelief in Christ, we may also be confronted by it for greater, more passionate repentance of our besetting sins. 

The Unrepentant Guilty Man

What irony Jesus uses in this parable—the Pharisee is thanking God arrogantly, being deceived, thinking he has a clear conscience. Jesus compares him to the passionate tax collector, who is also praying but realizing his guilt. “[The Pharisees] were men that prayed, and fasted much, and were great sticklers for the ceremonies of the law, and the traditions of the elders…[But] it scarce deserves the name of a prayer, for in it is only a thanksgiving: indeed, thanksgiving in prayer is right; and had he been a man that had received the grace of God, it would have been right in him to have given thanks to God for it, by which he was made to differ from others: nor would he have been blameworthy, had he thanked God for the good things which he had received from him, or which by his assistance he had done; but nothing of this kind is said by him: he thanks God, in order to exalt himself, and places his righteousness in his own works, and treats all other men in a censorious and disdainful manner; thanking God, or rather blessing himself.” (3) Jesus used this parable to rebuke the Pharisees for their prideful superiority and false thanksgiving in comparison to repentant Gentiles.

The Passionate, Repentant Non-Jew

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.'” (vs. 13-14) He…“smote upon his breast: pointing at the fountain of his sin; expressing by this action, his sorrow, and repentance for it; and an aversion and abhorrence of himself on account of it, joined with indignation and revenge; and he did this to arouse and stir up all the powers and faculties of his soul, to call upon God…against whom he had sinned; with whom there is mercy and forgiveness; and who only can forgive sin; and who has promised that he will: and has proclaimed his name, God, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; and has given instances of his forgiving grace and mercy; and therefore the publican was right in addressing him by confession…the publican had greatly the advantage, in the sight of God; an humble demeanour being well pleasing and acceptable to him, when pride, and arrogance, boasting of, and trusting in a man’s own righteousness, are abhorred by him.” (4) Jesus taught his disciples, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) We who are in the kingdom of heaven should imitate the passionate, humble, honest confessional prayer of the tax collector, recognizing our sinfulness, even today, to receive God’s mercy. Our thankfulness should always be founded not on our accomplishments but on God’s goodness, provisions, and providential grace and mercy.

The Difference Repentance Makes

“It is by grace and grace alone that we can ever have access into his presence. All of us stand guilty before the righteousness of God, Pharisee and tax-collector alike. The difference, however, between these two men was not that one was righteous and the other a sinner. They were both sinners. The difference was that the tax-collector knew that he was a sinner, and he repented of his sin…The point at issue here was not the track-record of the Pharisee or tax-collector, but the present attitude of their minds towards God.” (5)

“John Bunyan’s famous allegory, ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ begins with its main character, Christian, suffering under the weight of a heavy burden tied to his back. It causes him distress, slows his movements, prevents him from taking joy in the ordinary blessings of his life, and puts him in danger. His burden, of course, is sin. After trying and failing to rid himself of his burden, Christian finds relief from it at the cross of Christ. And when it rolls away, Christian is immediately refreshed. Bunyan tells us that he was ‘glad and lightsome,’ ‘gave three leaps for joy,’ and went on his way singing. The author of Hebrews likewise describes sin as a clinging weight that keeps us from joyful perseverance in the life of faith. Thankfully, the Lord has warned us of sin’s crushing weight. He has given us his Spirit to help us lay it aside (Rom. 8:13), and he has even given us the enduring testimony of others who have experienced the power of God to free them from sin in their own lives.” (6) What is your attitude toward God today? Have you confessed to be free from a guilty conscience, to give God your best thanksgiving? “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Related Scripture: Ezra 9:6; Psalm 25:11; 79:9; Proverbs 30:12; Isaiah 56:7; Daniel 9:18-19; Matthew 5:20; 6:5; 18:3; Luke 11:42-44; 16:15; 2 Corinthians 1:9-10


  1. Ash, Christopher B., “Discovering the Joy of a Clear Conscience,” P&R Publishing, 2014, Kindle Edition.
  2. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” p. 221, Crossway, 2002.
  3. Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-17), Electronic Book, 2016.
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Luke 18:9-14,
  5. Roberts, ibid.
  6. Hill, Megan, “Contentment: Seeing God’s Goodness,” Day 2, P&R Publishing, 2018.

November 25, 2021

Then Prodigal Son and His Unrepentant Brother

Have you had the experience of seeing something that you pass by all the time and never noticed? It could be a building, or a landscape scene, or perhaps a picture on the wall of your workplace or church. When was the last time you looked at the prints or paintings hanging on the walls of your home? We look at things without really seeing them, like a beautiful sky full of fluffy clouds or birds sitting on a wire. When we pay attention, the things around us speak to us about creation, our world, or even ourselves. Today we will consider the prodigal son’s repentance when he looked around and realized that he was in a pig pen instead of his comfortable father’s home. But even more important is his brother, who was didn’t want to look at the change in his sibling or his father’s joy over his repentance. He was jealous and bitter about the celebration for his wayward but converted brother because he was the “good” one, the elder brother, who probably thought he deserved to be honored above his younger sibling. But he, the older son, had been with his father all along. Jesus taught this parable for the unbelieving Pharisees. They not only didn’t rejoice in the salvation of sinners around them but were bitter and jealous of the attention Jesus was getting in the process. Christians often ask me, a former Jew, how the Jewish people can reject Jesus knowing that he was a Jew? The answer is the same for everyone refuses him, who doesn’t want to look upon him, to receive his offer of redemption. But we who have him, who have been with him, also need to look freshly at Jesus and his offer of sanctification. He invites us to come into his presence, confess our sins, receive forgiveness and rejoice in his gift of ongoing salvation. The unbelieving Pharisees were like the brother of the prodigal son who refused to celebrate and join his repentant brother and father in their joy. Let us not be like them in any way but repent when we falsely presume upon Christ’s grace and mercy without genuinely looking at our stubbornness, independence, and other ungodly lifestyle choices.

Coming to His Senses

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’…And he said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.'” And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” And he arose and came to his father.’” (Luke 15:1-2, 11-20) “No one comes to repentance who does not first come to himself. There is a madness that accompanies sin. The prodigal is blinded. The proliferate is beside himself. Those that turn out of God’s ways are acting foolishly. Every sinner needs to recover his senses. He needs to realize that he was made for better things. The great God omnipotent has a richer life than he has made for himself. God’s aspirations for him are higher than any he can imagine. His only hope of reaching his fullest potential is coming to himself and exercising repentance and faith…The prodigal repented. He got up and went home to his father. He had to go home. He had no other choice. For the prodigal and other sinners like him, there is no repentance without returning home. The prodigal’s father was like our heavenly Father—watching and waiting for the prodigal to come home; ‘he felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him’ (Luke 15:20). As quickly and earnestly as he could, the son wept out his confession… But while the father welcomed the confession and knew how needed and genuine it was, he also knew that a time of celebration had come.” (1)

The Father’s Eager Kiss

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him…[and] said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:21-24) God, our Father, is watching for and embraces the lost elect, rejoicing over them. There is truly no greater joy than the redemption of a lost one, whether 90 years old or a young child convicted of her sin. It is appropriate to have holy joy as heaven celebrates another member of God’s family coming home. This is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who finds and embrace those who are lost. (See other Luke 15 parables). What a contrast this is to the attitude of the older brother and the unbelieving, legalistic Pharisees. They refused to celebrate and join the repentant and Christ in their joy. 

The Older Brother’s Religion of Duty

We rightly rank our initial repentance as superior to any that follow since we wouldn’t confess at all if we have not had that first God-initiated turning to Christ for salvation. However, our continued repentance is also of great value in overcoming our legalistic tendencies, similar to the tightly held rules of the older brother and the Pharisees. Our old nature would have us revert to rule-following, burdensome religion. “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing…But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'” (Luke 15:25-32) Paul gives us a little glimpse of God’s heart in his letter to the Romans. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever.” (Romans 9:2-5) “The elder brother would have had another method taken with this younger son: he would have had him soundly whipped with the rod of the law, for his former sins; and sent into the fields along with him to work out his salvation; and not to have a rag put upon him, or a shoe on his foot, or a morsel of bread given him, till he had earned them; but instead of this, to be received and entertained in the manner he was, and so soon, highly provoked him: for he thought such a conduct was unbecoming God, and his moral perfections; and what his brother was undeserving of.” (2)

We Who Are in Christ

The unbelieving Pharisees were like the brother of the prodigal son who refused to celebrate and join his repentant brother and father in their joy. Those who have all the advantages of the Old Covenant should undoubtedly recognize the fulfillment of all God’s promises in Christ. We, who have all the benefits of Christ and his liberating gospel, should certainly appreciate and apply those benefits by confessing and repenting for greater zeal and joy. But when we are confronted with our sin, do we try to beat it out of us, punishing ourselves? Christ would have us reject this false religion that excludes his mercy and grace. “[The true penitent] repents of sin, his spirit rises against it, as one’s blood rises at the sight of him whom he mortally hates…God is never better pleased with us than when we fall out with ourselves for sin.” (3) And, I would add, come to him for forgiveness and the ability to turn away, not only from our sin but from our old religion of trying to repent on our own. When we do that, we are like the younger brother, finding ourselves in a self-made pig pen until we come to our senses—that we belong to Christ, who sanctifies and cleanses us continually by his Spirit. “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:35-36)

Related Scripture: 1 Kings 8:47-48; Psalm 73:21-22; Zechariah 3:3-5; Matthew 21:28–31; Mark 2:16; John 8:35; Ephesians 2:1-10.


  1. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” pp. 218-220,  Crossway, 2002.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Luke 15:30
  3. Watson, Thomas, “The Doctrine of Repentance,” p. 93, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668)

November 18, 2021

Peter’s Model of Repentance

Veteran’s Day is an excellent time to think about and thank God for our heroes. Many men and women and their families sacrificed so much for so many. Do you have some real-life heroes that you admire and want to emulate? Unlike fictional heroes, movie heroes, ours don’t have extraordinary abilities to fly, transform into self-enclosed rockets, or stretch long limbs to get through little places. They’re not men or women who can overcome a terrorist attack singlehandedly or save the world from an alien invasion. Hopefully, our everyday heroes are people who have committed themselves to the Lord consistently, honestly, and sincerely in whatever calling He has given them. Unfortunately, though, some Christians think that loud boasts of faith and positive thinking are appropriate characteristics to imitate, to become heroes themselves. Many of us, when disappointed, deny our discouragement, as if that is the way to be faithful to Christ. After all, he suffered more than we ever will, so why should we complain or give in to our failures? Isn’t it better to be stoic than giving in to our emotions? The answer lies in the fact that this may be precisely what our enemy, the devil, would like us to do because we are turning away from God to trust in our own power and solution to the problem. We know that Satan, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul reminds us that we should be watchful so as not to be “outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) James writes, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7). Making bold statements about our faith being unshakable or using “positive thinking” is the opposite of submitting ourselves to God. There are times when we need to repent of our unholy self-esteem and self-protection, as the apostle Peter should have, and finally did, seeking Jesus’s intercession to serve him most devotedly. We can learn from Peter about the dramatic changes in our spiritual fruit when we repent of self-motivated, human faith for a deep heart and soul commitment to God.

Peter’s Struggle

“Peter’s dominant nature seems to have propelled him to the forefront of Christ’s activities and ministries time after time. When Jesus asked, ‘Who is the one who touched Me?’ It was Peter, even though he did not know the correct answer, who spoke out and said, ‘Master, the multitudes are crowding and pressing upon You’ (Luke 8:45). From this brief incident and other that are similar, it is apparent that Peter’s tongue was sometimes faster than his brain or his heart…[And there was the time] when many of [Jesus’s] disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered very astutely, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:51-69)…It was Peter who [said], ‘Thou art the Christ.’…[But then] he turned around and rebuked the very one he had just acknowledged was God incarnate (Mark 8:27-32). How could he do such a thing? Where was his mind? Where was his heart? The answers to these questions are revealed in the words that follow: ‘Turning around and seeing His disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter, and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’ There is no question that Peter had left his fishing nets to accompany Jesus, but the level of his repentance was far from deep…Peter was following Christ, and yet he was not following…Even when Jesus said, ‘I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me,’ he did not weep and plead, ‘Save me, O Lord, from myself’ or any other appropriate words of a repentant man (Luke 22:31-34)…[Later, after the cock crowed three times], he went out and wept bitterly. Now, at last, we see the beginnings of evangelical repentance in this hearty fisherman who had suffered so much for Christ and yet has such difficulty in denying himself, taking up his cross, and following Him. With renewed strength accompanying his vastly enlarged repentance, we find Peter, just days later, rising early, running to the tomb, stooping and looking in, and, seeing the linen wrappings only, going away to his home marveling at what had happened (Luke 24:12)…Peter was finally in the grip of that kind of honesty that marks all truly repentant men. He could no longer claim more than was actually true…Not only did his faith not fail, but he had come to levels of repentance he had never even guessed existed.'” (1)

Peter’s Bold Mistake

Let’s take a closer look at Peter’s problem as Jesus describes it in Luke 22:31-34. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.’” Jesus interceded for “Simon” who thought he could protect himself from Satan’s scheme. I shudder when I hear Christians pray against Satan in their own power rather than ask God to protect and shield them, as we do in the Lord’s prayer, “deliver us from [the] evil [one].” “Paul tells us to put on the armor of God so that we can stand against Satan [Ephesians 6:1-10]. The battle goes beyond flesh and blood. We’re wrestling against cosmic evil in an unseen realm. Even though this evil is invisible, it is very real. Christians face two main dangers in dealing with Satan. One danger is underestimating the power and reality of Satan. The other danger is to overestimate his powers and attribute to him. Satan’s two principal activities in the life of the Christian are tempting him and accusing him.” (2) Satan was tempting Peter to trust in his own faith or strength to follow Jesus, rather than repent of his pride. I imagine that the devil and his minions rejoice whenever we act on our own power or ideas without engaging with the Lord. And continuing to do so, as Peter did, denies the need to repent and submit in weakness to the Lord’s will and protection. When we find ourselves making Peter’s mistake, we ought to repent of our unholy self-esteem and self-protection, seeking Jesus’s intercession to serve him most devotedly.

Jesus’s Intercession for Peter

Jesus prayed for Peter—ahead of his denial, during his boasting of suffering with the Lord, and for the ability to follow Jesus by his flesh. Jesus “turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62) “Jesus’s gaze brought home to Peter what he had just done. I don’t think it is possible for us to conceive how deeply Peter felt the glance of Christ at that moment. Luke simply tells us that Peter went out and wept bitterly. These were tears of remorse, provoked by Jesus’ gaze into the very soul of Peter.” (3) Jesus “looked upon Peter; with his bodily eyes, with great earnestness, expressing in his looks concern and pity for him; for it was a look, not of wrath and resentment, but of love and mercy, and power went along with it; it was not only a signal to Peter, to put him in remembrance of what he had said, but it was a melting look to him, and a means of convincing and humbling him, and of bringing him to repentance.” (4) This is the same “look” that Christ gives us when we repent, a look of love and mercy, full of forgiveness. Peter boldly preached Christ on Pentecost and ministered to both Jews and Gentiles before being crucified himself. His repentance of trusting in his flesh led him to serve Christ wholeheartedly. Our repentance of our inflated self-esteem or self-protection from Satan’s schemes will lead us to serve God more fully and not be so easily tempted to deny our faith in a world hostile toward him. As soldiers in the Lord’s army, Christ is our hero, the one we should imitate. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7-8)

Related Scripture: Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Amos 9:9-10; Matthew 26:55-58; John 21:15-19; Acts 3:13-15; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8.


  1. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 223-228, Crossway, 2002.
  2. Sproul, How to Please God, The Battle With the Devil,
  3. Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” Luke 22:54-65, Electronic Book, 2016.
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Luke 22:61,

November 11, 2021

Repenting in a World of Hurt

A friend and I were sharing how we don’t want to attend funerals so often. I’ve been to two in the last week. The people in my circle of friends are dying, some because they have aged, others due to chronic illness that overtook them. Fatal diseases, infections, and the world’s crises are increasing, including natural disasters, weather changes, climate degradations, and ongoing wars. My heart is weary of weeping, internally if not outwardly. But contrary to what some people might say, “things” are not worse now than they have ever been. If anything, it’s easier for most people to stay alive and well longer today than it ever has been. Unfortunately, the world’s reaction is to take all our conveniences, technology, medical knowledge, scientific research, and infrastructure enhancements for granted. Those of us who have lived in developing countries have the advantage of remembering that the distribution of these benefits is not equal around the globe. Many of the world’s leaders are meeting in Glasgow now, to discuss the global climate concerns requiring international mediation. We are living in a hurting world, but of course, we want to focus on the positive, happier aspects of life, don’t we? It’s good to have a thankful, peaceful countenance, which is possible when we have the Holy Spirit residing in us. It’s also vital to know when and how to lament the insidious sin that infects our cultures. This week I wanted to meditate on a New Testament passage, particularly about the hope of the gospel. However, that’s not where the Lord led me. I am humbly reminded that every book of the Bible points to Christ as the ultimate solution to the world’s problems. Every Christian funeral I attend reminds me of the future we have with Christ after passing from this world. Every non-Christian funeral is an opportunity to cry out to the Lord for the salvation of the elect.

A Cry for Lament in Crisis

“We study the prophets because we have a superior revelation from God. ‘Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.’ (Matthew 13:16-17)…We see the problems that Jesus solves…Jesus accomplished a far greater redemption than just returning one people group to a run-down land. His gospel goes out to all people as His Word is preached, to make one holy nation that will live with Him forever in perfect justice and righteousness…Jesus meets the needs, solves the problems, and resolves the tensions left unanswered, unsolved, and unresolved throughout the Old Testament.” (1) I am grateful for Guthrie’s reminder of the gospel’s power to ultimately reconcile all the world’s problems, including the issues handled by God through the prophetic books. We will turn to the book of Joel, which offers us an inspired view on how to seek repentance during a national crisis. “We do not know much about Joel or the circumstances of the writing of his book, except that an invasion of locusts had swept through Judah, and that in its own way this was as terrifying and unsettling… Joel had witnessed a devastating invasion of Judah by locusts and that he had recognized that it was God himself, and not mere chance, who was responsible…The remarkable thing is how [Joel] deals with it. To begin with, he does not treat the disaster lightly, as certain kinds of Christian people tend to do. That is, he does not imbibe the ‘best of all possible worlds’ philosophy…Joel is concerned that everyone see the disaster as he does, which means that he would not even have sympathy with an optimistic philosophy. Instead of slighting the problem, he accepts it in its full horror and calls on various groupings of people within the land to mourn with him.” (2)  

Joel’s Call to the Leaders

“Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” (Joel 1:13-14) “First, he calls on the elders. They are the leaders of the people. They are to take the lead in facing up to the enormity and meaning of this disaster…The second group Joel appeals to is drunkards…as he points out, it is not only the vines that are affected; the fig trees are also destroyed; the grain is devoured; the oil of the olive is lost; the pomegranate, palm, and apple tree are ruined. Even the ground is dried up. Nor is it only the fields that are affected: ‘Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.’ Pity the farmers, the third group! ‘Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The last of the groups addressed by Joel are priests. He calls on them to lead the nation in mourning. At the end of the chapter Joel, who was perhaps himself a priest, leads the way with a sample prayer of mourning. Christians need to learn from Joel’s approach to suffering…we do often tend to treat disaster lightly—especially when it does not happen to us. (3) How often do we pray for God’s intercession and repentance on these four groups to change, repent, and lead others to do the same? If God calls for his Old Testament people to cry out to him for mediation in the crises of sin’s consequences, shouldn’t we do at least that with their leaders’ example? Shouldn’t we acknowledge the far-reaching effects of sin and pray for the repentance of our leaders and nations, seeking God’s intercession?

The Necessity of National and Global repentance

Today, our world is suffering from the global effects of the COVID virus, climate change, and overwhelming immigration needs, to name just a few problems. We, who are all priests in Christ, do well to follow Joel’s example, acknowledging the far-reaching effects of sin and praying for the repentance of our leaders and nations, seeking God’s intercession. God calls for his people, with their leaders’ example, to cry out to him for mediation in the crises of sin’s consequences. “Many passages in the Old Covenant speak of returning to the Lord, and while repentance is not always the word used in the English translation, repentance is indeed the subject…After detailing something of the tragic harlotries of Israel, the Lord stirred Hosea to prophesy, ‘the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness in the latter days (Hosea 3:5). A tender invitation followed: ‘Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1)…The subject of corporate sin and corporate repentance is very prominent in the Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. But strangely and sadly, the modern church has overlooked this critical issue…the gross sins that defile the whole land, making the nation guilty before God.…the prevalence of [such] sin is so great that some of the remnant of faithful believers who remain are gripped by a spirit of pessimism and do little more than sit quietly by, hoping for an end-time deliverance.” (4) “Repentance is the proper response to the disaster at hand, and it must begin with the spiritual leaders. Their livelihood as well as their role as representatives of the people before God is at stake. They must appoint a fast and call a sacred assembly. It is not enough that the leaders repent. They must gather the elders and all the people to the house of the Lord and beseech him for mercy. At this juncture the prophet warns that the present sadness is merely a prelude to an even more disastrous possibility.” (5)

“In the closing words of the Old Covenant… ‘those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him”‘ (Malachi 3:16-17).” (6) Our devotion to God and his ways is not by feelings, but by his command. We must embrace the sadness of life, cry out to him for repentance of the nations, and pray for mercy. “‘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)

Related Scripture: 2 Chronicles 20:2-6; Jeremiah 4:8; Joel 1:8; Micah 1:8; Luke 10:23-24; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:10-12.


  1. Guthrie, Nancy, “The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets,” Chapter 1, Crossway, 2014.
  2. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Joel 1, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  3. Boice, Ibid.
  4. Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” pp. 49, 288-290 Crossway, 2002.
  5. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Joel 1:13-20, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  6. Roberts, Ibid.

November 4, 2021

Repenting of Taking God For Granted

Is there anything you’ve confronted lately with fear and trembling? Perhaps a confession to a friend or family member? Maybe you’ve been put in a position of leadership without quite knowing what to do? Sometimes we find ourselves in physical circumstances that cause us to shake, such as an automobile accident, the death of a loved one, or learning that we have a severe illness. Where I live, the Department of Transportation is rerouting temporary and permanent access roads while major construction continues on a highly used highway overpass. For all of us who live on this side of the highway, we must navigate the new roads to get to our local stores, businesses, schools, doctors, and homes again. Confident, younger drivers find it challenging to find the best way across the new bridge and back. However, older drivers are overwhelmed with the changes and tremble at them. I had used the new roads for about a week and observed learning how to get home easily, but I wasn’t confident about it until I saw a new little right u-turn off the new access road. Having approached the new routes with some nervousness, I now know how to traverse them easily. My desire for the completion of the permanent roads and the bridge doesn’t lessen my appreciation and respect for the Texas Department of Transportation. Metaphorically, I am reminded of constantly being “under construction,” trying to find the “right way” to live. I approach God with fear and trembling—the good kind—but still shaking. But as I learn to do so more readily, I also relax more as he responds with loving forgiveness and comfort. The more I embrace his strength to repent and take refuge in him, the more I can reverently and joyfully serve him by serving his people. And yet I must continue to serve him with “fear and trembling.” (Psalm 2:11)

Fearing God, Our Refuge

The Book of Psalms opens with a description of the two ways of life: walking with God, blessed by Him with renewal, or going the way of the wicked and scoffers, bearing God’s reproach. (Psalm 1) Immediately following, in Psalm 2, the writer warns the kings of the world against presuming their independence from the Lord. Instead, they should “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalms 2:11-12) God’s people are to serve our Lord with godly fear and great joy, seeking refuge in him. We are not those who openly rebel against God’s authority (like the kings in Psalm 2). Still, we do presume upon God’s grace and forgiveness, neglecting personal unholiness. And we are unable to serve God effectively and joyfully if we are wracked with guilt and preoccupied with unconfessed sin. But when we love God’s refuge of peace and blessedness, we are driven to destroy that in us, which prevents us from enjoying him. As those who serve God in significant ways, we should confess and repent regularly to serve God with reverence and joy, taking refuge in his strength. “To fear the Lord is not to be scared of Him. It’s to adore Him. Worship Him. Honor Him. It’s to put Him in the right place in our thinking. The fear of the Lord is in many ways to honor the first commandment: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’; and to honor the Great Commandment: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. Our response to our Creator is rejoicing, gratitude, and reverential fear. ‘Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:28–29). (1) 

How Do We Serve God with Fear?

“Kings and judges are not required hereby to lay aside their crowns and sceptres, and leave their seats of justice, and become preachers of the Gospel; but in acting according to the will of God revealed in his word, and in the whole worship of him, both internal and external: and this is to be done ‘with fear,’ not with fear of man, nor with servile fear of God, but with a godly and filial fear, with a reverential affection for him, and in a way agreeable to his mind and will; with reverence and awe of him, without levity, carelessness, and negligence.” (2) “To reverence God and to stand in awe of him. This is the great duty of natural religion. God is great, and infinitely above us, just and holy, and provoked against us, and therefore we ought to fear him and tremble before him…We must serve God in all ordinances of worship, and all instances of a godly conversation, but with a holy fear, a jealousy over ourselves, and a reverence of him. Even kings themselves, whom others serve and fear, must serve and fear God; there is the same indefinite distance between them and God that there is between the meanest of their subjects and him.” (3) Given this distance between God and us, shouldn’t we try to reduce it with our confessions of presumption of  God’s graces and mercies, as if we deserve them? God and those we serve are blessed when we recognize and appreciate every small and remarkable act of forgiveness and patience on the Lord’s part.

How Do We Serve the Lord with Trembling?

We may have a working definition of the “fear of the Lord,” but trembling makes us, well, tremble. We associate it with pain, shock, and devastation. However, our faithful Christian fathers offer a different understanding for shaking as we serve God. “Whatever we rejoice in, in this world, it must always be with trembling, lest we grow vain in our joy and be puffed up with the things we rejoice in, and because of the uncertainty of them and the damp which by a thousand accidents may soon be cast upon our joy. To rejoice with trembling is to rejoice as though we rejoiced not.” (4) While Matthew Henry relates trembling to the warning against dependence upon and joy for the world’s provisions, John Gill relates trembling with humility. “[Serving God] with modesty and humility; in which sense this word, when joined with ‘fear’ as here, is used Philippians 2:12, and stands opposed to pride, haughtiness, and arrogance; men should so rejoice in Christ as to have no confidence in the flesh, or assume any degree of glory to themselves, or have any rejoicing in themselves, but wholly in Christ, giving all the glory of what they have to him.” (5) The psalmist advises kings to serve their Lord with godly fear and great joy, seeking refuge in him. Believers are all royalty in Christ and called to serve him with reverence and joy, taking refuge in his strength.

We Kiss the Son

The psalmist continues, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (2:12). While we who are in Christ have already been given the desire and grace to “kiss” Christ (through our regeneration), Matthew Henry advises us, “To welcome Jesus Christ, and to submit to him, is our wisdom and interest. Let him be very dear and precious; love him above all, love him in sincerity, love him much, as she did, to whom much was forgiven, and, in token of it, kissed his feet, Luke 7:38. And with a kiss of loyalty take this yoke upon you, and give up yourselves to be governed by his laws, disposed of by his providence, and entirely devoted to his cause…he is our Lord and Master, and we are bound to serve him, our friend and benefactor, and we have reason to rejoice in him…With a kiss of agreement and reconciliation, kiss, and be friends, as Jacob and Esau; let the quarrel between us and God terminate; let the acts of hostility cease, and let us be at peace with God in Christ, who is our peace. With a kiss of adoration and religious worship. Those that worshipped idols kissed them. Let us study how to honor the Lord Jesus and give unto him the glory due unto his name.” (6) What unconscious quarrel with God may be lurking in your heart? Are you ready and wiling to tremble, letting the Spirit tear down your old, ineffective way and make a new path to serve God with renewed joy? Are you ready to repent of taking God and his benefits for granted? “I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” (Proverbs 4:11-13)

Related Scripture: Jeremiah 3:10; Hosea 13:2; Luke 7:38; John 5:26-27; Philippians 2:12-13; 4:4; Hebrews 12:28-29.


  1. L Newbell, Trillia J., Fear and Faith, Chapter 9, p. 120, Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 2:11,
  3. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Psalms 2:10-12,
  4. Henry, ibid.
  5. Gill, Psalm 2:12, Ibid.
  6. Henry, Ibid.

October 28, 2021

Repenting For Forgetfulness

How’s your memory? For some of us, forgetting something is a slight inconvenience, and for others, it’s a matter of missing a deadline, being unprepared for an important event, or leaving someone hanging. Many of my older friends (80s-90s) complain about not remembering things. But, I’ve been using phone calendar reminders for many years, so it’s hard for me to relate (except when I open the fridge and wonder what I was going for). Remembering our commitments and responsibilities is essential if we are going to be trusted. We easily forget those things that we’re not wholly devoted to or when we are distracted by things of this world. God’s nation, Israel, had a memory problem that prevented them from staying in the promised land, despite God’s many warnings to them before they entered. As a result, they were exiled, and only those who faithfully remembered God returned to the holy city Jerusalem in ruins. God often uses consequences to bring us back to him if we forget that He is our only hope and source of fruit and blessings. “‘Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the Lord.’ A voice on the bare heights is heard, the weeping and pleading of Israel’s sons because they have perverted their way; they have forgotten the Lord their God. ‘Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.’” (Jeremiah 3:20-22)

Consider Yourself Warned

The book of Deuteronomy is full of promises and warnings for God’s people who are about to experience prosperity after decades of roughing it in the wilderness with God as their guide, king, and provider. Moses spoke for him, saying, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3) Moses reminded God’s people of his command to remember and not forget Him when they prosper to restrain their self-righteous pride to fulfill his purpose of glorifying him among the nations. The description of what might (and did) happen is vivid, leaving Israel without excuse. “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-18) Perhaps today we might say, “Don’t forget the Lord who has given you people who love you, gifts, skills, education, clothing, shelter, and most of all Jesus Christ, who died and rose for your eternal reconciliation with him, to fulfill his purposes for you.” We must repent of our forgetfulness and self-centered attitudes for what God has done and is doing to serve Him with full confidence in all circumstances.

Humbled to Remember God

Why do we need to be humbled to remember the one who designed, created, and saved us? Prosperity and comfort are strong influences that cause us to become prideful. “Pride is a ‘barrier’ sin,’ and the wall that it erects in not only between the sinner and God but also between the proud sinner and other sinners. Pride guarantees broken relationships that cannot be fixed apart from contrition and humility. Pride has always been a problem of created beings. It was the sin of the fallen angels. It was the sin of Eve and then of Adam in the garden…Pride was one of the most destructive problems among the kings of Israel and Judah…The sin of pride is one of the marks of the last days. Paul warned Timothy, ‘But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.’ (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Did you notice how many of these eighteen marks relate directly to the issue of pride? Have you considered whether you personally bear any of these marks? Among the many commands that God issues to the proud are these potent words with promise: ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted’ (Matthew 23:12).” (1) Why would we want to be exalted by God? We want to be useful to him in leadership, service, prayer, or encouragement of others. Have you thanked your pastor and church staff for their devotion to God during October, pastor appreciation month? Will you repent of your forgetfulness of all the good that the Lord does through them?

Remember What the Lord Has Done

Moses reminded God’s people of God’s command to remember and not forget Him when they prosper to restrain their self-righteous pride. “In the land of plenty, pride comes from forgetting the wilderness and failing to apply its lessons in the good land. Massah is where Israel tested God. In reality, Israel was being tested by God. The phrase ‘it is he who gives you power’ is an explicit corrective to the proud words in 8:17. Israel’s future wealth will be evidence of God’s faithfulness to keep covenant as it is this day.” (2) “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (8:18) “Remember is a keyword in this chapter, along with its antonym ‘forget.’ Remembrance is demonstrated in obedience. The wilderness test was to reveal the state of Israel’s heart. The testing was also to teach Israel that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Real life derives directly from God and trusting his word. This was the learning that Israel needed in its heart if it was to pass the test in the land [of prosperity].” (3) I don’t know about you, but I would rather repent than face testing by God to learn the lesson of obedience through remembrance. Let us not think this lesson was only for Israel in the Old Testament. I used to have a little calendar-type devotion on my kitchen counter and flip it every morning. I realize now that remembering God as I fixed my coffee was a good habit, even if the passage didn’t make an impression. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:17-18; 9:4-6; Psalm 78:15-17; Isaiah 2:12; Hosea 12:7-9; 13:5-6; 1 Corinthians 4:7; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6.


  1. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 185, 187, Crossway, 2002.
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Deuteronomy 8:11-17, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. ESV Study Bible, Deuteronomy 8:2-3, Ibid.

October 21, 2021

Will You Cry Out to God?

Has God rescued you from something dangerous or compromising? About thirty years ago, around the age of forty, I was engaged to be married. As a relatively new believer, I was occupied with many worldly pursuits. God rescued me from an unhappy marriage, as he had rescued me many times before. (In fact, my life’s story might be called “Delivered!”) My fiancé and I had a significant conflict just weeks before the wedding, so we went to couples counseling instead of getting married. The Lord used a wise Christian counselor to bring me to my senses and even overcome some of the unresolved issues that led to my fears of singleness. God rescued my fiancé in a completely different sense. He is a stay-safe person who had been stressing out while I had been squelching my adventurous side, unbeknownst to us both. Our counselor started opening our sessions by asking him: “Do you want to be safe or happy?” Of course, he wanted both, but his happiness was, at that time, linked to a marriage of taking more risks than was comfortable. We are all faced with a similar question regarding our Christian faith: Do we want to be comfortable or joyful? When we are unwilling to be uncomfortable about our sin and weaknesses, we sacrifice our joy. All of our energy goes into avoiding a problematic issue or decision as we unconsciously move through our daily routines. But if we are willing to be uncomfortable (but not unsafe), God will rescue us. After my fiancé chose safety and broke off our engagement, I continued counseling, facing my demons and finding resolution for some of my long-held conflicts. Later I was called by God to the mission field, and my singleness allowed me to serving God and his people in Africa. My fiancé was happily married to a teacher within a year of our breakup. In our passage today, we will see that God attends to the cries of the faithful who are crushed and brokenhearted, delivering them from all their troubles. So the question is, will we will allow ourselves to be crushed and brokenhearted over sin, to cry out to Christ for relief, having already been delivered from sin’s condemnation, and are therefore safe?

God Sees and Hears Our Cries

“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:15-19) “[These verses] present a mature and very balanced view of life, pointing to the deliverance God provides for those who fear him but not overlooking the fact that, in spite of God’s favor, the righteous nevertheless do frequently suffer in this life. David himself had troubles; the psalm is a hymn of praise to God for delivering him out of them. So becoming a Christian does not mean a trouble-free existence. P. C. Craigie writes, ‘The fear of the Lord is indeed the foundation of life, the key to joy in life and long and happy days. But it is not a guarantee that will be always easy…It may mend the broken heart, but it does not prevent the heart from being broken; it may restore the spiritually crushed, but it does not crush the forces that may create oppression.’ Deliverance is one thing. Exemption from trouble is another.” (1) “It is the constant practice of real believers, when in distress, to cry unto God, and it is their constant comfort that he hears them. The righteous are humbled for sin, and are low in their own eyes. Nothing is more needful to true godliness than a contrite heart, broken off from every self-confidence. In this soil every grace will flourish, and nothing can encourage such a one but the free, rich grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (2) This question will beg to be answered throughout the life of a believer: Am I willing to be crushed and brokenhearted over sin and cry out to Christ for relief and comfort, having already been delivered from sin’s condemnation?

God’s Care for the Righteous 

“The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:16-17) It’s not as if God is “against everyone that sins; for the righteous are not without sin; they have sin in them, and they do no good without it; but against them that live in sin, whose course of life is a series of wickedness, and they are workers of iniquity; and have no sense of sin, nor sorrow for it, go on in it without shame or fear; against these the face of the Lord is, he shows his resentment, and stirs up his wrath.” (3) God knows we will sin, have trouble, and need his help. That, in itself, is a great comfort, is it not? The more we run to the Lord for help, the greater our dependence on him, our union with Christ, and our submission to the Holy Spirit. We can’t expect to want to approach God with our sin until we’ve tried it a few times, or a few thousand times, in my case. We don’t become skilled at anything until we’ve practiced it. Professional bakers, athletes, and doctors must spend years developing their skills before they are considered competent. As the regenerated, we recognize our unholiness before God and the need to grow through our sanctification. So we cry out to God, knowing that he hears and delivers us, even through difficult consequences of our sins. “The righteous are taken under the special protection of the Lord, yet they have their share of crosses in this world, and there are those that hate them. Both from the mercy of Heaven, and the malice of hell, the afflictions of the righteous must be many. But whatever troubles befall them, shall not hurt their souls, for God keeps them from [further] sinning in troubles. (4) Will I turn my heartaches over to Christ, at the expense of my comfort, knowing that he will bring me the peace I desire?

Delivered From Many Afflictions

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (v. 19) “It is only by the righteousness of Christ that men are righteous before God: and upon these the eyes of the Lord are; not only his eye of Providence, to watch over them, protect them, and supply them with good things, but his eye of love; with complacency and delight he looks upon them, as clothed with the righteousness of his son; and it is with pleasure he looks upon them, that being well pleasing in his sight…nor does he ever withdraw his eyes from them…and his ears unto their cry; for though they are righteous, they are sometimes in distress…who, though they are justified from sin, and are saved from wrath, yet have many afflictions; which are ‘evils’ in themselves, as the word may be rendered, and are very troublesome and distressing; and these are great and grievous for quality, and many and abundant for quantity…but the Lord delivereth him out of them all; as Christ was, and all his people will be…And then the sense is, that many are the sins committed by righteous persons; for there are none without sin, in many things they all offend; yet they shall not perish by them, but they shall be delivered from them; as, from the dominion of them by the power of grace, and from the guilt of them by the blood of Christ, and from condemnation for them through his righteousness; so hereafter from the very being of them, and all molestation and disturbance by them.” (5) Knowing that we are safe in Christ, will we not trust him with our most hideous burdens in repentance and relief? What do you need deliverance from? “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” (John 9:31)

Related Scripture: Psalm 33:18; 51:17; 145:18; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 15:17-24; John 9:31; Acts 12:11; 2 Timothy 3:11.


  1. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 34 , Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  2. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Psalm 34:11-22, 
  3. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Psalms 34:15-19,
  4. Henry, Ibid.
  5. Gill, Ibid.

October 14, 2021

Repentance and The Lord’s Prayer

I have a friend who has asked for prayer for her ten-year-old grandson, who doesn’t do his homework. I disliked school and had no aspirations until I chose to get a master’s degree. Then I began to enjoy the learning process, to achieve my goal in education. Later, when I was working full time, I had a mission or focus according to my assignments or objectives every workday. School or work is easy compared to our home lives or retirement because we have specified tasks and assignments. When we’re home, we’re often tired or rushed and occupied with family or personal tasks, so we may not think about why we’re doing them. We lapse into whatever is easy, familiar, or comfortable. But God calls believers to pay attention to our lives and live for him, rather than for worldly satisfaction or conformity. How do you refocus during the day or evening? I keeping an evening thanksgiving journal and also think about what I’ve heard in church or come across in my Bible studies. Our Christian Ed class is studying the Lord’s prayer this term, so I have found myself praying it to remember my biblical focus. * Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will on earth and in them, and for God’s provisions, forgiveness, and protection. He said, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9-13) This is a humble prayer of praise and trust. When we pray it or pray “like” it, we are  seeking God’s help to submit to him for our provisions and protection. Perhaps while praying we repent for not appreciating how God has already provided what we need, or how he has forgiven and protected us. 

Praying For God’s Will and Kingdom

This model prayer begins with praise for a loving, heavenly Father who is not of this world but completely “other.” He is the “holy, holy, holy” God of Isaiah’s vision (Isiah 6:3) “The idea of praying to God as ‘Our Father’ conveys the authority, warmth, and intimacy of a loving father’s care, while in heaven reminds believers of God’s sovereign rule over all things. The concern of this first petition is that God’s name would be hallowed—that God would be treated with the highest honor and set apart as holy…The presence of God’s kingdom in this age refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of believers, and to the reigning presence of Christ in his body, the church—so that they increasingly reflect his love, obey his laws, honor him, do good for all people, and proclaim the good news of the kingdom.” (1) “The will of God may be said to be done by us, when our wills are resigned to his; when we patiently submit to every adverse dispensation of providence; when our hearts and actions are, in some measure, conformed to his law; when what is done, is done in faith, with a view to his glory, and without dependence upon it…These desire to do the will of God, as it is done in heaven, constantly, and without any interruption; and perfectly and completely.” (2) Now, which of us will proudly proclaim that we are passionate for the kingdom of God as we should be in our hearts, as sincere lovers of Christ? Ungodly, false pride must be confessed and repented if we want God’s will to be done in us, others, and the world.

Looking to God to Be Our Provider

“Give us this day our daily bread…” (v. 11) Here, we humbly recognize God as the first cause of every single thing that exists, of all that we have been given. He is the Creator of all natural resources, intellectual powers, spiritual fruit, mercy, providential circumstances, and ruler of time. Gill continues, “It is said to be “daily” bread, and to be asked for “day by day”; which suggests the uncertainty of life; strikes at all anxious and immoderate cares for the morrow; is designed to restrain from covetousness, and to keep up the duty of prayer, and constant dependence on God; whom we must every day ask to ‘give’ us our daily bread: for he is the sole author of all our mercies; which are all his free gifts; we deserve nothing at his hands: wherefore we ought to be thankful for what we have, without murmuring at his providences, or envying at what he bestows on others.” (3) If we claim to have nothing else to confess, we must admit and renounce our proclivity to take our provisions for granted. I was delayed today in writing this draft. But just as I was starting to think about my options to pick it up later (which would not be ideal), I received a text message that the people with whom I am meeting are running about an hour late. Perfect! I could not have predicted that God would so generously provide the exact time I need to keep writing and I wouldn’t have known to ask for it. We are Jesus’s disciples who need to pray for God’s will on earth and in us for his provisions, with humility and repentance. 

Speaking of Repentance 

Now we get to the heart of the passage for our purposes here, “…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12). “[Our sins] are called ‘debts’ because…we owe satisfaction to the law and justice of God. The proper debts we owe to God are love, obedience, and gratitude…what is here requested is a manifestation and application of pardon to the conscience of a sensible sinner; which, as it is daily needed, is daily to be asked for.” (4) We are also taught by Christ to ask, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v. 13). You and I know with absolute certainty that something will catch our attention, distract us from what’s right and needful, or overtake us, and may cause us to sin— today or over the following days. The more we prepare for these temptations and stumbles, the easier it will be to see them quickly, confess them, and turn away from them in repentance. As we grow in holiness we learn that sin always has consequences, most of which are not canceled just because we confess and repent, so we want to keep watch, being ready to confess our thoughts, attitudes, heart’s desires, and motivations.

Easy Repentance is a Myth

“It is a myth to say that repentance consists merely of turning from the evil I have done. No one has come to genuine repentance who has not repented both of what they have done and of what they are…Our great problem is not merely that we sin but that we are sinners. And when we come to repentance it is never enough to turn from what we have: our sin. It is mandatory that we turn from what we are: sinners. Face the facts: every one of us was born in sin. Sin has a vice-like grip on our lives. It has contaminated everything we are and do. You might have repented a thousand times of specific sins you have committed, but it is not until you repent of what you are that true repentance begins…If a person does not know that he is a sinner, he will not suppose he has any particular need of repentance…The contrasting subjects of pride and humility are among the most prominent themes in the Bible. Pride serves as a great barrier between the proud and repentance…Pride guarantees broken relationships that cannot be fixed apart from contrition and humility…Among the many commands that God issues to the proud are these potent words with promise, ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted’ (Matthew 23:12).” (5)

Learning to Avoid Sin 

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  (v. 13) When we pray to be delivered us from evil, we are asking for the Lord’s protection from a sinful person’s influence, or focus of an event, idea, book, blog, movie, TikTok or Instagram entry, to not pull us into its grasp. “The meaning here most likely carries the sense, ‘Allow us to be spared from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin’…Trials and hardships will inevitably come to believers’ lives, and believers should ‘count it all joy’ when trials come, for they are strengthened by them (James 1:3–4). Nonetheless, believers should never pray to be brought into such situations but should pray to be delivered from them, for hardship and temptation make obedience more difficult and will sometimes result in sin.” (6) The longer we study biblical theology, the wiser we will become about the need for heart-felt confessions and repentance, and how to pray to avoid unnecessary sin. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Related Scripture: Matthew 5:48; 6:15, 26, 32; 15:13; 18:35; Mark 14:36; Luke 11:13; Romans 8:15; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesian 4:30; Colossians 2:13-15; 2 Peter 2:9.


  • You can listen to the classes, starting with the first one, at:

  1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Matthew 6:9-13, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 6:9-13,
  3. Gill, Ibid.
  4. Gill, Ibid
  5. Gill, Ibid
  6. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 179, 185, Crossway, 2002.
  7. ESV Study Bible, Ibid.

October 7, 2021

Walking With the God of Jacob

Have you started a new job or a vacation recently? Maybe you’ll be traveling again for the first time in a couple of years due to COVID. Do you remember what you do (or are doing) to be ready? We prepare for vacations by considering our travel requirements, where we’ll stay, how long we’ll be at a destination, and then we plan each day, perhaps the night before. Every day, we should also begin as if we have a new spiritual job or journey because our old nature will take over if we don’t, causing us to backtrack instead of moving toward our destination of greater sanctification. If we are preoccupied with ourselves, unfinished plans, or unresolved issues, we will not be ready for whatever opportunities God may present to us. Hopefully, we prepare ourselves for worship on Sundays to receive the blessings that God’s family and presence have for us. But we should also prepare for every other day since his Spirit lives in us, and we are his temple. How do we prepare? We pray praising for God’s character, offering thanksgiving, repenting, and submitting our requests to him. If we eliminate confession and repentance, we will find ourselves unprepared for new challenges God provides for our spiritual growth and resulting blessings. In the Old Testament, Israel sought God’s presence in the tabernacle and then in the temple. When David was troubled, he called on God in the temple, whose Spirit was thought to dwell there. “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” (Psalm 18:6) While David didn’t restrict his prayers to his worship in the temple, those prayers were vital to him, and he must have prepared well. David’s prayerfulness exceeded that of his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but followed their example of submission and (sometimes delayed) repentance. 

Blessings and Conditions of Answered Prayer

“God has made many of the gracious benefits He offers us conditional. Blessings like answered prayer, acceptable worship, and the forgiveness of sins are conditional. We know that God could act without our prayers but that He has chosen to work through our prayers. Although He has assured us that His ear is attentive to our prayers, He has also made it clear that there are certain requirements that must be met by praying people, including praying in faith, praying from clean hearts, praying in God’s will, and praying in Jesus’ name. We speak of these as conditions of answered prayer. God has granted the creatures He made the privilege of worshipping Him, but even this worship of God is conditional. We know that if God is big enough to be worshipped, He is big enough to insist on who can worship Him and when, where, and how worship is acceptable. He has laid down requirements such as ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.’ (Psalm 24:3-4)” (1) Let’s take a closer look at Psalm 24 to see how God blesses those who are near him with pure hearts, clean hands, and his righteousness. And in so doing, repent for the purity of our hearts. Our desire for inner cleanliness from lingering sin will lead to good works and receiving God’s blessings through Christ’s righteousness.

God’s Call for Heart Purity

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” (Psalms 24:3-6) In these few verses, David expresses the desire to worship by ascending the hill of the Lord and standing in his holy place, that is, in the temple. “A soul that knows and considers its own nature, and that it must live for ever, when it has viewed the earth and the fullness thereof, will sit down unsatisfied. It will think of ascending toward God, and will ask, What shall I do, that I may abide in that happy, holy place, where he makes his people holy and happy?” (2) As the New Testament temples of the Holy Spirit, we are not only always in the closest proximity to God but he is working out his holiness in us. Rather than trying to take on the impossible task of cleaning our hands (conduct) and purifying our hearts (to desire God’s will), we rejoice that the Spirit is asserting his power in us. He compels us to confess what is false (the world’s values) and reject the deceitfulness of empty promises and hope in that which is temporal. “We make nothing of religion, if we do not make heart-work of it. We can only be cleansed from our sins, and renewed unto holiness, by the blood of Christ and the washing of the Holy Ghost. Thus we become his people; thus we receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of our salvation. God’s peculiar people shall be made truly and for ever happy.” (3)

Jacob’s God

David calls the Israelite worshippers “the generation of those who seek…the face of the God of Jacob.” (Psalms 24:6) But we are even more those who seek him because he first sought us through Christ. “By His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus Christ provided the way of atonement for all repenting and believing sinners. He Himself paid their debt in full. But he did not do so to enable them to begin to accumulate another debt of sin. No! This same death, burial, and resurrection of Christ made possible a life free of accumulating sin for every sinner who goes on repenting and believing. To suppose that one can enjoy the benefits of the atonement without living repentantly is a travesty against the mercy of God, and is unthinkable for those who love God with their heart, soul, strength, and mind.” (4) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were ordinary sinners like us, yet also the patriarchs who the Lord called to be the source of blessing for Israel. David knew God to be the salvation of Israel, which is the greatest blessing. “He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.”(24:5-6) Jacob’s God called him to confession in a wrestling match when Jacob wouldn’t let go of the Lord until he received the blessing of forgiveness and reconciliation with God. After being blessed and having repented of his deceitfulness, God renamed him Israel, and he declared, “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32:30) Having the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have Jacob’s God in us, to help us return to him as Jacob did. We are blessed to know Christ more intimately the more time we spend with him. We have the opportunity to continue our journey with him freshly and energetically every day, realizing that we have wandered away for a time. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!…The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! SelahLift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Psalms 24:7-10)

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 10:15-16; 1 Samuel 6:19-20; Numbers 6:23; Psalm 15, 16–19; 26:6; 33:5; Proverbs 15:8; Isaiah 1:11–17; 33:15-16; Micah 6:8; John 14:1-3; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22-23.


  1. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 76, Crossway, 2002.
  2. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Psalm 24:1-6,
  3. Henry, Ibid.
  4. Roberts, pp. 77-78, Ibid.

September 30, 2021