(Originally published on Oct 21, 1995, Eve of formal appointment as Elder)
Does anyone here tonight want to be changed from what you are and the way you now are – even as a believer – because of hearing the Word of God to you?
Is anyone here tonight a changed/different (hopefully better!) person since believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior than what you were before believing the gospel of God?
These two questions – with their positive answers – give a basis for continual hope and growth in the life of any person and Christian – old or young, male or female, wise or simple, Jew or Gentile, . . . .
Ps 19:7 (8 Heb) The Law of YHVH is perfect, converting/returning/restoring the soul. (Written to the Jewish people, and through them to all peoples)
Acts 3:19 Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. (Preached to all Israel by the Apostle to the Jews)
Rev 3:19-22 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous, therefore, and repent! (Spoken by the Lord Messiah Himself to any believer, whether Gentile or Jewish)
God as Creator, Judge, Lawgiver, King, Savior: (Is 33:22) It is the commandment of YHVH God throughout the whole of the Bible that all persons everywhere should repent (turn back) from evil and to do good, to repent and believe the good news of God that His Son Yeshua the Messiah is the Savior from sin and uncleanness and evil. It is the promise of God that all who do so will be changed and walk in newness of life by the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit. In the goodness and longsuffering of God towards us, He brings us to act with our own will to return (turn back; repent) to Him (Hos 12:6 [7 Heb]; Mt 3:2-3), and in continuing to walk in His way, He works with us to sanctify us, changing us into the likeness of His Son, who is the exact image of the invisible God.
In other words, true repentance leads to genuine Godliness. We are converted! True repentance is directed unto God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21) It includes a sorrow and a regret over our own sin first, and, afterwards, over the sins of our family or of our people. (Gen 6:7; 2Cor 7:10) The Holy Spirit will bring us to see that sin of whatsoever kind is first of all against God Himself (Ps 51:4 [5 Heb]), and that in His love for us He sent Yeshua to die on the cross for our atonement and reconciliation (1Jn 4:9-10). There is brokenness of heart and contrition of spirit; then we are comforted by the Spirit of God. (Zec 12:10) As we continue in faith that, in Messiah, God completely forgives us and justifies us and accepts us into fellowship with Himself, we are free to love Him and to obey Him – even to confess our sins – with all our heart and soul. We will become different persons (1Sam 10:6): our world-view will be turned upside down; our attitudes towards life and people will change; our motives will switch from self-interest and self-honor to God’s interests and His honor.
If the heart and the will are sincere, then there will be fruits of repentance (Mt 3:8-11): (a prophet’s rebuke to especially “good and honorable” religious Jews [and Christians]): “We’re already sons of Abraham”; “We’re already circumcised!”; “I am Jewish and don’t need to be converted!”; “We’re already baptized.”; “I am already Christian and don’t need to convert!”; “We’ve always believed in God!”; “I’ve always believed in Jesus!”; “I’m a good person.”; “Nobody’s perfect.”
–conviction of our own sinfulness, and hence humility before God and man
–the fear of YHVH, recognizing that it is God who forgives and who has power and authority to both kill our bodies and to cast our souls into hell (Mt 10:28)
–repentance from dead works, i.e., works apart from faith in, and the fear of, God (Acts 26:9-23; Heb 6:1; 1Thes 1:9-10)
–a heart, and passionate love, for Jesus, and for all who do the will of God His Father (Ps 45:10-11; SS 1:2-4; Mt 10:37-38; 12:50)
For us living in Israel among Jews and Muslims, it is a reproach to be considered as converting to another religion — meaning to believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized in His Name. They want us to feel guilty or ashamed for changing our faith and religion. But, brothers and sisters, anyone who has previously not personally believed that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah/Christ and the Son of the Living God the Father has changed his faith and, necessarily, his religion, too – that is, his way and conduct of life now based upon his/her personal faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross for our redemption and salvation! We have turned back to the one true God in His way, and not to simply another faith or religion of this world. To the Jew first, and also to the Gentiles!
It is also true that God loves us and accepts us as we are when we come to Him in faith, and trust in His mercy towards us; yet He continually calls us to repentance and to change our ways of thinking and doing, even when we think our intentions have been good. (Rev 2:3; Is 55:7-9; Mt 7:21) Ought not each husband and wife, father and mother want to let God, by His word and Spirit, work with us through living faith to make us more like His own pattern to us in these tremendous positions of responsibility and privilege? (1Jn 3:2) Ought not children want to know God the Father in such a way that they would want to truly and righteously honor their fathers and mothers, and all others in authority over them in the Lord? Ought not every believer want to become worshippers of God in Spirit and truth, freed from all forms of idolatry and offenses? Ought not our own congregation – which properly belongs to Yeshua – repent in all areas not in accord with the Spirit and the Word and the blood, that together we can indeed both give and leave a testimony of the Presence of God in our midst, and of much good fruit unto Him in His name?
Let’s consider briefly together several changes both required of us and also promised to us by the Lord, and which are impossible for man to do naturally or by his own efforts only, but which, in cooperation with God, are possible and worthy of our attention:
Jn 3:3 We all must be born again by the Holy Spirit form Heaven!
Mt 18:3-4; 11:25-30 We all must humble ourselves and become like a child – “a lamb of the first year” — in order to hear and receive from God, and also to know Him.
Mt 5:3-12; Gal 5:22-23; Rom 8:29; 2Cor 3:18; 1Jn 3:2 the character and the fruit of God formed in us, and being expressed outwardly: from glory to glory
Ezek 36:26 God gives us a new heart and a new Spirit.
Lev 16:16,30; Is 1:18; Ezek 36:25-28; Jn 3:11 God makes us clean from all our defilement from sin and sins, and baptizes us in holiness and purifying fire.
2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Col 3:9-10 We become a new creation in Messiah, who makes all things new, and must put off the old man and put on the new man created in the image of God.
Mt 7:17; 12:33 We must become a good tree which will produce good fruit.
2Cor 11:2; Lev 21:13 We must become a chaste virgin to marry our great High Priest and King of Glory.
Gal 2:20 Not I, but Christ lives in me!
Mt 13:11-17; Ps 32:1-6 Jesus will heal us – physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.
–He does not condemn.
–The love of God draws out our loving obedience and trust.
Let each of us individually, and all of us together, allow God to be glorified in Himself through us His people and children. May the Holy Spirit help us to know that repentance is a good thing – it is not bitter for too long – and that we would learn to rejoice in repentance, for it transforms us and sanctifies us, bringing us closer to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and to one another: joy is fulfilled! Amen.