At that time some people were there who told Jesus that Pilate had killed some people from Galilee while they were worshiping. He mixed their blood with the blood of the animals they were sacrificing to God. Jesus answered, â€œDo you think this happened to them because they were more sinful than all others from Galilee? No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will be destroyed as they were!â€ Â Â Luke 13:1-3 (NLT)
This week I am reading Luke 13. It begins with the horrific story of some Galileans being murdered by the Roman authority while they were in the temple worshiping. Jesus quickly dispels the often believed theology that terrible things happen to people to punish them for their sins. Jesus admonishes the crowd to pay attention to their own sinful state!
In Chapter 1 of Mark’s gospel, Jesus begins His ministry by taking up John’s message to â€œRepent for the Kingdom of God is near.â€ Jesus validates John’s ministry and continues to call the people to be ready for the Kingdom that is God’s.
Am I ready for God’s Kingdom? Are you? What part does repentance play in my spiritual life? Repentance is about asking God for forgiveness. And that involves some key actions on my part.
Willingness to take the time. I hear other Christians talk about their prayer time but I haven’t heard them talk about time with the Holy Spirit so He can examine them. But then the Holy Spirit hasn’t been invited into my prayer life for examination as much as He should have been either. Until I remembered how I felt the night I was baptized. I remember coming up out of the water feeling so clean and new! I had invited the Holy Spirit to come and shine His light into every corner and closet of my life. And the baptism was the outward sign of my inward change!
Humility. I do not like discipline! But humbling myself with God is safe. God has only my best interests in His plan. He wants me to be better. And He already knows all about me and loves me any way! But for God’s Spirit to come and convict (not condemn â€“ meaning humiliate) me I have to lower the gates that are locked in with my pride. God tells me that He hates pride (Proverbs 8:13, 16:18). He will not tolerate any â€œgodâ€ (including myself) to be more in importance, love, priority than Himself (Exodus 20:4-6). Pride keeps God at a distance from me. And so to bow and invite the Holy Spirit to come in and convict me of my sin is the beginning of the restoration of my relationship with God that is clean and new!
Turning. And here is the third important step. It is a step that I take in my flesh and in my spirit. In my spirit I say, â€œYes, LORD, I am a sinner in need of Your forgiveness. Please forgive me.â€ and I open my heart and arms and embrace my Savior and Father who loves and forgives without conditions. I don’t want to rush this part and that is easy for me to do. It is a life-long issue with me that I am grateful that God has patiently brought me to this place. I stop now and just allow God to pour out His love on me. I picture in my mind God holding me and the smile on His face â€“ that content smile that I have when I hold my children and grandchildren with a heart that is overflowing with love. God feels that way about me! It’s taken me a long time to know that and I still have to intentionally spend time in that sweet place.
In my flesh I turn away from the path that I have been walking that led me to that sin. If it is TV or a book, I make the choice not to watch or read that â€œstuffâ€. If it’s a person who delivers â€œtrashâ€ into my life, then I talk that over with God and maybe I need to take a vacation from them for a time. A wise man once asked the question, â€œHow do you avoid looking with lust at someone? Turn your head!â€ I Corinthians 10:13 says that God will always provide a way out of a temptation so I can stand up and overcome. It will not defeat me unless I give it permission! This is also the place where I must heed Jesus’ warning to fill my clean house with good things â€“ or the enemy will come back in with a vengeance for having kicked him out before! Spending time in the Word, being a part of a small group, spending time with Believers in social situations, offering my life in ministry to others â€“ these must be a priority in my life or the enemy will sneak in and I will be back in the slime of sin again!
In my own life and in the lives of so many that I have prayed with and prayed for, it is this final step of turning in a new direction, accepting the need for new priorities in life where we have not grasped how vital it is. We arrogantly believe that â€œI’ve got this. I’m better now. I love going to church now and that’s enough. I don’t have to get crazy and give up _____. I’m too busy to commit to that group. I need that relaxed extra hour on Sunday.â€ When I keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome â€¦ what’s that called again? How has that been working for me? Soooooo, maybe I should try it God’s way. Make a change in my heart and life â€“ today.
The song today is the song from yesterday, Mercy Seat. I listened to that song 4-5 nights/week for almost 4 years and I always heard God’s love and His conviction. It has become a love song to me.
Mercy Seat written by Nick Cave (1988) & sung by Vicki Yohe