repentance

God Yearns To Show Mercy

Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?”            (Ezekiel 18:23)

God had a big lesson for Israel in this little rhetorical question. Akin to the mentality of many people today, there were some in Israel who had the wrong idea about God, his mercy, his wrath and his judgment. Instead of taking personal responsibility for their own sin, Ezekiel’s generation sought to blame their forefathers, their looming captors and even God for their current condition. Their impression was that God was putting the people on edge because he enjoyed it and not because they were responsible for it. God said think again!

The very accusation they had toward God revealed that they did not know God. They had forsaken his ways in their heart. They had rebelled from being his special people to being a people headed for ruin:

Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31-32)

God pleaded with his people through his prophet. He wanted his people to turn and learn; but they wanted to turn and spurn. They refused a yoke that bound them to God in exchange for a yoke that bound them to sin.

Does God yearn to show mercy? You can’t read his word and not learn the answer to that, for he still offers the yoke of salvation that keeps us from wearing a yoke of bondage to sin (Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 6:16-18). EA

The Lord is not slow in keeping his word, as he seems to some, but he is waiting in mercy for you, not desiring the destruction of any, but that all may be turned from their evil ways.” (2 Peter 3:9BBE)

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The Real “Mourner’s Bench”

There is nothing wrong with feeling sorrow when it comes to sins that have been committed. After all, 2 Corinthians 7:10 does teach that a godly sorrow leads to a repentance that leads toward salvation.

A proper sorrow leads to a proper determination about sin in our life. Biblical sorrow has led an untold number of souls to Jesus for salvation. This is, in part, the whole call of the Gospel. But one practice in the religious world that has its roots in sorrow but not in the scriptures is the call that one may hear to the “mourner’s bench” (a.k.a. the altar call).

A godly sorrow over sin leads us to the throne in Heaven, not a bench at the foot of a pulpit in a church building:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:12-16)

When the Holy Spirit uses His word to cut at our heart we should act on the sorrow that follows; but our actions should be according to the scriptures. Confession is truly good for the soul, and our prayers for one another can have a great purpose (James 5:16), but the need for confession leads no closer to the “mourner’s bench” than it does the “confession booth.”

I say what I say to provoke honest thoughts about sorrow – not to hurt feelings that lead to nowhere. Trade your tradition for the scriptures and the “mourner’s bench” for the mourner’s throne! EA

An Aching Heart

“O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, Because you have heard, O my soul, The sound of the trumpet, The alarm of war.” (Jeremiah 4:19)

Jeremiah was a “preacher’s preacher” when it came to the seriousness of sin and God’s judgment. He refused to even “wink” at the things that Judah had “closed their eyes to.” He was a staunch opponent of the attitudes and activities that pulled the hearts of his people away from their God. And while all of that is true, Jeremiah still had a soft heart wrapped inside his hard words. It painfully hurt God’s prophet to watch the people he loved make decisions that led to their own downfall. Jeremiah was not a “blood thirsty” preacher that looked forward to the punishment of the people for their sins – HE DESIRED REPENTANCE!

There are times when a preacher must preach on sin and judgment not because he gets a kick out of it, but because it is his JOB! (2nd Timothy 4:1-5) A preacher can be angry at sin without being angry at the sinner.   A preacher can have a loud voice and a tender heart at the same time. Yes, unfortunately there are times when preachers confuse the opportunity to get up and present the message of Christ’s cleansing blood with an opportunity to get up on their own cleansing “soapbox.” But many more times, like the nation of Judah did, I am afraid that people end up confusing an actual lesson on sin with a lesson on a person’s opinion.

We must not confuse a sermon on righteousness with a sermon on self-righteousness. (more…)