Matthew 3:1-2 reveals a statement made by John the Baptist:
1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
"Repent for what? We aren't doing anything wrong!"
Most Christians are doing exactly what God said not to do, and, in many cases, will not do what He said to do. Yet, most people feel they have no need to repent. Why is that? Did we get some sort of dispensation that was never recorded but all the pastors seem to know about? Maybe it was only the really bad people that came to John for baptism. Well, verse 5 in the same chapter says:
5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.
OK. Why would lots of people come to John to be baptized, instead of to their rabbi or priest? They evidently knew they needed something they were not getting from the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul summed it up best in Hebrews 5:12
12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
. So many people learn the quick, mushy Christianity that makes you feel good inside and stop there. They don't get into the word of God for the meat and grow in God. They forget to grow in the same way that we start out as children and have to mature in life before we are truly effective in distinguishing good from evil.
Looking in the Complete Jewish Study Bible, edited from the Jewish point of view, we find that there was a reason for people to start evaluating their lives and see how they fit into the will of God.
Not just a new concept
First, the Greek word "metanoo" that was translated into English as "repentance" was based on the Hebrew concept of "t'shuvah". The whole concept of t'shuvah is explained in 2 Chronicles 7:14
14if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
. Yes, this came from the Old Testament. Remember, the only books the teachers of Jesus' time knew were from the Old Testament, so all their reasoning and background was from there.
John the Baptist's phrase about the Kingdom of Heaven being at hand was something everyone knew was eventually coming because the word of God had been talking about it for centuries. They knew they were not living right, and they knew a judgment was on the way. How do you get past the judgment? Straighten up and fly right.
Now, just like the sermons of today, you don't just go to church, get baptized and leave. You get a sermon, then a choice, make a decision, then make a commitment. You will notice the phrase in John 1:29-30:
29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"
He had been preaching not only repentance, but also the Reason for the need for repentance. John pointed to Jesus and essentially said, "Oops. He's here. Now He's in charge and I must leave the stage. Repent and stand by."
Somehow, we got the wrong message
Now, here is where the actions of most of the Christian world confuse me. John didn't say, "Relax, there is no need for repentance because One is coming Who will make it OK for you to disobey God." or "From now on, you can do anything you want because you are saved!". No, he warned that Jesus was coming and that most people were not in line with God's will, so they need to repent and "sin no more". He warned that Someone is coming to judge the world, and the world needs a lot of changing to "get right with God".
Now, that judgment would not happen during Jesus' first visit, but would happen on His return to set up His kingdom. Why would that judgment even matter if, on His first visit, Jesus was supposedly going to "free" everyone from every sin they would ever commit? Remember the healed man from the Bethesda pool (John 5:14
14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
Why repent? The reason for the repentance was to set your mind and heart straight by recognizing that you are a sinner. Sin is disobedience to God. (1 John 3:4
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
) That is still the case today. You must repent for your sins, and then commit to sinning no more (1 John 3:6
6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
). Jesus did not come to allow you to continue sinning, but to say what He said to everyone He forgave - "Now, go and sin no more." He did not say, "Keep on sinning, they're all forgiven now!"
It's not the little things...
We are all sinners, so what does this mean to us in our daily lives? Well, no one can never sin. We all fall now and then. Those are the times when we say, "Sorry, Lord. I shouldn't have said (or done) that." That is a form of repentance, if we mean it and follow through. Jesus is right there with us to forgive us. But, how about those things we do on a regular basis that "everyone does so it must be all right."? Not those little "Oopses", but the big things that God said to never do, but that "everyone" does? How about those things He said to do, but that "no one" does?
We are not talking about some little human nature things that we all slip up on. These are the deliberate, in your face, "I'm doing that because I can't see anything wrong with disobeying God on this issue!" statements that many of today's Christians have told me to my face. The context is that they love Jesus so much that they feel that they don't have to obey a direct statement from God.
Time to get down to it
Now, up to this point, for the most part, most everyone agrees with me - unless you know what's coming next. Next comes the whole reason for this page. Coming is a short list of those things that God said not to do that "everyone" is doing anyway. Not you? OK, let's see.
First, we'll look at a list of statements in the Bible and see where you stand on the issue. Then we'll look at common occurrences that "everyone does" that God has clearly said not to do and one that He said to do that "no one does". I can guarantee that your response will be something like, "So? That's OK, isn't it?" or "Come on now, God doesn't care about that!" or even, "Well, He said that, but He didn't mean it for us!"
Sabbath, a dirty word?
8"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11)
Sleep with your sister?
6No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:6)
Eat junk food?
7And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. 8You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:7-8)
Worship like the pagans?
3Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.
4You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; (Deuteronomy 12:3-5)
How did you react? See? Told you so. Now that you have had time to blow off some steam, take a look at the list again. For the first point, take some time and try to point to where God (not your pastor) said that this day He made holy was no longer holy for us. Go ahead, I'll wait. It's not there, is it?
God never changes (Malachi 3:6
6 I the LORD do not change.
), "except when He does for us special Gentiles..."
People look at Leviticus 18:6 above and say, "Of course, sleeping with your close relatives is wrong." But, then they look at another command in the same book of the Bible, Leviticus 11:7-8, and say, "Come on, we don't have to worry about that!" Since when is something unclean for some people, but OK for others? Wow. It's in the same book, by the same author, inspired by the same God, but somehow we only have to obey some rules and others we don't? Just who is it that gets to tell us which of God's commands not to follow?
Junk is still junk
Some say that Peter's experience in Acts 10:9-16
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."
14 "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
proves that we can eat anything we want. Look closer. God never said that any unclean animal in the sheet was clean. Also, if you look at the passages and what Peter himself relates that he learned from his experience, you see nothing about a new diet - only acceptance of the believing Gentiles as God's people. The passage in Acts 10:28-29
28He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection."
explains what was really happening. This is hardly the statement of freedom to eat things that God said are unfit for human consumption.
"Surely, God won't mind this if we do it in love..."
How about the use of a pagan day, pagan symbols, and the pagan way of worship to worship God? Find some passages that say it's OK to worship God their way (eggs, bunnies, trees, presents) instead of using the seven holidays He set aside for that purpose? Anything come to mind? Easter? Christmas?
Sin is sin. Disobedience toward the commands of God is sin. If we disobey, we sin. (There's that pesky 1 John 3:4
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
, again). Oh, yeah, and there's that silly statement in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Both of these are from the New Testament, by the way.) Repentance is recognizing a sin, setting it aside, and sinning no more. Oh, there are a few who try to twist God's commands into something that resembles logic saying we don't have to worry about it, but they usually just conflict with some other passage and they have to fight their way out of that.
Free to tell God to go...what?
Now, if we are constantly telling God to go jump in the lake because we don't see anything wrong with breaking His rules, do you think that might be a good reason to repent? Of course, that would do you no good if you just turn around and keep doing it. We are supposed to repent and "sin no more". Remember, we don't want Him telling us to go jump in the Lake...
Of course, if you don't think disobedience is really sin, and requires repentance because you are saved, no matter what, then keep on going. I really hope you do have the freedom to do anything you want. But then, evidently John the Baptist wasn't speaking to you - just those sinners in the other churches. If there comes a time when we find out the truth, like when we are standing before Him in judgment, it's too late to fix it - no matter what we think.
Heaven forbid that our pastors would lead us astray - pun intended.
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