Thursday, November 17, 2011


When I say with Paul that "God chose us to be in Christ before the creation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4) and that conversion is working up to that fact, I am often asked where then does REPENTANCE fit in?

After all, if we were found in Christ before we were lost in Adam, does our REPENTANCE count for anything? Since the New Testament and Jesus especially, talk about REPENTANCE, I should have an answer.

Most evangelical Christians have heard that our REPENTANCE is something we must do as a step in connecting with God's salvation. When I ask people what they think REPENTANCE means, the conversation goes something like this:

PEOPLE: "REPENTANCE is realizing we have sinned, saying I'm sorry and asking for forgiveness."

ME: "When you say sorry, do you have to be sincere or just say the words?"

PEOPLE: "You have to be sincere."

ME: "How sincere do you have to be? I mean, when do you know for sure that you have been sincere enough?"

You can see where this logic leads. We can never be sorry enough, sincere enough or believing enough ... and we know it. 

If there is a single human performance link in the chain that unites to God - we are doomed.
Whatever needs to be done to unite us to God must be done by HIM.

So now we can talk about how Jesus sees REPENTANCE. His most extensive teaching on this subject is found in his parables of the lost sheep, the coin, and the son in Luke 15.

A shepherd finds a lost sheep who will die without rescue and Jesus says, "In the same way, I tell you there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who REPENTS..."

QUESTION: What was the lost sheep's REPENTANCE?

A coin gets lost and a woman searches high and low to find it. Jesus says, "In the same way I tell you, there is rejoicing in heaven in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who REPENTS."

QUESTION: What did the lost coin do that in any way resembles our popular view of REPENTANCE?

Jesus teaches that REPENTANCE is like being found by a good shepherd or a determined housekeeper when we are helpless to do or say anything. The sheep and coin did nothing and contributed nothing to being saved.  

REPENTANCE, according to Jesus, is letting ourselves be found. 

REPENTANCE is like being welcomed home, which brings us to the lost son. The prodigal comes home because he is hungry and looking for food. The Father goes out and saves him. The coin, the sheep, and the son do nothing like our common view of REPENTANCE.

REPENTANCE is waking up to the truth that we are already accepted and then accepting our acceptance. 

REPENTANCE is the experience of being found.

Admitting our sin and saying sorry to God is entirely appropriate, but this is not REPENTANCE and doesn't save us.
The Father of Jesus, who is also our Father, does it all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


People often use this term to recount their conversion.
Receiving Christ or inviting him into our hearts, however, is not New Testament language and gives a distorted impression of what actually happens in so called conversion.

If Paul's view of reality is anything to go on, then Jesus, from eternity, has already included us in his life. 

Conversion to Christ is then us coming out of darkness and awaking to this truth.

Here is Paul:  
"Long before he laid down earth's foundations, God had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ." Ephesians 1:4-5
"God who saved us and called us, not according to our works, but according to his own purposes and grace, which was given to us in Jesus Christ before time began."

So, receiving Christ amounts to awaking to the truth that you are already home free. 

When Paul said, 
"It is for Freedom that Christ set us free"
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom
his words were based on this insight.

If we worry about our own performance regarding connecting with God, we are not free.
Bondage follows fretting over the quality of our repentance and the rightness of our believing.
We may feel closer to God when we are good and alienated when we are bad, but it's all illusion. 

The Father did not leave it to us whether or not he accepted us. 
His purposes are in no way dependent on our opinions or our decisions. 
We don't get a vote. 
"Long before God laid the earth's foundations, he decided to adopt us into his family."

In a real sense, coming alive to this truth is a kind of conversion. Everything changes. Realizing that we are included in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, that we are home free forever does or at least should transform us.

  • Our guilty conscience loses its grip on our imagination. 
  • Other people's opinions of us exercise less power. 
Seeing how well loved and eternally secure we are and always have been, enables us to take risks:
  1. love others, all others
  2. and freely forgive
  3. take risks
We begin to see the world as a safe place for us.

The greatest and most life changing benefit of all is what pops into our imaginations when we think of God. We now see him loving us with no shadow of turning. 

There was never a time, nor will there ever be a time when he looks upon us with anything other than loving acceptance. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Last week I performed the wedding of my third son.

It seemed appropriate to speak of Jesus' first miracle - turning water into wine in order to rescue a wedding ceremony after the wine had run out. This was a shame based culture and saving face was paramount. Therefore, failing to provide hospitality for guests equaled deep humiliation for the host families and the couple would have to begin their life together in shame.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, assumed leadership in this situation and determined to solve the problem. She asked Jesus to "do something."

At first he put her off by saying, "It is not yet my time."

But she refused to take no for an answer and told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to.


                Got a problem?

Call Jesus and don't take no for an answer. If he communicates to you in some way, in Scripture or more directly, do whatever he tells you to do.

This is what the servants did. After they filled six water jars with water, Jesus turned that water into wine.

Problem solved.

This often happens when Jesus gets involved and gains our cooperation. Not only is a problem solved, in this case, a humiliating deficit is turned into a joyful abundance. This happy ending would never have happened if, when the wine ran out, everyone had focused on who was to blame. After all, it was someone's fault that there wasn't enough wine. 

Faultfinding and blame shifting not only kills problem solving, it's something Jesus repeatedly refused to get involved in. So Mary didn't go there. She focused on the need for more and Jesus as provider.

Another thought....

Running out of celebration wine is a significant social embarrassment, but not a life and death issue. 

Why would Jesus perform his first miracle simply to prolong a party and protect people from shame? 
We might ask such a question if we see Jesus as primarily concerned with the big spiritual issues of life... 
the last judgment

But this story shows that Jesus cares about what we care about. 
He is in every corner of our lives, seeking to repair and add value to all of it. 
He is within our love of babies, baseball, barbeque, and all the rest.

This story tells us we can look for Jesus everywhere and call on him for any need and share with him every joy.