We have previously talked about the importance of understanding our responsibility regarding the if / then passages in Scripture. In these, the promise of God (then) is contingent upon some completed action on our part (if). One always precedes the other. One is always contingent upon the other. When the if is satisfied, the promised then is realized. But the opposite is also true. If there is no if, there will be no then. If no condition is met, there will be no fulfillment of the promise. It’s Contract Law, 101.
For example, when Peter preached his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost that ushered in the birth of the church, he closed his message with an if / then promise. Let’s look at this in context. First, Peter concludes his message with a statement about Jesus and their guilt in rejecting and crucifying Him.
Acts 2:36 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified (now it’s personal), both Lord and Christ.”
Then, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the people cry out for an answer. They long and seek for salvation, some deliverance from the guilt of their sin.
Acts 2:37 – Now when they heard this (the words Peter just spoke), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter answers their question with an if / then promise regarding repentance and salvation. They must do something (if) to receive salvation and the forgiveness of their sins (then). If they fail to do what is required of them (if – repentance), then salvation does not follow (then). Watch how this plays out.
Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said to them, “Repent (if – the condition they must meet), and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (as an outward sign of their repentance and submission to Christ); and (then – the promise of salvation, the result of meeting the condition of repentance) you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Remember, the Holy Spirit is our proof of salvation. Ephesians 1 says we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” in Him (Eph. 1:13-14). Again, no Holy Spirit, no regeneration, no changed nature— no salvation. But you already know this.
Turn at My Rebuke
Yet even after salvation, we find the same if / then conditions and promises still apply in our lives today. This is especially true regarding the sins we commit as a believer and our refusal to repent of them and give them up in exchange for a deeper relationship with the Lord. Look at your own life. You and I have areas right now that we struggle with and refuse to submit to Him. But you also already know this. The end result of this inaction on our part is a grieving of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and a noticeable break in our fellowship with the Lord. Can you relate? Ever been there?
We even see this scenario played out for us in the first chapter of Proverbs. In this chapter, the young man (representing you and me) is warned by his father and mother not to forsake what he has been taught and to not consent when sinners entice him to sin (Prov. 1:10). The Lord then spends the next nine verses detailing the types of pressure each of us will face when we are tempted to sin. There’s peer pressure, greed, anger, violence, acceptance, excitement— it’s all there. Read it for yourself.
By the time we get to Proverbs 1:20, things change a bit in the text. Now we have wisdom, the personified wisdom of God, calling out to this young man with the message of repentance. In fact, we see wisdom calling out to anyone who will listen. Wisdom calls out in the “open squares,” in the “chief concourses” and “at the opening of the gates in the city” (Prov. 1:20-21). Wisdom is calling to everyone. To those who are lost, it’s a message of repentance unto salvation. To those, like the young man and you and me, it’s a message of repentance unto fellowship and a restoration of our intimate relationship with our Lord.
Wisdom’s message begins with a rebuke. It’s like incredulously asking, “Just how stupid are you?”
Proverbs 1:22 – “How long, you simple ones (foolish ones, naive ones, stupid ones, moronic ones), will you love simplicity (what is foolish, stupid, moronic)? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.”
Wisdom asks each of us the same question: “How long, you foolish, moronic, stupid ones, will you love your stupidity? How long, you fools, will you be enamored in your folly?”
Just like those who heard Peter’s charge in Acts 2:36, we also ask the same question: “What must we do?” The answer is simple. But it’s an if / then answer. It requires something of us in order to receive something from the Lord.
Proverbs 1:23 – “Turn (if – the condition that must be met) at my rebuke; Surely (then – the results of meeting the condition) I will pour out my spirit (Holy Spirit) on you; (then) I will make my words known (yada) to you.”
The promise is that God would pour (to gush forth, to flow) out the Holy Spirit on those who turned (turn back, returned) and repented at the rebuke (correction, reproof, chastisement) of wisdom. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, He also promised to make His words known (yada) to those who repented and turned back to Him. The word “known” is yada in the Hebrew and means to know, or be known, in a loving, intimate, experiential way. The promise offered by the Lord is for Him to pour Himself out on us in the Person of the Holy Spirit and make His words become something we love because we have experienced them ourselves, first-hand, and have an intimate, loving relationship with Him. Does it get any better than this? Not for me.
But don’t get too excited. This wonderful promise is conditional. It’s the then side of the if / then equation. There is something that is required in order to receive the promise from God. Something each of us must do.
We must repent. We must turn at the rebuke or correction and chastisement of the Lord.
It means to go back to where we were with Him before we jumped ship to blindly go after the trinkets and toys this world offers. It means to embrace the eternal and reject the temporal, no matter how good the temporal may make us feel in the short run. It means placing ourselves back under the Lordship of Christ as the Sovereign One. We must repent of the selfishness of demanding our Christian life being about us, and not about Him. And we must vow to never view Christ as a genie in a bottle, always at our beck and call, whose sole purpose, according to us, is to make all our dreams come true.
Turn. Return. Go back. Repent.
But What If I Don’t?
I mean, what if I refuse to return to Him? What if I’m ok where I’m at and don’t want to go through the pain and hard times that come with repentance? What if I say, no?
I’ll close by letting you read what the Lord says about people who stubbornly refuse His rebuke. These are sobering words. Take them to heart. Because they are a warning from Him. Another if / then promise.
Proverbs 1:24-27 – “Because (if – the condition we have met) I have called and you refused, (if – the condition) I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because (if) you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, (then – the result of our actions) I also will laugh at your calamity; (then) I will mock when your terror comes, (to what extent) when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.”
But it gets worse. What happens when we reject the wisdom of the Lord and inevitably begin to experience all the “terror” and “destruction” that “comes like a whirlwind” (Prov. 1:26-27)? What happens when the Lord gives us what we want and allows us to experience the consequences of our own sin (Rom.1:24-28)? What happens when we’ve had enough of God’s chastisement, throw up our hands in defeat, and begrudgingly come to Him on His terms? What happens then? How will He receive us?
Read this carefully. These are sobering words.
Proverbs 1:28-30 – “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. (why) Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke.”
These are some of the most frightening words in all of Scripture. They indicate there may come a time when our constant rejection of the Lord will dry up His grace. A time when heaven is quiet and, no matter how hard we try, we can’t find the grace from Him we took for granted for so long. The time may come, according to this if / then promise, when God allows us to experience the consequence of our sins and may give us exactly what we have asked for, what we have demanded— deliverance from Him.
Pray that day never comes.
And while you still can, turn at His rebuke and allow Him to “pour out my spirit on you” and “make my words known to you” (Prov. 1:23). Because when He does what He has promised in the verse, you will begin to experience heaven on earth.
Return to Him today.
The following are a few passages that specifically spoke to me this morning. Two great truths and a prayer.
First, the prayer:
Lord, help me listen to only Your voice and not blindly forge ahead in my own so-called wisdom.
Proverbs 19:21 – There are many plans (or, thoughts, intentions) in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel (or, advice, plan, purpose)— that will stand (or, rise up, to be established, to remain).
Then, a wonderful promise from Scripture (if we meet the conditions):
Proverbs 19:23 – The fear (or, awe, reverence, profound respect) of the LORD leads to life, and (condition) he who has it (life and the fear of the Lord) will abide (or, rest, remain, stay, to make one’s home) in satisfaction (or, to be satisfied, full, abounding); He (promise) will not be visited with evil.
Finally, something God is slowly creating in my life.
Proverbs 19:11 – The discretion (or, intelligence, good sense, insight, understanding) of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook (or, pass over, to cover) a transgression.
I wonder what I will learn about Him tomorrow?
Prayer of Forgiveness to the Holy Spirit
My Lord, I have mistreated You all my Christian life. I have treated You like a servant. When I wanted You, when I was about to engage in some work, I beckoned You to come and help me perform my task. I have sought to use You only as a willing servant.
I shall do so no more.
I give You this body of mine, from my head to my feet, I give it all to You. I give You my hands, my limbs, my eyes and lips, my brain; all that I am within and without, I hand over to You for You to live in it the life that You please. You may send this body to Africa or lay it on a bed with cancer. You may blind the eyes or send me with Your message to Tibet. You may take this body to the Eskimos or send it to the hospital with pneumonia. It is Your body from this moment on. Help Yourself to it.
Thank You, my Lord. I believe You have accepted it, for in Romans 12:1 You said, “acceptable unto God.” Thank You again, my Lord, for taking me. We now belong to each other.
From Dr. Walter Wilson (1881-1969) regarding his relationship, or lack of relationship, with the Holy Spirit. And I couldn’t agree more. How about you?
One truth in the Christian life is that we have all been hurt by those we love and by those who we thought loved us. Whether it’s our spouse, our family, a former close friend, or someone in the church, we’ve all suffered from the words or actions of someone else we trusted. And the scars run deep.
So what do we do? Mostly, we withdraw, vowing to never trust again. We pull up the drawbridge, turn out the light, and hide alone deep in our room. Simon and Garfunkel, many years ago, captured this so well in their song, I Am a Rock.
I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty,that none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock, I am an island.
Don’t talk of love, I’ve heard the words before; It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock, I am an island.
But the Christian life is not meant to be lived in bitterness, fear and unforgiveness. Why? Because Christ purchased our freedom and freely offers that freedom to us. It’s ours for the asking. So what are you waiting for?
To find out how to love those who have hurt you or the ones you love, keep listening.
The following is a study on 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13.
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Today, as I was reading the Scriptures, I found myself drawn to the 16th chapter of Leviticus, to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, and the elaborate ceremony God established whereby Israel found atonement and forgiveness for their sins. It’s a fascinating chapter dealing with quaint, prescribed rituals that are difficult to understand but find their fulfillment in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, these ancient rituals are literally packed with truth for us today.
From the humility demanded of the high priest in the very clothes he must wear (Lev. 16:4) to the offerings he must make for himself (Lev. 16:6), for the Holy Place (Lev. 16:16) and for the people (Lev. 16:17), we see clearly that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Then two goats are chosen by lot: one to die and shed his blood for the sins of the people and the other to be set free (Lev. 16:8-10). One goat is killed as a sacrifice for their sins and its blood sprinkled upon, and on, the mercy seat (Lev. 16:15). The other goat, the scapegoat, is to have the sins of the people imputed to it and then led into the wilderness never to be seen again. It’s a vivid picture of God and His gracious mercy and forgiveness whereby He promises to blot out our transgressions by the blood of His Son and remember our sins no more (Isa. 43:25).
But there is more.
In Leviticus 16:20-22 we read: “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”
God has forgiven the sins of Israel and they have been imputed to an innocent goat led far from them into the wilderness to be seen no more. God wants nothing to do with their former sins and doesn’t want His children to look for them once again either. They are gone. Banished. Removed from His sight and their lives forever.
But watch what happens next.
A “suitable man” (Lev. 16:21) was chosen to lead the goat into the wilderness, far from the children of Israel, and leave it there. Since the sins of the people were now imputed to the goat, this “suitable man” was to take the sins of the people, the goat, and remove them to a place where they would never be found again. Why? Because God wants to show how His forgiveness is forever and to demonstrate the importance of not returning to the sins the blood of the other goat has already atoned for. Get the point? What has been forgiven should never have to be forgiven again. If the shedding of innocent blood was required to forgive a particular sin, then that sin should never be committed again. Why? Because it would require more blood, more pain, more death, and more sacrifice and devalues and cheapens the importance of blood and life given to make one free. It makes the sacrifice seem almost worthless.
Israel was not to go out into the wilderness and look for the goat, their former sin, that has already been forgiven. They were to remain in the camp, in the presence of the Lord, sanctified, holy, and righteous.
Leviticus states the “suitable man” who led the goat into the wilderness was to “wash his clothes and bathe his body” before he came back into the camp (Lev. 16:26). Why? Because he had been in close proximity to the very sin, the goat, the Lord wanted driven far from His people and he was, by that close proximity, contaminated by it. Also, the man who took the remains of the sacrificed goat outside the camp to burn it must also “wash his clothes and bathe his body in water” before he came back into the camp (Lev. 16:28). Why? He was also contaminated by his close contact to sin— and there was no place for sin among the people of God. In other words, for sanctification to be complete we should abstain, leave, renounce, and forsake anything that had to do with the sin, the old life, God had already forgiven. There was no place for former forgiven sins among the sanctified, Holy people of God.
We should “abstain from even the appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).
So how does that apply to us? How much of your old life do you bring into your new life? Do you still dress the new you with clothes of the old life? Do you crucify Him again and again by refusing to renounce the sins for which He died? Do you continually live in the shadows, the lukewarm areas of our culture, knowing Christ’s death has “set you free from sin”? (Rom 6:18). Do you live your life in such a way that you “crucify again the Son of God and put Him to open shame”? (Heb. 6:6).
We must leave the sin that was atoned for outside the camp. We must remove from our lives the trappings, the clothes, the relationships, the affections and passions, the carnal wants and desires, the pride and arrogance, everything that is tainted by sin and be washed by the pure Word of God and joyfully enter into fellowship with Him. To do anything else is to make light of the atonement Christ provided for us on the cross.
In essence, if you claim to wear the mantle of being a Christian, then act like one.
Anything else is sheer hypocrisy.
The Pharisees plotted together against Jesus and put forth a lawyer to try to trap Him in His words. The lawyer asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” And Jesus’ answer was twofold:
“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40)
The word for love is agape. “You shall agape the Lord and you shall agape your neighbor.”
How do we love (agape) God? And how do we love (agape) others like we’re suppose to love (agape) God? How is that even possible?
To find out more, keep listening.
The following is a study on the Love (agape) of God.
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