Broken And Contrite

A key element of saving faith is that of repentance. It has been said that true faith is preceded by repentance. I would agree with that, as the Bible teaches that we have no confidence to approach God as long as we harbor sin within our hearts. (Psalm 66:18)

John writes this, 

Beloved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. (1 John 3:21 KJV)

So an unrepentant individual cannot excersize real faith as long as he retains sin in his life. A guilty conscience will always stand in the way. 

Brokenness is vital to repentance. Without being crushed by the guilt of sin, and grieved at offending God, an individual will never truly turn from their sin and submit to God through Christ, by faith. Many feel the guilt of sin but their remorse has more to do with the fear of punishment. Paul writes of this in his epistle to the Church in Corinth,

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Cor 7:10 KJV)

It is important to understand what godly sorrow is. Jesus calls those who mourn, blessed. They are blessed because this is the pathway to the nearness of God. We read in the Psalms, 

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be if a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

Broken and contrite hearts are hearts that are crushed. The idea is that of being ground up to powder. Such and individual is humbled. They approach God with no self justification, with no self seeking, but with sorrow filled hearts they cast themselves upon His mercy. A heart filled with sorrow in this way will turn from sin because it is against God. 

We see many accept Jesus so they can avoid hell and go to heaven, but they have dry eyes and hard hearts. They do not sorrow over their actual sin; over the fact that they are rebels fighting God, and as a result have grieved the Father’s heart. They make a confession, but it amounts to little more than self seeking. They have made God a means to their own happiness. This is the sorrow of the world that leads to death. 

The Bible tells us that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble, 

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:6-10 KJV)

This passage of scripture plainly shows us the importance of real repentance. It is vital that we let godly sorrow work in us a true repentance whereby we approach God in true humility, and find reconciliation through Christ.

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Holiness

In their lost state, the unregenerate individual is a selfish individual. such a one is devoted to self, seeking to gratify the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pursuing the pride of life (1 John 2:16). We read in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, 

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Eph 2:2-3 KJV)

This is selfishness, a life ultimately devoted to self. Even the good things a selfish person does are done with an eye toward self; a concern for how this action will ultimately affect me. This is sin, and it is what separates one from union with God. The selfish individual will not submit to the authority and rule of God over his or her life, and as a consequence, they have no spiritual life within them.

It is God’s purpose that we should be Holy, that is, entirely devoted to Him and for Him. Instead of living for ourselves, He has called us to be Holy, to live for Him and His glory.

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. (Eph 1:4 KJV)

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2 KJV)

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16 KJV)

To be separated from sin and self, and devoted to the service of God, requires that our actions be pleasing to God. Holiness is not merely a judicial action on the part of God whereby He “sees” us as holy, while we are yet serving sin, but it plays out in our day to day lives as we separate from the things of this world, and follow Christ in obedience. 

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living god, as god hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:14-18 KJV)

This separation begins with repentance. A truly repentant individual will see that the selfish life they have lived has offended God, and has separated them from Him. A repentant individual will hate his sin for what it has done, and forsake it in its entirety. This is the beginning of coming out and being separate. There can be no mercy found at the cross of Christ if one still desires to harbor one sinful habit in their life, or desires to control one aspect of their life, for Jesus has told us, 

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  (Matt 16:24-26 KJV)

This is what true holiness is; it is losing ourselves, our control, our plans and purposes, our sin and selfishness, and yielding up ourselves to follow Jesus no matter the cost. It is not a one time decision we make for Christ, but it is to be lived out each and every moment of every day we walk upon this earth. The writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14 KJV). This was written to Christians, urging them to continue on in a life of love and obedience, being found right with God and man. This is the clean hands and pure hearts spoken of in Psalm 24:3-4. These are the people who will stand in the presence of the Lord. Jesus tells us “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matt 5:8). There is no room for mixture in a pure heart, or it is no longer pure. A pure heart will naturally extend itself in works of love and service toward God and those around us.

Christian Baptism

What is Christian baptism? What does it represent, and what do the scriptures teach about it? I would like to devote some time to this important element of the Christian faith, that is often misunderstood and neglected by a great portion of the professing Church of Jesus Christ. Let’s begin with John the Baptist, as we explore this topic.

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. Mark 1:4-5 KJV

 John’s purpose was to prepare the way of the Lord. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. We see him point to Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:23, 29) However, before one can see, the thing that blinds them to the truth of Jesus must be dealt with. 

The baptism of John was a baptism of repentance for the remission of sin (Luke 3:3). In the spirit and power of Elijah, John was declaring to the people that they must repent. To put it in simple terms, repentance is turning around. We are going in one direction, indulging in sin, and living for ourselves. To repent is to turn around, now walking in the opposite direction, serving God; living for Him in obedience to His commands and will. 

Baptism, the immersion of oneself in water, was the outward sign of this inner change of heart that the people experienced. To undergo the rite of baptism publicly was a “loud” statement for a Jew of this time period to make. In order for a Gentile to become a convert to Judaism, he must undergo baptism. Imagine now an Israelite, having been circumcised, a member of the faith by birth, coming to the realization that “having Abraham for a father” was not sufficient, but that if they would know God in truth, they must repent of their sins, in submission to Him (Luke 3:8)! It must have been a humbling thing to go down to the river and be immersed, confessing their sins! 

In John’s baptism, something was required! The people coming to him were repenting of their sin. Their baptism was a sign of this repentance. They were urged to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt 3:8. In other words, if they were truly repentant, they would live it; they would cease to sin, and start to live right. To be merely baptized without this change of heart and life meant nothing. The baptism of John was no empty ritual, instead it was life changing, as people came to get right with God.

In the book of acts we see Peter also exhorting his audience to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). John pointed the people to Jesus. Now we see Peter, portraying Christ crucified, risen, and ascended. This is the fulfillment of John the baptist’s words,

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. Matthew 3:11 KJV

On the day of Pentecost three thousand were added to the Church. In repentance, they were baptized into Jesus Christ. Again, this was no empty ritual. These individuals were cut to the heart, and in godly sorrow they repented, and turned to Christ for the remission of their sin, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We read that this promise was not limited to Peter’s audience, but the promise of the Holy Spirit remains for us today as well (Acts 2:39). Those who believe in infant baptism will use this to “prove” that infants should be baptized. Take a careful look however, and you will see that the promise is not baptism, but the Holy Ghost, and the requirement in this passage of scripture is repentance and baptism.

The Apostle Paul gives us a wonderful picture of baptism in his epistle to the Romans,

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4 KJV

To be baptized into Christ is to be dead to sin! The inward reality of baptism is the change of heart; the giving up of sin, and the turning to Christ. Death, burial, and resurrection are represented by baptism. The one baptized (immersed) in the water is dead and buried, and comes up out of the water resurrected unto new life. If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation. The old is passed away, behold, all has become new (2 Cor 5:17). Baptism is no empty ritual. It is a proclamation made by faith, that the one being baptized has committed his or her life to follow Christ. This “identification” with the cross of Christ, and His resurrection, becomes a living reality in the life of the one who has been washed in the water of rebirth, and experienced the renewal of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). Sadly, many miss the point, being baptized as infants, and believing that the mere ritual alone has saved them; that they are dead, buried, and resurrected with Christ in a figurative sense only, but it is all God requires. They are terribly misled.

There is another aspect to baptism as well, it is faith in Christ. Jesus tells us that the one who believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Faith is essential to our salvation. True Biblical faith however is much more than mere head knowledge. We can believe all of the historical facts about Jesus, but still find ourselves lost in sin. The repentant sinner comes to Christ in faith, trusting Jesus to not only deliver from the guilt and penalty of sin, but also the power of it as well. Faith in Jesus is a faith that acts upon what is believed. Linked closely with repentance, it is a faith that submits to Christ; a faith that surrenders to His Lordship and control over ones’s life.

In Mark’s account of the great commission, Jesus commands His disciples to go into all the world with the gospel. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, he who does not believe will be damned (Mark 16:15-16). Here Jesus places faith as a requirement for salvation, and links it with baptism. In the mindset of the people in Biblical times, a conversion without baptism was unheard of.

Look at the Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts. He hears the gospel of Jesus Christ, and immediately upon seeing some water, he asks, “What hinders me from being baptized?” He wanted to convert! He desired to now follow Jesus. Philip’s answer was that if he believed with all of his heart he could be baptized, and he was (Acts 8:36-38). The jailer at Philippi was baptized with his entire house upon their belief (Acts 16:30-34). Note that it states in verse 34 that he rejoiced, believing in God with all of his house. It was not only the jailer who believed, but his entire house as well. This was not a household baptism based upon the faith of one individual.

We have seen that Christian baptism requires the repentance and faith of the one being baptized. It is a conversion experience, something that an individual deliberately contemplates. It involves a choice, often agonizing, to break from sin and to surrender to Christ by faith. This is not something that can be done as a mere ritual, or performed on an infant who does not yet have the capacity for neither repentance or faith. It is a physical representation of the new birth, the reality of which is spiritual. Coupled with repentance and faith, the act of baptism becomes a powerful identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We die to sin, and are raised to newness of life, a life now lived out for Christ. It is a symbolic expression of the reality of the washing of rebirth, and renewal of the Holy Spirit. It, as Peter says, is not the removal of dirt from the body, but an answer of a good conscience before God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).