First Presbyterian Church

302 Summit Street | Winona, Miss. | 662.283.2487

Blog

The Message of Christ: Faith and Repentance

Posted by Ryan on November 21, 2014 at 10:05 AM

   This week in Wednesday Night Bible Study we considered Chapter 15 of the Westminster Confession of Faith: Repentance unto Life. Repentance is integral to the Christian life; Martin Luther wrote in 1517, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”


   In fact, repentance was at the heart of the message Christ proclaimed on earth. The very first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of Mark concern the necessity of both repentance and faith (1.14-15): “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”


   In spite of its central place in the teaching and proclamation of Jesus, many who claim to follow Jesus give little thought to the idea of repentance. Truly, repentance is not only one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines in our day, it also one of the most unpopular truths of the gospel.


   Repentance, in short, means “turning” and particularly a turning from sin and to God for grace and mercy as he offers it in Christ. Sin, as you know, doesn’t just include murder, adultery, burglary, and sodomy, but also very much includes gossip, laziness, selfishness, arrogance, pride, bitterness, lust, gluttony, and a host of other socially acceptable thoughts, attitudes, and activities.


   Repentance is not simply expressing regret for some action you may have done and/or been caught doing. Anyone, even a sociopath, can express regret! Repentance means actually turning away from sin because of a new love and affection: Christ in the gospel.


   When a person is brought to repentance, he or she, because of the New Birth and the working of the Holy Spirit, has gained a real hatred for sin and so he or she actually is able to sincerely strive for new obedience to God’s Law.


   It is important to recognize that, just like faith, repentance is a gift from God. Because of our own sin, we can’t just decide or resolve to stop sinning and start loving God. The Bible describes us as being “in bondage to sin” (Rom. 6) and “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2). As with every other grace, we are entirely dependant on God to grant the grace of repentance. Do you pray regularly for the grace of repentance? As with faith, even though it is a gift of God, repentance is something that we do actually do and is truly ours.


   Faith in and Repentance toward God are inseparable. A person that has true saving faith will indeed live a life of repentance. Faith and repentance defined Jesus’ own preaching and He commanded both be preached to every nation for the salvation of sinners (Luke 24.47-48).


   Is your own repentance visible for all to see in your life?

Does the Bible Have All the Answers?

Posted by Ryan on January 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Recently, I received an email from the priestess at a congregation my family attended while I was growing up. In her weekly email she made the point that the Bible does not, in fact, have all the answers.

She went on to say that since the writers of the Bible didn’t know about “artificial intelligence or AIDS or the Human Genome Project or socialism or Big Box Stores,” and so on it can’t provide all the answers.

That view of the Scripture is very popular today, particularly in the mainline denominations. Such a view of God’s word is tragic and, of course, man-centered and “sub-Christian.”

As Presbyterians, we heartily believe that the Bible indeed has all of the answers to life’s questions. Our Westminster Confession of Faith states that the Scripture contains “all things necessary for [God’s] own glory, man's salvation, faith and life” as either “expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”

When the authors of the Westminster Standards wrote those words they were making a bold stand against worldliness. They proclaimed that the Bible’s authority and teaching does not simply tell us how to “get saved,” but also how to live our daily life, as well as provides the answers to the “deep things” of life. As such, the Scripture is indispensible to a full life.

Now we are not saying that the Bible has an exhaustive index that includes a heading for every issue and topic known to man. Rather, principles of God’s Word speak to every issue and topic and instruct God’s people how to respond to and evaluate them.

Take for example, “Big Box Stores.” Doesn’t the Bible speak about materialism and the love of stuff? Jesus may not have told a parable featuring a clerk at Best Buy, but

God’s word speaks amply about the love of money, the accumulation of possessions, and concern for the poor and helpless (e.g. Chinese factory workers)?

Sometimes God’s word will give an explicit command regarding an issue (e.g. Murder, Adultery), but more often God’s word gives us principles that we must apply everyday to know how to live as His people.

It is by far much easier to simply assert that God’s word doesn’t have all the answers and then live as is fashionable than to read, study, and search God’s Word to direct your paths.

The Bible does indeed have the answers to the questions of life, but to learn the answers God gives in His word takes a lifetime of devotion and prayerful study of the Scripture.

It is worth the time and effort to know God’s Word, and it is far more rewarding than letting Bill O’Reilly and Rupert Murdoch tell you what to think!

What Kind of Messiah?

Posted by Ryan on October 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

   Last week as we finished our study of Psalm 22, I mentioned that the Jews had rejected Jesus because he was not the kind of Messiah that they wanted.

   The First Century Jews, like the “Zionists” of the last Century, were looking for a national, military hero to be their messiah. They wanted a messiah who would ride in on a big horse at the head of a great army that would “kick the bums out.” The Jews of First Century Palestine wanted most of all a restoration of their former national glory and liberation from Roman rule.

   The Jews of the First Century, like so many today, did not comprehend that their biggest problem is not political or economic, but God’s wrath. John 3:36 declares that God’s wrath “abides” or “remains” on all those who do not have faith in Jesus Christ. That is a serious problem; Jesus diagnoses the problem of everlasting wrath, and that is what He came to address.

   In Psalm 22, we read exactly how Jesus Christ dealt with the great human problem. In profound literary detail, the psalm describes the Saviour enduring the wrath that is due for your sin. We read of Him mocked and in great anguish. Yet it does not end that way.

   The psalm ends singing about an empire. Not an empire dominated and established by the conquests of one people or race, but one that includes “all the families of the nations.”

   The Messiah may not have come to establish a world-wide-Jewish Empire as His contemporaries had hoped, but Jesus Christ was indeed about the work of building an Empire, the Kingdom of God.

   Christ came to bring blessing to every tribe and nation; the blessing of peace with God through the forgiveness of sins.

   The saints of God have been looking for Christ’s Kingdom since the Old Testament. Psalm 22 is not the only place we see the promise that all the earth will worship God.

    One of the most beautiful pictures of this is in Zech. 6 in which God promises that those “who are far off” will come and build the Temple. We in the Church on this side of Calvary, inherit all the promises to Zion and Jerusalem because we - like Israel of old - are at the center of God’s redemptive purpose.

God’s redemptive purposes were never confined merely to this world, but include God making all things new, in a New Heavens and a New Earth when people from every tribe and nation shall worship God in their everlasting inheritance that Messiah has prepared.

   Is that the kind of Messiah that you want? The temptation is always to long for a political "messiah" who will do great things for an earthly nation. But Christians must be diligent to pursue their inheritance which is in the New Heavens and the New Earth.