Repent: Some do; others don’t

How do you explain the widely differing responses of people to God’s judgment? Why do some repent and others do not? The answer is clear in Scripture.

Today’s Reading

Haggai 1-2; Revelation 16

Selected Verses

And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.  Haggai 1:14

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire.They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

Revelation 16:8-9

Reflections

During Haggai’s time, the people of Judah in captivity in Babylon had been allowed to return to Jerusalem. They settled down and began to build their comfortable and fashionable homes. Then God sent Haggai to tell them that He was not pleased with their wrong priorities. They had left the temple in ruins while they focused on their own houses. God sent them drought. The crops failed.

The message of Haggai and the failure of the crops got their attention. But in the case of the people living under the outpouring of God’s wrath by the seven angels of Revelation 15-16, there is a completely different reaction. No matter what bowl of wrath is poured out the people do not repent and give God glory. They do not recognize His power and their sin. Their response is completely irrational. The only exception is the voice coming from the altar which gives God the praise for His display of justice and power (Revelation 6:9-11).

Adversity, in and of itself, does not produce repentance. As the bowls are poured out and one judgment is piled upon another, the cursing of God continues without diminishing. How do we explain this insane attitude toward the Sovereign and Holy God? Why did the people in Haggai’s day repent after a crop failure while the people of John’s vision dig in and curse God? The difference is that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people.” This turned them to obedience and service to rebuild the temple.

Think about it

Do not expect repentance and praise to God to come from rebellious sinners unless the Lord stirs up their hearts. Pray that God may show mercy to those who are under His wrath by not only sending adversity and a messenger with the gospel, but by also stirring up their hearts. That is why some repent and others do not.

Why We Choose Belief or Unbelief

What makes a person choose to believe or not believe?  Here we see some perplexing examples but also a clear answer from Jesus.

Today’s Reading

Second Kings 20-22; John 6:45-71

Selected Verses

But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.  2 Kings 21:9

And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”    After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:65-67

Reflections

People choose to believe or not believe, but without the work of the Spirit in a person’s heart there will be no inclination to believe.

Today’s reading demonstrates the ups and downs of the kings of Israel and Judah.  Hezekiah had led Judah in a period of faithfulness like none before him.  We also read about Josiah who repaired the temple, rediscovered the book of the law, and led the nation to revival.  But in between these two godly kings was Manasseh who had the longest and worst reign in the history of Judah.  He led the people to do more evil than the Canaanite nations that God had judged and destroyed under Joshua.  How do these things happen? Why would a great and godly king (Hezekiah) have such a wicked son (Manasseh)? How does such a wicked king (Manasseh) father such a godly son (Josiah)?

Clearly, something is at work in these fathers and sons besides mere heredity or environmental influence.  The difference, we discover, is God the Father who draws people to Himself (John 6:44).  It is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63).  It is Jesus whose body and blood gives eternal life to the one who believes in Him. Those who heard Jesus either responded with disbelief and even disgust, or they drew near to Him concluding like Peter did when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69).

Think about it

To whom will you go?  Jesus’ words either comfort or repel you.  If you believe, you may be sure it is the drawing of the Father and the life-giving ministry of the Spirit.  If you do not believe, but are troubled by your unbelief, that, too, is the work of God in you.  Call to Him for faith to believe and grace to repent of your sins and come to the Bread of Life.  You are not controlled by your family history or outward circumstances either for good or bad.  Your choice reflects your heart.  May God give us His Spirit so that we can believe!

Seeking Darkness or Light

Whether you seek darkness or light says a lot about your true spiritual condition. Today we read of the worst example ever and a warning from Jesus.

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 21-22; John 3:1-21

Selected Verses

There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.  I Kings 21:25-26

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  John 3:3

Reflections

Those who do evil avoid the light.  They are not concerned about entering the Kingdom of God.  They run from God, rather than seek Him.

Ahab exemplified a man who “sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”  On a whim, he ordered Naboth executed on trumped up charges because he had property that Ahab wanted.  He worshiped idols.  He was completely self-centered.  Whenever he didn’t get his way he was “vexed and sullen.” His conniving wife, the evil Jezebel, urged him on.  Ahab’s death came by God’s providence even though he had disguised himself in battle.  As prophesied, the dogs licked up his blood in the vineyard he had taken from Naboth.

Jesus gave the Pharisee Nicodemus a stern warning.  No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again, being born of the Spirit.  Yet, Jesus goes on to say, it is not as if there are people who are desperately seeking to enter the kingdom and cannot find a way.  The fact is that people love darkness, not light, because their deeds are evil.  They hate the light.  If they did what was true they would come to the light.

Ahab sought the darkness.  All those who are not born of the Spirit seek the darkness.  None of them are concerned about entering the kingdom of God.

Think about it

How about you?  Have you been born again?  If so, you will do what is true.  You will flee the darkness and come to the light.  You will love the light not the darkness.  If you are not sure, but are concerned about making sure that is a good sign the rebirth has taken place or is taking place in you.  Pray for God to do His work of bringing new spiritual birth to your soul.  I’ll see you in His kingdom.

The Heart of the Problem

Our problem is not lack of knowledge but the resistance in our hearts to believe God and to love Him more than anything or anyone else.

Today’s Reading

I Kings 10-11; Luke 24:1-35

Selected Verses

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice  and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. I Kings 11:9,10

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

Reflections

J C Ryle wrote:  “True faith does not depend merely on the state of man’s head and understanding, but on the state of his heart. His mind may be convinced. His conscience may be pierced. But so long as there is anything the man is secretly loving more than God, there will be no true faith.”

Solomon’s heart “had turned away from the Lord” and he had gone after other gods.  Did all those pagan wives and concubines have anything to do with this?  Of course (I Kings 11:3-4).  But no one forced Solomon to marry all those unbelievers.  He did it because his heart was either already turned away from the Lord or he was willing for it to be turned away.  As a result, God diminished his legacy.

The disciples walking to Emmaus had lost hope that Jesus whom they believed to be dead would redeem Israel.  Jesus told them they were foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” How many times had He told them He would rise on the third day?  So Jesus spent the rest of the evening explaining to them how the Scriptures pointed to Him and to the things that had happened.  Nothing had gone wrong except the hearts of the disciples that were slow to believe the truth of the resurrection.

Think about it

God promised to give His people changed hearts–hearts of flesh not stone (Ezekiel 36:26). He did give new hearts to the disciples as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. Has God given you a new heart, one that is turned toward the Lord and that is quick to believe?  If not, call upon Him for mercy and grace to receive new life and a new heart that loves Him and believes Him.  The heart is the problem, but God can give you a new one.

Undetected Blindness

Unlike physical blindness, spiritual blindness is a condition which cannot be detected by those who suffer from it.

Today’s reading:

Luke 9:57-11:36

My selection:

But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Luke 11:20

Some of those who saw Jesus cast the demon out of the mute man restoring his speech doubted.  This remarkable miracle did not convince them.  They concocted a theory that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons, Beelzebul.  Jesus refuted their assertion by two arguments.  First, if Satan were the power behind the healing, he would be fighting against himself.  That is an illogical strategy that would surely result in the devil’s defeat.  Second, others among the Jews cast out demons, so by whose power did they do that?

More evidence won’t help

Sometimes unbelievers say they need more evidence in order to believe.  Clearly, in Jesus’ day some who saw miracles performed before their eyes refused to accept the evidence.  Seeing is not believing, to those who are spiritually blind. Unlike physical blindness, spiritual blindness is a condition which cannot be detected by those who suffer from it.  Jesus explained to some Pharisees that they could not be given sight because they did not recognize their blindness (John 9:39-41).

If you do not believe, have you considered that you are spiritually blind, unable to see the obvious?  Pray that you may receive mercy and grace to see and to believe.  In Christ  the Kingdom of God has come upon us.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

God’s Sovereignty vs. Man’s Autonomy

Today’s reading: Job 33-34; Acts 13:24-52

29 “Behold, God does all these things,
twice, three times, with a man,
30 to bring back his soul from the pit,
that he may be lighted with the light of life.                                          Job 33:29-30

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.                                 Acts 13:48-50

The lives of all human beings are not a result of personal autonomy or of random acts and choices, but they are the result of God’s sovereignty at work according to His eternal decrees. God saves whom He chooses for life and He disciplines through various means, such as suffering, to bring about His purposes in people.

Elihu sets about correcting the faulty statements of Job and his three counselors. Elihu correctly emphasizes the justice of God in all His dealings and the way of God to use trials and difficulties to correct His children. This point has been mostly ignored by the three counselors with the exception of a brief comment by Eliphaz (Job 5:17).

Luke in his account of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas reports that “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” The gospel is proclaimed. Some believe because they were appointed to eternal life. Others reject because they were not appointed for eternal life.   The difference is not in the words of the preacher but in the response of the hearer which is the result of the sovereign work of grace in the heart of the hearer.

Personal autonomy is an idol of our times, maybe the greatest idol. The doctrine of the sovereignty of God thunders against that false god. Do you believe in the Lord Almighty who rules over all things, even the hearts of people? If so, that would indicate that He has appointed you for salvation. If not, you are still called to repent and believe the gospel, but you cannot and will not in yourself, without His powerful working in you to bring a new birth (Mark 1:15; John 3:3). If that stirs a sense of desperation in you, you may call on God to “be merciful” to you, a sinner (Luke 18:13). God has promised that He is “near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” and “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”’ (Psalm 145:18; Romans 10:13).

Seeking Darkness or Light

Today’s reading: I Kings 21-22; John 3:1-21

25 (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. 26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.)    I Kings 21:25-26

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”                                                                                      John 3:3

Those who do evil avoid the light. They are not concerned about entering the Kingdom of God. They run from God, rather than seek Him.

Ahab was the worst example a man who “sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” On a whim, he had Naboth executed on trumped up charges because he had property that Ahab wanted. He worshiped idols. He was completely self-centered. Whenever he didn’t get his way he was “vexed and sullen.” He was urged on by his conniving wife, the evil Jezebel. Ahab’s death came by God’s providence, even though he had disguised himself in battle. As prophesied, the dogs licked up his blood in the vineyard he had taken from Naboth.

Jesus gave the Pharisee Nicodemus a stern warning. No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again, being born of the Spirit. Yet, Jesus goes on to say, it is not as if there are people who are desperately seeking to enter the kingdom and cannot find a way. The fact is that people love darkness, not light, because their deeds are evil. They hate the light. If they did what was true they would come to the light.

Ahab sought the darkness. All those who are not born of the Spirit seek the darkness. None of them are concerned about entering the kingdom of God.

How about you? Have you been born again? If so you will do what is true. You will come to the light. You will not love darkness. You will love the light. If you are not sure, but are concerned about making sure, that is a good sign the rebirth has taken place or is taking place in you. Pray for God to do His work of bringing new spiritual birth to your soul. I’ll see you in His kingdom.