Perhaps the most important question we as humans ever encounter is â€œWho am I?â€ By this I mean â€œWhat do I represent to others and to God?â€ Are we trustworthy? Liars? Wise? Foolish? Loyal? Selfish? The list goes on… but the point is: we decide who we are by what we believe and who we follow. Our actions provide evidence as to what those beliefs really are and who we really follow. As the old saying goes; the proof is in the pudding, or, as the Bible puts it, the fruit reveals what kind of tree is present:
Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Notice I said this question is perhaps the most important, but not necessarily what concerns an individual the most. Self-centeredness often makes us overlook this question because we either don’t want to examine ourselves or don’t care about the question as long as we get what we want. For Christians, however, the question is paramount, for our very salvation hinges on it. If we do not examine ourselves daily we will end up denying Christ by our actions:
2 Cor 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
1 Cor 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lordâ€™s body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Titus 2:13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
1 Â¶ But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
Following this Paul gives us a list of behaviors to follow to be evidence that we are of the Faith and not a false ‘Christian’ who Christ will deny before the Father (2 Tim 2:12).
So we must ask ourselves ‘Who are we?’ in light of who God wants us to be. Scripture provides us with the answer to the question: we are to be like Christ. But Christ was sinless. We have sin. As long as we hold onto our sin we cannot be like Christ.
The mechanism God gives us to deal with this problem is Repentance. Repentance itself is useless without forgiveness. Fortunately Christ provided us freely with forgiveness as a free gift. But the forgiveness will not change us and make us like Christ, otherwise no-one would seek God, for He forgave us all. Christianity is about following Christ and changing to be like Him. He wants His Bride to be pure, like Himself. For us to get there we must go through the changing process that only true repentance can bring. Indeed, if the repentance is not genuine then the sin will return, and the fruit will not be good, but bad. Our churches are filled with such as these:
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
1 Cor 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
â€œAnd such were some of you…â€ Wow! Notice the past tense here! Something has changed, allowing us to be saved! Through genuine repentance (turning AWAY from our sin and TO God) we can become like Christ and be His Bride!
The ungodly will always remember who you used to be, and will remember what you did before, but God separates the person you used to be and the person you are becoming as far as the East is from the West.
2Cor 4:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
1 Â¶ Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every manâ€™s conscience in the sight of God.
See that word ‘renounced’? This Is what repentance is â€“ not feeling sorry for what we did or simply wanting to change. Instead we renounce it! We deny the sin and CHOOSE to instead follow Christ. WE ARE CHANGED!
See that phrase ‘ handling the word of God deceitfully’? That means we don’t try to convince either ourselves or others that the scripture means something other than what it says in order to get away with continuing in sin. Ouch! I’d ask all who have done that at some point to say â€œAmenâ€, but I fear the noise would be deafening…
Remember in Titus 2:13, mentioned above, that we are to rebuke sharply those that are â€œteaching things which they ought notâ€ as Christianity? When you do, be prepared for one of two responses: the Christ-follower will repent; the false Christian will attack you and point to the person you used to be in order to take the onus off of them and to say â€œHow dare someone like you criticize me!?â€ Don’t let the latter shake you. Be faithful and trust God. You won’t be the first Christian to be attacked for doing what scripture teaches and you won’t be the last. Hold fast to the faith, for:
Matthew 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my nameâ€™s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a manâ€™s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
These are hard words, and many of those who call themselves Christians ignore them because this Way is so hard. But Jesus Christ promised us that all the hardship would prove to be worth it in the end. So do we trust Him, or not? The proof of that is in our repentance: Is it a true repentance leading to true change in us, or is it a false religious repentance that says ‘Hey, I’ve been forgiven, so I’m OK.’? Wake up call!! It is not the forgiveness alone that saves you â€“ it is the repentance that comes as a result of the forgiveness!
Repentance is life-changing. It is behavior-changing. The Apostle Paul, as Saul, thought he was righteous, and thought putting Christ-followers to death was a righteous act, as evidenced by his approval of the stoning of Stephen. After he knew the truth he was more than willing to die for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Talk about change! I look at myself and realize that I once stood against God when I knew it was wrong â€“ at least Paul thought he was right! But even I have hope, as God can take our greatest failures and turn them to work for His kingdom and purposes (IF the repentance is true!).
So, no matter what we have in our past, if we have truly repented and are following Christ we enter into the joy of knowing that the old us is gone â€“ passed away â€“ and now we are free to bear fruit in Christ, no longer being that liar, or thief, or gossip, or murderer, or whore-monger, or whatever we once were:
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Please do notice the words ‘be in Christ’. We can walk away from Him â€“ deny Him. We must endure to the end. It can be a process, though. Sometimes there are things we hold onto â€“ I’m talking about sin â€“ that we know we must repent from but never really do because we just don’t trust God that much with our happiness. So we keep hanging on to some part of the old person, the old sin, as a comfort thing. If we don’t think God is doing a good enough job we can always turn back to This-Our-Favorite-Sin for a bit of comfort. You realize, of course that this is a trust issue â€“ a FAITH issue. When we allow this kind of thing in our lives we are simply refusing to truly repent of our sin. We may repeatedly come to God in tears asking forgiveness (Hey! He already did that!) and asking for help to resist the sin. Instead we should be asking for the faith to truly repent: the ability to make the decision and stick to it!
Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
In scripture we learn that love is a decision, not a feeling. Husbands are ordered to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Can you feel a certain way upon command? No, because our feelings are subjective. In other words they are subject to other things. But if a man decides to love his wife no matter what the circumstance the feelings will come â€“ subject to that decision!
Repentance is also a rational decision. We can repent when we decide that God is right and we are wrong and we want to follow Him and do right. Guilt may make us realize our sin, but that feeling cannot change us. We change when we have decided to, just like that husband’s behavior towards his wife will change when he decides to love her, whether he feels like it or not.
So how do we resist/endure temptation? We decide to stick to our previous decision and commitment. Another decision! Every day we must decide if we are going to stay in the Way or fall away. This is why we are admonished to examine ourselves daily and to pick up our cross daily.
The apostle Paul was feared and hated by many Christians who still saw him as the person he used to be, but he was changed, wasn’t he? Paul, however, never stopped doing God’s will. In the same way we must not be discouraged by those who have known who we used to be â€“ including friends and family â€“ who try to detract from what we are doing for the kingdom of God based on who we used to be, before the Almighty God came into our lives to change us into His perfect bride. Endure unto the end and be saved!