Lent, the Ecumenical Movement and True Repentance
By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me again today as we study the very important topic of repentance. We are living in a time when all of us need to be alert to the subtle temptations of the enemy, who is seeking to destroy the souls of all those that he can. Your future depends on your actions now. So, we must take our times seriously. The ecumenical movement is wrapping its arms around all who are not grounded in the truth of God’s word.
Thank you for your support and prayers for Keep the Faith Ministry. It is greatly appreciated. Your gifts mean that we are able to spread the message more widely. Every week as I meet new people who have never heard of Keep the Faith we make new friends. As they listen to the message, they learn that we are really near the end of time. Often it surprises them and their eyes are opened, perhaps for the first time.
You may remember that we are nearing the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation of the 16th century, which was the catalyst for the spiritual wound inflicted on the Papacy. It laid the foundation for the political wound that toppled the temporal power of the Church of Rome in 1798 from the height it had reached. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses against the teachings of Rome on the door of the Wittenberg Chapel on October 31, 1517. The 500th anniversary will be commemorated on October 31, 2017. Already plans are being laid by Lutheran and Roman Catholic representatives to show that the unity of the Catholic Church is being restored and the Lutheran Reformation is over. Rome even claims that she is reformed now, which is anything but the truth.
The ecumenical movement is aimed at bringing non-Catholic churches and religions back to Rome. The aim is to get them to become familiar with and used to participating in the same or similar practices and rituals that Rome uses, so that they will see less and less difference between themselves and Roman Catholicism. Ultimately, Rome wants to get them all to the communion table to accept the Mass and the authority of the Pope. It is called full, visible, sacramental unity with Rome. When that happens, Rome will have completely destroyed the Protestant Reformation. It is effectively there now. Most churches do not see the danger of uniting with Rome in worship. In this context, we will look closely at Lent and Easter to understand their origins and their purpose.
Often during the season of Lent there are many ecumenical Lenten services. Churches everywhere, it seems, hold them. Now, some churches that believe in the soon coming of Christ have been amazingly holding them too.
Today, we are going to look at the topic of Lent and its companion festival Easter. Rome uses these to build ecumenical relationships in order to break down prejudice and reduce objections to her faith, even though it is as corrupt and as useless as it was in the days of the Reformation.
Before we begin, Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, we are living in the time predicted by the prophets of old, in which the great apostasy has almost reached its climax. And today, we need the spirit of Jesus, His kindness and His love in our hearts for all your fallen children. As we see the signs of the times unfolding around us, we are more and more convinced that we are near the end. Please awaken us to our place in history and to the importance of the times in which we live. Help us to see that we must keep to the Bible and not tradition. Help us to see that Lent, the celebration of Easter, and the ecumenical movement are not part of Your plan for Your true people. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Acts 3:19. Peter is speaking to the shocked and amazed crowd about Jesus Christ who through Peter and John had healed the lame man. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”
What does it mean to be converted? That means there is a change of heart toward God. This is not something that is outwardly done by ritual. It is an inward change of the intellect and the emotions, or the thoughts and feelings. When we are converted, we are “born again” and we no longer serve the old carnal, sinful self, but we serve Jesus Christ.
We must be born again and put aside the works of the flesh. If our lives are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3), we will have His power to overcome the subtle deceptions of the enemy. Attempting repentance in any other way, such as in through the confessional, through penance, or the ritual of lent, or bodily austerities or anything else, other than what the Bible teaches, leads people away from salvation.
Those who do not want to crucify self are attracted to a form or ritual that does not confront their wicked hearts with true sorrow for sin and lead them to surrender. It leaves them as the master of their own lives and destiny, instead of putting Christ in charge and making Him their Master. That will inevitably lead to a disaster. It leaves them empty and guilty. They may try to salve their conscience with the thought that they have done their ritual duty to formally repent, but their hearts are not changed. This is the key. True repentance leads to a change in heart and a change in behavior.
Roman Catholicism has a lot of rituals and services, formalities and rites that it draws to keep people deceived. It gets these from sources other than the Bible, the only infallible and authoritative voice in the church. Instead the authority of the pope replaces that of the Bible. It is important to understand that these rituals are founded on its ancient traditions and historic beliefs taken from the broken cisterns and polluted fountains of Babylonian religion. Are they valid? Are they part of God’s plan in the work of salvation? Rome actually teaches that many, if not all of these rites are essential to salvation, and that if you don’t do them, you will go to hell.
Rome builds her ecumenical relationships on the lie that doctrine is not so important, and that all you need is an emphasis on those doctrines that churches hold in common. But that false claim is just a way to draw in the churches that stupidly follow along like lambs to the slaughter. Emphasizing that doctrine is not important is only a temporary matter, for once the churches are all gathered around her Roman alter, the Pope will insist on them joining her in those rites and rituals that she has always believed and still teaches as essential to salvation. By then, the compromised churches who are already familiar with these corrupted rites and rituals will see little problem joining Rome in practicing them. Besides, they will not want to be left out of the ecumenical party and accused of dividing the church again by refusing Rome’s demands. They are deceived into thinking that the Roman Catholic Church is actually part of the Christian faith. But naming something Christian and calling it holy doesn’t mean that it is, quite the opposite in this case.
What are some of those rites and rituals? One of the greatest is Easter. Easter is the grand Roman Catholic Sunday, which it took directly from Chaldean or Babylonian paganism. It is the central feature of Sunday worship. Without Easter, Sunday worship would be meaningless.
The Catholic Church uses Easter as the great commemoration of the resurrection of Christ when in reality it is a commemoration of something completely different. The weekly Sunday, according to Rome, is a little weekly commemoration of the resurrection, a little Easter, so to speak. And most churches have blindly fallen for this deception. They have not continued with advancing light. They have not accepted the Bible principle of the sacredness of the seventh day Sabbath as found in the fourth commandment, the perpetual law of God. They believe that Rome is right about Sunday, but they don’t realize that Easter and Sunday observance were part of a series of pagan rituals that came over into the Catholic Church.
Many Christian churches celebrate Easter because they do not understand its pagan origins and they do not think that celebrating Easter will lead them back toward Rome.
John Paul II in his apostolic letter Dies Domini clearly linked the weekly Sunday to the great Easter Sunday. “It is Easter which returns week by week,” he wrote. He also quoted the second Vatican council, which declared, “Every seven days, the Church celebrates the Easter mystery.” And he added, “For the Christian, Sunday is above all an Easter celebration…” He continued with many more papal remarks along the same lines.
To the Catholic Church, Sunday worship and Easter are closely linked together. They cannot be separated.
Though John Paul II claimed that Sunday observance comes from Jesus or the apostles, this is a myth and is anything but the truth. Easter actually comes from a pagan cult. It is another name for the Babylonian goddess Astarte, which is one of the titles for the “queen of heaven,” as they referred to their prime goddess. It is also found in the worship of Ishtar, the main goddess of the Assyrians.
If you know your Bible history, Genesis 10 tells us that Nimrod established Babel and three other cities in the land of Shinar, while his colleague Asshur, who went forth out from the land of Shinar, established the Assyrian empire and religion by building Nineveh and three other cities as well. Nimrod established the Babylonian cult religion whose queen was the goddess Astarte. Asshur copied the cult of Nimrod, and reared it up in Assyria. The chief goddess was Ishtar – just another name for the same goddess as the Babylonians. Yet another colleague named Canaan established the same religion in the land of Canaan later known as Phoenicia. These men conspired together to establish a religion opposed to the worship of God on a world-wide basis. They wanted a global kingdom and a global religion, the very thing that is happening today under modern spiritual Babylon, or Rome.
Astarte was the goddess of knowledge, or the mother of knowledge. In the Babylonian cult, as well as in the others, she was also the mother of all mankind, or Eve, who first coveted the “knowledge of good and evil” and temporarily lost her eternal life by eating of the forbidden tree. In mythical art, Astarte is pictured with an outstretched hand holding a pomegranate, which is a fruit with many seeds representing the blessings she provides to the human race. These goddesses were also the consort of the sun god so venerated by these pagan fertility cults.
Easter, or the cult of sun worship, comes to us from these goddesses. And so does the forty days of Lent leading up to Easter. Many pagan cultures used the fasting of Lent to honor the sun, or their gods and goddesses. In Phoenicia it was part of the cultish practice representing the death and resurrection of Tammuz. The fast of Lent represented the mythical death of Tammuz and Easter represented the mythical resurrection of Tammuz.
For the Christian bishops to adopt these pagan customs to represent the death and resurrection of Christ is nothing short of blasphemy. They knew full well all the pagan traditions and abominations of Lent and Easter. But they amalgamated pagan festivals into the Christian religion anyway so that the pagans would feel accommodated and comfortable among the Christians. But more importantly, they did it in order to gain the support of the pagan state, thus giving the bishops political influence, and later temporal power. Any true Christian should blush with embarrassment if his church celebrates Lent or Easter. How can God’s churches adopt rites from so polluted a source?
Here is one reason why they are an abomination. In some places the ancient practice of Easter involved a lottery in which the one who pulled the marked token was burnt on the fire as a sacrifice. In later times, they just had to pass through the fire and pay a ransom to avoid death in the fire.
Even the Easter egg comes right out of the worship of Astarte, the Babylonian goddess. The egg represented all the blessings to the human race, which were credited to Astarte who they taught was the great civilizer and benefactor of the world. The Roman Church adopted this mystic egg of Astarte and consecrated it instead as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. Pope Paul V even appointed a prayer for it. But in reality it is another adaptation of the ancient Babylonian religion whose origins stem all the way back to Nimrod and his colleagues.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition (Cambridge, England, 1911), Article Mithras
The early Christians never adopted these corrupted practices. It was the bishops of Rome who took these observances from Babylon’s golden cup and embraced them in the so-called Christian church and thereby established their power. But the ancient Christians shunned and scorned these pagan rites, rituals and festivals as abominations. While ever the primitive churches were faithful to God and remained loyal to His commandments, there was never any Easter or Lent.
Rome plagiarized Lent from pagan worship, just like she did with Easter and the weekly Sunday, the 40 days of fasting leading up to Easter, directly from the worshippers of the Babylonian and Assyrian goddesses. Lent had spread into many parts of the world. The Mexicans observed the 40 days of Lent. So did the Egyptians and the early Druid cults of Britain. The Bishops “went down to Egypt for help,” so to speak, and brought corrupted worship into the so-called Christian church.
What is Lent? Lent is the time of ritual repentance and humiliation, or penance, as Rome puts it, and is a very conspicuous observance for faithful Roman Catholics. During this time, Roman Catholics are encouraged to practice some sort of superficial “fast” and give up certain luxuries as a form of penitence. Roman Catholics and a few other denominations often abstain from meat during this time.
Some Christians go to the unusual practice of reading a devotional in order to get themselves closer to God. The point here is that most Christians don’t bother to read the Bible or any kind of devotional book on a daily basis. But during Lent, they take extra steps to show themselves repentant for their sins. Often they will observe the “stations of the cross,” which is also a devotional commemoration of the various stages of Christ’s sufferings and crucifixion.
Lent began about the end of the sixth century in the Roman Church. At first it was a three-week limited fast, except on Saturday and Sunday. Later it was changed to 40 days to harmonize with the Babylonian calendar. By gradual degrees Lent was imposed on the Christian church and eventually replaced the primitive Christian festivals in honor of Christ. Those ancient festivals had nothing to do with these pagan festivals.
How could a church that loves Christ above all else adopt such practices? Why open the gate to the enemy and bring in these abominations that are an offense to God? How can a church represent Christ, “clear as the sun, fair as the moon and terrible as an army with banners” (Song of Solomon 6:10), if she reveres the same worship rites and festivals of the Babylon, Assyrian, Phoenician and Egyptian cults, which are an offense to God? The reason is because this church, though she professes to represent Christ does not love Him at all.
*****A Protestant Dictionary…, ed. Wright, Charles H. H., Neil, Charles (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1904), article: Lent
*****The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed., Herbermann, Charles G., et. al. (New York: Robert Appleton CO, 1910), article: Lent
The Catholic Church generally teaches that Lent is observed in commemoration of the 40 days of fasting by Christ in the wilderness and is therefore of apostolic origins. But the Bible gives no allusions or reference to it at all. Nowhere in sacred history, either in the Old or New Testaments, is there a command or instruction, story or the example of anyone that would indicate that the ritual of Lent or any ritual similar should be followed. No patriarch, no prophet, none of those holy men to whom were committed the oracles of God in the ancient church of the Old Testament have ever observed it or anything like it.
None of the apostles or the leaders of the apostolic church of the New Testament give any evidence that they kept the service of Lent or any similar service. Not one word is given in scripture to tell us that the apostles fasted 40 days in memory of Christ’s fast in the wilderness of temptation. Not one word of commendation is provided to us from any of the apostles venerating the spring season of Lent. Though the Bible and Christ Himself mentions fasting for spiritual reasons, Lent and its outward rituals are not in it.
Nor is there evidence in scripture that suggests that the body is to be mortified as a sign of repentance. An outward ritual is the first indication that there is not an inward change of heart. This is not a form of repentance found in the Bible.
Though the resurrection of Christ was commemorated early on in the Christian era, there is no evidence for centuries that on any occasion the commemoration of the resurrection was preceded by Lent.
Fasting during Lent is not the complete abstinence of food, but just abstinence from food that is more luxurious, like meat, eggs, fish, dairy products, etc. Fasting is meant to abstain from foods that are especially pleasurable. The actual practice varied from place to place, and from time to time, and from community to community. Sometimes, dispensations from fasting were given for a donation. So, in other words, by giving money, one could forego the austerities. This worthless procedure has been carried right down to modern times, though today the procedure is considerably relaxed. And if you don’t want to fast, you can do some other form of penance. It’s a whole lot of nonsense and it is quite different from genuine repentance. Roman Catholic ritual is all about gaining salvation without surrender of self to Christ.
Paul makes it very clear that mortification of the flesh means something other than outward physical austerities. He says in Romans 8:13 “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
Notice that he does not say that we should mortify the body, but rather the deeds of the body. Crucify sin, in other words. Luther did physical austerities to try and purify his soul when he was in the monastery and had the burden of guilt for his sins. Paul says that we are to mortify the deeds of the body or of the flesh. That means that we are to have inner surrender and self-discipline in Christ so that we do not sin against God.
And in Colossians 3:5 he says “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry…”
Paul is saying that we are to put away our sinful desires and actions, not just during one season of the year, but forever, and continually. We are to put off the old man, or carnal nature, and live for Christ by putting on the new man, or the spiritual nature under the control of the Holy Spirit. Lent emphasizes penitence on the basis of outward forms and rituals, while the true Christian has an inward change of heart, which transforms the outer life.
And somehow the Church of Rome wants you to believe that all this outward observance is of apostolic origins.
There have been many different variations in the practice of Lent, particularly in the third and fourth centuries, that even some Roman Catholic scholars say that it is not of apostolic origins, or there would not be so much variation. Even the pre-Nicene fathers make no mention of such a fast, though they would have certainly mentioned such an apostolic institution if it were in practice in their time.
On the contrary, Lent appears to have been established by a pope during the second or third centuries and served to increase the apostasy and power of the churches and priests. While it may be claimed that the ritual of Lent is from an innocuous source, it is anything but innocuous. In fact, since this “festival” of Lent is not found in scripture it is therefore an enemy that leads away from God’s law if it finds its way into the Christian church.
*****The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed., Herbermann, Charles G., et. al. (New York: Robert Appleton CO, 1910), article: Lent
The only apostolic origins of Lent and Easter are from the apostles of apostasy, the very apostles of Babylonia and Assyria. The churches that follow in Rome’s footsteps, such as some of the mainline Reformation churches, like the Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, Methodist, Orthodox, and even some Baptist churches, etc. are also stooping to Rome’s authority by keeping these festivals, for Rome is the author of them in the church. And yet it is no less serious for other churches that have gotten farther away from Rome and its worship, to keep these same rites and festivals, like evangelical churches, and various other denominations that historically have been more strongly Protestant. They are all guilty of backsliding at the very least, if not outright apostasy.
Lent was originally supposed to include extra charities for the poor, especially to give to the poor those foods that one did not eat because of the daily fast. And there were religious assemblies including preaching and praying. Public games, stage plays and parties like birthday parties, marriage celebrations and festivals were forbidden during Lent so that the people would not be distracted from their religious focus.
In modern times, observers of Lent give up an action of theirs considered to be a vice, add something that is considered to be able to bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, which is the first fasting day of Lent. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of applying ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and placing them on the foreheads of participants in the form of a cross or sprinkling them on the head. The ritual is accompanied by the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Ashes are an outward form designed to express grief. While this was done in the Old Testament to sincerely express one’s sorrow, it was not generally a ritual but a genuine expression of sorrow. Today it is typically only a ritual ceremony.
After the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, a few churches continued the practice of the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday and Lent, but many Protestant denominations did not. However, beginning at the time of the Oxford movement, which was a conspiracy to secretly re-establish Roman Catholic practices in the Church of England the practice was again revived. Moreover, after the beginning of the “ecumenical era” after the second Vatican Council, many more churches that are being wooed back to Rome have started distributing ashes again. Ash Wednesday and Lent is being used as a tool of the ecumenical movement to bring the churches closer to Rome.
Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge… ed. J. Newton Brown (Brattleboro: Fessendon and Co, 1836), article: Lent.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, (Cambridge, England, 1911), Article Lent
Protestants who have not shaken all the teachings of Rome from their own worship are vulnerable to the ecumenical practice of Lent. They wrongly think that separation from Rome is the same as division in the body of Christ. They think that by being separated they violate Christ’s prayer for unity with other Christians. The idea is that if we practice Lent together we can somehow repent of our separation and return to unity. While there can never be true unity without doctrine, they think that by sacrificing any point of doctrine that seems to separate them from other Christians, especially from Roman Catholics, they can achieve some sort of unity again.
Actually, these churches are very insecure in their understanding of doctrine and of their own beliefs that are distinct from Rome. So, Rome draws them by pressing the point that separation is a violation of the will of God, and claims authority over all Christians.
In recent years there have been a lot of cities and towns around the world in which churches have joined together in ecumenical services during the season of Lent. For example, recently, some of the churches in the Auburn, California area joined together to hold ecumenical Lenten services. They rotated the services in each of the churches and the pastors spoke in each other’s pulpits. The idea was so that the people could become familiar with each other and with each other’s churches. The churches involved were
St. Theresa of Avila Catholic, which you would expect, Auburn Presbyterian, Auburn Seventh-day Adventist, Bethlehem Lutheran, First Congregational and Pioneer United Methodist. Each week they met in a different church for the worship service.
The priest of the Catholic Church, Rev. Arnold Parungao of St. Theresa Catholic Church, openly said the joint events are an effort to unite Christians in the community.
On Ash Wednesday, the first day of the series of events, participants who attended the event at St. Theresa of Avila had their foreheads marked with ashes in typical Roman Catholic style. The SDA pastor Dan Appel was the guest speaker for the service.
The only reason for ecumenical Lenten service would be to bring the churches back toward the bosom of Rome. Friendship and familiarity are the first steps to breaking down opposition to Rome’s teaching. For Protestant churches to participate in such a service of repentance is symbolic of their repentance toward Rome and a repudiation of their own historic teachings. For a Protestant pastor to participate in such a service indicates his lack of understanding of history and prophecy.
Repentance toward God has nothing to do with ecumenical unity. The Bible says we are to separate from Rome and all Babylonian religion, particularly if it is disguised as Christian. That means that we are not to have anything to do with Roman Catholicism or the ecumenical movement, including ecumenical Lenten services. This will make it impossible for churches, particularly seventh-day Sabbath keeping churches, to resist pressure from Rome to adopt Sunday worship. Already many protestant churches practice Easter sunrise services and have been doing this for many years. Often this is done in an ecumenical way. The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to join with Rome but to separate from her. Listen to the words of Revelation 18:1-4. “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”
This is referring the false teachings of Babylon, including Lent and Easter as practiced by the Roman Catholic Church. I’ll read on. Here is the reason why we are to separate from Rome and stay away from ecumenical engagements with her.
“For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
Friends, if we join with Rome in ecumenical activities, we are partakers of her sins and will receive of her plagues. It is obvious that we are not to be involved in such things. And yet, some people miss that, or have rejected these Bible teachings.
And the Bible is even clearer concerning the ecumenical fellowship that Rome is promoting around the world.
Ps 94:20 asks a rhetorical question. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?”
The throne of iniquity is where the mystery of iniquity manifests its power. A throne in scripture is a place of power or rulership. So the throne of iniquity is the throne where sin rules the nations. It is the place where the man of sin sits and from which his deceptive and evil power emanates. That is the pope, my friends. Any true Protestant would know that. Have some Protestants forgotten their heritage and the importance of keeping separate from Rome?
The Psalmist is asking whether it is possible for the people of the Lord to have ecumenical fellowship with the man of sin, who sits on the throne of sin or iniquity. Of course the answer is an emphatic no!
Notice also that this man of sin, who sits on the throne of sin, is working to frame mischief by a law. Friends, this is referring to the law that will cause a lot of mischief because it is against the Law of God. And in the end of time we are told in Revelation 13 that the final issue in the conflict between Christ and Satan for the loyalties of man will revolve around worship. So, the law that the man of sin creates will be a law that enforces some sort of worship in opposition to the Law of God. That would be a Sunday law in opposition to the fourth commandment, which requires all to worship God on His sacred seventh-day Sabbath.
Now let us read verse 21. “They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.”
When two or more people gather together against someone else, we call that a conspiracy. This verse is talking about a conspiracy against those who are obedient to God’s commandments. They are the innocent blood. This isn’t saying that they have never sinned. But it is saying that they have repented and turned from their sins and are keeping God’s commandments through the indwelling grace of Christ. This verse is saying that the ecumenical movement is a conspiracy against those who keep the Ten Commandments. Eventually, commandment-keeping people will be isolated by the ecumenical movement.
And lastly, verse 22 is full of hope in the power of God who is the only defender of His true people. “But the LORD is my defense; and my God is the rock of my refuge.”
Isn’t that wonderful, my friends?! We have a powerful God who will defend His people as is best for His cause and then redeem us eternally in the kingdom of glory.
While it is clear that all the ritual, fasting, ashes and solemnity of Lent is not true repentance, it is important then for us to find out what true repentance is the repentance that God accepts.
Listen to this pithy one-liner from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 557. “True repentance is more than sorrow for sin. It is a resolute turning away from evil.” Turning from sin then, shows that you have true repentance for the sin. Yet, true repentance is more than just turning from sin. True repentance is not a sorrow for the consequences of sin. Judas felt sorrow for the consequences of what he did, but there was no true repentance in his heart. Peter, on the other hand, was crushed in his soul when he realized that he had denied his loving Lord.
Repentance is the realization of what sin has done both to you and to Christ that the heart of Christ hurts over the sin in His child.
Here is how it works. When we sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us that we have done something wrong. He impresses us with something of the magnitude of the sinfulness of what we have done.
Here it is from Steps to Christ, page 24. “But when the heart yields to the influence of the Spirit of God, the conscience will be quickened, and the sinner will discern something of the depth and sacredness of God’s holy law, the foundation of His government in heaven and on earth. The “Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” illumines the secret chambers of the soul, and the hidden things of darkness are made manifest. John 1:9. Conviction takes hold upon the mind and heart. The sinner has a sense of the righteousness of Jehovah and feels the terror of appearing, in his own guilt and uncleanness, before the Searcher of hearts. He sees the love of God, the beauty of holiness, the joy of purity; he longs to be cleansed and to be restored to communion with Heaven.”
Is that your desire today, my friend? Do you long to be restored to communion with Heaven? When was the last time you felt that your prayers went beyond the ceiling? When was the last time you wept before God because of your wicked heart?
Friends, sin is a very terrible thing. So often we ignore sin and just tell ourselves that it is a small thing that doesn’t matter much. But no sin is of small magnitude in the eyes of Jesus. He died even for your small sins. He gave His blood so that He could forgive your small sins as well as your big sins.
When you see the love of Christ, and the love of the Father, you can catch a glimpse of the enormity of your sin and the defilement of your soul. When you do, you loathe your sin and long for the joy of holiness. I want that kind of sorrow for sin, don’t you? This is the godly sorrow for sin that leads to repentance.
2 Corinthians says, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”
That sorrow of the world is sorrow for the consequences or punishment for sin. It is not godly sorrow. It is not sorrow that is born of a sense of the holiness of God and the holiness of the Law.
The fact is that you cannot repent on your own. Christ must draw you to repentance through the Holy Spirit. All repentance comes from Christ Himself. You can’t have repentance unless Christ gives it to you.
Listen to another encouraging statement from Steps to Christ, page 26. “The Bible does not teach that the sinner must repent before he can heed the invitation of Christ, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. It is the virtue that goes forth from Christ, that leads to genuine repentance. Peter made the matter clear in his statement to the Israelites when he said, “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins,” Acts 5:31. We can no more repent without the Spirit of Christ to awaken the conscience than we can be pardoned without Christ.”
Think about it friends, we have a Prince in the heavenly courts that loves us and wants to give us “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” Acts 20:21. It is that Prince, Jesus Christ Himself that gives us the wonderful gift of repentance so that our sins can be forgiven and forsaken. That’s New Testament faith, brothers and sisters. So often we are told by many in the pulpits of the land that all you have to do is believe. Christ has forgiven our sins, past, present and future. But this is not true. We must have repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus, the apostle said. These are transforming when the Holy Spirit enters into the heart. You no longer desire to do the works of the flesh. Yet so often we are told that we do not have to turn from our sins.
To forsake sin means that we turn to obedience. Again from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 279 we read the following explanation of what the Bible teaches on this point. It is so clearly written, and puts it all together. “While it is Christ only that can redeem us from the penalty of transgression, we are to turn from sin to obedience. Man is to be saved by faith, not by works; yet his faith must be shown by his works. God has given His Son to die as a propitiation for sin, He has manifested the light of truth, the way of life, He has given facilities, ordinances, and privileges; and now man must co-operate with these saving agencies; he must appreciate and use the helps that God has provided—believe and obey all the divine requirements.”
So, exercising faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ means that we obey His commandments and all that they stand for. We are to meditate on the law of God like David who said, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day,” Psalm 119:97.
Be we must understand true obedience then, if we are going to understand true repentance. We don’t want to have one understanding right and the other understanding wrong.
Here is a powerful statement from Desire of Ages, page 668. I just love what this says God will do in my life. But it also clearly tells me what true obedience is.
“All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.”
So, the important thing is to consent and Christ will change the heart so much and identify with us so closely that when obeying Him we will be carrying out our own impulses! Oh my, don’t you want those kinds of impulses that are aligned with Christ? You can have them. You can have the purity of heart that comes with true repentance. You can be restored to the righteousness of Christ. Christ can live in you. He will so mold your character that you will be just carrying out what is implanted in your heart by heaven. You will be obeying Christ. What a wonderful thought!
To be honest, my soul is grieved over my own resistance to the Holy Spirit. My soul is grieved because I have so often gone my own way that I have not allowed Christ to fill my heart and mind with His love and character. I have not had the faith I need to be molded together with Christ in true Christian grace at the level in which my impulses are to do the very things that Christ would do if He were in my shoes. And in fact that is what it is; Christ wants to be in my shoes.
1 Timothy 3:16 says that “Christ was manifest in the flesh.” That is saying that Christ put on human flesh and manifested godliness in that flesh. But today that is exactly what He needs to do with you and me, manifest Himself in our flesh. That’s what it means when the apostle Paul says, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
That’s Christ manifested in our flesh and revealed or made known among the people around us. And it is the hope of glory. When Christ is living in us, we have the hope or confidence of a home in heavenly glory. Friends, Christ will not live in a soul that is knowingly and deliberately breaking His law.
But, my burden of heart goes more broadly. I am deeply concerned about God’s people. How many are truly seeking to let Christ live in them as the Bible teaches? How many are repenting of their sins and having them blotted out? How many are truly humbling their hearts before the Lord and seeking His grace to overcome their inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil? How many are having their impulses lined up with Christ? Friends, if your life is not in this special relationship with Christ, then you have a work to do. And this is the time to do it. Don’t delay. Today is the day of salvation. Not tomorrow, not next week, or not next year, my friends. It is today.
There seems to be a determined rebellion among many of the people of God in these last days. It is a Laodicean lethargy that has settled upon them like a cloud of mist and darkness. They do not want to follow in the ways of the Lord. They press for all manner of changes in the church that are leading God’s people away from God’s ideal. They harden their hearts and act like they have arrogance toward God and His law as they push their will and their way. They manifest a spiritual hardness when they talk about the movies they watch, or the sports they see on television, or the music they listen to. They think they can dress anyway they want. They think they can eat whatever they want. They think they can say whatever they want. They don’t think that they have to control their passions or their impulses.
Some of my acquaintances can’t get past the pain that they have experienced from fellow church members or family members. They cannot forgive and move on to know Christ and His love. They still have bitterness for what has happened to them. But friends, Christ ordains that offences will come. They are ordained so that we may surrender to Christ and learn to forgive just as He forgave His unjust persecutors. But so often we keep the sin of anger and jealousy in our hearts. We nurse bitterness so that we can one day get revenge on those who have hurt us. And we think that as long as we are members of the church we will end up in the Holy City.
But friends, the Holy City is only for those that are holy. My burden is that so many souls are not preparing for what is coming upon this world as an almost overwhelming surprise. They are living apart from Christ, even though they profess to believe the full message of truth for our times.
Listen to this statement from Titus 3:5. This verse tells us the result of true repentance. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost…”
When we repent, God washes us and cleanses us. It is a wonderful feeling to be all clean again. We have the joy of salvation restored. Friends, if you have never felt the joy of salvation, this is the time to repent, isn’t it? This is the time to come to Christ just as you are, and let Him give you repentance, forgiveness, washing of regeneration and then a new life in Christ. It all comes from Christ. But you must cooperate with Him and not resist…
Listen to this impressive quotation from Desire of Ages, pages 175 and 176. I just love this one! It speaks so pointedly to my own experience.
“How, then, are we to be saved? ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,’ so the Son of man has been lifted up, and everyone who has been deceived and bitten by the serpent may look and live. ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29. The light shining from the cross reveals the love of God. His love is drawing us to Himself. If we do not resist this drawing, we shall be led to the foot of the cross in repentance for the sins that have crucified the Saviour. Then the Spirit of God through faith produces a new life in the soul. The thoughts and desires are brought into obedience to the will of Christ. The heart, the mind, are created anew in the image of Him who works in us to subdue all things to Himself. Then the law of God is written in the mind and heart, and we can say with Christ, ‘I delight to do Thy will, O my God.’ Psalm 40:8.”
What a privilege is ours, my friends. Look to Christ and live! Don’t resist Him. Let the love of Christ draw you to repentance. The cross shows us that we can do nothing about our sins. Only Christ can take them away.
Here is what happens to the soul that is surrendered to Christ. “He whose heart has responded to the divine touch will be seeking for that which will increase his knowledge of God, and will refine and elevate the character. As a flower turns to the sun, that the bright rays may touch it with tints of beauty, so will the soul turn to the Sun of Righteousness, that heaven’s light may beautify the character with the graces of the character of Christ,” Desire of Ages, page 468.
Isn’t that wonderful, my friends? We are given the privilege to live for Christ by faith in His righteousness, which is given to us and placed in our hearts. It gives us special discernment and love for all lost souls.
Here is one more piece of instruction before we close. “You who in heart long for something better than this world can give, recognize this longing as the voice of God to your soul. Ask Him to give you repentance, to reveal Christ to you in His infinite love, in His perfect purity. In the Saviour’s life the principles of God’s law—love to God and man—were perfectly exemplified. Benevolence, unselfish love, was the life of His soul. It is as we behold Him, as the light from our Saviour falls upon us, that we see the sinfulness of our own hearts.” That’s Steps to Christ, page 28.
My friends, Let us turn to Christ like the flower to the sun. Don’t try to hide in the shadows. Let your heart soften and surrender to His drawing love today. You don’t need the ritual and form of Lent. You don’t need the ecumenical pull away from Christ that will keep you from obedience to His law. You need true repentance and true forgiveness of sins and a turning from them in a growing walk with Christ until He comes in the clouds of glory. And if you should pass to your rest before He does, you will be in His care until resurrection morning. Please surrender your heart today. Let Jesus give you a complete change of attitude. Let Him give you the gift of repentance and surrender to His unparalleled will.
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, we are so thankful for Jesus and His great love for the lost souls of the human race. Oh, Father, send the Holy Spirit to us today, so that we may understand true repentance and be drawn to Christ and His love. We ask that we may have a personal, one-on-one walk with Jesus, and in His power be overcomers. If it has been a long time since we have surrendered our hearts to Christ, we pray that we will not fear to do it now. Give us the courage to come to Christ just as we are and ask Him to give us repentance. In Jesus’ name, amen.