Tag Archives: Repentance

Learning the Lessons of Philemon

“I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, Whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” (Philemon 10-16)

Paul’s short letter to Philemon is about repentance and second chances. Onesimus had run from Philemon in the past, but now he is a Christian, has changed his life, and is seeking to make things right. Paul wants Onesimus to stay and help him while he is in prison in Rome, but he cannot do so without Philemon’s approval and forgiveness of this man who has wronged him. Paul is pleading with Philemon to do the right thing when Onesimus returns.

There is so much that needs to be learned from this little letter. We need to learn that repentance doesn’t mean our bad decisions just go away: we turn and face them by doing what is right. We need to learn, if we are to have the love of Jesus, that forgiveness is a part of life that must be readily utilized. It is easy to hold grudges, allow anger and hurt to control reactions, and seek vengeance on others just because we can. It is far more difficult to swallow ill feelings and forgive when someone has repented and is seeking to do right.

We need to learn the lessons of Philemon and Onesimus. For there will be times in our lives where we are Onesimus seeking Philemon; and other times we are Philemon receiving Onesimus.

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The Beautiful Lesson of Psalm 130

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (Psalm 130, ESV)

This beautiful psalm of 8 verses is actually a song in four parts (stanzas). Each builds upon the other and brings a specific focus when considered step-by-step, then culminating in one beautiful picture. Notice the 4 sections of this psalm.

Part 1: The cry of man (Vs. 1-2). This is the cry of someone who is in depths of darkness and knows the need of forgiveness and help.
Part 2: The forgiveness of the Lord (Vs. 3-4). If there was no forgiveness in God, none could stand before him; instead we can fear (have reverential respect for) him.
Part 3: Waiting for the Lord (Vs. 5-6). The call has gone out and the forgiveness is there, but now the soul waits upon the word of the Lord. The focus hear is on the desire to find what God wants and requires.
Part 4: The need for all Israel to have hope (Vs. 7-8). This process is available to all of God’s people, not just a few.

As a child of God if I will call, he will forgive; and if I will wait (seek his will), I have hope.

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The Cycle of Man

Solomon wrote, “The things that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). As one considers the lives of men and their impact while on this earth, it does not take long to comprehend that mankind works in cycles. Man has been going through the same cycles for centuries. We may have found new and innovative ways to go through them, but they are the same cycles nonetheless. One such cycle considers man’s relationship with God. Often called “the cycle of man,” it is shown in Scripture as a consistent representation of how man’s generations rise and fall in their relationship with God. The greatest evidence of it is seen in the book of Judges, for within this book of history the cycle is presented on multiple occasions as God deals with the children of Israel.

There are five elements to the cycle of man as seen in the book of Judges. They include: 1) Rest, 2) Rebellion, 3) Retribution, 4) Repentance and 5) Reconciliation. As each of these elements is considered individually, the continuation of this cycle in the lives of men today will be readily apparent.

Rest. The cycle begins with the children of Israel at peace in their relationship with God. The book of Judges introduces the people at rest after having taken the promised land in the days of Joshua (Jud. 2:7). Israel is walking with God, following His commandments and living as they should. Any time man and God are working together in unity, there will be rest.

Rebellion. The second element in the cycle begins when man decides he doesn’t need God’s laws and ordinances any longer. It is here that all the trouble starts as far as man is concerned. Judges 2:10 states, “and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” There comes a time after Joshua and the elders of his generation die that the people do not know the Lord and rebel against his commands, (Jud. 2:11). It is not that they do not know who God is, but that they refuse to acknowledge his authority. The Israelites begin to believe they do not need God, and that belief leads to their downfall.

Retribution. This third phase reveals God’s reaction to the children of Israel after their rebellion. Seven times in the book of Judges, God allows the surrounding nations to oppress and rule over the children of Israel. God does not allow Israel’s ignorance and arrogance to go unpunished (Jud. 2:14-15). His retribution is swift and consumes every aspect of Israelite society. Their freedoms are removed and they are found at the mercy of those who have never acknowledged God as their own.

Repentance. The fourth element in the cycle is found in the repentance of the children of Israel. Unfortunately, it often takes Israel until they have hit bottom and are at their most desperate before they recognize why they are in their present condition and turn back to God. The amount of time it takes for Israel to repent is varied based upon the callousness of their heart, but eventually those in Israel remember from whence their blessings come. Their hardships always remain until they show repentance and look to God for help.

Reconciliation. In the final phase of the cycle God reconciles his people back to him. He sends deliverers in the form of the judges, to release them from their oppressors (Jud. 2:18). God is always willing to forgive Israel and bring them back, but it never occurs without a change of heart and direction by the people first.

The cycle of man is not just something seen in the lives of the Israelites. Historically it is continuously observed in the rise and fall of the nations of this world. It is even being seen in our country today. This country was founded on the principles of faith in God, family, and freedom to pursue our livelihood to the greatest degree possible.

But instead of following after God, our nation has rebelled against God on a societal level. We have removed God from the public venue, denied God’s presence in the teaching and training of our children, and turned from God’s Word when it comes to considerations of righteousness, justice, and faithfulness.

Now we sit back and wonder why we are in a country that is collapsing from the inside out. We are collapsing economically because we have long ago left behind sound values of stewardship. Our families are collapsing because God is simply too old fashioned and not progressive enough for our “enlightened” society. Our freedoms are dissolving on a daily basis because without God, there is no standard of justice and principled equality in society.

If we take the lessons from the cycle of man and apply them to our own times, we readily understand that for this country to once again be the nation of freedom and prosperity we desire, it will require repentance on our part. Not the simple statement, “I’m sorry,” but a return in every level of society to the principles and teachings of God. Without that, we will continue to spiral downward until we hit bottom, as Israel did so many centuries ago.

Americans need to learn from the cycle of man. God has clearly defined the path that leads to rest, both on this earth and in all eternity; but until man determines to stop trying to make his own path, he will continue to wander as a blind man through a forest: stumbling, falling, bruising, and harming himself with no guide and no hope.

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Can an Evil Man Change?

King Manasseh of Judah is one of the lesser known kings of the people of Israel, in spite of the fact that his 55-year reign was more than any other king in the northern or southern kingdoms. This man only has two chapters dedicated to his life in Scripture: the first is 2 Kings 21; the second is 2 Chronicles 33. But within these two chapters is the account of one of the greatest life changes in the Bible.

Manasseh became king at the age of 12 (2 Kin. 21:1). He was the son of one of the greatest kings Judah had ever seen in King Hezekiah, yet his father’s influence did not rub off on the young Manasseh. When Manasseh became king he went out of his way to destroy everything his father had accomplished. A cursory examination of 2 Kings 21 reveals that Manasseh built up the idolatrous high places that his father had destroyed as well as rearing up idols of his own (Vs. 3). He built altars to idolatrous gods and placed them in the temple of God (Vs. 4). He burned his children alive in offerings to these idolatrous gods and dealt in witchcraft (Vs. 6). He shed innocent blood in Jerusalem to the point that it filled Jerusalem from one end to the other (Vs. 16). He did more evil in his reign than the nations that were destroyed by God before the children of Israel (Vs. 9). Manasseh was an evil and vile man whose reign was marked with rebellion, idolatry, violence, perversion, and hatred.

If all we saw about Manasseh was 2 Kings 21, it would certainly be one of the most terrible and horrific accounts of the Old Testament. For truly the actions of Manasseh were ones that dropped Judah into some of her deepest, darkest times. But in 2 Chronicles 33 we read what Paul Harvey would have called, “the rest of the story.” The Lord brings the host of Assyria against Manasseh because of his wickedness (Vs. 11). Manasseh will be captured, taken prisoner, and carried to Babylon in chains. While imprisoned there, Manasseh humbled himself greatly before God asking his forgiveness and pleading for his release (Vs. 12-13). God heard his prayers and returned Manasseh once again to Jerusalem. Manasseh was now a changed man. He removed the altars and images that he had created in Israel (Vs. 15). He rebuilt the nation of Judah and fortified it (Vs. 14). He reinstated the worship of God and had offerings of peace and thanksgiving raised up before God (Vs. 16); and from all indications of Scripture he served God the rest of his life.

There are two great lessons to learn from the life of Manasseh. The first lesson is that any man can change his ways if his desire is strong enough. Manasseh was one of the greatest villains of the Old Testament. His wicked deeds and rebellious actions were rivaled by few in the inscriptions of the Bible. Yet, when he humbled himself and turned, his turning was a complete 180. He did not try to half-heartedly “do better,” but went full force in the opposite direction. Such is what is necessary for an evil man to change.

The second lesson is that, though a man may change, the consequences of his actions are still present. Though Manasseh changed his ways and served God, the damage of the wickedness of his life was already done. Many innocent lives had been lost. The people had been turned from God to idolatry. The son of Manasseh, Amon, who would reign after him, would follow in the early footsteps of his father, instead of the footsteps of his repentance. Though Manasseh changed, his legacy was already in place. We must ensure we live our lives with the understanding that every decision we make, every direction we take, has an impact on others around us. When we make wrong decisions we may be able to make them right before God, but we can’t always change the impact they’ve had on others.

Manasseh should be far better known than he is. His story is inspiring because it shows that humility and godliness can change anyone. But his story is also a warning because the path of evil leaves great destruction in its wake.

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