Forgiven The Most

Who responded to Jesus best when He walked on this earth? It wasn’t the religious leaders or the pious folk or the wealthy and powerful. It was the ordinary people, the sinners and the outcasts of society. But why is that? The Christian message carries good news for all people. What made some receive it joyfully and others want to kill Jesus?

How Big Is Your Debt?

There’s a story in Luke 7 that might shed some light on this. One of the Pharisees, a man named Simon, invited Jesus over for dinner. A woman known in her city as “a sinner” followed them and started crying on Jesus’ feet. She washed His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with oil.

The Pharisee’s mind instantly went to a place of judgement. If Jesus were a prophet, he thought, then He would know what sort of woman this was and stop her from touching Him. Jesus wasn’t too impressed with that line of thought, so He told this story:

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.” And he said unto him, “Thou hast rightly judged.” (Luke 7:41-43, KJV)

Jesus went on to list the ways this woman demonstrated her love for him (which, incidentally, highlighted Simon’s deficiencies in hospitality). He finished His conversation with Simon by saying, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47, KJV).

One reason the sinners responded so well to Jesus is that they knew they needed what He offered. The people who viewed themselves as righteous thought they were good enough already and found His call to repentance offensive. Continue reading

How Do I Repent and Change?

Repentance from dead works is the first of the foundational truths listed in Hebrews 6. But how well do we really understand it and how many of us truly practice repentance?

When I was baptized, the minister asked if I’d repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I meant it when I said yes, but I’m not sure I really understood how much more repentance is than just an, “I’m sorry I messed up.” It involves a change in our innermost being that manifests in a commitment to turn away from things displeasing to God.

As we prepare for Passover, we ask God for feedback on how we’re doing in our walk with Him. We examine ourselves to see if there are hidden sins in our lives and ponder how we can become better examples of our Lord Jesus. But we can’t stop there. We have to act on what we learn.

click to read article, "How Do I Repent and Change?" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Photo credit: “Remember this day” by Tim Sackton, CC BY-SA via Flickr

David’s Example

Psalm 51 is perhaps the best example we have in the entire Bible of repentance. David wrote it after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah killed. There were consequences for those sins, but David was forgiven. He didn’t just “get away with it” because he was king and God wanted to keep working with him. David was forgiven because he confessed and repented from a humbled heart (unlike the previous king, Saul, who made excuses when confronted with his sin). Continue reading

“You’re Okay” Doesn’t Help A Sick Man

Imagine you’ve noticed something wrong and you go to the doctor. They run their tests and scans, take their samples, and sit you down with the results. You were right — you’re sick and quite probably dying without prompt attention. But instead of offering a cure, the doctor says he can alter the test results. You’ll still be dying, but you can pretend you’re not and tell all your friends the doctor says you’re fine.

Sounds ridiculous, right? I’m not sure any of us would take that deal. But that’s what churches are doing on a spiritual level if they hold out the idea of salvation without repentance.

Our Western society is uncomfortable with objective morality. It’s unpopular to think certain actions are inherently wrong. We don’t want to acknowledge a higher power with the right to determine what is and is not sin. Yet that’s exactly what you must do when you become a Christian. My decision to follow Jesus means I’m not the ultimate authority in my life. He and Our Father are.

Repenting From What?

When Jesus began preaching, He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). It has become popular in some Christian churches to say God’s commands aren’t relevant today. If you accept Jesus as your personal savior that’s it — you’re saved. There’s a measure of truth to this last statement, for God sent Jesus “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). But Jesus also commanded repentance and that begs the question, “What are we repenting of?” Continue reading

Those Out Of The Way

How ought Christians treat people who don’t understand God’s ways? There’s a very real temptation to belittle and criticize others for not believing the same things we do. Yet that’s not the sort of spirit God looks for in those who follow Him.

While keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) this year, one of the speakers shared a story from his time at a Bible college (click here for sermon recording). He and his classmates were assigned to read Emily Dickinson and analyze her theology. They picked it to bits, critiquing every way she didn’t understand their church’s teachings on the purpose and future of mankind. When they presented it to their teacher, they expected high marks.

Instead, the teacher grew angry. “You’re belittling the miracle of your calling,” he said. When we as Christians expect those who’ve not been called into God’s truth to understand, we aren’t acknowledging the miracle God performed when He enlightened us. When we condemn those who are earnestly seeking God and don’t have all the pieces, we condemn ourselves for a lack of compassion (and for arrogance in thinking we have all the right answers). We become like those Jesus criticized “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9-14).click to read article, "Those Out Of The Way" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Seeking Their Good

God never intended for His people to stand in condemnation on those who don’t understand His ways. Yes we’re to know the difference between right and wrong and urge people to repent of their sins and build a relationship with God, but we’re not to attack them. We have a command to judge ourselves and we’re given limited judgement within the church (e.g. not allowing someone who openly practices sin, in spite of their profession to follow Jesus, to fellowship in the church see 1 Cor. 5:1-13). But is not godly to belittle and criticism people. Instead, we should respect the potential God has placed within all humans. Continue reading

Our Atonement Today

A blessed Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement to you all. Earlier this month, I subscribed to Bible Gateway’s newsletter Holy Land Moments with Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. It’s described as a way to learn about the Jewish background of Scripture by exploring the High Holy Days.

I’m finding it fascinating. I grew up keeping these Holy Days, but not always with much understanding of the Jewish perspective on them. While some of the Jewish tradition doesn’t relate to Christian observance of these days, they often teach a perspective that deepens my understanding. Take the Days of Awe for example. Using the 10 days between Trumpets and Atonement for self-reflection and repentance deepens the meaning of and my engagement with this holy time. And sometimes, the Jewish perspective sparks a thought about how my Christian perspective differs, such as today’s comment in the Holy Land Moments newsletter:

The central part of the Yom Kippur service is missing today. Chapter 16 of Leviticus is dedicated to the description and instructions for the Yom Kippur service that was performed when the Tabernacle and later the Temples stood. Today, we no longer have a high priest, nor do we participate in ritual sacrifices. So how do we achieve atonement?

Those who believe Messiah has come have a different answer to this question than those who don’t. Rabbi Eckstein writes,”There are three keys that take the place of the service performed in biblical times” and they “can undo our wrongdoings and change things for the better.” These things are “repentance, prayer, and charity.”

Our Atonement Today | marissabaker.wordpress.com

original photo credit: Nick Fullerton, CC BY via Flickr

While those things are important, I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord that I’m not trying to atone for myself. There’s no way I could ever do enough or be good enough to undo my own sins. Today, we do have a High Priest and He has filled the ritual sacrifices with His perfect sacrifice (Heb. 7:23-28). The “central part” of Yom Kippur isn’t missing for Christians who keep this Holy Day — it’s more real than ever. Continue reading

Return to The Lord

Have you ever felt like your relationship with God wasn’t what it should be? I think if we’re honest, we’ve all had seasons in our lives where we knew we weren’t quite right with God. Some of us are going through that right now. Sometimes we know what put that distance in our relationship with Him, sometimes we’re not quite sure how we drifted away. We just know we need to get back.

The Jews and Messianic believers say the month leading up to Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) and the 10 Days of Awe between Trumpets and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are a season of teshuva. This word literally means “return.” It is derived from the word shub (H7725), which is the form used in scripture. When the Old Testament talks about people turning away from their sins, this is the word typically used (examples: 1 Kings 8:47; Eze. 14:6; 18:30). We also translate shub and teshuva as repentance.Shabbat Shuvah | marissabaker.wordpress.com

  • (Side Note: the English word “repent” in the KJV Old Testament is usually translated from nacham (H5162), to be sorry, and is most often used of God. However, our modern understanding of repentance is better expressed by shub or teshuva.)

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says that all the “idioms describing man’s responsibility in the process of repentance … are subsumed and summarized by this verb shub. For better than any other verb it combines in itself the two requisites of repentance: to turn from evil and to turn to the good” (entry 2340).

Four Steps

Today is the Sabbath between Trumpets and Atonement. It’s traditionally known as Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of Return. While repentance is something we do year round, this is a fitting season to think more deeply about where we stand with God and in what ways we need to turn back to Him. Continue reading