About Our Cover ...
Known the world over as the heart of Las Vegas, Nevada, famed Fremont Street is a spectacle of blazing neon lights, gambling casinos and hotels. This world makes sin appear very appealing to man's carnal nature. But God exposes sin for what it really is! And He commands us to "love NOT the world, neither the things that are in the world"! (I John 2:15.) Learn exactly WHY God wants mankind to FORSAKE this world's ways -- to REPENT of breaking His law.
HOW TRUE it is -- we are just little babies grown up! And we still have the very same HUMAN NATURE!
We don't begin to realize just how many of OUR THOUGHTS ARE DIRECTED TOWARD OUR SELVES! IT'S THESE SELFISH THOUGHTS and actions that make so MANY miserable and FRUSTRATED!
Look at the world around you. Notice how everybody seems bent on GETTING HIS OWN WAY in everything he does. Is this any different from a tiny squalling baby?
Babies exhibit no outgoing concern for their parents. They NEVER THINK of the trouble they cause their parents when they begin to cry in the middle of the night!
In business, ambitious young executive "climbers" knife and stab each other in the back TO GET themSELVES ahead.
How many wives try to convince "hubby" they urgently need a new dress or coat when they really could wait? And how many children try to convince their parents they need a larger allowance, more freedom, and fewer restrictions around home?
On the international scene, nations try to bully, cajole, or trick other nations into serving their selfish interests.
Everywhere you look, somebody is out to GET THE BEST OF SOMEBODY ELSE!
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ..." (Gal. 5:22-23) -- all diametrically contrary to human nature!
True love is outgoing CONCERN for OTHERS -- a desire to give, serve, and help. BUT HUMAN NATURE IS SELF-LOVE -- wanting to give to, serve, and help THE SELF!
God's Spirit is full of JOY. But human nature is so intent upon fulfilling its own selfish aims that it has NO TIME for the expression of true JOY! It is trying to GET, GET, GET -- and it is miserable if it cannot obtain its desires.
God's Spirit brings PEACE -- contentment and peace of mind. But human nature is always STRIVING to obtain more for the self. It knows no rest, no relaxation. It is full of worry, fears and frustrations!
God's Spirit is PATIENT. It is willing to CONTENTEDLY WAIT on God to perform His promises and pour out His blessing IN HIS OWN GOOD TIME. It is willing to suffer long, and endure reproach for Christ's sake. It is supremely patient.
Not so, human nature! It is in a great RUSH, an excited hurry -- full of HASTE! It wants to get, and get NOW! RIGHT NOW, it cries in anguish, thinking only of its OWN selfish needs and desires!
The Spirit of GOD is very GENTLE, tender, loving toward others. Human nature is brusque, hurried, sharp with others, BLUNT, has no consideration for their feelings or weaknesses.
What about goodness? GOD gives His blessings freely, to all, without respect of persons. God seeks to lavish GOOD upon His people! It rejoices God to be able to BLESS others. But human nature, on the contrary, is RUDE, INSOLENT, and feels that others are worthless, undeserving of any favor.
Do you SEE how rotten and contrary to God's way the HUMAN NATURE we were all born with really IS?
Notice further! The Spirit of God is the Spirit OF faith -- patient TRUST, and RELIANCE upon GOD. One imbued with God's Spirit is willing to put his trust in God and look to HIM, NO MATTER HOW CIRCUMSTANCES MAY temporarily appear, knowing that GOD is ABLE TO change and alter circumstances to produce His promised blessings!
BUT HUMAN NATURE DOES NOT HAVE THAT KIND OF FAITH! It does NOT believe in God's promises. It only believes what it can SEE, FEEL, HEAR AND TASTE. It is not willing to trust God for anything. It relies TOTALLY upon self, seeks to WORK THE ANGLES, and is preoccupied with LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE! "Every man for himself" is its motto.
What about HUMILITY? The Spirit of God in one causes him to be humble, respectful of others, recognizing their potentialities and qualities. He is willing to GIVE UP his own comforts, even his own LIFE, in order to serve and help others! He is willing to abase the SELF and SACRIFICE for others! -- even as JESUS CHRIST Himself was willing to forsake all and suffer the ignominious death of the stake for OUR sakes!
But not so, human nature! "Surely every man at his best state is ALTOGETHER VANITY"! See Psalm 39:5.
Human nature is PROUD, INSOLENT, full of SCORN for others. Self is placed upon a towering pedestal, enshrined in an ivory tower, and puffed up like a bloated balloon! It is haughty, highminded. It DESPISES others.
Analyze yourself now. How OFTEN do you submit to selfish temptations? HOW OFTEN do you exhibit competitiveness, greed or selfishness? How often do you become hasty, rash, in seeking your own way? How often do you become WORRIED, ANXIOUS, OR FEARFUL that you won't GET what you want? How often do you sulk or brood over "what could have been"?
How often do you "play the angles"? How often do you try to "impress people"?
How often do you permit human PRIDE and vanity to become manifest in your life -- taking pride in YOUR accomplishments, boasting of what you have done, bragging on yourself?
We need to realize Jesus Christ also had HUMAN NATURE (Heb. 2:14-18). He was TEMPTED IN ALL POINTS like as we are (Heb. 4:15).
But He had the Holy Spirit!
And He KNEW human nature -- knew "what was in man." He MASTERED His human nature. He kept it under control -- ALWAYS -- by the POWER of God!
As Jesus strode slowly into the garden of Gethsemane, just before His crucifixion, His thoughts tossed and turned within Him. He was sorely tempted by His human nature to "forget the whole thing." His human nature cried out, "WHY should you sacrifice YOUR life!" "Why should YOU suffer?" "What's in this for you?"
But Jesus never faltered. He prayed to the Father, "O my Father, IF it be possible, let this cup pass from me: NEVERTHELESS NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS THOU WILT" (Mat. 26:39).
"... NEVERTHELESS NOT MY WILL, BUT THINE, BE DONE" (Luke 22:42).
Jesus had totally conquered the SELF. He COMPLETELY SURRENDERED His WILL to God. He had brought every thought into subjection to God. HE DID NOT SEEK HIS OWN WAY!
This COMPLETE surrender -- this wholehearted submissiveness to God's RIGHT WAYS -- is the GOAL of YOUR REPENTANCE TO GOD!
EVERYONE WANTS a life full of satisfaction, interest, accomplishment and joy.
Yet most people are discontented, worried, often fearful, restless, bored, dissatisfied, with a sense of emptiness. Why?
The Eternal Creator PROVIDED for the kind of happy and abundant life we all want and seek -- yet only very few ever experience it!
What is the reason so few have found the way of life which leads to happiness and success? Everyone COULD know! God has revealed the answer!
God set in motion LIVING LAWS TO PRODUCE HAPPINESS, peace, joy, and abundance. These LAWS are the way to everything that everyone really craves and seeks. Yet nearly everyone rejects THIS WAY and seeks it in the opposite direction!
God created mankind INCOMPLETE. God formed MAN of the dust of the ground -- of matter. Man is material. But God is SPIRIT. Physical man is not complete until his mind is united with the spiritual mind of God through the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit!
Unlike animals, man was made "in the image of God" -- so that the very Holy Spirit of God Himself can actually enter WITHIN MAN -- thus uniting with man's mind and imparting the spiritual characteristics of God's SPIRITUAL mind.
In the Garden of Eden God freely offered His Holy Spirit to Adam and Eve, which they rejected. And today God offers His Spirit to us through Christ.
Thus the very MIND of God -- the divine LOVE of God -- the divine nature of God -- the FAITH of God -- the POWER of God -- the CHARACTER of God, all emanating from God, through His Holy Spirit, can come within man, as the gift of God's love to him!
Man is not COMPLETE until he has this SPIRITUAL union with his Maker -- this fellowship -- this father-son relationship. Why, then, do most people not have this priceless gift of the Holy Spirit which God actually yearns to bestow upon every person? Understand!
God knew that man COULD NOT have perfection of character by instantaneous fiat creation alone. It requires time, knowledge, submissiveness, decision, a cooperative will, self-resistance, self-direction on man's part -- actually TEAMING UP WITH GOD ALMIGHTY! Perfection of character can come only through EXPERIENCE -- with man's consent and willingness, GOING the way God's Spirit will LEAD him.
Therefore God created mortal man with human nature which, like the power of gravity, exerts on man a DOWNWARD PULL that is hostile toward God and God's ways. Man must first come to the knowledge of his natural rebellion against God's right ways. He must come to experience genuine REPENTANCE of his hostility -- his resentment of authority -- his own wrong thinking and acting.
God will not give eternal life to any person who is not willing to live a happy, joyful, interesting, abundant and useful life. But all have been seeking it by running directly away from it. Man has been reaping what he has sown -- discontent, unhappiness, strife, violence, suffering, fear, death.
Before God will give His Holy Spirit which leads to happiness, man must meet God's conditions. First, REPENTANCE, which is toward God the Father. Then, FAITH which is toward our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. These reconcile us to God. True repentance -- experiencing a genuine abhorrence of sinful, rebellious self -- fuming FROM hostility and disobedience, TO a loving Saviour and a loving Father in complete unconditional surrender and spirit of obedience -- plus faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ -- remove the great barrier that has cut us off from God. Thus the very first step on THE WAY toward real and everlasting happiness is a genuine, deep, and complete REPENTANCE. Only then is one ready for baptism and the receiving of God's Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
But REPENTANCE will take REAL ACTION -- self-mortification -- unconditional SURRENDER -- complete GIVING IN -- on your part!
Perhaps you have now come to the point where you realize the great need of having God's Spirit to CHANGE YOU. YOU now comprehend the EMPTINESS and FUTILITY of life without a living spiritual union -- a personal FELLOWSHIP -- with the true God, whose nature you now understand more fully.
This is a time of crisis in your life! Belief and baptism may seem to be easy conditions for you to meet. But NOT SO WITH REPENTANCE! Normally, your own human nature and vanity will rebel against fully repenting.
So what does "REPENT" really mean? Let's understand.
In the last few lessons we learned that God, the Creator of all things, created carnal nature within Adam and Eve. This evil nature has been passed on down to all of us today by inheritance. Because of the NATURE which God placed within them, it was NATURAL for Adam and Eve to partake of the FORBIDDEN tree of the knowledge of both good and EVIL (Gen. 2:17; 3:6).
Adam and Eve gave in to their EVIL PULLS -- their nature of SELFISHNESS, VANITY and REBELLIOUSNESS against authority -- with which they were created. And that is exactly what we, their descendants -- born with the same evil nature -- are doing today!
So "repentance" means simply that we have come to a full realization we have rebelled against our Maker -- His Way and His righteous Law -- that this is WRONG -- terribly EVIL -- SINFUL -- that we have come to ABHOR OURSELVES for our self-willed, rebellious sinful past; that we are truly BROKEN UP about it and ready now, with God's help, to BURY our old natures, to QUIT SINNING, quit rebelling, to surrender unconditionally, and to obey God with all our hearts -- from here on and forever!
When we are finally brought to real repentance, we mean business. We are ready -- in EVERY PHASE of our lives -- to say: "YES, Lord ... THY will be done." In REAL repentance, we have become completely SICK AND TIRED of our OWN selfish ways -- AS WELL AS THOSE OF THIS WORLD'S SOCIETY. We are truly SORRY for our mistakes and sins -- and we are MOST WITTING AND READY, through God's Spirit within us, to make a PERMANENT CHANGE. We are now ready to "turn around and go the other way" -- ALL the way -- GOD'S way!
Learning this great LESSON of our own helplessness, misery and inadequacy APART from God is the real PURPOSE of life! That is WHY God has permitted "THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD" to continue -- with all of its trials, tests and frustrations.
Man must learn that he NEEDS God -- that he is INCOMPLETE and FRUSTRATED without a vital, personal fellowship with his Maker.
God, having taught us this GREAT LESSON, can then begin to FINISH His creation by placing within us His Holy Spirit -- His very nature and CHARACTER -- which will give us the spiritual POWER to overcome and hold down the selfish downward pulls of human nature. The Holy Spirit will also give us great joy and inward PEACE OF MIND.
Yes, you were born INCOMPLETE -- in great NEED of personal contact with God through His Spirit. You need to face that fact squarely and -- asking God's guidance and help -- take ACTION on it!
The time of repentance is the CRISIS in your life! It is the TURNING POINT in your entire destiny!
Do not underestimate the importance of this matter. Repentance spells the difference between success and oblivion! If is only when you have become willing to totally SURRENDER your stubborn will to God that He will grant you His Spirit. And ONLY through the power of God's Spirit within you will you ever be able to KEEP your mind IN SUBJECTION to His will -- to overcome SELFISHNESS, VANITY and SIN.
Later, when literally BORN of God AT THE RESURRECTION, YOU will never again sin, for the Holy Spirit -- the perfect NATURE AND CHARACTER OF GOD -- will always REMAIN in you (I John 3:9).
Your WILLINGNESS IS the QUESTION! Your WILLINGNESS TO HELP build the kind of CHARACTER that God wants -- through constant surrender now, with the aid of God's Holy Spirit, to Him and His ways -- is the MOST IMPORTANT question in all of life! Yet it is a question to which most people give very little thought.
Most people assume that God's only purpose for us is that we go through a sentimental experience they call being "saved." Then, at death, we are supposedly taken to "our reward" which is usually depicted as a "heaven" of idleness and ease, a "happy hunting ground," a "mansion in the sky," or whatever each particular group wishes to call it. The basic idea, though, is that we just bask in the light of God's countenance and lie around all day. There is no need to exercise character -- NO DECISIONS to make -- NO RESPONSIBILITIES placed upon us -- nothing whatever to do!
We just TAKE IT EASY, supposedly, and like the sun -- as the songwriter says -- we "roll around heaven all day." How utterly ridiculous!
If, as these people believe, God's only purpose is to get us "saved" -- and if, as so many believe, all there is to getting "saved" is accepting Christ as Saviour, then why is it that God does not INSTANTLY take each one of us to our "reward" as soon as we accept Christ -- AWAY from all the continuous trials, heartaches, and sufferings of this life?
The ANSWER, briefly stated, is that God created the human family for a very great purpose -- a purpose that most professing Christians, and even most ministers, have missed entirely.
God Almighty is the Supreme Artist. You see His artistry in magnificent sunsets, beautiful landscapes, awe-inspiring mountains, in the star-studded sky. God's work of artistry is CREATION. He is the Supreme Almighty Creator of all.
But now, in man, God has set His hand to produce the crowning pinnacle of His own works of creation. Yes, even higher than the angels. In man He is creating perfect, righteous, holy character! And THAT IS the highest, most lofty achievement that even the Supreme Almighty Creator can accomplish!
God's PURPOSE in having brought you into this world -- and in permitting you to live and breathe -- is to create in and through you His own supreme masterpiece of creation!
It's true that YOU, AS YOU NOW ARE, certainly are not very important -- certainly are of very little consequence -- so far as your own inherent ability and capacity is concerned. You are full of faults, weaknesses, shortcomings. You have bad habits. You have sins -- "secret sins" -- that you have not yet mastered and overcome, which NO ONE knows anything about except just YOU -- AND God!
Then can you realize the sobering truth that it is the purpose of the Everlasting God to make out of you -- sinful and unworthy and incapable though you have been -- an immortal, spiritual and holy CHARACTER SO pure, and noble, and righteous that ultimately the eternal God Himself can look upon you with loving pride as the SUPREME product of all His creative power through eternity? Can your mind grasp the awful greatness -- the solemn IMMENSITY of that truth? And it is truth! God HIMSELF will do this creating through His Holy Spirit. HE will do the work. He is the divine Sculptor.
But this character will not be created in YOU UNLESS and UNTIL YOU, yourself, make the decision -- and unless and until you simply HUNGER and THIRST for the pure, holy character of God to be BUILT into you -- unless and until you, yourself, desire this mortal flesh and its cravings and desires and tempers CRUCIFIED -- until you REPENT BITTERLY AND DEEPLY OF SIN, and exert your utmost effort to put it down and hold it under, crying out earnestly to God with a broken, contrite heart continuously, BELIEVING, TRUSTING Him to forgive you and to fill you with His love, His understanding and wisdom, His faith, His power -- to simply take you into his capable hands and make of you what He purposes, and what you are UTTERLY INCAPABLE to make of yourself. Yes, you have your part in this too -- but it is God who will impart to you His righteousness -- His VERY OWN holy and righteous CHARACTER!
If you will REPENT, and come to God through Jesus Christ our Saviour, trusting in His precious shed blood for the remission of every sin you ever committed, trusting the risen, Ever-Living Christ as High Priest to come literally inside you, through His Holy Spirit, and to mold, fashion, shape your character -- then you will see that the Creator is STILL CREATING, in you, the very highest work of all His works of creation! Yes, Christians are being CREATED in Jesus Christ "UNTO GOOD WORKS" (Eph. 2:10) -- "CREATED in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24).
For this tremendous PURPOSE, YOU are made of mortal clay -- made subject to pride, vanity, passions and tempers and desires of the flesh. Character is something which cannot be instantly created. It grows, and is developed through EXPERIENCES OF OVERCOMING -- and these require time. It requires a lifetime, during which you must suffer temptations, encounter obstacles, endure tribulations, overcoming self.
But God promises you His POWER to draw on to help you. It isn't REALLY your doing -- it's GOD'S doing! Your part is TO REPENT, surrender fully, wholly, unreservedly into His hands -- seek Him, CRY OUT TO HIM, TRUST Him. And God even grants you the understanding and spiritual capacity to enable you to repent! But you have your part in it, of course -- else no CHARACTER could be built!
The very reason God allows this present evil world to exist is to bring men to the realization they must repent of their sins and evil natures. It is to make them realize they desperately need God's Spirit to overcome their carnal natures and develop God's character.
Watch the little child -- its resentments, anger, jealousy, covetousness of another's toys, flares of temper. ITS NATURE IS YOURS -- MADE PLAIN because it hasn't learned how to COVER UP yet!
Man, swayed by human nature, and Satan and his demons, has followed the path of destruction -- of polluting, perverting, destroying everything he has been allowed to handle and use and control. He has perverted the sacred Word of God, polluted his own mind, dissipated his body; he has failed to train or has mistaught his children; he has manifested resentment, envy, hatred toward neighbor, sought to get the best of his neighbor in a deal; tried to get more out of life than he has put in it, which is destruction rather than construction; perverted the human food supply; turned scientific and technological developments into engines of destruction until now, unless God steps in, he would annihilate human life from the earth!
We shall have to WANT the righteousness of God with such fervor and burning desire that we are willing to FIGHT our own SELVES, to even SUFFER while striving to control and master ourselves -- and finally to throw ourselves on God's mercy, trusting in His power -- the Holy Spirit -- in order to overcome our natures and develop God's character!
And so the first beginning toward the fulfillment of your purpose on earth is TO REPENT -- repent of all that is wrong with you, including the wrong customs and practices of "this present EVIL world" which you have followed.
This lesson is intended to direct you to the BIBLE -- to help you learn the truth of God's Word. Here is the method of study.
Is your Bible in front of you? If not, GET your Bible -- or Bibles, if you have more than one translation -- BEFORE YOU CONTINUE WITH THIS LESSON! Have a good dictionary, a concordance if you own one, and your notepaper all placed in front of you on a desk or table.
Remember -- you are to open your Bible to EVERY passage. Never say to yourself, "Oh, I think I know what the lesson is referring to" -- and then pass over the scripture. You need to "KEEP YOUR NOSE IN THE BIBLE," SO to speak. You must read and reread and think out each passage.
Then, during your leisure time, MEDITATE on the new knowledge you will learn -- especially within the following twenty-four hours, and in your time of prayer -- SO YOU WON'T FORGET IT! Make God's Word a PART of you! Don't forget that this is a BIBLE study course -- not just a study of the lessons we send you.
Here is how to make effective notes: Write down neatly on your paper the title of this lesson and underscore it. Next write down the lesson number. Then as you come to each question section, write down its heading. Then, underneath, number each question as you come to it. For each question write down the answer from your Bible, together with any pertinent ideas that come to your mind.
Be SURE to WRITE OUT the scripture which answers each question. Writing down every word of each Bible passage, and any comments you wish to make as you go along, will help you in REVIEWING and remembering later on.
This lesson, like all others, is extremely important to you. Have you PRAYED to God for understanding? If not, go now to a private place, kneel down, and ask Him for SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING and wisdom. Ask God to HELP YOU GRASP AND APPLY the knowledge this lesson will reveal to you in the Bible!
And now for the lesson itself.
1. We have learned from the previous lesson that this present world is extremely EVIL in God's sight. But has it been evil from the very BEGINNING? Gen. 2:17 and 3:6.
COMMENT: The POSSIBILITY for this becoming an "evil world" through an act of disobedience to God, existed at the time of Adam's creation. Adam could have PREVENTED it from becoming a reality, but didn't. Instead, he and his wife succumbed to the downward pulls of human nature and disobeyed their only parent -- God -- by taking and eating of the FORBIDDEN fruit!
Yes, this world has been evil from the time Adam and Eve first sinned. The downward pulls of human nature have made it so!
2. What was the result of man's sin in the Garden of Eden? READ all of Genesis 3. Did sin and violence rapidly increase after man was ejected from the Garden? Gen. 4:8, 23; 6:5.
3. Were the people who lived prior to the flood corrupting God's way of life the same as mankind has ALWAYS done? Gen. 6:12.
COMMENT: Notice the words "corrupted His way." God has always made available "HIS way" for man to live. It's the way of not giving in to the down-pulls of human nature.
4. Isn't IDOLATRY one of the downward pulls which God placed within the natures of ALL people? Gal. 5:19-20. And isn't idolatry -- having some other "god" before the True God -- a violation of one of God's commandments? Ex. 20:3-5.
5. Remember in Lesson 21 we found that idolatry can be ANYTHING -- one's possessions or whatever -- which he places AHEAD of God in his affections, as well as LITERAL idol worship. Isn't this one of the downward pulls to which the ancient Israelites were succumbing? Ezek. 14:4-5. Notice the words "setteth up idols in his HEART" in verse 4. Did God COMMAND them to repent of this? Notice especially the command "REPENT" in verse 6.
COMMENT: Yes, human nature has ALWAYS been the same and God has always desired that man REPENT of yielding to his own vanity and rebelling against his Maker.
6. WHOSE way are people to TURN FROM in repentance? Ezek. 33:9 and Prov. 14:12.
COMMENT: Many do not understand what "repentance" really means. But here we see plainly it is turning from our OWN way -- the way of living which by nature seems NATURALLY right to us.
The Old Covenant Israelites could not think straight. They had disobedient CARNAL minds. They did not yet have God's spiritual mind within them. They were "not all there"!
God has been allowing man to learn the hard way by letting him experience the "fruits" of his own ways. Israel's terrible example is a lesson to us who can have the Holy Spirit, and need NOT learn the HARD way.
7. Does Zechariah 1:4 also verify the fact that repentance is a TURNING FROM the natural ways of man?
8. Does God want us to forsake even our unrighteous THOUGHTS? Isa. 55:7. Since God commands us to "turn FROM" something, what are we to "turn TO," or KEEP, in place of these sinful ways? Ezek. 18:21.
9. We learned before that the Holy Spirit was not available in Old Covenant times. Did God inspire Isaiah the prophet to prophesy that the Holy Spirit of POWER would later become available so that au who received it COULD keep God's commandments? Isa. 55:1-3.
COMMENT: Notice the word WATERS. This refers to the HOLY SPIRIT which first came on the Day of Pentecost, June 18, 31 A.D.
10. What does God command all the unrepentant to do now that the POWER of the Holy Spirit can be IN us? Verses 6-7.
COMMENT: This is an AMAZING prophetic chapter. Verses 1-11 deal with the ACTION of the Holy Spirit within the lives of spirit-begotten Christians SINCE Christ's coming. Verses 12 and 13 describe its changing power working within people and the overall results it will produce in the millennial Utopia.
Prophecy is merely the means by which God gives His PLAN in advance. Because God created man with carnal human nature, He KNEW Old Covenant Israel would not really be able to keep His commandments. He was letting man write a history for all the billions of people who would come after them of what man, of himself, could NOT DO without the POWER of the Holy Spirit. That is why, even before this history-writing period was over, God was prophesying the coming of the Holy Spirit of POWER for all mankind.
11. How many years before Christ's coming did God reveal, through this prophecy of Isaiah 55, His plan of making the Holy Spirit available to mankind?
COMMENT: A Bible that gives dates on its pages will show God prophesied this event over 700 years before it actually happened.
12. Did God inspire Ezekiel the prophet to make a special direct plea to Abraham's modern descendants -- the U.S. and Britain today -- TO REPENT after the Holy Spirit became available so they could really obey God? Ezek. 33:7, 11.
COMMENT: This warning to REPENT, given years after ancient Israel went into captivity, is directed to Abraham's DESCENDANTS of our day -- the United States and British Commonwealth!
The command to repent is also directed to all other people of the earth since salvation can come only through repentance and faith in Christ.
13. Did Daniel prophesy there would come a time when many would be able to repent and turn to true righteousness? Dan. 12:3.
COMMENT: Notice that this prophecy was given when the POWER of the Holy Spirit was not generally available to enable people to really turn to true righteousness. But also notice it was prophesied that many would be righteous at a future time -- ever since Christ ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to make it possible.
1. Did Jesus -- knowing that the Holy Spirit of POWER was to be made available to all mankind immediately after His ascension into heaven -- command EVERYONE TO repent? Mat. 4:17.
2. And did the Holy Spirit come on the Day of Pentecost, just as Christ said it would? Acts 2:2, 4. And didn't Peter immediately proclaim how people could receive the POWER of the Holy Spirit with which to overcome their carnal natures? Acts 2:38. Is the condition of repentance again mentioned here? Notice the word REPENT.
COMMENT: YOU won't find repentance an EASY thing to do. Repentance is difficult! It goes AGAINST YOUR NATURE. It must and will completely "upset" your life -- until your life has been made RIGHT SIDE UP.
Why? Because you were BORN with a sinful nature. And its ways have become firmly ingrained in you through years and years of practice!
You began life totally selfish. You were all wrapped up -- in diapers and blankets -- AND IN SELF! Of course, you didn't realize it at the time. In fact, you didn't realize much of anything. CERTAINLY, you were beautiful in your parents' sight. But if anything made you uncomfortable, you immediately let out a squall. Whether it was a loose pin, a gas pain, wet diaper or hunger, you were ONLY concerned with yourself. And day or night, you wanted the WHOLE WORLD to know YOU were in pain!
Of course you've grown out of that now. Yet -- HAVE YOU? You're much more subtle now. You don't yell out in the middle of the night. You don't do the things babies do. You have changed your way of acting. But HAVE YOU changed your way of THINKING?
As a baby grows, one of the first things he or she learns is that its little world revolves around IT. Mother and Daddy literally RUN to serve it. The whole family adjusts its schedule to suit the demands of the little one. And so, success in gaining attention confirm it in its selfish ways. As the baby grows it becomes more and more habit-bound to obey its carnal nature.
Now, narrow it down to you. As you grew up, you continued to be wrapped up in self. As a teen-ager, you were still greedy, selfish, subject to every whim that sprang from the desires of your physical flesh.
But now an interesting thing has happened! You learned it was frowned upon. Though still totally selfish and carnal -- still with your human nature -- you have learned to COVER UP. You no longer screamed out at hunger pangs or SHOWED every emotion.
But you were still -- now more than ever -- all wrapped up in self.
A fleshly body IS all self. It has very little real love or concern for anyone else. It is almost totally oblivious to, and ignorant of, the pains, sufferings -- or rights -- of others. But it vehemently demands that its own wants and needs be fulfilled. It is in dead earnest about that. And its very LIFE depends upon it, because the fleshly mind's very existence is dependent on the continued existence of the fleshly body. Therefore the BODY seeks to CONTROL and enforce ITS WILL on the mind.
The psychologists mix-label this the "instinct of self-preservation." But it is not an instinct. It is a DOWNWARD PULL, solidified in LEARNED behavior.
But a spirit body, as we are destined to become, is different. It doesn't demand preoccupation with self. There are no needs, nothing lacking in a spirit body. Instead, it has eternal life inherent within itself. To prepare for this kind of life, we must UNLEARN the whole basic pattern of HUMAN thinking.
We must literally be willing even to give up our lives (Luke 14:26).
Otherwise we would be just so many "little devils" -- lusting, lying and murdering. Jesus plainly told certain unconverted men of His day, "You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do." He was a murderer from the beginning ..." (John 8:44). Jesus clearly shows that the evil motivations of our human nature are basically the same as those of the Devil's PERVERTED nature. II Timothy 3:2-4 is a TRUE picture of OUR nature:
"For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God."
HUMAN NATURE cries out to BREAK God's Law!
But don't some really love others? -- "put themselves out" -- spending their time serving? Perhaps, on occasion. But remember our "baby" example -- how we learned to "cover up"?
When someone says, "How are you?" they probably don't really want to know. Just start to tell them. You'll find they probably aren't listening!
What about sudden great acts of heroism? For example, a soldier in the field saves his buddies by smothering a hand grenade with his own body. Was he selfless? Probably not. His action was ninety-some percent IMPULSE. If he had known an hour in advance what was going to occur, would he have smothered the grenade? THAT would be EXTREMELY unlikely!
Sin -- the transgression of God's Law (I John 3:4) -- is the outworking of the basic nature of selfishness which CANNOT fulfill the Law. And the Bible says, "ALL have SINNED" (Rom. 3:23).
1. Does the Bible continue to show there are no exceptions -- that ALL have plenty to repent of? I John 1:8, 10.
2. Have all sinned and come short of God's righteousness and glory because of disobedience to His LAW? I John 3:4.
3. Are ALL people filthy by God's standard? Ps. 14:2-3. Is there a single one that is REALLY good of himself? Verse 3.
COMMENT: Many feel they are poor GOOD humble folk who have not done anything really WRONG in their lives and so have little, if anything, to repent of. But your Bible says ALL have CARNAL MINDS and that ALL have SINNED!
Christ commanded, "Be" -- BECOME -- "Ye therefore PERFECT even as your Father which is in heaven is PERFECT" (Mat. 5:48). We must all REPENT SO we CAN receive God's Holy Spirit and BECOME perfect. It's a PROCESS IMPOSSIBLE without God's Spirit! For your Bible says, "they that are in the FLESH [carnally minded] cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the SPIRIT [spiritually minded], IF SO be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have NOT the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Rom. 8:8-9). See also verses 4-7.
You need to EXAMINE YOURSELF! Are you SURE YOU are converted? Remember it is the FEW who have found the REAL WAY to salvation at this time!
4. Did Christ say REPENTANCE would be preached among ALL nations? Luke 24:47. And does God specifically command ALL people to repent? Acts 17:30.
COMMENT: God commands every person in this world to repent -- to turn from their present evil ways!
5. What, specifically, are the repentant to turn from? Acts 2:38 and I Pet. 2:11.
COMMENT: The "fleshly lusts" spoken of here are the DOWNWARD PULLS of human nature (Gal. 5:19-21). We must resist them and REPENT of all sins and ask God to help us keep His commandments through the POWER of His Holy Spirit. Peter here commands that we ABSTAIN from giving in to downward pulls. We now know this is impossible except we first REPENT!
6. If anyone REMAINS unrepentant -- impenitent -- what does he lay up for himself? Rom. 2:5. And what will be his ultimate fate? Ezek. 18:20.
COMMENT: EVERYONE must ULTIMATELY repent to be saved! There is no other way. If a person sets his will not to repent, he will be destroyed forever in the holocaust of fire which will consume the entire surface of this present earth, destroying everything except those who are transformed into spirit beings (II Pet. 3:10; Rev. 20:15).
Is God fair in commanding us to repent of sin?
Honest persons are admitting that this present world is on the road to destruction. The reason? SIN -- unrestrained human nature in ACTION!
Now, what is sin? Is it fun? Is it everything that is good and pleasurable and enjoyable? Is that what sin is? Or is it the breaking of GOD'S LAWS which results in wretchedness, poverty, misery, sickness and death?
There are two definitions of sin -- the world's definition, and God's definition. The world's definition is that sin is the way to act and live that gives those who dare to do so increased pleasure, fun, good times, enjoyment. It's the "forbidden fruit" that is sweeter, more desirable.
THIS concept, though unrealized, is that God is unjust and UNFAIR, forbidding US to really enjoy life. Consequently, sin is the desirable way which is forbidden, or at least frowned on, by respectable society under religious influence. If sin is to be "enjoyed," it must therefore be in secret unless one is to defy society or be branded with disgrace -- or so it used to be, though society today is becoming "broadminded," more tolerant of sin, permitting more and more what previous generations forbade.
This concept was aptly illustrated by the deathbed confession of an atheist. His daughter came to his bedside and asked:
"Father, now that you know that you are going to die, which do you now think is best -- your atheism or Mother's Christianity?"
"Well, daughter," the dying man replied, "I still believe my way is the best to live by, but I'll have to confess at last that your mother's religion is the best to die in."
That's the common conception. People unthinkingly have a picture of a god who is unfair -- who expects people to give up the worthwhile things of life, deny one's self enjoying life, and live a life of unhappiness in order to be "saved." And according to this view the way to cheat God is to live in sin and enjoy life, and then squeeze through at the last minute by a deathbed confession!
This concept is Satan's masterpiece of delusion, fastened on an unthinking world! It pictures the god of Herbert Spencer's distorted imagination -- a monster, who "saves" people through fear of penalties unless they forsake "more desirable ways" for his "narrow and unhappy way." It hides God's love, turns God's Law of Love into an evil, cheats human beings of happiness, peace, success and joy that could be theirs through a discernment of the true values.
That is the world's definition of sin. But what does the Textbook for really joyous living -- the Bible -- whose All-wise Author is the Eternal God, define as sin?
"Sin," defines the Bible, "is the transgression of the Law" (I John 3:4).
God says "the law is spiritual" (Rom. 7:14). And "the law is HOLY, JUST, and GOOD" (Rom. 7:12). And "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10). Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not!
And what is righteousness? "All thy COMMANDMENTS are RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Ps. 119:172). Righteousness is obedience to the living laws God has set IN MOTION. These Laws are ALIVE. They are eternal, immutable, inexorable! (Ps. 111:7-8).
When we transgress them, there is a PENALTY. There is no escape from the penalty, unless we accept Christ's sacrifice as payment of that penalty in OUR STEAD. The Law has been set in motion, and it is the most powerful, irresistible thing in all the universe! Relentlessly, it moves on, always aiming its penalty without fail!
That Law is SO STRONG -- SO IRRESISTIBLE -- so IMMUTABLE -- that it took even the life of God-in-the-flesh, Jesus Christ, the very Son of God! It was stronger than HE! It claimed His life, when He voluntarily took your sins and mine upon Himself! When He came under the penalty in OUR stead, not even the life of Jesus Christ was strong enough to PREVENT that inexorable Law from claiming its last, final penalty -- DEATH!
Jesus did not do away with the Law. The Law did away with HIM -- with His physical, earthly life! Christ would have remained dead FOREVER, unless resurrected. It is only because God raised Him from the dead by a resurrection that He now lives! He didn't end the LAW -- no, the LAW ended His life! And it will end YOURS also, unless your sins are all on Jesus and covered by HIS shed blood!
But death is not the ONLY penalty of breaking God's Law. Not by any means! The penalty of broken law, HERE and NOW, is broken, frustrated lives, shattered hopes and hopeless dreams, unending misery, wretchedness, unhappiness and want!
Yes, the Law of God is GOOD! It is love! It is the way to peace, to happiness, to joy! Keep it, and you will be HAPPY. Break it, and you will suffer! THE LAW IS GOD'S GREATEST GIFT TO MANKIND -- given to make man happy, to lead him into the full abundant life, to PROTECT his happiness and lead him into eternal life!
1. Is God's Law the Law of LIBERTY? James 1:25. Does keeping the Law result in blessings? Same verse.
2. Does obedience to God's Law result in genuine freedom -- freedom from fears, from misery, from penalties of every kind, and freedom from the bondage of the Devil and his demons? Rom. 6:14,16, 18.
3. Does God's Law also free us from slavery to the foolish and hurtful customs of society? Col. 2:20-22.
Repentance is NOT a matter of "giving up" everything good! Repentance is POSITIVE!
Not only do you escape the penalties of sin, but it is the way to uncountable positive benefits. Let's consider this for a moment.
The blood of Jesus pays the penalty of our sins -- takes away our past sins, reconciles us to God. Then God gives us His free HOLY SPIRIT -- the Spirit of LOVE -- "THE love of God" -- God's kind of love -- "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 5:5). And this spiritual love, in us, ALONE can fulfill, or keep God's Law!
It is ONLY those thus keeping the Law who know real peace, happiness and joy!
And only those having the Holy Spirit within them can inherit eternal life!
The commands, precepts and other teachings of the BIBLE pull the glossy, attractive coloring off of sin and reveal it for what it is! Remember THAT! Don't forget it! They stand for THE WAY which will bring true happiness! And they point out to us that living any other way than by God's Laws is a snare and delusion!
Humans seek "fun," pleasure, enjoyment. Sin usually gives a TEMPORARY sensation of pleasure, or exhilaration. But there's always a KICK-BACK! Sometimes it's the headache of the "morning after." It exacts an EXORBITANT PRICE always collected later -- but it's a RELENTLESS COLLECTOR! And its final price is death! It's a mighty poor bargain! God help us to discern the true values from the false!
God tells us that His Word is to be our GUIDE to daily living. The BIBLE shows exactly what we must TURN FROM and TURN TO! Let's understand.
1. Can we trust our own understanding? Can we rely on our own minds to tell us what to do and what not to do? Prov. 3:5.
COMMENT: How can we possibly trust our own minds since we were born with minds that are only "half there"! None of us has the Holy Spirit of God unless and until we repent of our past sins, are baptized and begin obeying God. We CAN'T think straight, as far as spiritual matters of salvation are concerned, without God's Spirit. For the downward pulls of our evil nature DISTORT our thinking towards disobedience to God.
2. When one who does not have the Holy Spirit within him depends upon his unconverted mind to tell him what is RIGHT and what is wrong, where will he END UP? Prov. 14:12. Does God repeat this again, for EMPHASIS, in Proverbs 16:25?
3. When people follow their own vain reasonings, do they miss out on the whole purpose of why God put them here on the earth -- that He intends them to learn to do the righteousness of God? Rom. 10:3.
4. Then isn't it the Law of God which must point out to us what wrongdoing -- SIN -- really is? I John 3:4.
COMMENT: It is the Law of God, and NOT OUR CONSCIENCE, that explains what sin is!
5. Since God's laws and precepts which lead to SALVATION are not found within OUR OWN MINDS, then just where ARE they to be found? II Tim. 3:15.
COMMENT: The overall Law of God is the Law of Love (I John 5:3; Ex. 20). And the spiritual ramifications of this great law are given THROUGHOUT the BIBLE!
6. Does obedience to God's commandments contained in His Word result in blessings? I John 3:22.
7. Is the Bible profitable for reproving and correcting and instructing us in God's way of life? II Tim. 3:16-17.
8. Are the reproofs and instructions of God a way of life? Prov. 6:23.
COMMENT: The commandments, reproofs, and instructions found in your Bible lead one into a new WAY of life -- GOD'S way. They lead to a joyous and abundant way of life here and now, and life ETERNAL hereafter!
We need to quit following MEN who have appointed themselves as "authorities" on the Bible. Let's follow CHRIST'S command in Matthew 4:4 to "live by every word of GOD." Let's get back to the TRUE teachings of the Bible!
9. What happens when people do not obey the scriptures implicitly? Mat. 15:14.
COMMENT: People fall into error when they follow the teachings of misguided men, instead of God's Word -- the Bible.
10. By what standard will all people be judged by God? John 12:48-50.
COMMENT: Christ preached the way to salvation when He lived in the human form here on this earth. But remember also that it was He, in spirit form, as God of Old Covenant Israel, who inspired the Word of God to be written then for US TODAY. And after His death it was He who inspired His servants to both preach and write His Father's words for us.
11. Is it just enough to praise God in thought and word, or are we commanded to put God's instructions into actual USE in our daily lives? Mat. 7:21. This is important to remember!
12. When something new comes up in our daily lives and we are undecided just what God would want us to DO about it, what does God command? I Thes. 5:21.
COMMENT: God commands us to prove all things by His Word. We are to STUDY all the scriptures relating to any proposed course of action before making a final decision. The only infallible guide is God's BIBLE! And God's Word commands us to repent of disobeying His laws and begin OBEYING them NOW. This is the ONLY WAY TO all the tremendous blessings God offers you and me and all mankind!