Before I blog (is that a verb?) I usually think about my subject for a week or so and mull over what I am going to write. This week I had a topic all ready to go when something else presented itself to me that I now feel compelled to write about. In other words, I have changed my mind about what I would write about today.
My topic is now mainly about repentance. (The more clever of my readers will now realize that I am playing with my theme. The original meaning of the Greek word for repentance is 'change of mind'.) The reason that I changed my mind on the subject is twofold. First, my pastor has preached on repentance the last couple of Sundays and, second, I read a quote today in a book I was reading that really struck me as true.
It was a quote by G. K. Chesterton. It read, "There is a notion that to win a man [to the Lord] we must agree with him. Actually the opposite is true ... The man who is going in the wrong direction will never be set right by the affable religionist who falls into step beside him and goes the same way. Someone must place himself the path and insist that the straying man turn around and go in the right direction."
What Chesterton is telling us is that for a person to get right with God he must repent, he must change his mind, he must change the direction of his life. And he must do this in response to what Jesus did for him. He must believe that Jesus died for his sins and that God raised Him from the dead. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9) And when He is the Lord of your life He will require that you stop sinning and do what He says you must do.
Some will say that this is very narrow. It is narrow and that is exactly what Jesus told us. He told us that the way to eternal life was narrow. That should settle it for us, but some are not satisfied with that. They want the church to be more inclusive. I do as well, but not necessarily in the same way they do. It all depends on what you mean by 'inclusive'.
I have heard some say that we must accept people of all kinds - whites, blacks, Hispanics, men, women, homosexuals and the like. I cannot help but notice something odd about a list like this. It is one thing to say that churches should accept people of all races and ethnicities, but what is the point of adding something that is behavior-based?
The reason is simple. They are trying to get the church to accept homosexual behavior and that is easier to do when you put them into categories alongside of race, gender and ethnicity. I think that this is a phony means of grouping people together. It is a list based on 'civil rights' and not on truly biblical categories. Homosexuals are a group of people who have certain sexual proclivities and one that the Bible categorically condemns. Now I am not suggesting that we reject homosexuals or bar them from church attendance. I am suggesting that we group them with other behavior-based groups. For example, we could say that God desires the salvation of all including the alcoholic, drug-addict, prostitute, thief, murderer, adulterer and homosexual. This is grouping according to behavior. And, of course, God does not approve of any of these activities. You will also find this kind of list in the Bible.
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9) Notice that it speaks to the church at Corinth about what some of them used to do. Notice also that it lumps homosexuals in with other kinds of sinners. Then it says that some of the Corinthian Christians WERE these various things. They WERE homosexuals, swindlers, etc. But God has washed, sanctified and justified them and they are no longer any of these things. They repented and God cleansed them of their sins. When sinners come to God they must repent. Only then does God cleanse them.
I like the saying, "God accepts us the way we are". But that is not the end of it. He does not leave us the way were are (or were). He transforms us.
Other lists categorize people not based on behavior but on what they are naturally or socially. "Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." (Colossians 3:10) This is the inclusiveness that the church needs. Every kind of person, regardless of ethnicity, social class, gender, and former relationship to God through Judaism are equal before God and should be accepted as equals in the church setting. We are all one in Christ. What we are naturally and socially speaking has no bearing on our spiritual relationship with God.
What does affect our relationship with God is our sin. We must acknowledge it as wrong and repent of it. Here is a great summary of this lesson. "God commands all people everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30) This is really good news for all. God calls all to repentance and that means every group of people are included. All are included in the gospel and all are called to repent of their sins.