Excerpt from The 180 Project

The following is an excerpt (unedited) from the second chapter of our work in progress, The 180° Project. Please be in prayer as work continues and the final chapters are being written: 

Riding on a carousel is great fun for thousands of children. Brightly painted horses, enchanting music and shining lights all add to the experience. One can climb on a gaily decorated pony and go up and down while revolving around and around or sit upon a horse transfixed on a pole, forgoing the vertical movement. No matter which one you ride upon, when the carousel stops its spinning you are back where you started. It is a pleasant ride, but one that takes you nowhere.

For many people, a carousel ride is an apt description of their spiritual life. If you have attended the same church regularly for a long time, you have probably observed such people. As a pastor, I have lost track of the number of people caught up on a spiritual carousel, a merry-go-round of misery that they cannot stop.

Week after week, the same individuals are at the altar pouring out the same confessions. “God, I’m sorry I got drunk again Friday night. I won’t do it anymore.” “Lord, I am ashamed of looking at pornography. I promise to never watch it again.” “God, I’m going to clean up my language this week.” “Lord, I’m sorry for…”

There they kneel, pouring out tears Sunday after Sunday, and yet their lifestyle never changes. At the altar they seem so sincere, so broken-hearted but there is no different in their life after they walk out the doors of the church. For many people, coming to the altar only has a placebo effect, the spiritual equivalent to a sugar pill. Their sincerity is short lived because it is emotion based and emotions change mercurially.

They have confessed, but not repented. The difference between the two is enormous, as we shall see in more detail in chapter three, when we break down the elements of biblical repentance. Confession is the first step; it is necessary but it is not biblical repentance.

They are sorry, to an extent. They are sorry that their sin has been exposed, sorry for the repercussions that are following them, the consequences they must now face. They may even want to reform, to stop their destructive habits, but not so much that any real effort is expended. Should God take away their desires for their sinful habits they would be well pleased. For them to exercise self discipline and take responsibility for their actions – well, why should they do that?

If God really cared, they reason, He could heal them, cleanse them, make them strong enough to conquer their demons. God is entreated as a magic genie or cosmic vending machine instead of a holy, righteous, jealous God who expects His followers to grow and mature in faith.

While God can pick you up off the spinning horse and throw you off the carousel the simple reality is that He rarely does. Never in Scripture is complete victory over every temptation instantly granted to anyone. Instead, we are required to submit daily to His Lordship, learning how His grace is sufficient, how His power is more than adequate for any battle we face. One is more likely to hear God say, “Go, and sin no more,” putting the responsibility back on us.

Mankind is called upon to endure as a soldier of the cross, not to ask for wings to fly over the troubles of the world. We are to pick up our cross and follow Jesus daily, not to ask for the cross’ removal.

What we desire is instant sanctification, not on-going reformation. God is at work transforming us day by day into the likeness of His Son. What we want is a short cut devoid of any hard work on our part. Scripture teaches us that God works in us and through us, as well as for us. Until we decide to come aboard the process His way, we will remain frustrated by our lack of spiritual progress.

For far too long, churches have taught a false definition of repentance. As a result, whole generations have grown up without the slightest clue as to what biblical repentance truly is.

Richard Blackaby once made this astute observation:

The problem with (an altar call for rededication) is that it is not biblical. The crux of the gospel message is not a call to rededication, but a call to repentance. John the Baptist preached repentance (Matt. 3:2). Jesus preached repentance, both in His earthly ministry and as the resurrected Lord (Matt. 4:17; Rev. 3:19). If one’s previous commitment did not keep him walking in obedience, a re-commitment is no more likely to make him faithful. The proper response to disobedience is not a commitment to try harder, but brokenness and repentance for rejecting the will of Almighty God. God looks for surrender to His will, not commitment to carry it out. Rather than asking church members to repeatedly promise to try harder, churches must call their people to repent before Holy God.”

The concept of repentance gets muddled up with sorrow, regret, remorse and penance. While elements of each of these things can be present in biblical repentance, there is much more to this concept.

Saying one is sorry (showing remorse) and promising to never do an action again is commendable, but it falls 90̊ short of biblical repentance. Feeling sorrow or regret over the pain or loss one has caused by their actions is a necessary component of biblical repentance, but by themselves they fall completely short of the biblical idea. Doing penance, or making restitution for a wrong is commendable but it doesn’t necessarily include the elements of sorrow or regret. By the same token, one may be sorry they were caught or sorry for the consequences of an action and yet make no attempt to give restitution to the one injured or stolen from. They may also have no remorse over the action itself.

Biblical repentance is a 180̊ change. Not only is one regretful over causing the grievance and ceased the offensive action, but they will replace that action with doing good in its place. Even beyond that, this good will have at its core the desire to serve God through that action.

For example, Scripture tells us not to have coarse or vulgar language coming out of our lips but to speak those things which are edifying or that build one another up in the Lord.

  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 NASB

Merely cleaning up one’s language isn’t enough, that is only a 90̊ change. A change for the better, to be sure, but far from the 180̊ change which includes uplifting and encouraging words that the Bible commands us to do.

Another example would be the command to refrain from stealing. Not only are we told not to do this in Ephesians 4:28, but we are told to go to work and provide for others so that others will not be tempted to steal.

 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. NASB

In our two examples, then, biblical repentance looks like this:

Old Habit: Replaced By: For this Purpose:
Vulgar Language Edifying Language Building up others
Stealing Work Helping others

Why the Majority of my Friends are Unbelievers

Recently, a group of Christian leaders and I were discussing our lives outside of our official capacities. I startled some of them when I stated that most of my friends were unbelievers. “Why?” was the question asked of me. I answered that I had many reasons. One, because there is a tendency among Christians to only hang out with others who believe like them. Instead of engaging the culture around them, they isolate themselves in pockets of piety. Another reason is that it gives me an opportunity to build relationships with people and actually witness to them by my life, as I live out my beliefs. It is kind of difficult to keep either the Great Commission or the Great Commandment when you only surround yourself with fellow Pharisees. The biggest reason though is quite simple. Since I believe that there is only one way to heaven, I also believe that my unbelieving friends will not go with me there. This is the only time I have to spend with them and I want to make the most of it. Yes, I would like to see them become believers – I pray for God’s Spirit to enlighten them daily to the truth. I am cognizant that my words and actions speak volumes about God and I am conscious of redeeming the time and conversations I have with them. I love them and if this is the only time I have with them, if they never become believers and I lose my relationship with them forever – at last I will have had a good one. I will make up time missed with my brothers and sisters in Christ in the forever of heaven, but in the here and now I will continue to spend time with my unsaved friends, in whatever time God will grace me to have with them and continue to pray that they come to be forever friends before it is too late.

MPACT Montana

Ta Ethne attended the MPACT Montana Conference in Great Falls Montana, March 7-8. Many classes were offered on various subjects and Ta Ethne spent many hours networking with leaders and pastors about the need for training leaders worldwide. One of our highlights was time spent talking with Dr. Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was gracious and kind, and accepted a gift from us. We gave him a gift bag filled with our books in the hopes that he will read them and understand our work here. Please pray for God to bless him in his role and also that God blesses us in our work. Who knows – partnerships may arise from this opportunity.

Dr. Fred Luter meets Ta Ethne

Dr. Fred Luter meets Ta Ethne

Hymn Devotions Day 40 – More About Jesus

DAY 40 – MORE ABOUT JESUS

             What a great way to end forty days of devotions. To learn more about Jesus everyday should be the desire of each of us. No matter how much I study and how much I learn, I have only scratched the surface of knowing Him. I desire to know more about Him. I am glad that eternity means forever, because that is how long I anticipate it taking to even begin knowing Him.

In learning more about Him, I will come to understand what He means when I am given direction by Him. I will be able to discern His will more clearly and obey Him more completely. I will come to understand His Words revealed in the Scriptures, written for our guidance.

One of the greatest ways to learn more of Him is to talk to Him, through prayer, each day. It is in conversing with Him that we learn to hear His voice. We also read of Him in the Bible, so that we can compare what it says to what we hear, to make sure we are hearing His voice and not an imposters.

Another reason I desire to learn more about Him is to be able to show others I know, whom I care about, what He is like. I long to show His grace and transforming power to those around me who need Him most. If I am going to be greedy and shout more, more, I want it to be a holy greediness to understand my Lord better.

My prayer for you, is that you will desire to know more about Him also.

 

Lord, help us desire to know more of You. Reveal Yourself to us as we come to You in prayer, as we read of You in the Bible. Speak to us in an unmistakable voice, one that cuts through the clutter and noise of the world. Help us to know You so that we may live a life pleasing to You and bring others to You for salvation.

MORE ABOUT JESUS by Eliza Hewitt

 

More about Jesus would I know

More of His grace to others show

More of His saving fullness see

More of His love Who died for me

 

More about Jesus let me learn

More of His holy will discern

Spirit of God, my teacher be

Showing the things of Christ to me

 

More about Jesus in His Word

Holding communion with my Lord

Hearing His voice in every line

Making each faithful saying mine

 

More about Jesus on His throne

Riches in glory all His own

More of His kingdom’s sure increase

More of His coming, Prince of Peace

 

REFRAIN:

 

More, more about Jesus

More, more about Jesus

More of His saving fullness see

More of His love who died for me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hymn Devotions Day 24 – Take Time To Be Holy

DAY 24    –  TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY

What a beautiful reminder of our need to spend time with Jesus. The only way to have a powerful, fruitful life in service for Jesus is to abide in Him. The only way to abide in Him is to spend time with Him in prayer and through Bible study.

I love the practical advice given here as well. Make friends with God’s children. We cannot go through this life on our own. God has made us to interact with others and to cooperate with them to reach the world with the gospel. We are to show mercy to others also. We are to do good works in Christ’s name so that people see it and give praise and glory to the Father.

In the busy, hustle and bustle of life, it is easy to forget to take time out for God. Thank goodness He did not forget to take time out of the running of the universe to send His Son down for us. Thank goodness Jesus took the time to teach His disciples, to show us how to live, to die on the cross for the payment of our sins. How churlish it would be not to take the time to spend with Him after He has done so much for us.

All of us have the same amount of time. No person has more or less than 24 hours in a day. How we use those hours will reflect on our priorities in life. How much time are you spending on becoming holy and pleasing to God.

 

Lord, help me take the time with You that is needed to become a person holy and useful. Keep me from prioritizing other things instead of spending time with You. Put my thoughts and actions under Your control and lead me by Your Spirit.

 

TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY – William Longstaff

 

Take time to be holy

Speak oft with the Lord

Abide in Him always

And feed on His Word

Make friends with God’s children

Help those who are weak

Forgetting in nothing

His blessing to seek

 

Take time to be holy

The world rushes on

Spend time in secret

With Jesus alone

By looking to Jesus

Like Him thou shalt be

Thy friends in thy conduct

His likeness shall see

 

Take time to be holy

Let Him be thy Guide

And run not before Him

Whatever betide

In joy or in sorrow

Still follow the Lord

And, looking to Jesus

Still trust in His Word

 

Take time to be holy

Be calm in thy soul

Each thought and each motive

Beneath His control

Thus led by His Spirit

To fountains of love

Thou soon shall be fitted

For service above