By Leonard Lauriault
Recently, I described some strange thinking by Christians and non-Christians (Quay County Sun, 27 August 2008). God’s word also gives pointers about ideas we should have. On a couple of occasions, Jesus asked his hearers a question expecting them to think honestly for themselves, drawing his conclusion. These questions were always accompanied by teaching that would lead to the only appropriate conclusion.
[God never leaves us in the dark about important matters. So, when you read in the New Testament where someone was told to do something in relation to their salvation, just do it out of faith that God is always right. With that attitude and continued study, you’ll come to understand much of why God said to do it – at least enough to know that you did the right thing in obeying him (Philippians 3: 15-17; 2: 12, 13; Acts 2: 36-41; 16: 29-34; Romans 10: 8-13).]
And now about some of those questions Jesus asked. Read the passages and all scripture citations as you go.
Read Matthew 17: 24-27 and put a bookmark there. First, Jesus read Peter’s mind and took care of the concern. God knows our thoughts, and concerns and could take care of them without our asking. But he desires our conversation and wants us to realize our need for his provision; hence, our avenue of prayer (Matthew 6: 6-13, 25-33; Hebrews 4: 16; 1 Peter 5: 5-7). Personal Bible study is the means by which God communicates with us through his son in this day and time (Hebrews 1: 1-3; John 16: 13; 2 Timothy 3: 16, 17; 1 Corinthians 2: 12-16; Ephesians 3: 3-5).
Second, we’re to always set a proper example for non-believers (Matthew 5: 14-16). They have a pretty good idea of appropriate behavior because everybody knows right and wrong to some degree (Genesis 3: 22). [Although it takes personal Bible study to really be able to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5: 13, 14).]
Without regard to their own lifestyle, the world rightfully expects Christians to live uprighteously. In this expectation, they express a very basic belief in a righteous God. Sometimes they’ll expect things from us they have no right to demand. Even then, if it’s not contrary to God’s word, we should go the extra mile and try to live up to those expectations as well (Acts 4: 19; 5: 29; Matthew 5: 39-41). If we don’t live up to their expectations, we’ll offend them, turning them away from Christ and throwing away any opportunity we had to build on their basic belief and we’ll be held accountable (1 Peter 2: 12; 3: 15, 16; Matthew 18: 6, 7).
Since you just turned back to Matthew 18 where you placed your bookmark read Matthew 18: 12-14. (But first, those of you who used the bookmark probably knew it would be of value later without having to be told that or of what value it would be. As I mentioned earlier, that’s how we should view God’s directions for our own lives and salvation.) OK, now read Matthew 18: 12-14.
Our salvation is important to God. He owns the 99 sheep and the cattle on 10,000 hills, as well all the rest of the Universe, including us, in addition to all his eternal riches and glory. But, he left all that in heaven to come looking for us to save us (Philippians 2: 5-11). That’s how much our salvation matters to him!
God doesn’t want any to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3: 9). He’s commanded everyone to repent (Acts 17: 30, 31); but he’s given us free will to repent or not and he knows that most won’t choose to repent (Matthew 7: 13, 14).
Repentance is one of several commands to be obeyed to receive salvation. Generally, repentance is defined as turning away from a sinful life to a life lived for God. Many consider themselves not sinful enough to need to repent. So, a better definition might be to turn away from a life not under God’s control (which is sin) to a life that yields to God (Romans 6: 8-22).
Repentance necessitates obedience to all God’s other commands, including belief (John 8: 24; 6: 28, 29), confession (Matthew 10: 23, 33), baptism (Matthew 28: 18-20; Mark 16: 15, 16; Luke 24: 45-47), and faithful Christian living (Revelation 2: 10; 1 John 1: 5-9).
What do you think? Is it not best to just do what God says to do? He promises that if we’ll obey out of faith, he’ll give us his Spirit and open our minds to understand the scripture at which time we’ll be glad we’ve come to the correct conclusion that God always has our best interests at heart.