Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Faith Unto Repentance

The scriptures are full of examples of those who had great faith in Jesus and in His plan of redemption. We know that, through faith, great miracles, signs and wonders are brought forth. It is by faith that mysteries are revealed and angels appear. The Apostle Paul teaches us that by faith “the worlds were framed by the word of God,” and that “... without faith it is impossible to please him ...” (Heb. 11:3, 6.) Indeed, there isn’t anything we can do without faith, but with faith we can do marvelous things. The late Ezra Taft Benson, gave us some important insights into the principle of faith. In one of his inspirational books we read, “Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him. As God, He has infinite power, intelligence, and love. There is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. Faith in Him means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does.” (Come Unto Christ, p. 132.)

“Complete reliance!” That is what we need to prove—to prove if we will depend completely on God for all our needs, and rely upon the merciful grace of Jesus Christ. We do not need to run off and seek the wisdom of men for knowledge or affection, or to assist us in finding solutions to our problems. We have Jesus. He, and He alone, has the answers.

The Vacuum Principle
In Acts 20:21 Paul testifies that we are to have “... repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” And to the Hebrews he wrote, “... let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God.” (Heb. 6:1.) As we read other scriptures pertaining to the topic at hand, we find that there is a close link between both principles of faith and repentance. Actually, for repentance to be truly effective and complete, faith must come first.

Those who have learned how the mind of man works know that two opposing ideas cannot exist in the mind at the same time. This is true when it comes to repentance. When we repent, we have to turn from the things we need to change and go in the opposite direction. Some of those things that may need to be replaced could be certain attitudes, possessions, behaviors, or habits. Even some personal relationships may need to be repented of and removed from our lives—particularly if those personal relationships are not in harmony with one another in God.

But, when we give up something it leaves a vacuum; and it has been said that “nature abhors a vacuum.” This idiom is used to express the idea that empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics. Space that is empty cannot stay in that condition; something must rush in and fill the void. If the void created through repentance is not filled with something positive, we could slip back into our old ways, and even further back. Therefore, we must replace the “sin repented of” with something more appropriate. This is where the Savior comes in. Jesus has the power to do that—to fill the void in our lives with something better than that which we gave up.

When we have a broken-down car in a one-car garage, it doesn’t leave room for a better car, does it? We must remove the old one first to make room for a better one. When our minds are full of evil and unrighteous thoughts, we must first empty them of those thinking patterns to make room for more appropriate thoughts. Likewise, we cannot have two opposite behavior patterns at the same time. When we behave in a righteous manner, it doesn’t leave room for unrighteous behavior. Therefore, we can always think good thoughts, be engaged in good causes, be in proper surroundings, and always associate with appropriate people; so when something of little value is taking up a given space, release it and make room for something better to occupy that space. When we mentally, emotionally, and spiritually release those things that need releasing, it leaves room for something better to enter our lives.

Likewise, we cannot throw something away and wish we still had it; that is a false faith. We cannot stop smoking, for example, and inwardly still wish for a cigarette. We also cannot give up an inappropriate relationship with someone and expect a better relationship to come along, especially if we still desire the companionship of that inappropriate person. When there is no room to receive, nothing better will come along. We must repent, release, make room for the future good, and have faith that it is coming. Will it come? Yes, it will. It will when we truly have the faith to repent, and trust Jesus to make up the difference. Then, and only then, does God know that we are sincere in wanting something better in our lives. He can, and will, provide that better thing. Real faith is when we truly believe that the grace of Christ will fill that void for us.

To come to such personal resolve, and make such critical choices, takes faith. Yes, it’s a challenge to get our life right before God, but we can do it. God needs to know that our repentance is genuine and comes from within, not just from without. In fact, so do we. With a little trust in Him, we can have faith to let things go that clutter up our lives, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they may seem. We can have faith that God has the power to put something better in the place of what is released and given up. The words of the resurrected Christ to Thomas applies to all of us in this effort: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29.) Only by releasing and letting go of our spiritual clutter can we truly repent, have hope, and be healed; for such is the promise of Jesus Christ.

Positive Concept of Repentance
The bible reveals that, “... all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23.) Therefore, all of us must repent. When we are keeping the commandments and honoring our covenants, there is little left of which to repent. But even the best of us are not perfect in such obedience, because we are not perfect beings. So when it is discovered that repentance is needed, we turn altogether from the sin and look upward with a hope in Christ. And our repentance is because of true remorse and sorrow, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Repentance has a very positive application in our lives when we sincerely desire to come unto Jesus Christ. For the sincere disciple of Christ, repentance is a temporary process, not an ongoing one. The righteous will repent, then turn their energies to keeping God’s commandments and honoring any covenants made. They don’t dwell on past sins, which negative energy can cause one to slip back into old ways. They look forward and upward in Christ, not backwards and downward.

We can look at keeping the commandments and repenting in two different lights: 1) We keep commandments and repent because of love, and look forward to the promise. 2) We keep commandments and repent because of fear, being fearful of condemnation if we don’t. The first, keeping commandments and repenting because of love, is the positive force that brings spiritual gain of great eternal significance. The second, keeping commandments and repenting because of fear, is the negative; and little is gained of eternal value, if anything at all.

Just repenting is not enough, for the atheist, the pagan, the infidel, and the heathen can repent from doing wrong. But does that mean that such has turned their life over to Christ? No, for the devils have their religion as well; and we can be assured that they are quite active in it.

Of course there are also those who do not truly want to repent, so they only show outward signs of repentance. For such people, activity in church or the attendance at a counseling session serves them well. But such business doesn’t necessarily mean that they have truly repented and taken Christ into their lives, does it? Repentance is only a negative when performed by those who feign belief in Jesus Christ, but still cleave to their inappropriate desires. They repent with reluctance because, deep within, they still wish for the old ways, and lack the faith to trust that God can make up the difference. When this occurs, the individual is always in the process of having to repent because he has not learned to do so with love and faith in Christ. Life, then, is an ongoing struggle against itself.

The loving disciple of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, will not worry about repenting because he is too busy keeping his covenants. Although there may be need for occasional repentance, because of imperfections, his life is devoted to keeping the covenants he made with God. Knowing that Jesus paid the price, he has no need of fear or to punish himself for past misdeeds. He doesn’t have to keep beating himself. Trusting that the debt is satisfied in Christ, he moves forward toward the Divine Light. He trusts that Jesus will make up any difference that may be lacking in his life. Thus, being faith-full in Christ, or full of faith, he moves upward and onward.

The Lack of Faith Is Sin
If we really examine the word faith we find it means “trust.” We simply trust what the Lord has said. That’s it! He says it, and we trust Him because He cannot lie. It’s as simple as that.

A very powerful and straightforward statement about faith can be found in the words of Paul to the Romans. To them he said, “... for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23.) What this is telling us is that if we do not have faith in Jesus Christ, or trust Him, we are sinful. In other words, if faith is not found in us, then sin is found in us. This is in harmony with the concept that two opposing ideas cannot exist in the mind at the same time.

We know that down through history many faithful followers of God have turned their lives over to Him. One of the first we read about is Abel. Making reference to this faithful son of Adam, Paul wrote, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts ...” (Heb. 11:4.) Abel was found to have faith in God. Cain, on the other hand, exhibited no faith, or had a faith based on false principles. Consequently, Abel received a testimony that he was found “righteous,” while Cain received only a curse. Through faith, Abel sacrificed his will to that of the Father, believing that through the coming Messiah he would obtain eternal life. Cain could not show that kind of faith because he did not possess it. Therefore, sin was found in Cain because proper faith did not exist. Cain was sinful, or full of sin.

Faith is what we hope for but do not see at that moment. As Paul said to the Hebrews, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), and you usually do not get a witness until after the “trial of your faith” (1 Peter 1:7), said the Apostle Peter.

We all go through the trial of our faith until we arrive at that point at which we have the power of God in our prayers. The skeptic says, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The optimist says, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Of course, the skeptic has it backwards: he is not willing to pay the price before receiving the merchandise. The believer, on the other hand, knows that belief and obedience precede the miracle of the blessing. We do not doubt just because we haven’t first seen the miracle. The miracle is there, but it just hasn’t been manifested yet.

Peter, head of the Church in ancient times, spoke these words: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Pet. 5:6-7.) And the Psalmist wrote, “Trust in the Lord, and do good ... and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart ... trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass ... And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” (Ps. 37:3-6.)

Whatever It Takes
The Bible teaches the importance of focus. One particular evening, the ship that the disciples of Jesus were in was tossed by waves in the midst of the sea. During the turbulence, Peter sees Jesus walking on the water towards them. Seeing this phenomenon, Peter asked if he could go to Him in like manner—walking on the water, also. At first, Peter was successful, but because of the “boisterous” wind he became afraid. Jesus had to stretch forth His hand to catch Peter before he sank. The Lord said unto Peter, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-33.)

Peter had lost his focus. He became more concerned with the turbulence around him than the safety of his Master. He began to focus upon himself and his own ability to survive, rather than trusting in the Lord’s protecting care. He had apparently forgotten that Jesus had, just a short time before, fed over five thousand people with only five loaves and two fishes. Peter lost focus, and he lost faith.

With trusting faith in Christ, focusing on His loving grace, we can go where we have never gone before, and do that which we have never dreamed of doing. It is God’s power in and through us, for His work and glory, that we focus on, not on our own puny ability for our own selfish ends.

Whatever it takes, get it right! We MUST get it right before God. It doesn’t matter what cost, embarrassment, or price, we must get it right. It may take personal hurt, loss, humiliation, or shame to arrive at that point of getting it right. It takes spiritual courage to “lay all the cards on the table” before God—and sometimes man—openly and fearlessly to get it right. It takes faith that the grace of Christ will intercede, provide forgiveness, and make up any difference. It takes faith that Jesus will provide something better than that which we have kept inside, hidden in sorrow and remorse. What a struggle, to lay them all out on the altar—even the smallest of guilts—sacrificing them before the Lord so we can cleanse our lives and stand before Him unashamed.

John once wrote, “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” (1 John 3:21-22.) There is nothing this world can offer that can match the peace of soul that can result from such faith. But it may take excruciating faith.

There is one thing it takes to get it right, and have the confidence and faith that doesn’t waiver, and that one thing is love. We will have to like what we see about Jesus Christ, what we hear about Him, what we feel, and we need to have a desire to nurture those seeds. It will take a love for truth and light, a love for purity of heart, and a love for mankind. It will take a pure desire to love the Lord and have a reckless faith in His all-enveloping grace and atoning blood. Then, with the perfect faith and love of Christ, one will be purely motivated to get it right before God, and wax strong in the presence of the Lord.

With such faith, we believe and trust in His power, intelligence and wisdom. He helps us solve our problems without our need to rush off seeking answers to our problems from others in the world. It’s possible to arrive at such faith, but we will have to focus our attention upon Christ and the glorious work of the Father, proving complete reliance upon Him for all of our needs.

Faith In Christ
I want to share a true story with you of a man named Bob who had a wife and three children. Because of a combination of reasons, there came a time when they wanted to move to another part of the country. After making arrangements as to where they would go, and involving other people on the other end, they were informed by God that they were to stay where they were to serve Him in a special way. This they happily did.

Three years went by, and Bob, who worked for a very large corporation that had offices in every state, now had another addition to the family. While visiting the area where they previously were planning to move, he thought he would put in an application for transfer. Upon praying about it he received a witness, a strong and sure voice to his mind that said, “Don’t worry about moving. Don’t worry about where you will work. Don’t worry about where you will live. All doors will be opened for you.” A warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks as he gratefully received the message.

The next day Bob thought, “Was that from God, or was that just a figment of my imagination?” So he prayed about it again. This time he received the same response from that still small, but sure, voice: “Don’t worry about moving. Don’t worry about where you will work. Don’t worry about where you will live. All doors will be opened for you.” The same warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks once again.

The day following that second experience, Bob said to himself, “Wow! That was wonderful. I want to ask that question again. So he did. And as the same warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks, the same Voice said, “Why do you keep asking, I’ve told you twice.” Bob never asked again, for he got the message. When he arrived home he told his wife that they were moving.

“Moving to where?” she asked.

Bob said, “I don’t know.”

“But where will you work, and where will we live?” she asked again.

“All I know,” Bob replied, “is that God promised that He will open up the doors and make a way.

Bob put in for a transfer. A month later he received a reply from the office where they wanted to move that said there were no vacancies, but also said, “Good luck in finding a transfer to another office.” Bob decided that God wasn’t through with them where they were, but he was puzzled about the spiritual response he received saying that all doors would be opened for a move.

A month later his supervisor called him and said that his transfer had come through, and that he had two and a half weeks to get things in order and move two thousand miles across country to start work in the office to which he applied.

Two days after arriving in their new town they found a house that had been empty for three months because the seller could not find the right buyer. The seller said he knew it was for someone special. He told Bob, “When I first saw you, I knew you were the one for which God was saving this house.”

Time and space do not permit the telling of the miracle after miracle that transpired as the Lord opened up the doors, one after another, for Bob and his family as He promised.

Sometime later, Bob wanted to know why the Lord had blessed them as He did. God, in His goodness, revealed to him that, even though Bob and his family wanted to move three years earlier, it was because they were willing to stay where they were and graciously continue to serve when called that they were blessed.

We don’t need to flounder around in life, as some do. We can develop the faith to call upon the name of Christ for a blessing. Paul tells the Galatians that the promises of Jesus only come through faith in Him. He said, “... the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Gal. 3:22.)

What is this “promise by faith” given to those who believe? Knowing that we are all sinners, Jesus has promised us eternal life when we believe on Him, and have the faith that His can save us from our sins and provide something better than we now have. But to exercise faith sufficient to bring salvation requires obedience to His commandments, total submission to His will, and the trust to give Him control of our lives. His promise comes only through the exercising of proper and sufficient faith in His ability to bless and save. Of all mankind, Jesus displayed the supreme example of humility, meekness and confidence. It is Jesus Christ who is the focus of our faith, our trust, our love, and our complete devotion. When we release and let go of this world, He will fill that void with something of eternal worth.

But without faith it is impossible to please him:
for he that cometh to God must believe that he is,
and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.