Isaiah 1:16-17 (NIV)
Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
The theme of repentance and righteous conduct continues with our Verse of the Day. And it resonates with me this morning as I think about the message of Scripture – God revealing His plan of salvation for the world and His will for us to respond to Him. We see the desire of God to redeem His fallen creatures from the moment sin (disobedience) entered the heart of mankind. It is reflected in His judgment of the serpent (the deceiver):
Genesis 3:14-15 (NKJV)
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field. On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall crush your head, and you shall strike His heel.”
Moses instructed: “Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees He has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:17-19) And centuries later, King David observed: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Cf. Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3)
David urged: Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Cf. Psalm 34:14) Isaiah lamented: “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? (Cf. Isaiah 5:4) And Jeremiah pondered: “If you ask yourself, ‘Why has this happened to me?’— it is because of your many sins that your skirts have been torn off and your body mistreated. Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Cf. Jeremiah 13:22-23)
What does God require? What has God always required of human beings since we attained the knowledge of good and evil? (Cf. Genesis 3:22) Perhaps Job articulated it best: “God looked at wisdom and appraised it; He confirmed it and tested it. And He said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (Cf. Job 28:28) And King Solomon reiterated this same truth: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Cf. Proverbs 3:7)
The Old Testament instruction is clear that we are to stop doing wrong … that we are have deep reverence for God … that we are to choose good and to shun evil. But it is clear that mankind has failed to heed the wisdom of God revealed through His servants. I want us to clearly see that the message from God has not changed. As Isaiah disclosed: “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Cf. Isaiah 30:15) And so, in these last days, God has spoken to us through His Son … our Lord Jesus. (Cf. Hebrews 1:2) And this is how Jesus began His ministry after His wilderness experience: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” (Cf. Matthew 4:17)
His message was the same as His forerunner, John the Baptist, was sent to preach:
Matthew 3:1-8 (NIV)
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’” (Citing Isaiah 40:3) 4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
Indeed, the fruit of repentance is what our response to God should be for His mercy, grace, and kindness! “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Cf. Titus 2:11-12) It instructs us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. (Cf. Micah 6:8) It admonishes us to take our evil deeds out of the sight of God; to stop doing wrong; to learn to do right; to seek justice; to defend the oppressed; to take up the cause of the fatherless; and to plead the case of the widow! Yes, we were saved to serve … to love our neighbor as ourself … to love one another as we have been loved by God in Christ Jesus.
In his Gospel, Mark noted that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Cf. Mark 1:4) After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God. “The time has come,” He said, “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the Good News!” (Cf. Mark 1:14-15) My friends, if we want to receive reconciliation with God through Jesus, then we must begin with repentance! Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Cf. Luke 5:32) Indeed, God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8)
Acts 2:37-39 (NIV)
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
This was the message that Paul preached as well:
Acts 26:19-20 (NIV)
“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.
Do you see it? Paul said that we are to demonstrate our repentance by our deeds! And that is the application of our Verse of the Day. Our deeds … our good works … do not save us or redeem us; rather, they demonstrate our repentance and faith! As James asserted: “Someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” And then he adds, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” (Cf. James 2:18, 24) So, let us keep produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Cf. Galatians 6:9-10) “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:15)
So Now You Know…
Have a Blessed Day!
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Citing Proverbs 11:31) So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” ~ 1 Peter 4:17-19