I was about to lay down for a nap at 4:00. At 4:05 I was literally running to find my wife. In a mere 5 minutes the Holy Spirit gave me one of the most vivid visions I’ve ever seen. (I can only think of one other as lifelike as this.)
As the vision opened, I saw several giant red and white dice being rolled out of the Father’s Hand, bouncing across the hills and plains of America.
Before the dice settled, apocalyptic storm clouds, filled with lightening and doom; clouds that stretched from the north to the south rapidly unrolled from the east coast to the west coast of our nation. A company of intercessors stood on what looked like a large relief map of the United States. Beneath the destructive canopy of the clouds one calamity after another burst onto the continent: hail; tempest; famine; plague, sword and more… One calamity spring-loaded the next – in such quick succession it was impossible to blink between each – like a slot machine filling its windows – bing, bing, bing, bing, bing – maybe 12 successive disasters; each thundering with darkness.
Once the disasters were finished being released, and while they were accomplishing their decimation the intercessors looked at each one saying: “Ah! that one!”, and “I remember the Lord speaking to me about that one from the scriptures.” We were very familiar with what we were seeing – but still filled with profound dread knowing they were actually being manifest in our day, in our land – and in such swift succession.
Before the vision finished, while the demolition was still raining down on our land, I (in real-life) actually jumped up and ran out of the bedroom looking for my wife, Kathy. I eventually found her outside watering the garden. My eyes were filled with alarm as I asked her, “Are you OK?” We stood there in the yard staring at each other for 30 seconds or so, until she realized I was serious… Kath is MUCH more attune to these realities. Finally she quietly asked, “What just happened to my husband?”
The Father has cast the lot over America. This is the most poignant aspect of the vision. The picture of the dice tumbling across the landscape still jolts my spirit with trepidation.
A sequence of destructive events is about to explode across our country – like the plagues of Egypt – packed into a much shorter time-span.
4 Trust in the Lord forever, for in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. 5 For He brings down those who dwell on high, the lofty city; He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He brings it down to the dust. 11 Lord, when Your hand is lifted up, they will not see. But they will see and be ashamed for their envy of people; yes, the fire of Your enemies shall devour them. (Isaiah 26:4-5, 11)
The calamities are meant to compel us into an intensified season of preparedness – like preparing our house for the onslaught of a hurricane. The Lord is zealous that our nation know that it is “the Lord Who is speaking” (Isaiah 25:8) through the calamities. (This isn’t a subversive plot of the enemy to undermine our civic liberties or reshape our social structures.) The Father wants us to “be assured” that He’s the One Who is “casting the lots” so we respond to Him with abandoned holy sobriety.
Behind the storm is a King; “One Who is filled with might” and “Whose sandals we are unworthy to untie” (Matthew 3:11). The Giver of the vision; the Bringer of the storm; and the Bearer of the Kingdom is the One to focus on.
He is adamant that our world know “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
When John announced the Kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 3:2), his exhortation was to “repent“.
When Jesus announced the Kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 4:17), His exhortation was also to “repent“.
When Peter and the apostles announced the Kingdom of heaven was at hand (Acts 2:38), their exhortation was to “repent“.
The Lord is filled with zeal to extend mercy, even through these rapid-fire disasters, but the singular way to access that mercy is through repentance.
Repentance is the full-throttle message the Lord is calling His Church to saturate herself with in this hour. We must understand it, pray it, let the Holy Spirit bring it to bear on our lives and be convinced witnesses to its necessity in our churches, our gatherings, our prayer meetings, our evangelistic endeavors and all engagements with our culture. “Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand!”
The good news is that one day the Lord will remove the clouds of doom. This truth is meant to produce faith and endurance within us so that we fully do what is necessary as we go through the difficulty of the hour. 7 There He will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. 8 He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! 9 In that day the people will proclaim, “This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!” (Isaiah 25:7-9)
I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt our world groan more than I do than in this hour.
When you pause, you feel the atmospheric pressure. I don’t need to list the cracks in our culture and where we experience the weariness of humanity. There’s a heaviness on the earth that tells us something needs to break. Systems; the created order; morality; our own fragile frames; even religion all grind with disturbance. You don’t have to be a believer to feel the tyranny of compounding darkness and hopelessness. It weighs on the soul like a wet, wool blanket.
“There are many who say, ‘Who will show us any good?'” (Psalm 4:6)
As I walk through my community, I hear a low hum of desire for “good” that’s become smothered with disbelief and despair. In some it feels like the hope for “good” has been completely extinguished. “Whatever ‘good’ we hope for is only a mirage. It won’t be enough to fill the ache, the chasm, the vacuum inside.”
And so we groan.
Our communities, our nation, and the planet is “troubled”.
I’m intentionally using this word because “trouble” is doing what our righteous God designed it to do. It’s causing human hearts to groan. And, because we’ve been entrusted with the stewardship of creation, it also causes everything around us to groan.
What are we groaning for?
Peace. True peace. Not as the world gives. Not as the world has been giving us. Nor the kind of peace we’ve been demanding the world give us. We crave a substantive peace. A sense of order. A sense of immovable truth. A sense of love and being loved. A sense of understandable purpose and meaning.
Again. You don’t have to be a Christian to feel this. You just need to have a heartbeat. And if we listen deeply to the hearts beating around us… that’s… the… groan… we… hear.
We’re groaning for a tangible peace that won’t be exposed as fraudulent or insufficient. All 7.5 billion of us.
There’s only One Source for that kind of peace. “He Himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14)
But it’s His will that there be many many (billions) of witnesses to that peace. “Blessed are the peace-bringers…” (Matthew 5:9) Who are they? “They’re called the sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) The ones “all creation groans” for.
In this hour of mounting trouble, the Spirit is raising up daughters and sons of God who will give themselves to “Letting the peace of Christ rule in (their) hearts.” (Colossians 1:15) and know how to help bring Him and His peace to groaning hearts.
“Letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts” is job one. (And as a prayer-guy, I can say, this will only be found in corporate prayer… where day-by-day we give the Spirit access to the conversations that are brewing in our hearts.) As we learn to let the peace of Jesus reign within us, the Holy Spirit will equip with the power to do job two: to speak words of eternal assurance; healing; reconciliation; life; destiny and glory under the perfect reign of the Prince of all peace.
“27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’” (John 14:27-28)
I’m groaning for His peace to be manifest within me, and my world.
At the end of the day, the current furor over our many social issues is all about the returning King bringing our American Church narratives, ways and values into subjection to the eternal narrative, ways and values of His Kingdom.
What did we think “Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand!” was going to be all about?
What feels like chaos and calamity is really the separating process of the Lord’s winnowing fork. He’s blowing off the chaff so that only that which is fruitful remains. (He’s worthy of 100%…) The Body of Christ will not find peace anywhere unless we understand what the Lord is doing.
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The Lord’s process is so thorough that just as in the days of 1st century Judea, it required a willingness to let the old be lost; to bring the insufficient order to death – all to receive the dawning glory of our King’s new order.
“I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire… then all Judea… went out to him and were baptized… confessing their sins.”
Just like Caiaphas – where we see the unique ways of Jesus threatening the security of our national exceptionalism we are greatly tempted to defend the old glory of our fathers – rather than humble ourselves and risk it all on the Son. If we give in to this temptation we spurn His Kingdom in order to retain our own.
“Bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have _________ as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to _________ from these stones.”
Our theology can also tempt us to believe that He would never manifest His wrath upon the temple and the land and whatever else we have come to regard with such jealousy.
“You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?”
We need to bring these vain imaginations to the waters of baptism as well.
Just like faithless 1st century Jerusalem, our refusal to humble ourselves onto the threshing floor; and our unwillingness to undergo the refining process will be catastrophic. This is a promise.
It takes faith to let our old ways go – faith that believes that the new order that Jesus wants to give us is far far far superior to the old ways and values and narratives that we work so hard to hold onto.
“He Who is coming after me is mightier than I…”
The King is coming! And He is so committed to having you and I be ready for His Kingdom that He’s leveling every mountain in our lives in order to have us.
“Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight!”
The only place our lives, our churches and our communities will find security in this hour is on the threshing floor of prayer where we allow our ways to be lost and brought to death, and allow His ways and glory to flourish.
The Lord is currently judging His household (1 Peter 4:17). Out of His faithful love for us, He has been inviting us to turn from our self-saving narratives in order to “seek His face” (Psalm 27:8).
The quickest way for a judgment of the Lord to turn into a “finger of God” (Exodus 8:19) is for an individual or specific group of people to refuse to respond to the Lord’s invitation in humility; to marginalize the beatitudes (where Jesus declared the blessings of the Lord would be found), and assert their rights and abilities in the midst of calamity.
Only the uncrucified flesh would make “the time of trouble” (Psalm 27:5) all about the loss of our freedoms, and proving our ways to be right. The fact that so many in the Church are barnstorming with this entitled spirit is proof that God’s judgments upon us are warranted. In the midst of the Lord’s tempest we’re found boasting before men instead of bending before God.
Just like Pharaoh, if we do not submit ourselves to the judgments of the Lord, our hearts will be hardened. This is a guarantee from all 66 books of the Bible. In our refusal to come to the Lord in contrition we’re becoming blinded by our zeal for self-actualized greatness.
How many of these unrighteous qualities in this list from Romans 1 do we recognize being normalized within our American evangelical family in this hour? 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a depraved mind, to do those things that are not proper,29 people having been filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, and evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice; they are gossips,30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unfeeling, and unmerciful;32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
I count 21. If you, or I had twenty-one symptoms of a fatal disease what would we spare to secure a sure solution to our malady? The mercy of God is such a “sure solution”. The question is, “Will we bear the ignominy and go and receive it from Him?”
This is the lay of the land for American evangelicalism in this hour. Perceived or not, we are being given over to the unrighteous task-masters of deceit, malice, violence, selfish-pride, and idolatry that we’ve been clamoring for. If we continue to mock God’s prophetic warnings; if we continue to spurn His call to “seek His Face” we will be consumed by the storm.
Where we go as a culture/family from here will only be determined by the mercy of the Lord, and our response to Him on the threshing floor of prayer.
“Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up; and it shall be brought low.” (Isaiah 2:10-12)
Since the establishing of All Nations House of Prayer Southwest in the summer of 2018 the Father has entrusted us with nine amazing signs and prophetic words for ourselves, the Church in the Southwest and the nation.
Prophetic words from the Lord are intended to not only be a confirmation of His work among us, they are also meant to encourage and nourish believers in the way of faithful love for Jesus.
Below, I’ve recorded a summary of the prophetic words the Lord has released to us, along with links to their fulfillment and the key scriptures that accompanied each of these words. The Lord is leading His people faithfully. It’s my hope that in summarizing these words many in the body of Christ will be led to prayer and “to inquire in His tabernacle” (Psalm 27:4) about how He is leading us individually, and collectively. Our King is coming! We want to have these conversations with the Lord so that we manifest mature Christlikeness and are fully prepared for His return.
1. THE WIND OF THE LORD IS COMING
In March of 2019 the Lord spoke a word to our House of Prayer: “The Wind of the Lord is Coming!” “Beloved, the Spirit of the Lord is about to sweep across our nation like the wind! When the wind comes, it disturbs both that which causes us problems as well as that which is precious. It spares neither our trash, nor our treasure.” (March, 2019)
This word was accompanied by historic, and record-setting tornado activity throughout the spring of 2019. In this word the Lord promised that this wind would do three things: 1.) It would bring great purification to the Church 2.) It would bring a purging disruption to systems and organizations in our culture 3.) It would bring a prophetic awakening to the Church
“So He said, ‘Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord…” (1 Kings 19:11)
2. 911 18th ANNIVERSARY
On September 11, 2019 the Lord moved upon us, so that we wrote: “there’s something different about this 18th anniversary… We’ve been sensing that the Spirit is reminding us of the hour. It’s all the later. And our House feels His grief that so much of the Bride has fallen asleep again; distracted, angry, embittered, disillusioned, overwhelmed with the cares of this raging, transitioning world. We may be remembering the event, but we’re deaf to His admonition that was unapologetically meant to come with the event (9-11). The Spirit is groaning for the American Church to prioritize everything to engage Him in His ‘tent of meeting‘ (Exodus 33:7-11).”
The Lord was steadily preparing our hearts for what was coming next.
3. SEEK MY FACE
Throughout October and November of 2019 the Lord spoke to us numerous times that “the time of trouble was coming” (Psalm 27:5) and that He was calling His family to intensify our dialogue with Him by “seeking His Face” (Psalm 27:8). He called our little House of Prayer to curtail all of our additional church ministries and connections in order to “seek His Face” for 180 days; from the darkest part of the year, to the lightest part of the year.
Little did we know that we were going to receive massive help from the Lord, in that in March of 2020 the entire world went into a massive lockdown on account of COVID. Movie theaters were closed. Sports leagues suspended their seasons. Travel industries and schools and restaurants and even churches shut down to “business as usual”. The Lord had “troubled” the whole earth, and even provided humanity with “set-apart space” to “seek His Face”. This was an extraordinary word; one that eventually became the the foundation of the book we published in 2021, “Seek My Face: A Guide to Praying Through the Judgments of the Lord“.
Through it all – from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020 – All Nations was miraculously allowed to stay open and offered our community and friends across the nation more than 1700 hours of corporate prayer in His “tent of meeting”.
4. A DECAPITATION IS COMING
As we were concluding our 180 days of “Seeking His Face”, in May the Lord gave us one of the most precise and fearful words of this 3 year season. He gave us a vision and a dream that He was about to strike the leadership of American Christian Nationalism. In the vision, Christian leaders had huddled beneath the Washington Monument during a violent lightening storm. One of the thunderbolts struck the tip, and it fell from the monument. In the dream, the Lord indicated that this decapitation would occur in twelve weeks.
During the week of August 8, Jerry Falwell Jr., the President of the nation’s largest evangelical university, named “Liberty”, and the founder of one of the country’s most prominent evangelical, political “think-tanks”: “The Falkirk Center”, was exposed in an immoral episode, amidst many Church leaders demanding that he step down from his positions. Falwell had been perhaps the first high-profile evangelical leader to whole-heartedly endorse Donald Trump for President in the spring of 2016.
In November of 2020, All Nations House of Prayer Southwest issued an Open Letter to the Body of Christ in America. In this letter we detailed the extraordinary words the Lord had been giving our House of Prayer, and we encouraged our sisters and brothers: “The Lord has brought us into a time of global trouble to judge, reward & prepare hearts to herald the coming reign of our Bridegroom King. The God of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) Hezekiah (Isaiah 36 & 37) and 500 billion galaxies says: “Church in America, do not take shelter in the promise of government. Let Me make you singularly jealous for the exaltation of My Son’s glory in this hour!” (November 12, 2020)
6. SEEK MY FACE: A GUIDE TO PRAYING THROUGH THE JUDGMENTS OF THE LORD
Throughout 2021 the Lord had us write and publish the story of how He led our House of Prayer to “Seek His Face” (Psalm 27:8). This book is available on AMAZON. It also explores what the Bible says about the topics of “the judgments of the Lord” and “repentance”, and calls the body of Christ to offer the Lord a bonafide response to His 1 Peter 4:17 judgments.
“17 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? 18 Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’.” (1 Peter 4:17-18)
7. WHAT HAVE WE DONE WITH NATHAN?
This past June, the Lord began to press “the fear of the Lord” upon us in the place of prayer. For nearly two months we felt a great weight on us every time we entered into our daily 5 hours of prayer. It was the most intense, prolonged time of face-down prayer I’ve ever experienced in my life. The Lord led us to fast for seven days. At the end of that fast He confronted us with the question: “What have we done with Nathan?” He was telling us that January 6 was our gathering; our spirit; our protest; our cause; our festival. The fact that we bear the same hostile arguments in our soul 18 months later testifies to our own condemnation. The fact that we cannot recognize that it’s our spirit that’s on trial signifies the depth of our blindness. Beloved. The Lord is aiming this arrow squarely into the heart of our American evangelical family. We have run out of time to put our false narratives, and false prophecies on the threshing floor.
He had sent His prophetic word to His people declaring “We are the ones!” But, unlike David in 2 Samuel 12, we have not humbled ourselves. We’ve not received His word. We’ve turned Nathan away. In this wretched state the Lord has declared:
“Our evangelical family has… brought violence into our house and wielded it against our nation. We’ve attached false prophecy to our hearts while violently resisting the Lord’s many prophetic warnings and stern judgments. We’ve refused to repent. We smolder with a spirit of rebellion within His courts. Now…we bring holy violence upon ourselves and our nation.” (June 17, 2022)
The exhortation of the Lord that we are engaging with all of our energy in this hour is “Humility. Contrition. Repentance. Fear of the Lord.”
8. SNOW IN ARIZONA – ON JUNE29th!
At the end of fasting and the intense encounter with the “fear of the Lord” it snowed in our little community. As I drove through the 2 inches of snow (with cars pulled off to the side of the road to make snow balls) the Lord spoke to me saying: “Don’t be deceived by what others are saying about this season. They may say it is summer (and the time for the ripening of the harvest). I say that it’s winter.”
9. JULY 21 VISION • THE LOT HAS BEEN CAST
On the afternoon of July 21, 2022 the Lord gave me a very vivid and very disturbing vision of His rebuke being released across the land. It was so real that before the vision was finished I ran out of the room where I was to look for my wife to make sure she was OK. (I found her peacefully watering the garden outside on a beautiful Arizona mountain day.)
“As the vision opened, I saw several giant red and white dice being rolled out of the Father’s Hand, bouncing across the hills and plains of America. Before the dice settled, apocalyptic storm clouds, filled with lightening and doom; clouds that stretched from the north to the south rapidly unrolled from the east coast to the west coast of our nation. Beneath the destructive canopy of the clouds one calamity after another burst onto the continent: hail; tempest; famine; plague, sword and more… One calamity spring-loaded the next…A sequence of destructive events is about to explode across our country – like the plagues of Egypt – perhaps packed into a much shorter time-span.” (July 21, 2022)
What’s the summary of these words to the body of Christ? I’ll be brief. It’s been the same message over and over and over again. “Rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11) Our King is coming. Now is the hour to bring all of our ways to the threshing floor and “Seek His Face” (Psalm 27:8). Everything in our work needs to be plumb-lined to and from the place of “humility, contrition, repentance and the fear of the Lord”.
It does no good to add additional elements to the assignments and mandates that the Lord has given to us to accomplish in this hour. If we’re not engaging Him in the place of corporate prayer in humility, contrition, repentance and the fear of the Lord”, whatever else we’re doing matters little.
There is abounding grace and even great reward available. But it is all accessed in this season through humility, contrition, repentance and the fear of the Lord”.
Beloved, sisters and brothers. The Blessings of our Father to each us as the Holy Spirit makes us (Matthew 10:38) “worthy” of the One Who is coming.
“9 The coming of the lawless one is according to THE WORKING OF SATAN, (IS) with all POWER, signs, and LYING WONDERS, 10 AND with all UNRIGHTEOUS DECEPTION among those who perish, because THEY DID NOT RECEIVE THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, that they might be saved. 11 And FOR THIS REASON GOD WILL SEND THEM STRONG DELUSION, (LITERALLY: AN ACTIVITY OF ERROR AND DECEPTION) THAT THEY SHOULD (ACTIVELY) BELIEVE THE LIE, 12 that they all may be condemned who DID NOT BELIEVE THE TRUTH but had PLEASURE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS!” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
PREFACE: Sometimes we can be so enamored by the SHINEY object in a text that we miss the larger, the deeper, and more salient meaning and purpose of the text itself. When we have read 2 THESSALONIANS 2, 99.9% of our attention goes to “THE LAWLESS ONE” or the anti-Christ. We must guard ourselves from letting our carnal fascination with an historical reference to the anti-Christ to keep us from paying attention to the Kingdom principles that are at work all throughout the rest of these four verses.
There are critical truths about how God works that we must pay attention to here: a.) truths that can give us insight into what we (and others are) experiencing in our own worlds right now; b.) and truths that will unlock God’s grace to know how to operate within the dynamics that are spoken of here.
This pericope is a treasure chest of advanced technical “equipment” that can help us discern the way of the Lord in a day of great deception. Put another way: there are universal principles that Paul is writing about that are lodged in this text that are meant to be applied in our own world – regardless of whether the anti-Christ is alive and at work right now, or not.
What follows is an attempt to extricate 8 universal truths from this text – 8 truths that can be applied to the world that we’re living in right now:
1. (v.9) Paul references THE (general) WAY THAT SATAN WORKS. He notes that satan works with supernatural power, signs that direct hearts into false, destructive paths, and lying wonders that captivate the heart and fill the mind with wonder.
2. The WORKING OF SATAN is intended to lead the human soul into UNRIGHTEOUS DECEPTION; a condition where we live in a way that’s contrary to the King… but we don’t know it. (That’s why he calls it “deception”.) We live from day to day without recognizing that our ways are out of sync with the ways of Jesus.
3. This condition is common to every human soul; from the time of Adam to today. This condition comes upon those who DO NOT RECEIVE THE TRUTH OF GOD WITH LOVE and passionate hunger and appreciation for more. They either did not receive the truth about God at all, OR they did not receive the truth of God with a spirit that compelled them to yearn for more of God; more of HIs truth; more of His ways. The lack of yearning is the symptom – the “tip-off” that something in me is out-of-whack with how God designed me to live. (In our unfallen, created state, we, His creation, would “naturally” hunger for more and more of God, the way a newborn child craves her mother – right??)
This lack of yearning for THE TRUTH OF/ABOUT GOD could be within an individual for several reasons. Here are three that are common to today:
a.) We believe just enough Bible and theology to get us saved; and we’re content with the simplified essence of the formula of salvation. When others press us for more of God, we resist going on the journey because we’re content to believe the fundamentals of faith in Jesus Christ. “Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I believe He was raised from the dead. I’m good. This talk about “more” makes me suspect that the basics of our faith in Jesus Christ aren’t sufficient to save us.”
b.) We’ve made following Jesus about how it benefits me and my life. We mistakenly turn the things of God into principles and governing ordinances that tell us how to live in this world the best we can – getting all the blessings we can, while maximizing all of the opportunities that life brings our way.
c.) Or a lack of love for the truth of God may be due to the fact that our heart is filled with a love for something else; we’re passionate about justice issues, harmony with others, the well-being of our family and close friends, and/or politics and worldly amusements and accomplishments.
We must look at these three categories and realize that each of these mind-sets are what Paul was describing as “UNRIGHTEOUS DECEPTION” – meaning, they are ways that people live that are contrary to the way that Christ would have us live. We must not only recognize these mind-sets as “UNRIGHTEOUS”, we must examine ourselves to see how these ways exist within us. Because the fact of the matter is, UNRIGHTEOUS DECEPTION is meant to lead us to UNRIGHTEOUS destruction. Living disconnected from a LOVE OF THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD places our soul in peril.
4. Here is where Paul taps into the deep and mysterious way of God and reveals how contrary His ways are to our own. It is precisely because our soul is in peril that God does something that seems quite contrary to our logical and very much fallen way of thinking. When we’re entangled in UNRIGHTEOUS DECEPTION that threatens to destroy us, the Lord SENDS US STRONG DELUSION. The greek phrase literally means: He gives us something that will engage us into actively pursuing error and deception; what is false and – this is important – what will produce death and not life in our lives, our relationships and our world.
The question that occurs to the natural mind is, “why would God do this? Why would He give us something that He knows is false and potentially destructive to our eternal soul?”
If we’re playing honest with this text this is an unavoidable question we must confront head-on. We can’t make nice with the words – because the words are in-fact “troubling”. We need to let these words “trouble” us. We need to let them sit like soap cleanser in the bottom of a crusty frying pan; steadily softening our way of thinking that’s been “baked on” by the world, so we can authentically begin to think as God thinks.
This is the place where we “inquire of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4). This is where we let the “contrary” way of the Lord “wash us with the water of His Word” (Ephesians 5:27). When He declared, “My ways are not your ways” (Isaiah 55:8), THIS is what He meant. It requires a mind-set that will take up His challenge to “go and learn what this means” (Matthew 9:13) to press into this (2 Thessalonians 2) text (and others) and perceive things from the Lord’s perspective.
But when we do, He unlocks the treasures of hidden grace to live in a way “that glorifies the name of our Lord Jesus Christ within us” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
PART II “FOR THIS REASON God will send them strong delusion…”
5. Why would God send anyone a “delusion”? The direct answer comes from the previous verse: “Because they did not receive the love of the truth.” This requires some breakdown. a.) Who is “THEY”? For our purposes, it’s all those who are putting themselves at risk of being entrapped by deceitful and lawless unrighteousness. Paul is saying, the ones who have put themselves at risk are in need of urgent intervention from God.
b.) The phrase “did not receive the love of the truth” tells us there is a history that’s gone on here. The “they” have already been spurning God’s “truth”. God has been speaking “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and it has not been received, nor cherished. The implication is that the truth has been rebuffed.
c.) “Truth” here isn’t just any truth. Paul isn’t speaking about mere facts about current events. He’s speaking about the truth about the King and the way the King operates in His Kingdom. Our fancy religious word for that is called “righteousness”. Righteousness literally from the greek source means, “the right order of the King”. The truth that has been spurned and rejected by “THEY” is the truth about the character of Jesus and the values by which He operates, and calls us to operate in our world.
d.) In one short sentence Paul is saying, “The Lord has been telling these people about how He operates in the world, and they neither agree with nor appreciate these operational values. The Kingdom values aren’t prized. Values like meekness, humility, mercy-giving, loving your enemies, cross-bearing, mutual honor and accountability etc. have been exchanged for brute force, pride, condemnation and malice, revenge, self-seeking, sowing dishonor and perpetual alienation and discord.” (Gotta be real here folks. This is the set of anti-beatitudes.)
We’ve also got to acknowledge that wherever we dispute the wisdom of the former list and embrace the latter list, we’re putting our souls at risk of being enticed by the “deceptions of unrighteousness” and “the working of satan”.
6. Now we get back to verse 11: “FOR THIS REASON”. What is the reason? “BECAUSE” in spite of the Lord’s repeated attempts to disclose the wisdom of His ways, these ones still have no love for the truth about how Jesus wants us to operate in our world.
7. What does the Lord do? How does He reach the ones who have been dismissing His calls of love and truth and wisdom? He does what too many good parents have had to do to wayward children who refuse to respond to their parent’s good, life-giving love. He gives them over to the evil that they want to embrace so that they feel the natural consequences (even the world operates according to a natural order – ie. from order to disorder) of their lack of love for God’s truth.
This is the same strategy that Paul talks about in Romans 1 where he says three times, “God gave them over” (Romans 1:24, 26 & 28) to the forces of unrighteousness.
The thought is, “They haven’t responded positively to the truth. Let’s let them experience some of the destructive consequences of unrighteousness, with the hope that they “turn from their evil ways”.
This is the tact the Lord described through the prophet Ezekiel: “10 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ’ 11 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:10-11)
In essence the Lord is saying, “You have not let Me in my goodness be your Tutor into righteousness, I’ll let you feel the bad affects of having unrighteousness as your tutor.” As we mentioned above, the greek phrase for “SEND THEM A STRONG DELUSION” is an active phrase within an active phrase. He’s saying we will not only experience the terrible natural consequences of unrighteousness, but we will also experience the terrible tyranny of being led by unrighteousness; the brutality; the fear; the threats; the loss of freedom; the coercion etc. that comes whenever we have “sin as our master”. (Genesis 4:7).
This tact doesn’t change the Lord’s attitude toward the unrighteous individuals one bit. He is still the God Who “stretches out His hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good.” (Isaiah 65:2)
Again, the Lord declares through Ezekiel: “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.” (Ezekiel 33:14-16)
What’s more, they won’t be conscious of the fact that they’re being tutored by evil. They’ll believe the lie. They’ll only know that they’re being filled with desire to act in a certain way. The lie will actually spur them on with zeal, like it did with Jesus’ disciple, Simon, who was once a “zealot”. The “being filled with zeal” is the tip-off. Paul understood this zeal; this inner-compulsion and described it this way in Romans 7:20 “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” And he recognizes that this power of sin “is leading him to death.” “For sin… deceived me, and by it killed me.” (Romans 7:11)
Paul is saying “I was deceived. I didn’t see that sin was leading me to death. I didn’t see how terrible my condition was. Under the power of sin, I was actually thinking that I was heading toward life.”
And in this state, as He did in Paul, the Lord yearns for the deceived to feel the heat and even the terror of being helpless upon the conveyor-belt of sin and cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
8. In v. 12 Paul again reminds us that condemnation, or the awareness of the state of condemnation, ultimately happens to all those who “do not believe the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Our prayer for ourselves and those we love is, “Father show us our condemned state early, so we might cry out to You for mercy and grace and forgiveness.” This is the blessed place of experiencing “the fear of the Lord” in a way that propels us into repentance and submission to Him and His ways.
9. (The Bonus Point) Finally, Paul identifies a key symptom that can serve as a diagnostic for our soul – if we’ll let the Holy Spirit bring it to us in this way. He concludes this topic by saying: “There is a PLEASURE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS within those who are in danger here.” The statement is meant to lead us to the question, “Is this pleasure in me?” Do I find cursing my enemies, exalting my self in pride, malice, defensiveness, unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred, contention, violence and lust for more to be “pleasurable”? And the question, if sincerely applied to ourselves should lead us to the cry for mercy and repentance. This is where our God Who loves mercy (Psalm 86:15) meets us. He is the God Who even saves those who are caught up in a great delusion and are falling into the pit of destruction. He is our HighPriest Who “saves to the uttermost”. (Hebrews 7:25) He’ll save us from the deepest delusion, the deepest despair and the deepest “working of satan”.
There are two more general points to be made about this text. Two general observations that can help us recognize our personal need to have these truths applied to our lives.
PART III 1. There are six references to deceit in these four verses. Six! We don’t need to wait until the anti-Christ comes to understand that the ways of the “ruler of this world” (John 12:21) are fraught with falsehood. And he is at work on the earth today working his network of lies in thousands of different ways.
One of the chief indicators that satan is manipulating a movement is when those within the movement are working hard to redefine truth to the masses – through rallies, alternative news sources, fear-based propaganda… Wherever we find an atmosphere that’s thick with lies being reshaped and spun; wherever we find redactions in historical narratives; wherever people become obsessed with conspiracy; fake news; alternative facts; hidden operatives (ala “deep state”); redefining terms (ala. “that depends on what your definition of “is” is.”) false allies (ala RINOs); shame those who listen to differing opinions (ala. FOX news and fake news), diverge from the storyline and/or question the values that the movement is enthroning; we can be certain that we’ve entered the lair of the liar. (John 8:44) Every bit of his fading kingdom is built on deception and redefining truth. (2 Corinthians 11:14; Genesis 3:4-5).
2. There are also three references to “righteousness”, “unrighteousness” and “lawlessness” in these four verses. Paul is telling us here that the six references to deceit in these same verse are bent on deceiving us about the nature of lawlessness and righteousness.
As I’ve observed hundreds of times over the last several years, the greek word for “righteousness” is “dikaiosune”. It literally means “the right order of the king” – or “the way the king thinks and acts”. When we see words like lawlessness, righteousness and unrighteousness in a section of scripture we can be sure that the topic of discussion is “how would Jesus think and behave in this context? To embrace righteousness is to embrace the way of Jesus’ heart.
Here in this text, Paul us telling us that the way of the enemy is not only to lie, but it is to lie specifically about the ways of righteousness. At the end of His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 Jesus expressly describes the way of lawlessness as the way that does not align with what He’s just preached in (Matthew 5 -7). Simply put, the way of righteousness (the way of Jesus’ heart) is to be found in the Sermon on the Mount. The enemy is dead set on perverting our understanding and application of the Sermon on the Mount. He will lie and tell us that there are times when it’s better to NOT live by the Sermon on the Mount. And he will lie and tell us that some people have a special designation to operate contrary to the Sermon on the Mount. This is the lie the “man of lawlessness” will attempt to deceive us with. It’s also the spirit of the delusion that the enemy wants to foster within people today. The lie that the enemy wants to sow in our hearts is “How do we define righteousness”, and “How are we to operate within righteousness?”
3. The “working of satan” described in (2 Thessalonians 2:9) isn’t exclusively a work in the future. As we observed above, the enemy is at work today – in 2022. Wherever we find his work of deception we must understand that it is a spiritual work – AND it may even be a work that God has purposefully given a people over to (Romans 1:24, 26, 28) in order to shock them back unto Christ. That’s some powerful deceit.
It does us no good to rail against that which is being supernaturally empowered. Prayer will be the only way any soul will break out of “great delusion”. Our singular, sober and steady work is prayer. Prayer, prayer and more prayer. Humble, contrite, repentant, fear-of-the-Lord prayer. There’s plenty to be done after we pray, but nothing even worth discussing “UNTIL” we’ve cultivated the way of much much prayer – within our private schedules and public gatherings.
What It Means to Repent and Why We Must Do So by J.C. Ryle
“Even so, Come Lord Jesus!”(Luke 13:3)
The text which heads this page, at first sight, looks stern and severe, “Except you repent, you shall all perish.” I can fancy someone saying, “Is this the Gospel?” “Are these the glad tidings? Are these the good news of which ministers speak?” “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” (John 6:60.)
But from whose lips did these words come? They came from the lips of One who loves us with a love that passes knowledge, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They were spoken by One who so loved us that He left heaven for our sakes—came down to earth for our sakes—lived a poor, humble life, for three and thirty years on earth for our sakes—went to the cross for us, went to the grave for us, and died for our sins. The words that come from lips like these, must surely be words of love.
And, after all, what greater proof of love can be given than to warn a friend of coming danger? The father who sees his son tottering toward the brink of a precipice, and as he sees him cries out sharply, “Stop, stop!”—does not that father love his son? The tender mother who sees her infant on the point of eating some poisonous berry, and cries out sharply, “Stop, stop! put it down!”—does not that mother love that child? It is indifference which lets people alone, and allows them to go on each in his own way. It is love, tender love, which warns, and raises the cry of alarm. The cry of “Fire—fire!” at midnight, may sometimes startle a man out of his sleep, rudely, harshly, unpleasantly. But who would complain, if that cry was the means of saving his life? The words, “Except you repent, you shall all perish,” may seem at first sight stern and severe. But they are words of love, and may be the means of delivering precious souls from hell.
There are three things to which I ask attention in considering this text of Scripture.
First of all, I will speak of the nature of repentance—What is it?
Secondly, I will speak of the necessity of repentance—Why is repentance needful?
Thirdly, I will speak of the encouragements to repentance—What is there to lead people to repent?
I. First of all, the NATURE of repentance—What is it?
Let us see that we set down our feet firmly on this point. The importance of the inquiry cannot be overrated. Repentance is one of the foundation-stones of Christianity. Sixty times, at least, we find repentance spoken of in the New Testament. What was the first doctrine our Lord Jesus Christ preached? We are told that He said, “Repent, and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15.) What did the Apostles proclaim when the Lord sent them forth the first time? They “preached that people should repent.” (Mark 6:12.) What was the charge which Jesus gave His disciples when He left the world? That “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.” (Luke 24:47.) What was the concluding appeal of the first sermons which Peter preached? “Repent, and be baptized.” “Repent you, and be converted.” (Acts 2:38; 3:19.) What was the summary of doctrine which Paul gave to the Ephesian elders, when he parted from them? He told them that he had taught them publicly, and from house to house, “testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21.) What was the description which Paul gave of his own ministry, when he made his defense before Festus and Agrippa? He told them that he had taught all people that they should “repent, and do works fit for repentance.” (Acts 26:20.) What was the account given by the believers at Jerusalem of the conversion of the Gentiles? When they heard of it they said, “Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:18.) What is one of the first qualifications which the Church of England requires of all people that would come to the Lord’s table? They are to “examine themselves whether they repent them truly of their former sins.” No impenitent person, according to the Church of England, ought ever to come to the Lord’s table. Surely we must all agree that these are serious considerations. They ought to show the importance of the inquiry I am now making. A mistake about repentance is a most dangerous mistake. An error about repentance is an error that lies at the very roots of our religion. What, then, is repentance? When can it be said of any man, that he repents?
Repentance is a thorough change of man’s natural heart, upon the subject of sin. We are all born in sin. We naturally love sin. We take to sin, as soon as we can act and think—just as the bird takes to flying, and the fish takes to swimming. There never was a child that required schooling or education in order to learn deceitfulness, selfishness, passion, self-will, gluttony, pride, and foolishness. These things are not picked up from bad companions, or gradually learned by a long course of tedious instruction. They spring up of themselves, even when boys and girls are brought up alone. The seeds of them are evidently the natural product of the heart. The aptitude of all children to these evil things is an unanswerable proof of the corruption and fall of man. Now when this heart of ours is changed by the Holy Spirit, when this natural love of sin is cast out, then takes place that change which the Word of God calls “repentance.” The man in whom the change is wrought is said to “repent.” He may be called, in one word, a “penitent” man.
But I dare not leave the subject here. It deserves a closer and more searching investigation. It is not safe to deal in general statements, when doctrines of this kind are handled. I will try to take repentance to pieces, and dissect and analyze it before your eyes. I will show you the parts and portions of which repentance is made up. I will endeavor to set before you something of the experience of every truly penitent man.
(a) True repentance begins with KNOWLEDGE of sin. The eyes of the penitent man are opened. He sees with dismay and confusion the length and breadth of God’s holy law, and the extent, the enormous extent, of his own transgressions. He discovers, to his surprise, that in thinking himself a “good sort of man,” and a man with a “good heart,” he has been under a huge delusion. He finds out that, in reality, he is wicked, and guilty, and corrupt, and evil in God’s sight. His pride breaks down. His high thoughts melt away. He sees that he is a great sinner. This is the first step in true repentance.
(b) True repentance goes on to work SORROW for sin. The heart of a penitent man is touched with deep remorse because of his past transgressions. He is cut to the heart to think that he should have lived so madly and so wickedly. He mourns over time wasted, over talents misspent, over God dishonored, over his own soul injured. The remembrance of these things is grievous to him. The burden of these things is sometimes almost intolerable, When a man so sorrows, you have the second step in true repentance.
(c) True repentance proceeds, further, to produce CONFESSION of sin. The tongue of a penitent man is loosed. He feels he must speak to that God against whom he has sinned. Something within him tells him he must cry to God, and pray to God, and talk with God, about the state of his own soul. He must pour out his heart, and acknowledge his iniquities, at the throne of grace. They are a heavy burden within him, and he can no longer keep silence. He can keep nothing back. He will not hide anything. He goes before God, pleading nothing for himself, and willing to say, “I have sinned against heaven and before You—my iniquity is great. God be merciful to me, a sinner!” When a man goes thus to God in confession, you have the third step in true repentance.
(d) True repentance, furthermore, shows itself in a thorough BREAKING OFF from sin. The life of a penitent man is altered. The course of his daily conduct is entirely changed. A new King reigns within his heart. He puts off the old man. What God commands he now desires to practice; and what God forbids he now desires to avoid. He strives in all ways to keep clear of sin, to fight with sin, to war with sin, to get the victory over sin. He ceases to do evil. He learns to do well. He breaks off sharply from bad ways and bad companions. He labors, however feebly, to live a new life. When a man does this, you have the fourth step in true repentance.
(e) True repentance, in the last place, shows itself by producing in the heart a settled habit of deep HATRED of all sin. The mind of a penitent man becomes a mind habitually holy. He abhors that which is evil, and cleaves to that which is good. He delights in the law of God. He comes short of his own desires not unfrequently. He finds in himself an evil principle warring against the spirit of God. He finds himself cold when he would be hot; backward when he would be forward; heavy when he would be lively in God’s service. He is deeply conscious of his own infirmities. He groans under a sense of indwelling corruption. But still, for all that, the general bias of his heart is towards God, and away from evil. He can say with David, “I count all Your precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way.” (Psalm. 119:128.) When a man can say this, you have the fifth, or crowning step, of true repentance.
But now, is the picture of repentance complete? Can I leave the subject here, and go on? I cannot do it. There remains yet one thing behind which ought never to be forgotten. Were I not to mention this one thing, I might make hearts sad that God would not have made sad, and raise seeming barriers between men’s souls and heaven. True repentance, such as I have just described, is never alone in the heart of any man. It always has a companion—a blessed companion. It is always accompanied by lively FAITH in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Wherever faith is, there is repentance; wherever repentance is, there is always faith. I do not decide which comes first—whether repentance comes before faith, or faith before repentance. But I am bold to say that the two graces are never found separate, one from the other. Just as you cannot have the sun without light, or ice without cold, or fire without heat, or water without moisture—so long you will never find true faith without true repentance, and you will never find true repentance without lively faith. The two things will always go side by side.
And now, before I go any further, let us search and try our own hearts, and see what we know about true repentance. I do not affirm that the experience of all penitent people tallies exactly, precisely, and minutely. I do not say that any man ever knows sin, or mourns for sin, or confesses sin, or forsakes sin, or hates sin, perfectly, thoroughly, completely, and as he ought. But this I do say, that all true Christians will recognize something which they know and have felt, in the things which I have just been saying. Repentance, such as I have described, will be, in the main, the experience of every true believer. Search, then, and see what you know of it in your own soul.
Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of that precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money. Wherever there is a valuable grace, the devil will put in circulation counterfeits and shams of that grace, and try to palm them off on men’s souls. Make sure that you are not deceived.
(a) Take heed that your repentance be a business of your heart. It is not a grave face, or a sanctimonious countenance, or a round of self-imposed austerities; it is not this alone which makes up true repentance towards God. The real grace is something far deeper than a mere affair of face, and clothes, and days, and forms. Ahab could put on sackcloth when it served his turn. But Ahab never repented.
(b) Take heed that your repentance be a repentance wherein you turn to God. Roman Catholics can run to priests and confessionals, when they are frightened. Felix could tremble, when he heard the Apostle Paul preach. But all this is not true repentance. See that your repentance leads you unto God, and makes you flee to Him as your best Friend.
(c) Take heed that your repentance be a repentance attended by a thorough forsaking of sin. Sentimental people can cry when they hear moving sermons on Sundays, and yet return to the ball, the theater, and the opera in the week after. Herod liked to hear John the Baptist preach, and heard him gladly, “and did many things.” But feelings in religion are worse than worthless, unless they are accompanied by practice. Mere sentimental excitement, without thorough breaking off from sin, is not the repentance which God approves. (Mark 6:20.)
(d) Take heed, above all things, that your repentance is closely bound up with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. See that your convictions are convictions which never rest except at the foot of the cross whereon Jesus Christ died. Judas Iscariot could say, “I have sinned,” but Judas never turned to Jesus. Judas never looked by faith to Jesus, and therefore Judas died in his sins. Give me that conviction of sin which makes a man flee to Christ, and mourn, because by his sins he has pierced the Lord who bought him. Give me that contrition of soul under which a man feels much about Christ, and grieves to think of the despite he has done to so gracious a Savior. Going to Sinai, hearing about the ten commandments, looking at hell, thinking about the terrors of damnation—all this may make people afraid, and has its use. But no repentance ever lasts in which a man does not look at Calvary more than at Sinai, and see in a bleeding Jesus the strongest motive for contrition. Such repentance comes down from heaven. Such repentance is planted in man’s heart by God the Holy Spirit.
II. I pass on now to the second point which I proposed to handle. I will consider the NECESSITY of repentance. Why is repentance needful?
The text which stands at the head of this paper shows clearly the necessity of repentance. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are distinct, express, and emphatic, “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” All, all, without exception, need repentance toward God. It is not only necessary for thieves, murderers, drunkards, adulterers, fornicators, and the inhabitants of prisons and of jails. No—all born of Adam, all, without exception, need repentance toward God. The queen upon her throne and the pauper in the workhouse, the rich man in his drawing room, the servant maid in the kitchen, the professor of sciences at the University, the poor ignorant boy who follows the plough—all by nature need repentance. All are born in sin, and all must repent and be converted, if they would be saved. All must have their hearts changed about sin. All must repent, as well as believe the Gospel. “Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.”“Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” (Matt. 18:3; Luke 13:3.)
But whence comes the necessity of repentance? Why is such tremendously strong language used about this necessity? What are the reasons, what the causes, why repentance is so needful?
(a) For one thing, without repentance there is no forgiveness of sins. In saying this, I must guard myself against misconstruction. I ask you emphatically not to misunderstand me. The tears of repentance wash away no sins. It is bad theology to say that they do. That is the office, that the work of the blood of Christ alone. Contrition makes no atonement for transgression. It is wretched theology to say that it does. It can do nothing of the kind. Our best repentance is a poor, imperfect thing—and needs repenting over again. Our best contrition has defects enough about it to sink us into hell. “We are counted righteous before God only for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings,” not for our repentance, holiness, almsgiving, sacrament receiving, or anything of the kind. All this is perfectly true.
But still it is no less true that justified people are always penitent people, and that a forgiven sinner will always be a man who mourns over, and loathes his sins. God in Christ is willing to receive rebellious man, and grant him peace, if he only come to Him in Christ’s name however wicked he may have been. But God requires, and requires justly, that the rebel shall throw down his arms. The Lord Jesus Christ is ready to pity, pardon, relieve, cleanse, wash, sanctify, and fit for heaven. But the Lord Jesus Christ desires to see a man hate the sins that he wishes to be forgiven. Let some people call this “legality” if they will. Let some call it “bondage” if they please. I take my stand on Scripture. The testimony of God’s Word is plain and unmistakable. Justified people are always penitent people. Without repentance there is no forgiveness of sins.
(b) For another thing, without repentance there is no happiness in the life that now is. There may be high spirits, excitement, laughter and merriment, so long as health is good, and money is in the pocket. But these things are not solid happiness. There is a conscience in all people, and that conscience must be satisfied. So long as conscience feels that sin has not been repented of and forsaken, so long it will not be quiet, and will not let a man feel comfortable within. We all of us have an inner man, unknown to the world—an inner man, with which our companions and friends have often no acquaintance. That inner man has a burden upon it, so long as sin is not repented of; and until that burden is taken off, that inner man has no real comfort. Can you and I be comfortable, when we are not in a right position? It is impossible. And what is a man’s true position? He is never in his right position until he has turned his back upon sin, and turned his face towards God.
A man’s house is never comfortable until all things are in order. And when is the house of the inward man in order? Never, until God is king, and the world put down in the second place; never, until God is upon the throne, and sin cast down and put out of doors. You might as well expect the solar system to go on well without the sun, as expect that heart of yours to be comfortable when God is not in His place. The great account with God must be settled. The King must be upon His throne. Then, and not until then, there will be peace within. Without repentance there can be no true happiness. We must repent if we want to be happy.
(c) For another thing, without repentance there can be no fitness for heaven in the world that is yet to come. Heaven is a prepared place, and those who go to heaven must be a prepared people. Our hearts must be in tune for the employments of heaven, or else heaven itself would be a miserable abode. Our minds must be in harmony with those of the inhabitants of heaven, or else the society of heaven would soon be intolerable to us. Gladly would I help everyone to heaven into whose hands this paper may fall. But I never would have you ignorant that if you went there with an impenitent heart, heaven would be no heaven to your soul. What could you possibly do in heaven, if you got there with a heart loving sin? To which of all the saints would you speak? By whose side would you sit down? Surely the angels of God would make no sweet music to the heart of him who cannot bear saints upon earth, and never praised the Lamb for redeeming love! Surely the company of patriarchs, and apostles, and prophets, would be no joy to that man who will not read his Bible now, and does not care to know what apostles and prophets wrote.
Oh, no! no! there can be no happiness in heaven, if we get there with an impenitent heart. The fish is not happy when it is out of water. The bird is not happy when it is confined in a cage. And why? They are all out of their proper element and natural position. And man, unconverted man, impenitent man, would not be happy if he got to heaven without a heart changed by the Holy Spirit. He would be a creature out of his proper element. He would have no faculties to enable him to enjoy his holy abode. Without a penitent heart there is no “fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light.” We must repent, if we want to go to heaven. (Colossians 1:12.)
I beseech you by the mercies of God, to lay to heart the things which I have just been saying, and to ponder them well. You live in a world of cheating, imposition, and deception. Let no man deceive you about the necessity of repentance. Oh, that professing Christians would see, and know, and feel, more than they do—the necessity, the absolute necessity, of true repentance towards God! There are many things which are not needful. Riches are not needful. Health is not needful. Fine clothes are not needful. Noble friends are not needful. The favor of the world is not needful. Gifts and learning are not needful. Millions have reached heaven without these things. Thousands are reaching heaven every year without them. But no one ever reached heaven without “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Let no man ever persuade you that any religion deserves to be called the Gospel, in which repentance toward God has not a most prominent place. A Gospel, indeed! That is no Gospel in which repentance is not a principal thing. A Gospel! It is the Gospel of man—but not of God. A Gospel! It comes from earth—but not from heaven. A Gospel! It is not the Gospel at all; it is rank antinomianism, and nothing else. So long as you hug your sins, and cleave to your sins, and will have your sins, so long you may talk as you please about the Gospel—but your sins are not forgiven. You may call that legal, if you like. You may say, if you please, you “hope it will be all right at the last—God is merciful—God is love—Christ has died—I hope I shall go to heaven after all.” No! I tell you, it is not all right. It will never be all right, at that rate. You are trampling under foot the blood of atonement. You have as yet no part or lot in Christ. So long as you do not repent of sin, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is no Gospel to your soul. Christ is a Savior from sin—not a Savior for man in sin. If a man will have his sins, the day will come when that merciful Savior will say to him, “Depart from Me, you worker of iniquity! Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41.)
Let no man ever delude you into supposing that you can be happy in this world without repentance. Oh, no! You may laugh and dance, and go upon vacations, and crack good jokes, and sing good songs, and say, “Cheer, boys, cheer!” and “There’s a good time coming!”—but all this is no proof that you are happy. So long as you do not quarrel with sin, you will never be a truly happy man. Thousands go on for a time in this way, and seem merry before the eyes of others, and yet in their hearts carry about a lurking sorrow. When they are alone they are wretched. When they are not in jovial company they are low. Conscience makes cowards of them. They do not like being by themselves. They hate quiet thinking. They must constantly have some new excitement. Every year they must have more. Just as an opium-eater needs a larger and larger doses—so does the man who seeks happiness in anything except in God need greater excitement every year that he lives, and after all is never really happy.
Yes! and worse than all, the longer you go on without repentance, the more unhappy will that heart of yours be. When old age creeps over you, and grey hairs appear upon your head—when you are unable to go where you once went, and take pleasure where you once took pleasure—your wretchedness and misery will break in upon you like an armed man. The more impenitent a man is, the more miserable he becomes. Have you ever heard of the great clock of St. Paul’s cathedral, in London? At midday, in the roar of business, when carriages, and carts, and wagons, and omnibuses, go rolling through the streets, how many never hear that great clock strike, unless they live very near it. But when the work of the day is over, and the roar of business has passed away—when people are gone to sleep, and silence reigns in London—then at twelve, at one, at two, at three, at four, the sound of that clock may be heard for miles round. Twelve! One! Two! Three! Four! How that clock is heard by many a sleepless man! That clock is just like the conscience of the impenitent man. While he has health and strength, and goes on in the whirl of business, he will not hear conscience. He drowns and silences its voice by plunging into the world. He will not allow the inner man to speak to him. But the day will come when conscience will be heard, whether he likes it or not. The day will come when its voice will sound in his ears, and pierce him like a sword. The time will come when he must retire from the world, and lie down on the sick bed, and look death in the face. And then the clock of conscience, that solemn clock, will sound in his heart, and if he has not repented, will bring wretchedness and misery to his soul Oh, no! write it down in the tablets of your heart—without repentance no peace!
Above all, let no man make you dream that there is a possibility of reaching heaven without repentance toward God. We all want to go to heaven. A man would be justly set down as a madman, if he said that he wanted to go to hell. But never let it be forgotten, that none go to heaven except those whom the Holy Spirit has prepared for it. I make my solemn protest against those modern delusions, “that all people shall go to heaven at last—that it matters not how you live—that whether you are holy or unholy it does not matter—that whether you are godless or God-fearing, it is all the same thing, that all at last will get to heaven.” I cannot find such teaching in the Bible. I find the Bible contradicting it flatly. However speciously this new idea may be propounded, and however plausibly it may be defended, it cannot stand the test of the Word of God. No! let God be true, and every man a liar. Heaven is no such place as some seem to fancy. The inhabitants of heaven are no such mixed multitude as many try to believe. They are all of one heart, and one mind. Heaven is the place to which God’s people shall go. But for those who are impenitent and unbelieving, and will not come to Christ, for such the Bible says, plainly and unmistakably, there remains nothing but hell.
It is a solemn thought that an impenitent man is unfit for heaven. He could not be happy in heaven, if he got there. I remember hearing of a clergyman who many years ago was traveling by coach. He sat by the coachman’s side. The coachman was one of those unhappy people who fancy nothing is to be done without swearing. He was cursing, swearing, blaspheming, taking God’s name in vain, for many a long mile together. On he drove, now flying into a passion, now beating his horses, now cursing and swearing again. Such were the coachman’s ways. At last the clergyman said to him quietly, “Coachman, I am exceedingly afraid for you.” “Sir,” said the coachman, “what should you be afraid of? All is going on right, we are not likely to be upset.” “Coachman,” said the clergyman again, “I am exceedingly afraid for you; because I cannot think what you would do in heaven, if you got there. There will be no cursing in heaven; there will be no swearing in heaven; there will be no passion in heaven; there will be no horses to beat in heaven.” “Coachman,” said the minister once more, “I can not think what you would do in heaven.” “Oh,” said the coachman, “that is your opinion,” and no more was said. Years passed away. A day came when a person told this same clergyman that a sick man desired to see him. He was a stranger. He had come into the parish, he said, because he wanted to die there. The clergyman went to see him. He entered a room and found a dying man, whose face he did not know. “Sir,” said the dying man, “you do not remember me?” “No,” said the clergyman, “I do not.” “Sir,” said the man, “I remember you. I am that coachman to whom, many years ago, you said, ‘Coachman, I am afraid for you, because I do not know what you would do if you got to heaven.’ Sir, those words laid hold upon me. I saw I was not fit to die. Those words worked, and worked, and worked in my heart, and I never rested until I had repented of sin, and fled to Christ, and found peace in Him, and became a new man. And now,” said he, “by the grace of God I trust I am prepared to meet my Maker, and am fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Once more I charge you to remember—without repentance toward God, there can be no fitness for heaven. It would give pain to an impenitent man to place him there. It would be no mercy to him. He would not be happy. He could not be happy. There could be no enjoyment in heaven to a man who got there without a heart hating sin, and a heart loving God. I expect to see many wonders at the last day. I expect to see some at the right hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom I once feared I would see upon the left. I expect to see some at the left hand whom I supposed to be good Christians, and expected to see at the right. But there is one thing I am sure I shall not see. I shall not see at the right hand of Jesus Christ one single impenitent man. I shall see Abraham there, who said, “I am dust and ashes.” I shall see Jacob there, who said, “I am not worthy of the least of all Your mercies.” I shall see Job there, who said, “I am vile.” I shall see David there, who said, “I was shaped in iniquity—in sin did my mother conceive me.” I shall see Isaiah there, who said, “I am a man of unclean lips.” I shall see Paul there, who said, “I am the chief of sinners.” (Gen. 18:27; 32:10; Job. 40:4; Psalm 51:5; Isa. 6:5; 1 Tim. 1:15.) I shall see the martyr John Bradford there, who often signed himself at the end of his letters, “That wretched sinner, that miserable sinner, John Bradford,” that same John Bradford who said, whenever he saw a man going to be hanged, “There goes John Bradford—but for the grace of God.” I shall see Usher there, whose last words were, “Pardon my many sins, especially my sins of omission.” I shall see Grimshaw there, whose last words were, “Here goes an unprofitable servant.” But they will all be of one heart, one mind, one experience. They will all have hated sin. They will all have mourned for sin. They will all have confessed sin. They will all have forsaken sin. They will all have repented as well as believed, repented toward God as well as believed in Jesus Christ. They will all say with one voice, “What has God wrought!” They will all say, “By the grace of God I am where I am,” as well as “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
III. I come now to the third and last thing of which I promised to speak. I will consider the ENCOURAGEMENTS to repentance. What is there to lead a man to repent?
I feel it very important to say something on this point. I know that many difficulties arise in the way when the subject of repentance is brought before us. I know how slow man is to give up sin. You might as well tell him to cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye, or cut off a right foot—as tell him to part with his darling sins. I know the strength of old habits and early ways of thinking about religion. At first they are all like cobwebs. At last they are iron chains. I know the power of pride, and that “fear of man that brings a snare.” I know the dislike there is in people to being thought a saint, and supposed to care about religion. I know that hundreds and thousands would never shrink from going to war—and yet cannot bear to be laughed at and thought ridiculous because they care for their souls. And I know, too, the malice of our great enemy, the devil. Will he part with his “lawful captives” without a conflict? Never! Will he give up his prey without a fight? Never! I once saw a lion, at the Zoological Gardens, being fed. I saw his meal cast down before him. I saw the keeper try to take that meal away. I remember the lion’s roar, his spring, his struggle to retain his food. And I remember the “roaring lion that walks about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8.) Will he give up a man, and let him repent, without a struggle? Never, never, never! Man needs many encouragements to make him repent.
But there are encouragements, great, broad, wide, full and free. There are things in the Word of God which ought to nerve every heart, and arouse everyone to repent without delay. I desire to bring these things before the readers of this volume. I would not have one soul lay down this paper and say, “The thing cannot be done—it is impossible.” I should like all to say, “There is hope—there is hope! There is an open door! It is possible—the thing can be done! By the grace of God a man may repent!”
(a) Hear, for one thing, what a gracious Savior the Lord Jesus Christ is. I place Him first and foremost, as the great argument to encourage a man to repentance. I say to every doubting soul, Look at Christ, think of Christ. He is one “able to save to the uttermost, all who come unto God by Him.” He is one anointed “a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance as well as remission of sins.” He is one who “came to seek and to save that which was lost.” He is one who said, “I came not to call the righteous—but sinners to repentance.” He is one who cries, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He is one who has pledged His royal word, “Him who comes unto Me, I will never cast out.” And He it is of whom it is written, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name.” I answer all doubts, and questions, and difficulties, and objections, and fears with this simple argument. I say to everyone who wants encouragement, Look at Christ, think of Christ. Consider Jesus Christ the Lord; and then doubt about repentance no more. (Heb. 7:25; Acts 5:31; Luke 19:10; Mark 2:17; Matt. 11:28; John 6:37; John 1:12.)
(b) Hear, for another thing, what glorious promises the Word of God contains. It is written, “Whoever confesses and forsakes his sins shall find mercy.” It is written again, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is written again, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Surely these promises are encouragements. Again I say, doubt about repentance no more. (Prov. 28:13; 1 John 1:9; Matt. 5:3, 4, 6.)
(c) Hear, for another thing, what gracious declarations the Word of God contains, “When the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit—a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” “God is not willing that any should perish—but that all should come to repentance.” “As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked—turn! Turn! Why will you die?” “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” (Ezekiel 18:27; Psalm 51:17; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11; Luke 15:10.) Surely those words are encouraging, if any words can be! Again I say, doubt about repentance no more.
(d) Hear, for another thing, what marvelous parables our Lord Jesus spoke upon this subject. “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 23:10-14.)
Hear, again, that other marvelous parable—the parable of the prodigal son. “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:11-24.) Surely these are mighty encouragements to repentance. Again I say, doubt about repentance no more.
(e) Hear, lastly, what wonderful examples there are in the Word of God, of God’s mercy and kindness to penitent people. Read the story of David. What sin can be greater than David’s sin? But when David turned to the Lord, and said, “I have sinned against the Lord,” the answer came, “The Lord has put away your sin.” Read the story of Manasseh. What wickedness could have been greater than his? He killed his own children. He turned his back upon his father’s God. He placed idols in the temple. And yet, when Manasseh was in prison and humbled himself, and prayed to the Lord, the Lord heard his prayer, and brought him out of captivity. Read the history of Peter. What apostasy could be greater than his? He denied his Master three times over with an oath! And yet, when Peter wept, and mourned for his sin, there was mercy even for Peter, and penitent Peter was restored to his Master’s favor. Read the story of the penitent thief. What case could be more desperate than his? He was a dying man on the brink of hell. Yet when he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom,” at once the marvelous answer came, “Verily I say unto you, Today shall you” (even you) “be with Me in paradise.” (2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Chronicles 33:1-19; Mark 16:7; Luke 23:39-43.)
What greater encouragement to repentance can be imagined or conceived? Why are all these cases recorded for our learning? They are intended to lead people to repentance. They are all patterns of God’s long-suffering—patterns of God’s mercy—patterns of God’s willingness to receive penitent sinners. They are proofs of what God’s grace can do. They are a cloud of witnesses, proving that it is worth while for man to repent—that there is encouragement for man to turn to God, and that such a one as goes on still in his sins is utterly without excuse. “The goodness of God leads him to repentance.” (Rom. 2:4.)
I remember hearing of a mother whose daughter ran away from her, and lived a life of sin. For a long time no one could tell where she was. Yet that daughter came back and was reclaimed. She became a true penitent. She was taught to mourn for sin. She turned to Christ and believed in Him. Old things passed away, and all things became new. Her mother was asked one day to tell what she had done to bring her daughter back. What means had she used? What steps had she taken? Her reply was a very striking one. She said, “I prayed for her night and day.” But that was not all. She went on to say, “I never went to bed at night without leaving my front door unlocked, and the door on the latch. I thought if my daughter came back some night when I was in bed, she should never be able to say that she found the door shut. She should never be able to say that she came to her mother’s home—but could not get in.” And so it turned out. Her daughter came back one night, and tried the door, and found the door open, and at once came in, to go out and sin no more. That open door was the saving of her soul.
That open door is a beautiful illustration of the heart of God towards sinners! The door of mercy is set wide open. The door is not yet locked. The door is always upon the latch. God’s heart is full of love. God’s heart is full of compassion. Whoever a man may have been, and whatever a man may have been, at midnight, at any time, whenever he returns to God, he will find God willing to receive him, ready to pardon him, and glad to have him at home. All things are ready. Whoever will, may come in.
And, out of all the millions who have turned to God and repented, who ever repented of repentance? I answer boldly, Not one! Thousands every year repent of folly and unbelief. Thousands mourn over time misspent. Thousands regret their drunkenness, and gambling, and fornication, and oaths, and idleness; and neglected opportunities. But no one has ever risen up and declared to the world that he repents of repenting and turning toward God. The steps in the narrow way of life are all in one direction. You will never see in the narrow way the step of one who turned back because the narrow way was not good.
I remember reading of a remarkable event that occurred in a place of worship where a Puritan minister, Mr. Doolittle, was preaching, two hundred years ago. Just as he was about to begin his sermon, he saw a young man, a stranger, coming into his church. He guessed by the young man’s manner that he was anxious about his soul, and yet undecided about religion. He took a remarkable course with him. He tried a curious experiment—but God blessed it to the young man’s soul. Before Mr. Doolittle gave out his text, he turned to an old Christian whom he saw on one side of his church. He addressed him by name, and said to him, “Brother, do you repent of having served God?” The old Christian stood up manfully before the congregation, and said, “Sir, I have served the Lord from my youth, and He has never done me anything but good.” He turned to the left hand, where he saw another Christian, and addressed him in the same way. “Brother,” said he, calling him by his name, “Do you repent of having served Christ? “That man also stood up manfully before the congregation, and said, “Sir, I never was truly happy until I took up the cross, and served the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then Mr. Doolittle turned to the young man, and said, “Young man, will you repent? Young man, will you take up the cross? Young man, will you this day begin to serve Christ?” God sent power with these words. The young man stood up before the congregation, and said in a humble tone, “Yes sir, I will.” That very day was the beginning of eternal life in the young man’s soul. We may depend upon it, the two answers which Mr. Doolittle got that day are the experience of all true Christians.
We may be quite sure that no man ever repents of repentance. No man was ever sorry that he served the Lord. No man ever said at the end of his days, “I have read my Bible too much, I have thought of God too much, I have prayed too much, I have been too concerned about my soul.” Oh, no! The people of God would always say, “Had I my life over again, I would walk far more closely with God than ever I have done. I am sorry that I have not served God better—but I am not sorry that I have served Him. The way of Christ may have its cross. But it is a way of pleasantness, and a path of peace.” Surely that fact alone speaks volumes. It is a fact that clinches every argument which I have already advanced. Surely it is worth while for a man to repent. There are encouragements. The impenitent man is without excuse.
And now, I have brought before my readers the three points which I proposed at the outset of this paper to consider. I have shown you the nature of repentance toward God—the necessity of repentance—and the encouragements to repentance. It only remains to conclude this paper by a few words of practical affectionate APPLICATION to the souls of all who read it.
(1) My first word shall be a word of WARNING. I offer an affectionate warning to every impenitent soul into whose hands this volume may fall. I cannot for a moment suppose that all who read its pages are truly repentant toward God, and lively believers in Jesus Christ. I dare not think it. I cannot think it. And my first word shall be a word of warning—tender, affectionate warning, to all impenitent and unconverted people who may happen to read this paper.
What stronger warning can I give you than that which my text contains? What words can I use more solemn and more heart-searching than the words of my Lord and Master, “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish!” Yes! you who are reading, and, as you read, know you are not yet at peace with God, you who are halting, lingering, undecided, in religion—you are the man to whom the words of the text should come with power, “Except you repent, you,” even you, “shall perish!”
Oh, think what dreadful words are these! Who can measure out the full amount of what they contain? “Shall perish!” Perish in body—perish in soul—perish miserably at last in hell! I dare not attempt to paint the horrors of that thought. The worm that never dies, the fire that is not quenched, the blackness of darkness forever, the hopeless prison, the bottomless pit, the lake that burns with fire and brimstone—all, all are but feeble emblems of the reality of hell. And to this hell all impenitent people are daily traveling! Yes—from churches and chapels, from rich men’s mansions and poor men’s cottages, from the midst of knowledge, wealth, and respectability—all who will not repent are certainly traveling towards hell. “Except you repent, you shall all perish!”
Think how great is your DANGER! Where are your sins, your many sins? You know you are a sinner. You must be aware of it. It is vain to pretend you have committed no sins. And where are your sins, if you have never yet repented, never mourned for sin, never confessed sin, never fled to Christ, and never found pardon through Christ’s blood? Oh, take heed to yourself. The pit opens her mouth for you. The devil is saying of you, “He will be mine!” Take heed to yourself. Remember the words of the text, “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” They are not my words—but Christ’s words. It is not my saying—but Christ’s saying. Christ says it. Christ, the merciful—Christ, the gracious says, “Except you repent, you will certainly perish.”
Think again of your GUILT. Yes, I say, deliberately, think of your guilt. It is guilt when a man does not repent. We are responsible and accountable to God for repentance. It is vain to say we are not. What does Paul say to the Athenians, “God commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30.) What does our Lord say of Chorazin and Bethsaida? Why were they so guilty? Why was their position in hell to be so intolerable? Because they would not repent and believe. It is the express testimony of the Son of God that the impenitent man who has been called to repentance, and refused to obey the call, is more guilty than the man who has never been urged to repent.
Think of the FOLLY of remaining an impenitent man! Yes, I say the folly. The world you cleave to is melting beneath your feet already. What will bank-notes do for you in the life to come? What will your gold be worth to you a hundred years hence? When your last hour comes, what can all the gold in the globe do for you, if you die an impenitent man? You live for the world, perhaps, now. You strive hard and furiously to be successful in business. You compass sea and land to add acre to acre, or accumulate stock in the funds. You do all you can to get money, to amass riches, to make yourself comfortable, to have pleasure, to leave something for wife and children when you die. But, oh, remember! Remember, if you have not got the grace of God and true repentance, you are a poor man, a pauper in the sight of God.
I shall never forget the effect produced upon my own mind when I read some years ago of that fearful shipwreck, the loss of the ‘Central America’—a great steamer which was lost on the voyage from Havannah to New York. That steamer was bringing home from California three or four hundred gold-diggers. They had all got their gold, and were coming home, proposing to spend their latter days in ease in their own country. But man proposes—and God disposes.
About twenty-four hours after the Central America left Havannah, a mighty storm arose. Three or four heavy seas in succession struck the ship, and seriously damaged her. The engines became disabled and useless, and she was tossed by the wild sea. She sprung a leak, and in spite of every effort the ship began to fill. And after a while, when all on board had pumped and baled, and baled and pumped, until they were exhausted, it became plain that the Central America, with her three or four hundred passengers and all her crew, was likely to go down into the deep, deep sea, and carry nearly all on board with her. The crew launched the only boats they had. They placed the women passengers in these boats, with just a sufficient complement of sailors to manage them. All honor be to them for their kind feeling to the weak and defenseless at a time like that! The boats put off from the vessel; but there were left behind two or three hundred people, many of them gold-diggers, when the Central America went down. One who left the ship in one of the last boats which took the women, described what he saw in the cabin of the steamer when all hope was gone, and the great ship was about to go down. People took out their gold. One said, holding his leather bag, containing his long toiled for accumulations, “Here—take it who will! Take it who will. It is no more use to me—the ship is going down. Take it who will.” Others took out their gold, and scattered it all over. “There,” they said, “take it—take it who will! We are all going down. There is no more chance for us. The gold will do us no good!”
Oh, what a comment that is on the truly valueless nature of riches when a man draws near to God! “Riches profit not in the day of wrath—but righteousness delivers from death.” (Prov. 11:4.) Think of your folly—your folly as well as your danger, your folly as well as your guilt—if you will cleave to your sins. Think of your folly, if you will not hear the warning which I give you this day. In my Master’s name, I say to you once more, “Except you repent,” you, even you who are reading this paper, “you shall likewise perish!”
(2) My second word of application shall be an INVITATION to all who feel their sins and desire to repent, and yet know not what to do. I give it broadly and fully to all who ask me, “What shall I do, this very day, if I am to take your advice?” I answer that question without any hesitation. I say to you, in my Master’s name, Repent, Repent, Repent this very day. Repent without delay.
I feel no difficulty in saying this. I cannot agree with those who say that unconverted people should not be told to repent or pray. I find the Apostle Peter saying to Simon Magus, “Repent of this your wickedness.” I find him saying, “pray to the Lord that the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.” (Acts 8:22.) I am content to follow in the Apostle’s wake. I say the same to everyone who is anxious about his soul. I say, Repent, Repent, Repent without delay. The time will soon come when you must be decided, if you ever mean to be. Why not this very day? Why not tonight? Sermon-hearing cannot go on forever. Going to churches and chapels must have an end. Liking this minister and liking that minister, belonging to this church and belonging to that chapel, holding these views and holding those views, thinking this preacher sound and that preacher unsound, is not enough to save a soul. A man must act at last, as well as think, if he means to go to heaven. A man must break off from his sins, and flee to the Lord Jesus, if he does not intend to be damned. A man must come out from the world, and take up the cross. A man must be decided, and repent, and believe. A man must show his colors, and be on the Lord Jesus Christ’s side, if he means to be saved. And why not begin all this today? Oh, Repent, Repent, Repent without delay!
Do you ask me again what you ought to do? Go, I tell you, and cry to the Lord Jesus Christ this very day. Go and pour out your heart before Him. Go and tell Him what you are—and tell Him what you desire. Tell Him you are a sinner—He will not be ashamed of you. Tell Him you want to be saved—He will hear you. Tell Him you are a poor weak creature—He will listen to you. Tell Him you do not know what to do or how to repent—He will give you His grace. He will pour out His Spirit upon you. He will hear you. He will grant your prayer. He will save your soul. There is enough in Christ, and to spare, for all the needs of all the world, for all the needs of every heart that is unconverted, unsanctified, unbelieving, impenitent, and unrenewed.
“What is your hope?” said a man to a poor Welsh boy, who could not speak much English, and was found dying in an inn one day. “What is your hope about your soul?” What was his reply? He turned to the questioner, and said to him, in broken English, “Jesus Christ is plenty for everybody! Jesus Christ is plenty for everybody!” There was a mine of truth in those words. And well said another—a navigator who died in the Lord, “Tell them all, tell every man you meet—Christ is for every man! Jesus Christ is for every man!” Go to that Savior this day, and tell Him the needs of your soul. Go to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn which says—
“Just as I am—without one plea, But that Your blood was shed for me, And that You bid me come to Thee— O Lamb of God, I come!
“Just as I am—and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot, To You, whose blood can cleanse each spot— O Lamb of God, I come!”
Go to the Lord Jesus in that spirit, and He will receive you. He will not refuse you. He will not despise you. He will grant you pardon, peace, everlasting life, and give you the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Do you ask me whether there is anything else you ought to do? Yes! I reply. Go and resolve to break off from every known sin. Let those who will call such advice legal—I trust I may never shrink from giving it. It never can be right to sit still in wickedness. It never can be wrong to say with Isaiah, “Cease to do evil.” (Isa. 1:16.) Whatever be your sin, resolve, by God’s help, that tomorrow morning you will rise an altered man, and break off from that sin. Whether it be drinking or swearing, or passion, or lying, or cheating, or covetousness; whatever your sin and fault—determine, by God’s grace, that you will break off immediately from it. Give it up without delay, and turn from it, by God’s help, for the rest of your days. Cast it from you—it is a serpent that will bite you to death. Throw it from you—it is useless lumber; it will sink the ship down to perdition. Cast away your besetting sin—give it up—turn from it—break it off. By God’s help resolve that in that respect you will sin no more.
But I think it just possible that some reader of this volume may be ashamed of repentance. I do beseech you to cast away such shame for ever. Never be ashamed of repentance toward God. Of sin you might be ashamed. Of lying, swearing, drunkenness, gambling—of these a man ought to be ashamed. But of repentance, of prayer, of faith in Christ, of seeking God, of caring for the soul—never, never, so long as you live, never be ashamed of such things as these. I remember, long ago, a thing that came under my own knowledge, which gave me some idea what the fear of man can do. I was attending a dying man, who had been a sergeant in the Guards. He had ruined his health by drinking liquor. He had been a careless, thoughtless man about his soul. He told me upon his death-bed, that when he first began to pray he was so ashamed of his wife knowing it, that when he went upstairs to pray he would take his shoes off and creep up in his stockings, that his wife might not be aware how he was spending his time. Verily, I am afraid there are many like him! Do not you be one of them. Whatever you are ashamed of, never be ashamed of seeking God.
But, I think it just possible that some reader of this volume is afraid to repent. You think you are so bad and unworthy that Christ will not have you. I do beseech you once more, to cast away such fear forever. Never, never be afraid to repent. The Lord Jesus Christ is very gracious. He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. Fear not to draw near to Him. There is a confessional ready for you. You need none made by man. The throne of grace is the true confessional. There is a Priest ready for you. You need no ordained man, no priest, no bishop, no minister, to stand between you and God. The Lord Jesus is the true High Priest. None is so wise, and none so loving as He. None but He can give you absolution, and send you away with a light heart and in perfect peace. Oh, take the invitation I bring you. Fear nothing. Christ is not an “austere man.” He “despises none.” (Job 36:5.) Arise this day, and flee to Him. Go to Christ and repent this night without delay.
(3) My last word of application shall be an EXHORTATION to all who have known what repentance is by experience. I address it to all who have, by God’s grace, felt their sins, sorrowed for their sins, confessed their sins, given up their sins, and found peace in the blood of Jesus Christ. What shall I say to you but this—Keep up your repentance! Keep up your repentance. Let it be a habit of mind you watch over to the last day of your life. Let it be a fire you never allow to burn low or to become dull. Keep up your repentance, if you love life.
I do not want you to make a Christ of repentance, or to turn it into a bondage for your soul. I do not bid you to measure the degree of your justification by your repentance, or to suppose that your sins are not forgiven because your repentance is imperfect. Justification is one thing, and repentance is another. You must not confuse things that differ. It is only faith that justifies. It is only faith that lays hold of Christ. But for all that, keep a jealous watch over your repentance. Keep it up—keep it up, and let not the fire burn low. Whenever you find a slackness coming over your soul—whenever you feel slow, and dull, and heavy, and cold, and careless about little sins—look to your own heart then, and take heed lest you fall. Say to your soul, “Oh, my soul, what are you doing? Have you forgotten David’s fall? Have you forgotten Peter’s backsliding? Have you forgotten David’s subsequent misery? Have you forgotten Peter’s tears? Awake, O my soul, awake once more. Heap on fuel, make the fire burn bright. Return again to your God, let your repentance once more be lively. Let your repentance be repented over again.” Alas, how few are the hours in a Christian’s best days when he does not “make work for repentance!”
Keep up your repentance until the last day of your life. There will always be sins to deplore, and infirmities to confess. Take them daily to the Lord Jesus Christ, and obtain from Him daily supplies of mercy and grace. Make confession daily to the great High Priest, and receive from Him daily absolution. Feed daily on the passover Lamb. But never forget that it was to be eaten with bitter herbs. “Sir,” said a young man to Philip Henry, “how long should a man go on repenting?” What did old Philip Henry reply? “Sir, I hope to carry my repentance to the very gates of heaven. Every day I find I am a sinner, and every day I need to repent. I mean to carry my repentance, by God’s help, up to the very gates of heaven.”
May this be our divinity, your divinity, my divinity; your theology, my theology! May repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ be the two great pillars before the temple of our religion, the corner-stones in our system of Christianity! (2 Chronicles 3:17.) May the two never be disjoined! May we, while we repent, believe; and while we believe, repent! And may repentance and faith, faith and repentance—be ever uppermost, foremost, the chief and principal articles, in the creed of our souls!
J.C. Ryle (1816 – 1900) was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool. He was a strong evangelical and a critic of ritualism. He was a writer, pastor and a preacher. Among his longer works are Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 volumes, 1856–69), and Principles for Churchmen (1884). Ryle was described as having a commanding presence and vigorous in advocating his principles albeit with a warm disposition. He was also credited with having success in evangelizing the blue collar community.He was a strong believer in the return of the Jews to their own land as being prophesied in the Bible and was part of the movement that led to the Balfour Declaration.
NOTE FROM JON: When I wrote the article below in July, 2016, many friends and ministry leaders wrote to voice their solidarity with its message.
After we elected him, over the next five years we watched this man daily trash our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount and curse and alienate everyone who disagreed with him – about anything and everything. We watched – and we said nothing. Then we began to defend, and eventually we began to champion the very same qualities that we had all agreed were “evil” back in 2016.
It’s now 2022. The hundreds of prophecies and prayer rallies on his behalf have failed. This man is now out of office. Many of his former advisors and associates have come forward to warn us of this man’s dangerous character. Numerous evangelical leaders have gently and resolutely sought to bring us words of correction and repentance; oftentimes while being branded as divisive, socialist dupes, and even enemies of the gospel.
In 2 Samuel 12 the Lord sends the prophet Nathan to the wayward King David. The message that Nathan speaks pierces David’s heart and he turns to the Lord in deep repentance (See Psalm 51). Seeing his contrition the Lord announces that David and his kingdom will only be visited with 2 of the 3 original punishments.
If any fear of the Lord remains within us, we must deign to ask ourselves this question: “What does the Lord do with a people who not only refuse to repent of their infidelity, but turn the prophet Nathan away and no longer desire to hear the Lord’s evaluation of our ways?” JSB
WHERE ARE THE FRIENDS OF THE BRIDEGROOM? ELECTION 2016: An Urgent Call to Radical Fidelity to Jesus by J.S. Boegl
In the heat of another election year, is the church’s fervor to further the greatness of our nation coming at the cost of our witness to the greatness of our God?
Neither the moral reasoning, the cultural climate, nor the church’s vibrancy look anything like it did 40 years ago. In 2016, much of America argues for the right to murder a baby outside of the womb, and has no thought of keeping abortion rare and safe. Courts throughout our land endorse a non-Biblical definition of marriage. This is not a potential. It is now the law of our democracy. Our cities bleed from unhealed wounds of racial hostility. As we speak, schools and businesses in every community in America are being tasked to infest our children with boundless sexual/identity confusion. A suicidal horde of devils has been unleashed against us, and we’re forbidden to identify the plague for what it is. Our neighbors, having dined on decades of religious humanism in universities, movies and the arts, see no distinction between the god of Islam and the eternal God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ. There is pandemic disagreement about the nature of good and evil. The Bible is seen as a manufactured collection of oppressive, fairy tales. The intelligencia trumpet open hostility toward those who believe the claims of Jesus Christ. At the same time, involvement in local church communities continues to wane at a critically low ebb. Our nation hasn’t seen wide-spread revival since the Jesus-people revolution in the 70’s. Within our own Bible-believing, evangelical ranks, less than 20% of our brothers and sisters affirm that Jesus Christ is the sole source of eternal redemption for all mankind.
I get it. Our nation isn’t headed for judgment. The storm is upon us. Indeed, as one friend observed: Regardless of whether Trump or Clinton win the election, in this hour, we believers have a lot of praying to do.
What was recorded of Israel at the end of the book of Judges, is woefully true in America, today:
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6) and, The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. (1 Samuel 3:1)
It was within this morass, when the people had neither a prophet nor a king, that God birthed a prophetic voice. And although Samuel led the nation to serve the Lord with devotion (1 Samuel 7:3) the people soon broke their vow to serve the Lord alone (1 Samuel 7:4). The ark was lost. The glory of the Lord departed. And in their dim condition, Israel began to cry out neither for God, nor revelation, but for a king.
From the pathos of this drama God weeps with the crestfallen Samuel: they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Samuel 8:7)
There are several troubling similarities between Samuel’s Israel and our modern-day nation. But it’s a dissimilarity that’s perhaps the most disturbing. In our day we have many prophets who, though they may weep, appear to be using their prophetic voice to clamor for a king. Some even threaten, If evangelicals don’t embrace Trump they are turning their back on God and will be responsible for our demise under Hillary.
To my many friends heralding the conservative candidate, I respectfully ask: “Could it be that God has allowed Trump to ascend, not for the purpose of saving the nation, but for the purpose of sanctifying the Church?” I watch brothers and sisters being swirled by these ephemeral exhortations, and I ask: “Where is the unchangeable Word of the Lord? Where are those whose pure love for the King and His way see the thunderclouds overhead, refuse to bend the knee to either candidate, and instead call both candidates, the parties and the nation to bend the knee before the (Joel 2:1 & 11) coming day of the Lord?”
Fast-forward 1300 years. Once again, the people of God are spiritually barren and compromised; crippled under the thumb of sin and injustice. The Word of the Lord is again rare. Only this time the Jews have a king. And he was everything Samuel warned the people a king would be to them (1 Samuel 8:7-22). And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you. (1 Samuel 8:18) Herod Antipas was a carnal, corrupt, murderous tycoon.
Within this context, God empowered a voice; a voice that had been weened in the desert; detached from the political partisanship and religious factionalism of his day. The voice of John the Baptist rang out as a clarion plumb line by which all government, economic, genders, secular and religious persons were measured. His was a voice that wasn’t hostage to social likes and dislikes. It forthrightly broadcast God’s terms to a nation at risk.
John said, “I am the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’ (John 1:23)
Over the past several months, as the two candidates: corporeal reflections of the heart of both democrats and republicans have emerged, a three-fold cry has emerged in my own heart: “Father, where is the spirit of John the Baptist among Your people? Our nation needs resounding voices that have been forged in the fires of personal intimacy, not political expediency. Spare us from our own (1 Samuel 8:18) hour, Father! Raise up friends of the Bridegroom who will witness with integrity to Your heart!”
Our nation is in need of a three-fold prayer for bold friends of the Bridegroom in this hour:
1. Father, Raise up true forerunners who will stand with Kingdom integrity!
John disturbed a lot of nests. He asserted that every hill, valley and crooked path was at risk before the burning flame of His holiness.
His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:12)
Because The day of the Lord makes no distinction between the church and state; the politically correct, or the boorish; the self-righteous, or the carnal; the religious, or the godless, John was prophetically dangerous to the aspirations of politicians, priests and paupers.
This election cycle our nation needs a resolute voice to come forth; one that will look at a humanistic candidate and declare with authority: “You’re a deceptive and calculating spirit. You are not fit to govern your own soul, much less the soul of a nation.” – and then not lose the integrity of their message because they also refuse to shrink back from saying to the conservative candidate: “You’re an unapologetic hedonist with an unrepentant lust for power and a murderous tongue. We will not bow to your definition, nor your promise to make America great. Even now, our nation is overshadowed by the judgment of God. It does not lie within your power to do what you’ve promised. It’s you, O man, who need to find shelter in the greatness of the Lord.”
Where are the courageous, burning ones, in whom the world has no root, who will stand amidst the campaign confusion and deliver the unmixed message of the Lord?
2. Father, Raise up voices who will proclaim the eternal nature of greatness with radical clarity!
John was radically prioritized to the wonderful greatness of Jesus. He knew the destiny of everything that did not bow to the ascendancy of Christ, and he put no stock in it. It was this revelation that caused him to yield in worship: He must increase, and I must decrease. (John 3:30)
John also knew that any potential path to human greatness must come through the same decrease of humility, servanthood, and a cross. This was the brilliant way that Jesus put forth in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit; the meek; the pure in heart…” (Matthew 5-7)
If indeed this is the way to greatness (Matthew 5:19), and these are the Kingdom qualities that we long to see bless (Matthew 5:3) our land, how then can we also embrace & endorse a man (for the most influential position in our culture) whose whole life is entirely antithetical to them?
Frankly, John had seen the future. The increase of the Lord’s government of the Lord wasn’t open for compromise. He invested the entirety of his life in the Lord’s definition of greatness increasing in the land – without having to cut deals with Herods and the religious establishment who were only interested in using John for their own aspirations of greatness. (Matthew 3:7 & Matthew 14:5)
In light of John’s example I must ask: Should we make excuses for a hedonistic Trump in order to gain the potential of a more secure, and moral political atmosphere, what then do we give our secure, morally constrained, hedonistic neighbors?
As one political pundit observed: “Evangelical Christians who are enthusiastically supporting Donald Trump are signaling… that their past moral proclamations were all for show and that (temporal) power is the name of the game.” Without prioritizing these eternal, prophetic values, we put both the claims of conservatism as well as the credibility of our witness at risk.
3. Father, Raise up friends of the Bridegroom who will witness unto Jesus with fidelity!
Above everything else, John maintained his fidelity to Jesus in all aspects of his life – even at the cost of his own life.
This election, our culture needs something more costly than our vote. It’s time for friends of the Bridegroom to transcend the polarizing status-quo of conservative vs. liberal debate. As apologist Ravi Zacharias observed days ago: “If we abide in God’s truth… we must dispense with our verbal arsenal that speaks only in terms of right and left. We have forgotten there is an up and a down. May God help us!”
In order to do this, we need to be men and women who are immersed in the discerning perspective of Ephesians 5:15 “Therefore then let us walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise; redeeming the time, for the days are evil.”
The word redeeming in this admonition is the greek word: agorazo – which means: to rescue from loss. Any comprehensive reading of our culture suggests that we are losing the war for our nation’s soul. Someone needs the circumspection and the courage to say so; not for the purpose of condemnation, but for the purpose of agorazo. Our country needs to be rescued from loss. They need Jesus Christ; bold and straight-forward. Unambiguous. They need the kind of “repent – from your sins” (Acts 3:19) “Believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31) rescue proclamation that cuts to the heart and lays bare the distinction: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36)
This year, our sin-entrenched nation desperately needs the Church to do something much more than to vote. It needs the Church to witness. If we, the bearers of the only redemption this nation has, are willing to compromise the integrity of that message, we put at risk something even more precious than our republic’s freedoms. If we jettison our witness while championing a champion of unrighteousness, our nation will have no reason to not believe the Church’s ultimate faith is in a political salvo and not in a personal Savior.
Here’s the radical part. At this point, our witness to the sufficiency of His power will be all the more compelling if it comes at the cost of our own political power; the power of our vote. You read correctly. What if every time we encountered a political discussion in the next four months our conversation sounded something like this:
Who am I voting for this year? I’m actually NOT voting this year. Frankly, regardless of whoever’s elected, our whole nation is under the shaking of judgment. Every state, community and person needs to find shelter in the loving reign of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Someone tell me that 95 million evangelicals engaged in this faithful witness wouldn’t be more vivifying to the church and our nation than merely casting a vote for the lesser of two evils!?
The truth is, we have a message that has all the power to sufficiently transcend the current national dialogue. It’s the message that burns in His heart, and has limitless capacity to call both parties, right, left, center, gay, straight, atheist, catholic, evangelical and pagan to accountability before God. Who knows that God has not orchestrated this bewildering election to show forth His triumphant ability?
The great question that looms before us is whether we will stand united with the zealous heart of our Bridegroom and announce His beauty; His authority, and His mercy to our dying nation, or whether we’ll tepidly capitulate to the status-quo of another campaign and allow our cowed voice to become all the more irrelevant to our humanistic and hedonistic culture.