Thrust Statement: Comprehension of the divine mystery of redemption creates within every individual a desire to serve God.
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
STANDING IN AWE OF GOD’S GRACE
As one contemplates transformation in one’s lifestyle, one’s understanding of the divine mystery generates within each individual the desire to serve God with all one’s heart, with every part of one’s soul, and with one’s entire mind. When one explores the hope to which he/she has been called, when one investigates the riches of the glorious inheritance in the saints, and when one examines God’s great power to the ones who believe in Jesus, one can only stand in awe of such love, such grace, and such mercy. One cannot plumb the depth of God’s leniency without a consciousness of the need for transformation of one’s inner and outer behavior. It is in this vein that Paul writes to Titus:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you (Titus 2:11-15).
How does one say “no” to “ungodliness” and “worldly passions”? The answer lies in one’s standing in awe of God’s grace. Paul was conscious of the need to comprehend something of the mystery of Christ in order to bring about a change in behavior. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, he wanted them to know God and Christ better in order that they might apprehend the greatness of this salvation offered to them through God’s grace, which in turn would influence their outward behavior. He writes:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit a of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:17-23).
Conversion in One’s Life
For Paul, true conversion in one’s daily walk with God comes to an individual when he/she awakens to the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ. In other words, the more one understands the scheme of redemption, the greater one’s service. Is there a transformation in your life since learning of God’s good news of salvation by faith? Or do you want religion at a distance? When one wants religion-at-a-distance, one observes no real change in one’s lifestyle. Christianity is a personal relationship with God, not simply a code of ethics. Yet, at the same time, this new relationship with God through Jesus Christ demands a conscious decision on the part of every believer to serve Him with the whole of one’s being—heart, soul, mind, and strength.
When one discovers that there is a Way and when one discovers that life has meaning, one can take a great step forward. Christians have entered upon a new path—a path of holiness. As quickly as one is called into the Christian Way, it is clear that there is a call for one to go on unto perfection. In other words, every saint of God is called upon to go on unto maturity. Maturity leads to holiness in the life of every individual. Holiness represents growth and development. There can be no growth in one’s walk with God until there is commitment. Many believers have never made a grown-up devotion to the cause of Christ. Have you ever made this pledge of faithfulness to Jesus?
This initial act of grace from God must be worked out in one’s every day life. One’s life must continuously respond to the loving grace of God. Conversion to God means giving oneself to God for His purpose. One must do all in his/her power to respond to Him. If one wishes to live with God, one must fix his/her eyes upon the Eternal Pattern, and this Pattern is a person, namely, Jesus. When one makes a commitment of loyalty to Jesus as Lord, one observes a radical change of direction in one’s lifestyle. This allegiance to Jesus involves repentance, which is the other side of the coin. Many, so it seems, want Jesus without repentance; yet, repentance demands conformity to a new way of life. The new life in Christ demands certain qualities that everyone must put on and, at the same time, there are certain qualities of unholy behavior that everyone must put off. It is this point of change in location from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son that Paul reminds the Corinthians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians are now servants of righteousness, not servants of sin (Romans 6:17-22).
Are you a member of the church of Jesus Christ? If so, what does church membership mean to you? Church membership is, to some extent, the outer symbol of one’s commitment to Jesus Christ. The church today is loaded with nominal Christians. Where do you stand? Is your faith shallow? Do you have a spiritual history? Are you growing in God’s grace? Or are you spiritually asleep? What does conversion mean to you? Hopefully, one’s perception of conversion consists of maturity in Christ. As one contemplates conversion, one should never forget that conversion matures through growth in the knowledge of the Son of God. But what does maturity in Christ mean to you? Maturity, to some extent, involves the ability to distinguish between good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).
Conversion is an imperative for every believer. Conversion to Christ is not just a pursuit of membership on a church roll, but rather it is a way of life that serves and honors God in every area of one’s life. Conversion is to lead one into a new life in Christ. Every believer must cast off things that are evil. Do you play down the works of the flesh? Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, sets forth certain things that the mature Christian will set aside. Listen to him as he enumerates sins that must be cast out-of-the-way:
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
In this citation from Galatians, this author (Dallas Burdette) underscores two sins that everyone readily recognizes. The other sins generally do not receive a lot of attention. Yet, Paul lists fifteen works of the flesh that one must eliminate in one’s life as a Christian. It is true that, to the average Christian, two of the most outstanding in this list of sins is “sexual immorality” and “drunkenness.” Why? These two sins are sins that are quite visible in the lives of men and women. These two sins appear to be sins that stand out foremost in the minds of many Christians. Nevertheless, one must never forget that Paul does mention thirteen other sins, not just sexual immorality and drunkenness. But, in addition to these fifteen sins, Paul concludes his list with the words: “and the like.” One cannot read this catalog of sins without a consciousness that all of life must come under the sovereignty of Christ. Are you guilty of the works of the flesh? If so, then ask God to forgive you and put off your carnal nature and be clothed with righteous deeds that glorify God. Every Christian should live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Ephesians 4:1). What should one put on? In the Epistle to the Colossians, Paul writes:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).
The following chart of ethical behavior—good and bad—is given in order to set forth in a very graphic format what it is that every Christian should cast off and put on in his or her walk with God:
1. Sexual immorality
9. Fits of Rage
10. Selfish ambition
6. Bear with each other
8. Put on love
Which of the two above catalogs of behavior describes you? As one reflects upon the description of maturity in Colossians 3:12-15, one quickly observes that Paul continues this listing of good virtues by saying: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (3:17). Robert A. Raines pungently captures the essence of Paul’s words in Colossians 3:17 when he writes:
Whatever you do! Do everything! All of life must come under the sovereignty and converting power of Christ. No doors can remain closed to Him; every thought and action must become captive to Him until He permeates the totality of our existence, extending our conversion into our business life, our neighborhood life, our financial life, our sex life, our political and national life, our international life. For God is content with nothing less than the conversion of the world, starting always with you and me, and spreading until the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (Emphasis mine—RDB).
Where is God in your life? Does God permeate the totality of your life? What about your business life? What about your financial life? What about your sex life? Just where do you stand in your relationship to God? Where do you stand in your relationship with other Christians? Again, the words of Paul to the Corinthians should be the motto of every Christian: “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). If one is engaged in an illicit sexual relationship, if one is engaged in drinking strong drink to the point of intoxication, if one is engaged in fits of anger, if one is engaged in selfish ambition, if one is engaged in hatred, if one is engaged in unclean language, one is not bringing into captivity every thought unto the obedience of Christ. One must ask himself or herself, “What is God’s will for me now?” Since God dwells in every Christian, then every believer must identify with Christ. Jesus sets forth this concept of right ethical behavior toward God and toward man in his Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Sins of a sexual nature do not appear to be very great in the eyes of the world. One is bombarded with illicit sex in movies, television, and magazines. In spite of the acceptance of sex outside of marriage, one must come to grips with the Word of God. What does God say about sexual sins? Sexual sins are sins that everyone must be conscious of. Sexual sins were prevalent in the first century just as they are now. In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he calls attention to the commandments God gave to Moses on the Mount:
The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” a and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” b 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:9-10).
One observes that Paul mentions, “Do not commit adultery” and “whatever other commandment there may be.” In Paul’s first written correspondence to the Corinthians, he also warned them about sexual impurity: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13). Immediately, Paul sets forth his appeal for the believers to flee sexual immorality since they are now members of the body of Christ. If Christians are engaged in sexual acts outside of marriage, then one needs to listen to Paul’s argument against such:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” a 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (6:15-20).
Since Christians have been bought with a price, then ungodly behavior, whether sexual or not, ought not to be a way of life. It is in this same vein that Paul warns the Corinthians against ungodly conduct and, at the same time, reminds Christians about their new status, which position demands a new way of life:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (6:9-11).
How can Christians avoid sexual immorality? If one cannot contain his or her sexual desires, then Paul says, “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (7:9). Paul begins this chapter with comments about “so much immorality” in the world (7:2) and the solution. Paul writes:
Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. a 2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that (7:1-7).
Because of the impending destruction upon Jerusalem (70 CE), Paul advises individuals not to marry, but, on the other hand, if one cannot curb his or her sexual appetite, which God created, then the answer to this burning sexual desire is marriage. Paul again addresses this issue about the unmarried: “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (7:8-9).
Earlier in this same Epistle, Paul takes up a case of sexual relations between a son and his father’s wife. In the Corinthian congregation, Paul reveals a case of sexual immorality that was so bad that not even the pagans were guilty of such conduct: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife” (5:1). This kind of sexual sin is so serious in its nature that Paul warns about even table fellowship with such a believer:
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat (5:9-11).
Again, Paul lists six sins that individuals know to be wrong. Once more, one sees sexual immorality and drunkenness along with four other sins. This particular brother in Corinth that Paul discusses later repented and wanted back into the fold of fellowship. The congregation did not react to the brother’s change of attitude in a positive manner. For Paul, repentance meant acceptance, which the brother later did. Thus, he wrote to the Corinthians his sentiments about his reaction to the brother seeking forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Repentance on the part of the remorseful individual demands acceptance once more into table fellowship. One cannot undo any sin that one has committed, but one can ask God’s forgiveness and it is done, period. John writes about sins and forgiveness in his first epistle:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for b the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).
When one sins after conversion to Christ, what can one do about sin(s) committed after justification by faith? Pay attention once more to John as he zeros in on the remedy for transgression of God’s Law: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). How do you presently know whether or not you are a child of God? Keep your mind on John as he writes about good versus bad behavior: “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (3:10). He presents the test by which one can determine whether one is or is not a child of God. If one does what is right and loves his brother, this person is a child of God. If one does not do what is right and if one does not love his brother, then this one is not a child of God. Justification by faith does not release one from conformity to the will of God in one’s life.
When a Christian sins, God offers a way out of our predicament—forgiveness in and through Jesus Christ. One cannot actively engage in sinful behavior as a way of life and please God. For example, in the Book of Ezekiel, God warns the children of Israel:
Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18:30-32).
As stated above, one cannot undo his/her transgressions against God, but God offers forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Again, God speaks to Ezekiel about wrong doings and forgiveness:
But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. 22 None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (18:21-23).
God is concerned about right and wrong behavior. The standard for determination of the kind of behavior that pleases God is found in His Word. But the question that confronts many Christians is: What about Christians who forsake God by refusing to continue to do good works—the deeds of the Lord? Can Christians live a life of rebellion against God with impunity? No! Christians can no more live a life of rebellion against God than Israel did without retribution from God (see Isaiah 5:11-12). Perhaps, the words of God to Ezekiel is to the point:
But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die (18:24).
Paul presses home his point about sin versus righteousness in the lives of God’s people. Since Christians have died to sin, then sin should no longer reign in their bodies. He writes with great clarity as he seeks to drive home this line of reasoning:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:11-14).
Does sin “reign” in your life? Do Christians sin? Yes! But sin does not “reign” in their “mortal bodies” as a way of life. As one contemplates his/her conversion to Christ, one must realize that his or her is not just an initial act in response to God’s grace but, in addition, the Christian life is a growing experience toward sanctification. The word of Paul to Timothy sets forth the goal of every Christian: “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). Every Christian, from time to time, meets obstacles in his/her way. Everyone begins as a baby in Christ. To begin with, one feeds on the milk of the Word, but the time comes when one needs to go on and feed on meat. Paul says essentially the same thing when he writes to the Corinthians:
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Christians must nurture one another in the faith. When one becomes a Christian, he or she is still human. When one is saved, he or she still has his or her sinful nature. This message (sermon) is designed to reach out to awaken individuals who profess faith in Christ to learn to distinguish between good and evil. The author of Hebrews, too, deals with immaturity on the part of many Christians. This writer of Hebrews encourages the believers to concentrate on works of righteousness in their daily life:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).
Have you trained yourself “to distinguish good from evil”? God spoke this same message to Israel through Amos: “seek good, not evil, that you may live” (Amos 5:14). The person responsible for the Book of Hebrews concludes his Book by calling attention to ethical behavior on the part of every believer. He calls alertness to marriage and to sex within the marital relationship and to sex outside the marriage bond: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). Are you refusing God by your lifestyle? Do you think that God is not concerned about how you live your life? God created the sexual desires in men and women. What is God’s answer to the fulfillment of passion that He has placed in men and women? The answer is marriage. Can one miss the grace of God? Listen once more to the author of Hebrews as the Holy Spirit guides him:
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son (Hebrews 12:14-16).
Have you sold your birthright for sex? Have you sold your birthright for alcoholic beverages (drunkenness)? Have you sold your birthright for money? Have you sold your birthright for hatred—refusal to forgive others? What does it mean to be holy? What does it mean to say, “without holiness no one will see the Lord”? As one reads about the seven churches of Asia, one can hardly fail to notice the church at Thyatira. This congregation allowed a prophetess (symbolical name of Jezebel) to teach that it was okay to engage in sexual immorality. John records the following words of Jesus:
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you) [Revelation 2:18-24].
Did God zap these individuals immediately that were caught up in sexual immorality? The answer is no! God says, “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.” God, too, is willing to give everyone time to repent. Are you willing to repent? Or are you unwilling to repent of your sexual immorality? It is difficult, at least for me, to address some of these issues, but if one does not warn the righteous of their wicked ways, then God will hold the instructor—which includes me—of His Word responsible for refusing to correct ethical behavior that does not glorify God. God issues the following warning to Ezekiel:
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for a his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
This admonition seems very similar to the word of Paul in his final farewell letter to Timothy. Paul writes, so it seems, with a great deal of passion when he reminds Timothy of his responsibilities in his ministry:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
When one is caught up in a particular sin—not just sexual sins—one should exercise “great patience and careful instruction.” One finds similar instructions in Paul’s letter to the Galatians following a catalogue of fifteen sins of the flesh:
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load (Galatians 6:1-5).
The sins listed in Galatians 5 are not just about sexual sins. Paul gives a list of many sins that Christians must not absorb into their way of life; for example, he catalogues three sins of sexual irregularity (sexual vice, impurity, sensuality), two sins of religion (idolatry and magic), and a series of social evils (quarrels, dissension, jealousy, temper, rivalry, factions, party-spirit, envy, murder, and so on), which sins must be cast off for one who seeks to enter the kingdom of God. In these three categories, one observes that the natural man/woman is in confusion. All of these sins are indicative of the individual who takes the law into his/her own hands. These sins spring from the heart of one who disobeys the commands of God and flow forth from one who disregards his/her conversion to Christ.
One’s transformation of life begins with a sense of awe as to the richness of God’s grace through the gift of His Son for the sins of sinful humanity. Are you guilty of the above-mentioned sins? What about adultery? Are you guilty of adultery? Today, it is not uncommon for men and women to live together without marriage. Are you on the wrong side of the law by living with someone as husband and wife without marriage? If so, then you need to stop the relationship or else get married. Again, as you examine the sins catalogued in Galatians 5, are you guilty of the works of the flesh? If so, there is still hope. There is the gift of Confession that God grants. There is the Gospel of Christ. But in the acceptance of God’s Gospel, one must repent of his/her ungodly behavior. If one is guilty of any of the works of the flesh as listed by Paul in Galatians, one can rectify his or her guilt by repentance. Repentance, as stated above, means a change in one’s direction; it means to take a new direction. As one examines his or her life, one must reflect upon the question, what does a decision for Christ mean to me? Well, for one thing, it should mean an abrupt or radical change in one’s lifestyle.
Repentance: God’s Way of Return for His Children
The story of change/repentance is recounted in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The story is about a young son who demanded his inheritance from his father. After receiving his money, he left home and squandered his money in “wild living” (15:13). Finally, after having reached the pit of degradation, he “came to his senses” (15:17). He then decided that he would go back to his father and say, “I have sinned against heaven and against you” (15:18). He also said to himself as he reflected upon his reaction to his rejection of father: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father” (15:19-20). How did the father react to his son’s return? Listen once more to Jesus as he expresses the joy of this young man’s father’s reaction:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. a’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate (15:20-24).
Whatever your condition in life is at the present time, whatever sin you are involved in, one must never forget what Jesus is saying in this parable—repentance wipes the slate clean. Yes, Jesus is saying that if you repent, the Father extends forgiveness. Jesus places priority upon repentance. One observes that Jesus places repentance at the beginning of one’s response to the Gospel. Mark records the following words about Jesus ministry in which repentance and faith are prerequisite to forgiveness: “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:14-15). Are you guilty of sexual sins, then repent and believe the good news of God’s way of salvation. Are you guilty of alcoholic sins, then repent and believe the good news of God’s way of salvation. Yes, drunkenness is wrong! It is a sin against God. Listen to God as He addresses the children of Israel concerning this kind of behavior:
Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. 12 They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, no respect for the work of his hands (Isaiah 5:11-12).
Do you wish a transformation in your life? If so, then you need to pray to God that through His Holy Spirit your eyes will be open to comprehend something of the richness of God’s grace made available through Jesus Christ. If, after conversion, you find yourself involved in one or more of the works of the flesh, then remember the words repent and Confess. In repentance one witnesses a change in attitude and direction of one’s life. In repentance one takes a new direction. If one is an alcoholic, one repents by rejecting the practice that enslaves him. Whatever sin one finds himself/herself caught up in, one rejects the sin(s) that has so easily entangles him/her. If one is living in dishonesty or infidelity, then a decision for Christ means an abrupt turnabout. If one allows unwholesome words to come forth from his/her lips, then a commitment to Christ demands a change in one’s language. One must let go of the old; one cannot continue to hold on to the fruits of sinful behavior. Are you willing to confess your sins? Are you willing to make the commitment to Jesus as Lord of your life? There can be no growth on the part of any Christian until there is a conscious decision for Christ. Is God concerned about how one lives after one becomes a Christian? Listen to Paul as he exhorts believers in Ephesus to abandon a lifestyle that does not honor God:
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin” a: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:17-32).
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. b 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1-20).
All Scripture citations are from the New International Version, unless stated otherwise.
 Robert A. Raines, New Life in the Church (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 53. I am indebted to Raines for his penetrating work on spiritual renewal in the life of every believer. If one wishes to read a book that will help one in his or her daily walk with God, then I recommend this book as a book that will make a way into one’s soul.