Impenitent Hearts

Saturday, December 10, 2016, 8:40 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Ho Everyone Who is Thirsty.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 2:1-11 (ESV).

Hypocritical Judging (vv. 1-4)

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

All judging is not wrong. We are to judge sin. We are to make judgments concerning willful and/or unrepentant sin in a brother or sister in Christ. We are to work to restore that fallen brother or sister – man to man and woman to woman, if not a close family member (I believe) – back to fellowship with God and to walking in the Spirit. We, as well, are to bring back those who have wandered from the truth. And we, as a church body, are to judge those inside the church, when there is unrepentant sin, and especially if the sin, left unchecked, ends up permeating the rest of the church family like gangrene (See: Gal. 6:1-5; James 5:19-20; 1 Co. 5:1-13).

What God is against here is not all judging, but hypocritical judging. In other words, we should not judge others for doing what we ourselves practice as the course of our own lives (in lifestyle). If we are going to make judgments about others, let it be for the purpose to restore them and to bring them back to a right fellowship with God. And, let us make certain we are in right standing with God ourselves, with regard to our daily walks (our lifestyles). As well, let it be a right judgment, i.e. let it be based on the teachings of scripture, and factual (truthful), and not a matter of our own opinion, personal prejudices, and/or gossip we have heard and entertained. And, when we make such judgments, let us express them with love, kindness, compassion, and mercy, always giving the sinner the hope of a changed life.

Obey the Truth (vv. 5-11)

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

On a surface read, this may give the appearance of teaching works-based salvation. Yet, on a closer look, I believe we will see it differently.

So, who was Paul addressing here? They are those who have hard and impenitent hearts. Remember, God’s kindness – his grace – is meant to lead us to repentance (v. 4). Jesus and the NT apostles taught repentance as a prerequisite to forgiveness of sins. And, although the word “repentance” literally means to have a change of mind, it is almost exclusively used in scripture in reference to forsaking our former ways of living for sin and self, and to turning to follow our Lord Jesus in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. In fact, scripture teaches that if we claim to have fellowship with God, and yet we continue living in sin, that we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6).

Yet, is repentance essential for salvation? I would answer “Yes!” For, Jesus said that if we are to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self) we will die (in our sins), but if we lose our lives (are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life (with God). Paul reiterated the same message when he said that, via Jesus’ death on a cross for our sins, the righteous requirement of the law will be fully met in us who walk (conduct our lives) not after the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For, if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, we will die (in our sin), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14).

Believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives is not a prayer we pray after someone else, after which we are congratulated and told that we now have heaven secured, no matter what, and that it cannot be taken away from us. It is also not a one-time emotional decision we make at an altar under pressure from a preacher or from the singing of 10 verses of “Just as I am.” As well, it is not an intellectual assent to who Jesus is, and to what he did in dying on a cross for our sins so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have the hope of eternal life, and the promise of heaven when we die.

Believing in Jesus Christ means we die to sin and we live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). We forsake our former lives of living for sin and self, we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, and we “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:20-24).

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin…” “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro. 6:6-7, 22-23).

Through the Spirit, and by faith in Jesus, we are turned from darkness (sin) to light (truth, righteousness), and from the power Satan had over our lives to God, to follow him in his ways, so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and be sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Acts 26:16-18).

You see, true faith in Jesus Christ involves both repentance and obedience. That is why Paul says here in Romans 2 that those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Yet, this is not teaching works-based salvation. If Jesus died to save us out of our sin, i.e. to deliver us from slavery to sin, and we continue in sin (in lifestyle), yet claim him as our Savior, we don’t have the promise of heaven when die, but a fearful expectation of judgment and eternal punishment in hell.

No prayer you prayed is going to save you. No promise some preacher made to you of heaven, absent of true repentance, can be trusted. The “good” we must do is to believe in Jesus Christ, and that belief encompasses both repentance and obedience – not sinless perfection, but walking in the Spirit (in lifestyle) and no longer according to our sinful flesh.

So, if you have been relying on a promise of heaven when you die, but you have not repented of your sin, i.e. you have not, in the power and working of the Spirit of God within you, been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, to live to his righteousness, then know that what you are believing is a false hope.

Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us, and that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:15, 21). God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). So, if you have not done so yet, repent of your sin today, and turn to Jesus, to obey him and to walk in his ways, and in his truth, the rest of your days.

Ho! Every One That is Thirsty / Lucy Rider Meyer

Ho! every one that is thirsty in spirit,
Ho! every one that is weary and sad;
Come to the fountain, there’s fullness in Jesus,
All that you’re longing for: come and be glad!

Child of the world, are you tired of your bondage?
Weary of earth joys, so false, so untrue?
Thirsting for God and His fullness of blessing?
List to the promise, a message for you!

Child of the kingdom, be filled with the Spirit!
Nothing but “fullness” thy longing can meet;
’Tis the enduement for life and for service;
Thine is the promise, so certain, so sweet.

“I will pour water on him that is thirsty,
I will pour floods upon the dry ground;
Open your hearts for the gifts I am bringing;
While ye are seeking Me, I will be found.”

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