Volume 1, Number 10 – October, 2021
Weighed Down by the Past
Becoming a faithful Christian provides people with an invaluable gift – forgiveness of sins. The blood of Jesus Christ is enough to wipe away even our “worst” sins. If we trust in Christ, there is now no condemnation from God – he has forgiven us (Romans 8:1). The Bible is full of people who have done all sorts of horrible things (adulterers, prostitutes, murderers, extortionists), but all are accepted by Jesus through obedience (consider John 4:1-26; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Luke 23:32-43). For example, the apostle Paul, although he became a faithful follower of God whom we should pattern our lives after, was also responsible for violent persecution of Christians before he encountered Jesus (Acts 8:1-3) – yet He still forgave him. It does not matter what we have done, how long ago we committed sin, or the impact of our sins on ourselves and others, we can be forgiven.
Even though God is willing to forgive us when we fall, forgiveness can still be a very difficult concept to grasp sometimes, especially when we feel weighed down by guilt over our past sins. But we must keep in mind if God has forgiven us of our past sins, then we have every reason to forgive ourselves too. If anyone had a right to let his past mistakes weigh him down, it was Paul. However, consider his attitude in Philippians 3:13, where he says, “Brethren I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” Instead of letting his past sins weigh him down and prevent himself from serving God, Paul chose to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). The question must be raised then – does God want us to feel guilty/sorrowful about our past sins forever?
Consider Paul’s discourse on sorrow in 2 Corinthians 7:10. He states, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Thus, feeling sorry about sin is beneficial if it leads to repentance. This attitude is reflected by David in Psalm 51. After asking God for mercy and forgiveness of his sins, David says, “I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” We too should keep our sins before us lest we fall to temptations again. However, feeling sorry about our sins is not beneficial if our guilt does not prevent us from sinning again. This type of sorrow allows our past mistakes to weigh us down, often occurring because we do not really believe God has forgiven us.
John wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).” God’s love for us is so deep that he did not spare his own son, but sent Him to die so we could be forgiven. Do you think, if we want to turn back to God, he would reject us? The answer is a resounding NO! Instead, all of heaven rejoices when even one person turns back to God (Luke 15:1-10). If God forgives us, we should not refuse to forgive ourselves.
Truth’s Narrow Door
Jesus said, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door” (Lk. 13:24, RSV). Truth is always narrow. This is true of all truth. Two plus two equals four. Of all the answers that might be given as the sum of two plus two, only one is right. A person who accepts the correct answer is necessarily “narrow-minded” — just as narrow in mind as the truth. Religious truth is also narrow. Whatever Christ teaches is truth and however “broad-minded” one might be, it will not change that fact. One’s mind should be only broad enough to accept whatever is true, and it should be narrow enough to exclude whatever is not truth. When two things contradict, one or both are false. Truth does not contradict itself. The man who tries to accept all teaching in religion as “alright” if sincerely believed, would be a fool if he so acted in any other realm. Why does religion make it different?
Belief and Baptism
Mark 16:16 says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Jesus spoke these words just prior to his ascension. Here, salvation is promised but it is conditional. Actually, there are two conditions stated as being necessary for salvation. They are belief and baptism. The word “and” is a coordinating conjunction which joins elements of equal rank. It would be incorrect to strike out belief and say we are saved by baptism only. It would also be wrong to strike out baptism and say we are saved by faith only. So belief AND baptism are stated as being necessary for salvation. Just as one must believe in order to be saved, one must also be baptized in order to be saved.
There are various illustrations which can be considered. Suppose someone should say, “He that believeth AND is baptized shall receive a new car.” I’m sure most people would have little trouble understanding that to get a new car one would have to comply with both of the conditions. They could not just believe or just be baptized and expect to receive the new car. Why? The statement was, “He that believeth AND is baptized shall receive a new car. In arithmetic, we know that 2 and 2 equals 4. Again, you must have both of the 2’s to get the 4. In like manner, verse 16 says that both belief and baptism equals salvation. It seems help would be needed to misunderstand verse 16. Baptism is clearly stated as being essential for salvation.
Someone may say, “Well, I agree with that passage, but I still feel that one can be saved without baptism. This attitude is alarming. Everyone must put aside their opinions and simply accept God’s Word. (Please note also Acts 2:38, 10:48, 22:16; Matthew 28:18-20; Galatians 3:27; I Peter 3:21; Romans 6:3-4.)
Is It Narrow-Minded?
I don’t know about you, but I get a little weary of hearing the word “narrow” used as a slur against preachers who adhere to the Bible in their preaching. Sure they are “narrow,” but so are factory workers, surgeons, druggists, and teachers. The factory worker is so “narrow” that he uses micrometers and measures to the thousandth of an inch the bores and pistons of engines, electronic components and balancing wheels in timepieces. The surgeon is so “narrow” that he insists on ultra-technical laboratory analysis and meticulously sterilized instruments of special design. Why is he so “picky narrow” that he makes his assistants wear cloths over their faces? The druggist is so “narrow” that he just has to have a prescription before he will let you have certain drugs. He says he has to be “narrow” because government regulations are narrow, and even thinks it is for your good!
As you think about it, it’s a blessing that somebody is “narrow-minded.” And however much we need to be narrow about vital material matters, we must be infinitely more careful and exact about spiritual laws. God will not be mocked!
Separated from/by God
In Isaiah 59:1-2, the prophet says, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hid- den His face from you, So that He will not hear.” Thus, it can be said that sin separates us from God. Though we separate ourselves from God when we sin, we know that we can be reconciled, or restored, to Him as result of Christ’s death – “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the un- godly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:6-11). Though Christ works as our reconciliator, He will also will be our judge (Matt. 25:31-46).
Christ will separate the ungodly from the righteous on the Judgment Day (Matt. 25:32). It is our choice, based on how we serve God on earth, whether we will be united with Him or eternally separated from him on the day of judgment.