This week’s reflections are written by Rev. Brian Johnston, one of our Associate Pastors here at St. Matthew’s Rooted 2019 – Week Fifteen Day Two Today’s reading is Acts 3: 11-26 This becomes Peter’s second sermon to the people of Israel. … Continue reading
The Book of Jonah is one of the most powerful stories of repentance in all of scripture. In this book, the prophet Jonah is swallowed by a whale, but that’s not the real point. Well then, what is? God sends … Continue reading
Every day, life is full of choices. Every day. We make choices to do things or to not do them. Some choices aren’t that important, and some choices are very important; they may change the course of our lives from that point on.
We make choices every day of our lives. About work, play, money, faith, family, everything. There are choices that we make. Sometimes, we don’t realize how important a choice was until after we have even made it.
Jesus, preaching His first public sermon in Matthew, talks about choices. Listen to what He says in Matthew 4: 13-17:
And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The choice He is talking about is repentance. See, that’s what repentance is. It is a choice. It’s a choice to turn away from our stuff, our sin, our mistakes, and a choice to turn to Jesus.
And here’s the cool thing. Each day is a new day. Each day is a new start. As important as yesterday was, it is now done. It’s over. Don’t worry about it. Today is the day that the Lord has given you.
Yesterday’s mistakes don’t have a bearing on today’s choice. Today, we choose. Will we choose to turn away from the things that will only bring us pain; will we choose to turn to Jesus and find strength, mercy, hope, and life.
We have the choice to make today. We do. We can choose which path to walk down.
Today, Jesus says, repent. Choose to follow me in the big things; choose to follow me in the little things.
Today, may each of us choose to follow Jesus with all that we are.
Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!
There will be a break in posts for about a week or so, my family is going to Disney World this Sunday following worship at Asbury (come join us 8:20 or 10:40!). I’ll be back the next week and resume posting then!
The Old Testament prophets are constantly warning the people. Stop doing the things that you are doing to break the law.
Stop abusing the poor.
Stop worshiping idols.
Stop departing from God.
They tell the people, over and over again, if you do not stop, there will be judgement. There will be pain.
Sin hurts. Sin destroys. Sin looks like it will be a good thing, it will bring fun, it will bring life, but it doesn’t. It only brings destruction and pain and hurt and loss.
It was once written the reason God hates sin so much is because it destroys His children.
Today, we hear the other word of the prophets. Come home. Listen to what it says in Joel 2: 12-14:
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?
He will make it, and all things new. He will give hope and peace.
He will welcome us back home.
So today, no matter where we are, when we turn back to Him, He welcomes us back home.
Today, no matter where you are, God wants you to come home.
Peace, life, love and forgiveness are found in Him. And found there. Today, may we return to Him and find what we are looking for.
Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.
Jesus was more than just a preacher. He was a friend. He was a companion. He was a teacher. He was a leader. He was a lot of things to the many people that He encountered in His ministry.
So, the Bible tells us that Jesus was more than just a preacher. But, part of what He did was preach. He would come into a town, go to the synagogue, read from the scroll, and preach to the people that were there.
Today in Matthew, we see His first words. We see His first sermon. We see the thing that He wants to start off with. And I can tell you, as a preacher, the sermon you are most nervous about and that you want to “hit” the best is that first sermon. It’s when you establish what you are about, what you want to focus on, and what’s most important.
So, today, we see Jesus’ first sermon. It was short, and sweet. It was this – repent.
Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 4:17:
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
And we all know that Jesus isn’t mean. So, why did He start here? And what is He saying?
To repent is to turn from. To leave behind. To stop. Jesus first sermon was to tell folks – hey, those things you are doing that are hurting you, that are causing you pain, that you think are life giving? Stop them. They are going to hurt you in the end. They aren’t giving you life.
Jesus calls us to look at our lives and find the things and the areas that are hurting us and to stop them. Because they hurt us.
Repentance is more than just feeling bad about things. Its stopping them. And turning from them. Today, Jesus really does want us to repent of the things causing of us harm. Stop them. And turn away from them.
Why? Because the kingdom of God is at hand. When we turn from the things that harm us and turn to God, we find life. When we turn to the things of God, we find so much more life than we would ever think possible. We find life abundant, life forever, life amazing.
So, Jesus first words were these – turn away from the things that cause you harm and pain, and turn towards me. And in this you will find life.
Today, may we turn towards Jesus with all that we are. And may we find His life in every moment of our lives!
This morning, as I was praying and reading, I read a verse that I’d read a good many times in prayer in the morning, but it had never really stood out to me, until today. I ready from Psalm 38, and in verse 18 it says “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.”
And that got me to thinking. I spend time in my prayer time confessing my sin – Lord I’m sorry for this, forgive me for that. That’s healthy. That’s what God wants us to do. The Bible teaches us confess our sins, and He is faithful and just and will forgive us.
But this verse in Psalm 38 hit me, I am sorry for my sin. And I thought, huh. Am I really sorry? Do I really feel sorry for the sins I’ve committed against God and against others.
And then I read in today’s reading from Matthew 3:11-2. Liste to what it says:
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
And so these things all tumbled around in my brain this morning and it became clear to me. I (and we) are called to than just confess our sin. We are feel that since of sorrow over wrongs done.
And we are to repent (i.e. turn from) these things.
That thing in your life, that thing that causes you pain? That hurts you? That hurts your family? That thing is not God’s will for you. God’s will for you is something good. Something life giving. Something that will bring you joy and peace and life.
God wants good things for you. Really.
The reason why He wants us to feel sorrow and turn from our sins is that these things aren’t life giving. They are life draining. And God wants to give us life.
Today in our lives, may we turn from the things that take away life, and turn to the things that give us. May we feel sorrow over wrongs done, but feel joy over forgiveness offered.
God loves you. Really. He does. May we turn from the things that turn us away from Him. And turn to the things that turn us to Him.
He is good. And His mercy endures forever.
We see John the Baptist enter the scene today in scripture with a simple, but profound message. Listen to what John says in Matthew 3:1-3:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'”
It’s just a word that we hear used, or we used, or we say when we want to sound Christian. We hear preachers say it, we talk about, but sometimes we really aren’t sure what it even means.
So, today, John says repent. What does He mean by that? Repentance is a turning away from you sin.
It’s not just feeling bad about sin. That’s conviction. The Holy Spirit will convict us of sin and cause us to realize that there are things in our lives, sins we are committing that we need to stop. That’s conviction.
Repentance is turning from these sins. It’s stopping, and walking away. Fleeing. Doing a 180. Going the other way. Getting out of dodge. Whatever phrase you want to you use.
That’s what it means to repent. And that is what God wants for us today. There are sins, things we are doing, that are causing us great harm and pain, and causing great harm and pain to those that we love.
That’s not God’s will and plan for us. That’s not what He wants. And today, He us to, and He will help us to, turn from those things. He will give us strength. He will give us courage. He will help us.
Repentance leads to life. Which is God’s plan for us. Life.
Today, what are the ares you need to turn away from? What are the areas that you need to give fully to Him. Today, John talks about repenting. Today, and each day, may we turn away from the things that cause us harm.
I am teaching an Old Testament Disciple Bible Study at Asbury on Sunday nights. It’s a lot of fun to dig into the Bible, really read what it says and deal with the truths of the Old Testament for today’s world.
I always love teaching these in depth studies, because I feel like I learn more than the folks in the class. I feel like when I have to study like I do for the class, and then sit together with folks for a couple of hours, I learn so much.
I learn from their experiences. From their beliefs. From their feelings. I learn so very much from the people that I’m studying with.
And someone in our class said something that has really resonated with me in this study. We can sometimes get the impression that the Old Testament is only about Law, and the New Testament is only about grace.
But that is not the case. The Old Testament is full of God’s grace and mercy. Over and over again, God was within His rights to not forgive the people of their sins. He was within His rights to start over. He was totally within line of just blowing it all up and beginning again. He threatened to do so with Moses after the people worshipped the Golden Cafe.
But He didn’t. He have them undeserved second chances. He loved them. His love for them was greater than their sin. Listen to what is says in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land
We are told today that when they turned from their sin, He heard it. And He forgave them. He loved them that much.
As He does us today. When we turn, when we ask forgiveness, when we want to start over, He lets us.
Today, God is a God of second chances. And third, fourth, fifth, sixth and so on and so chances.
Today, if we turn to Him and ask forgiveness, He will forgive. He is, and has always been, a God of grace!