20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21, NKJV)
Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ will not exist in a person’s life until that person repents toward God. Repentance is changing the mind toward its object (in this case, toward God). It is about thinking differently, and then we live differently. Repentance is not the regret of feeling sorry toward God. Genuine repentance results from godly sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Some think to repent means “to turn,” but this is also incorrect. Only when we think differently about God and our sin against Him will we turn to God for salvation. Paul shows the difference between repentance and turning to God in Acts 26:20 when he explained he preached the gospel to people so “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Paul did not say, “turn (repent), and turn to God.” He said to repent (change your mind) and turn to God. Repentance, produced by godly sorrow, bears the fruit of turning to God (that is, “works befitting repentance,” cf. Lk. 3:7-14). The gospel requires repentance 1) Toward God, Acts 20:21; 2) Of sins, Lk. 5:32; 13:3, 5; Acts 8:22; 3) For the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; 3:19; and 4) Because God commands it, Acts 17:30. Without repentance, we will not escape the condemnation our sins bring from God (Rom. 2:3-5).
My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. (Psalm 119:25, NKJV)
The Bible addresses the problem of being overwhelmed by grief, sorrow, and depression. Psalm 119:25-32 is a passage that helps when our heart is “in the dust,” and when it “melts from heaviness” (Psa. 119:28). When grief seems unbearable, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, when anxieties immobilize us, God can revive (renew) our souls through His word. How is this possible? First, God’s word helps us trust in God’s way instead of in ourselves (Psa. 119:26). It produces faith and reveals priorities and goals upon which to focus, that help us maneuver life’s moments of doubt (Matt. 6:33-34). Second, as we mediate on it, God’s word helps us perceive His ways for our lives (Psa. 119:27). It teaches us what to concentrate our thinking upon so we can clear our minds of worldly clutter and concentrate on eternal things (Phil. 4:8). Third, rely on the strength of God’s word (Psa. 119:28). It is true, regardless of what others tell you. Its redemptive power can raise you out of sin’s despair to heavenly places (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:4-7). Fourth, instead of continuing to “cling to the dust,” deliberately choose “the way of truth” and cling to God’s testimonies (Psa. 119:30-31). Finally, stay the course (Psa. 119:32). Continue following God’s commands by faith, and your heart will be enlarged with His gracious blessings of salvation, hope, and eternal life (Psa. 119:32).
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9–10, NKJV)
Solomon gives counsel concerning how to live life (“under the sun”) to the fullest. In his conclusion he tells us by fearing God and keeping His commandments we fulfill our primary purpose of life (Eccl. 12:13-14). Within this context, the counsel he gives in today’s passage will help us live a contented life without regret. First, live joyfully (v. 9). Marriage is given by God as a joyful arrangement of man and woman. Surely, we should learn to rejoice together in it (Phil. 4:4-6; 1 Pet. 3:7). Secondly, be thankful for “your portion in life” (v. 9). Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, count the blessings you have from God’s hand (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 1:3). Thirdly, do your work diligently (v. 10). Accept the tasks of life and meet them with dedication, not complaint (Rom. 12:11). Fourthly, live with the knowledge you are going to die (v. 10). Death comes to us all. Accept that and prepare for the judgment that follows (Heb. 9:27). How one chooses to prepare for death will mean the difference between a life filled with regret, or a life headed toward the eternal reward (2 Tim. 4:7-8; Rev. 21:4).
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
What is going to happen when Jesus returns? Bible teachers tell us all sorts of different things. Some say Jesus is coming back invisibly before a great tribulation, later to return visibly to defeat evil and reign on earth 1,000 years. Others deny the future bodily resurrection completely. Many beliefs of what will happen are somewhere in-between. We believe we can learn from the Bible what will happen when Jesus returns. By letting more simple passages enlighten us on the more complex, we can understand God’s word and live by faith (2 Pet. 3:16-18). In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the Holy Spirit gives us snapshot of what Christians will experience when Jesus returns. (Other passages explain events that will include unbelievers, like Matt. 25:31-46, Rom. 2:5-11, Heb. 9:27, and many more.) Christians are not overwhelmed with hopeless sorrow when fellow-Christians die (fall asleep). Those who “sleep in Jesus” (dead Christians, v. 14) will certainly rise again, just as Jesus did.
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. (John 11:33–35, NKJV)
The tender affection of Jesus is seen as He shares in the grief of Mary, Martha, and others who attended these sorrowful sisters. Jesus loved this family with warm affection (phileo, John 11:3, 36) and with active goodwill (agapao, John 11:5). By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had died four days earlier. Jesus predicted his death would be a great occasion for God’s glory to be seen and for the Son of God to be honored (John 11:4, 14). Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead in a powerful display that He is the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26, 38-44). So, why did Jesus weep? Because He cares when we hurt. He comforts us in ways only the Son of God can (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16). By doing so, He shows us how to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Jesus also weeps over our sins and its effects (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23). Our sin grieves Jesus (Genesis 6:5-6; Mark 3:5). Jesus weeps when people refuse His word and bring upon themselves divine judgment (Luke 19:41-44). Far from taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, the Son of God seeks to save the lost (Ezekiel 18:31-32; Matthew 18:11-14). Instead of bringing tears to the eyes of the Savior, may we repent and do God’s will, bringing joy to heaven (Luke 15:7).
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. (James 5:13, NKJV)
Prayer and song. This couplet proves comforting and invigorating as we go through life’s storms and life’s calm. Suffering comes in many forms; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Prayer is a balm for the weary, an assuring strength during times of tumult and uncertainty. And so, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Even as suffering leads to earnest prayer, happy times evoke praise of the Almighty. The Lord is the source of joy that no one can take from us – the joy of victory over sin and death (John 16:20-22, 33). When life brings good fortune, Christians raise up songs of praise to God. We remember that God is the Giver of every good blessing; we did not create our happiness without His good providence. And so, James gives us sound instruction for difficult and happy times. He reminds us to look to God through all of life’s joys and sorrows. The Lord “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He will see you through.
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV)
Sorrow and repentance are two, very different things. This passage discusses two types of sorrow; godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Only one of them produces repentance. Judas expressed “the sorrow of the world” when he was remorseful over betraying Jesus (Matt. 27:3-5). Such sorrow is directed inward, and leads to spiritual death. Worldly grief over your sins is hopeless and impotent to cleanse its stain and guilt. In Judas’ case, it led him to suicide. Sorrow that is directed toward God leads to repentance. Hearts are changed toward sin and toward God when we sorrow over having wronged God. We ought to recall that every sin we commit against others, is against God (Psalm 51:4). Even though all have sinned, not everyone has godly sorrow for their sins. The challenge of repenting of our sins begins with a heart that is crushed with grief for sinning against God. That is godly sorrow. Godly sorrow is hopeful, and is directed toward God. It produces repentance, and leads to salvation. Which kind of sorrow you have, when you sin? Or, have you so hardened your heart toward God that you are sorry when you sin against His will? Become sensitive to sin, sorrowful toward God, and repent (Acts 17:30-31). When you do, salvation will arise out of sorrow.