Archive for February, 2016

Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not ‘I love you’ for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’ It’s love for no reason, love without an object.” – Ram Dass

For those old enough to remember the summer of 1967, you may recall the monumental telecast called Our World. It was the first ever live global television link. Over 400 million people in 25 countries watched the program which was broadcast live via satellite on the 25th of June. The British pop superstars known collectively as The Beatles were asked to write a song for this historical event. The result was titled, “All you need is Love”. The song had a very simple (if not repetitive) message; love is all you need. To put it another way; there is nothing you cannot do if you do it in love.

During that same summer of 1967, the hippie counterculture movement reached an apex in the United States as an estimated 100,000 people converged upon a neighborhood in San Francisco known as Haight-Ashbury. This human fondue of rock music, psychedelic drugs, unbridled creativity and uninhibited sexual and social behaviors put on an unforgettable spectacle. It had a profound effect on western societies worldwide as people began to question just about everything once defined as normal. Today, historians often refer to this societal phenomenon as the Summer of Love, and it is still considered a defining moment of the 1960s.

I think it’s safe to say that love has always been a pervasive topic among the human species. It is celebrated in the arts and entertainment, used as a social hammer and anvil and dragged through the mud of human insincerity ad nauseam. And yet, in all my life, I have never met anyone who really understood (let alone practiced) true unconditional love.

Can we talk?

Confession time: I’m really good at covetousness, lust and greed – love’s counterfeits. Occasionally, I have stumbled into a genuine expression of unadulterated love, and of course I expected a congressional medal of honor for such selfless acts. One thing I have learned about unconditional love; you will know it when you see it – it’s that rare.

You doubt me. Okay, let me ask you a question, how do you react when someone lets you down or fails to live up to your expectations? Thought so. Wish I had a dime for every time I have heard someone say, “If he/she really loved me…” This phrase is usually followed by a “condition”. Why not just say, “When you do and say what makes me happy, that will prove that you love me and then I will love you back.” Here’s the problem, I can’t seem to find that definition of love anywhere in the scriptures. What I do find is just the opposite. The Bible teaches us to take no account for how we are treated but instead to treat others the way you would like them to treat us. (Luke 6:31)  In fact, Jesus put it this way,

43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:43-48 – The Message)

Listen, there is no excuse for those who are abusive, callous, cruel, or unfaithful in relationships. Sometimes we must be confrontational for the sake of correction. But we should avoid abusive, callous or cruel language to “correct” an abusive, callous, or cruel person. That’s hypocrisy.

I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love.” – Mosab Hassan Yousef

Here is how the Newer Testament writer Paul defines real love,

 4 “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Incredible (and embarrassing). Let’s bullet point that list of love’s characteristics. Love is:

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Never jealous or envious
  • Never boastful or proud
  • Never arrogant or selfish
  • Not demanding
  • Not irritable or touchy
  • It does not hold a grudge
  • Doesn’t keep records of peoples mistakes
  • Hates injustice
  • Rejoices in the truth

Does that sound like you? Me neither. But wait, there is more. Paul said, if you love someone, you will be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best of them, and always stand your ground in defending them.

Sure, it sounds a bit idealistic. Who could possibly love like that? We can. But not without great effort. This ideal love may seem beyond your grasp, but no one will fault you for trying to attain it. Remember, everything in this life has an expiration date – except love. Love is eternal, and love never fails!

Unconditional love is dangerous. It leaves you vulnerable. That’s why some people avoid it altogether. They like to play it safe. C.S. Lewis wrote,

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be made vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis

The Liberator Jesus once said,

9-15 “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. If you keep my commandments you will live in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and live in his love. I have told you this so that you can share my joy, and that your happiness may be complete. This is my commandment: that you love each other as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this—that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master’s confidence. No, I call you friends, now, because I have told you everything that I have heard from the Father.” (John 15:13-15 – Phillips)

I almost can’t believe that the Creator of all things, The Almighty, has called me His friend. I’m flabbergasted really (knowing that I am so unworthy of this privilege). All He asks of our friendship is obedience to His truth and that I learn how to love like He does. That is a pretty tall order. I’m sure to stumble and fall on occasion. It’s okay, He will pick me up, set me straight, and I will try again. That is what unconditional love does.

Today, the Divine Spirit of the Almighty invites us to love with wild abandon. Are you up for the challenge? Then let’s get started right away. All you need is love… Love is all you need…

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” – Tecumseh

I was listening to some old Jackson Brown songs the other day. Not sure why. Just felt like it I suppose. A trip down memory lane chasing days long ago forgotten. This one song titled “For a Dancer” caught my attention. More about that later.

I recently read an interview with this singer, songwriter, and liberal social activist. Jackson (his first name is actually Clyde) was asked about his religious beliefs and part of his response included these remarks:

“I’m not a member of an organized religion or faith. My grandmother was Lutheran. My mother belonged to the Unitarian Church… (Unitarianism) it’s a way of applying progressive ideas, social ideas, ideas about society, to the form of worship. But the truth is, I am religious. I think I practice a kind of religion, though I don’t have to say that I do at all.”

I tried to wrap my brain around Mr. Brown’s logic. His Grandmother was a denominational Christian, his mother a quasi-Christian (Unitarian) and Jackson, well, he seems unsure about how to define his spiritual position, He claims to be “religious” and “thinks” he practices “a kind of religion.” But really, what does that mean?

During the interview, Jackson Brown spoke of his Baptist friend (a youth choir director) named Fred. He recalled how he had once told him,

“Fred, I believe in the teachings of Christ …but these same beliefs are held by others.” (He then mentioned Hindus and Islamists). “One of the things that Christianity believes that I can’t really adhere to is the idea that unless you are a Christian (a follower of Jesus), you won’t go to heaven. That’s leaving an awful lot of people out.”

Apparently, Jackson Brown follows a creed that is a conglomeration of everything that he is comfortable believing. Hundreds of millions of people around the world sit in that pew. Their “religion” is whatever they deem as spiritually acceptable to them. In simple terms, they create a god-concept in their own tolerable image. This god will only be what they think he should be and never what they find objectionable. Does that sound like a holy, all powerful, and self-determining God to you? Not really.

Try calling this group to spiritual accountability and they often bristle with anger as they attempt to defend their position with some nebulous response like, “I don’t believe in a god who would do, or say, or require something like that.” Really? On what do you base this perception of God? Frequently, their doctrines are pulled from thin air. Eventually many of them end up atheists or “happy agnostics” at the very least. Listen to me, any god that answers to YOU and must pass YOUR test of acceptability is no god at all. An omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God could care less what you think about how he runs the universe. He is in control and you are NOT. Period. Even if you chose to deny His existence, nothing changes. People who deny gravity still fall out of trees.

You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ― Anne Lamott

In all honestly, I actually like some of Jackson Browns music. We may have very little in common socially or politically, but he is an exceptionally gifted, and thoughtful singer songwriter and a caring human being. That brings me back to his 1973 composition “For a Dancer”. Here is some of what Mr. Brown had to say about this song in the interview,

“I wrote the song… for a friend of mine who died in a fire. He was in the sauna in a house that burned down, so he had no idea anything was going on. It was very sad. He was a really interesting guy… He had this great-spirit, and when he died, it was a tragedy to everyone that knew him… He was a Renaissance man.”

Clearly, Jackson Brown thought very highly of his friend, and to lose him in such a tragic way touched Brown’s heart. His friend suffered an untimely demise, and Jackson Brown suffered a painful loss. Grief often causes us to pause and ask questions, like, “what is death all about anyway?” Here is a brief excerpt from that tribute song, For a Dancer,

“I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening.”

Interesting. Jackson Brown can’t grasp what happens when we die. He can hear deaths song clearly; He is drawn to listen to it, but he cannot comprehend the meaning nor sing along. If I am correct in my interpretation, Brown doesn’t understand the profound implications of every human death. This is what happens when your house is built on shifting sand and you have no anchor for your soul. As a Christian, my source of wisdom, knowledge and understanding is found in the amazing words of Scripture. Passages like this:

18“So in this matter, God, wishing to show beyond doubt that his plan was unchangeable, confirmed it with an oath. So that by two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world might have a source of strength, and might grasp the hope that he holds out to us. 19This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of God himself in Heaven, 20awhere Jesus has already entered on our behalf…” (Hebrews 6:18-20a – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

We who are refugees from this dying world can find strength in times of adversity by looking to the one who created human kind, and holding on to the hope we find in every promise he has made to us. Wow.

Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.” ― C.S. Lewis

Today is a good day for me. It’s February in Florida. I’m sitting outside writing, and enjoying the sunshine of a 70 degree afternoon . But I am also thinking about my youngest sister. Two years ago this month she died a miserable death riddled with and ravaged by cancer. She suffered greatly near the end. She was only 46. It broke my heart. I cried. But I never questioned why. Because I knew the answer. Thankfully, I can grasp what happens when people die.

That knowledge did not come to me from a “god-concept” based upon what I pick and choose to accept as true and thus use to create for myself a comfortable “religion”. I am an ordinary Bible believing Christian. I have faith in what the Judaeo-Christian scriptures teach about death and that gives me both peace and comfort in a world short on both. Here are just two theological statements on this difficult subject taken from the Bible’s Newer Testament:

27“It is appointed for all men to one day die and after that they will pass to their judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27)

1-4 “We know, for instance, that if our earthly dwelling (our body) were taken down, like a tent, we have a permanent house in Heaven, made, not by man, but by God. In this present frame we sigh with deep longing for the heavenly house, for we do not want to face utter nakedness when death destroys our present dwelling—these bodies of ours. So long as we are clothed in this temporary dwelling (our body) we have a painful longing, not because we want just to get rid of these “clothes” but because we want to know the full cover of the permanent house that will be ours. We want our transitory life (on earth) to be absorbed into the life that is eternal (when we die).” (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)

Death, my dear friends, is not the end. Death is only the beginning. Nevertheless, people fight to stay alive and many will even spend all that they have to keep death at bay. No matter, we’ll still succumb to the hand of this grim foe. Death is inevitable. It is our destiny. There is nothing we can do to stop it.

Christianity teaches the positive side of death. Those who have placed their trust in the Liberator Jesus know that death is simply the doorway into a new dimension of freedom from this earthly life in exile from the God who made us. According to the ancient texts, we are all estranged from our creator and stranded here on spaceship earth. Death will one day free us from the burden of earthly suffering and absorb us back into the eternal realm where we belong. Until then, we are subject to the ever changing state of affairs produced by the progressive decline and fall of planetary societies due largely to human depravity.

Christianity, while acknowledging the presence of suffering, declares that life can be infinitely worth living and opens the way to eternal life in fellowship with God Who so loved the world that He gave Himself in Christ.” – Kenneth Scott Latourette

I know what some of you are thinking, “But why all the innocent suffering?” and “Where is this loving and caring God you talk about. Why doesn’t he intervene? It just does not seem fair. Even if God is not the cause, why doesn’t he just put an end to this madness once and for all?” He will. If you have ever studied Biblical texts you should already be familiar with how he plans to do it. As to when, only He knows. And that is what can make this journey seem so hard. Here is an interesting verse of scripture for you to ponder:

6-8 “And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that (Jesus, the) Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that (Jesus, the) Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Jesus lived, suffered and died by the same rules of life that we all must follow. As the Liberator of mankind, He suffered and breathed His last breath to open a pathway into an eternal dimension. The execution of Jesus was a necessary part of His redemption strategy. Within its mystery lies the proof of how much God cares about us and a promise of a future life clothed in an immortal body that is suffering-free. The tormented souls, the cancer stricken, the accident victims, the unloved, lost and lonely — everyone who has suffered — will suffer no more. As described in the book of Revelation – In that new world order – God will dwell with his people.

4“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. (Revelation 21:4)

Let us pray for that day to come swiftly.

Almighty God, some will hear your voice today. Perhaps they will choose to look more carefully at what they believe. Over thousands of years you have caused the scriptures to be compiled, preserved and protected so that we might acquire an accurate understanding of who you are and what you have done for the rescue of mankind. Many are called. Few are chosen. Work in the hearts of your chosen today I pray. In the name of my Liberator Jesus, AMEN.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

He was vigorously pounding the pulpit. I was daydreaming. The commotion drew me back into the sermon which had not been particularly interesting up to that point. But the preacher’s next sentence caught my attention.   “Worry is a sin”, he bellowed, all red faced, voice straining to make his point. “Everyone who worries is a SINNER!” I remember thinking, “Well that covers just about everybody in the room.” And before claiming that you never worry, remember, lying is also a sin. I can recall little of the minister’s talk after that. I was too busy thinking about how much of our time we do in fact devote to worries and fears.

It might be health issues, money woes, or family problems. Perhaps it’s those troublesome infectious disease fears, terrorist threats, global economic instabilities, and the possibility of another world war. Toss in a few natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes and, well… as you can see there are plenty of reasons to feel uneasy about the future. But truthfully, none of these troubles are an excuse for living under a cloud of persistent worry and fear.

Anxiety will not solve a single problem (especially the ones that are either out of your control or only exist in your mind). And even those uncertainties that we might call reasonable concerns are never justification for unnecessary or obsessive apprehension. Granted, there are times when brief anxiety can be appropriate (uneasiness about an important meeting later today or experiencing the “butterflies” over an impending job interview, etc.), but when worry becomes a steady companion, that’s not so good.

In the field of mental health, a compulsive worrier might be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), people with GAD are exceedingly uptight about everything in life, even if there is little or no reason for them to worry. We used to call these people extreme pessimists but nowadays there has to be a clinical classification for every imaginable phobia in order to prescribe some drug or expensive therapy in an attempt to solve the problem.

The NIH claims that the person with GAD is often anxious about just getting through the day because they are terrified that anything can, and most likely will, go wrong. For them, Worry has taken control of their life.

According to the NIH, a person with GAD may:

  • Worry very much about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their constant worries
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Have trouble relaxing
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable, sweat a lot, and feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot.

Is it just me, or do some of those warning signs seem to be the same as those that appear on lists for a few hundred other “disorders”? Unless I’m mistaken, most of the population could identify with more than half of these symptoms. I sure can and (thankfully) I do NOT suffer with GAD or any other malady that I am aware of.  But I digress.

So let me ask you once again: how many hours of irreplaceable time do you invest in worry and fear? You’ll never get a single one of those wasted moments back. As long as you continue to focus on the endless stream of future uncertainties in life, you will remain trapped in a prison of your own creation.

You doubt me? Let’s talk.

Worry, doubt, fear and despair are the enemies which slowly bring us down to the ground and turn us to dust before we die.” ~ General Douglas MacArthur

First of all, I am well aware of the suffering that many people endure because of extreme anxiety issues. The mental health community does their best to manage an observed condition from a limited human perspective. But sometimes science and medicine can do little or nothing to effectively eliminate a problem. This is especially true when the cause is spiritual and not simply mental or physical. While a mental health practitioner may help you handle a disorder like GAD, only God can help you get to the spiritual root of this problem and set you on the road to true freedom.

In the Bible’s Newer Testament book of 1st Peter you will find these very encouraging words,

7 Let him (GOD) have all your worries and cares (anxieties), for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

To me that is so awesome. The creator of all things (GOD) knows who I am. He actually thinks about me. Every detail of my life here on this little orbiting orb is of personal concern to Him.  Since I actually believe this is true, I must ask myself, “How then can I justify worry?”

“Well now brother, I just cannot comprehend how this God you speak of can possibly know every detail of every human life and all at the same time. That is impossible.”

Listen, there are some things that I can’t comprehend either. That is why He is the All-knowing One and we’re NOT! Our Creator requires just one thing from us – faith in Him. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about the real (unseen) world in which He dwells and from which we are temporarily exiled. It will always come down to this:

6“…without faith it is impossible to please him (The Almighty). The man who approaches God must have faith in two things, first that God exists and secondly that it is worth a man’s while to try to find God.” (Hebrews 11:6 – J.B. Phillips New Testament)

You may be going through a tough time right now. Unforeseen circumstances have swamped your little boat. You may be struggling just to find meaning in your day to day existence. That’s normal when you live primarily within the domain of your physical senses. It is within this natural realm of temporal reality that worry and fear form the clouds of doubt in your mind and blind your spirit from seeing the truth.

Do not be afraid of tomorrow; for God is already there.” ~Author Unknown

For the Christian, The New Testament is all about a brand-new arrangement between the Creator and His creation. The most prolific contributor to the New Testament was the Apostle Paul. In addition to the general Christian instruction found in his letters, Paul often included specific direction for the congregation to which he wrote the epistle. Listen to these words of instruction written to the Christians living in the ancient city of Philippi,

6“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 – Living Bible)

Let’s break that down.

  • Don’t worry about anything.
  • Talk to God about everything.
  • Let God know your concerns (what you need).
  • Thank God for His solutions.

Sounds naive, right?  Do I detect a bit of incredulity?   You’ve heard it all before?   Me too. And you’ve decided it doesn’t work? I agree, sometimes it appears that is the case. But we’re talking about developing an ongoing relationship with the Creator of all things here. This is not Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. Merely reading the words of the ancient scriptures can make the process sound oversimplified. Working out this life changing truth – day by day – is not so easy. Every word we just read from the Bible is spot-on. But it will take persistent faith and patience to live it. Don’t forget the Payoff. If we make this our way of life, Paul said,

“…you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”   (Philippians 4:7 – Living Bible)

The supernatural peace that can only come from the Divine Spirit of God is what will calm you down. You will find rest for your soul when you put your absolute trust in Jesus, the liberator. Now, check out these words of wisdom from the Bible,

4-5 “If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself alone. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 TLB)

Get it? When you put your complete trust in God, there is no longer a valid reason to worry. There will still be plenty of opportunities to worry, but they will not be effective at immobilizing you through fear. Here is a promise from the pages of scripture that you can claim as your very own:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” (2 Timothy 1:7 – Amplified Bible)

When our creator visited this water world in human form, He was disguised as a meek and humble man called Jesus. He grew up among His own creation until that precise moment when it was time to introduce us to a personal and relevant God – not a Religion. The Almighty One, clothed in humility and living in obscurity, went about doing good and healing the sick and oppressed. As Jesus of Nazareth, he demonstrated to mankind how to talk directly to the Divine Spirit about our concerns and ask for His help. The liberator Jesus assured His devotees that when we strive for the otherworldly Kingdom of God – above everything else – He will make all things work together for our good.

Let me ask you one more question, “has all the energy you’ve wasted on anxiety and fear ever changed your grades in school, improve your job performance, or protected your family from harm? Will worry keep you free of contagious diseases?” If you are at least willing to be honest with yourself, the answer is NO. So then tell me again, “Why do you worry all the time?”

It is not the cares of today, but the cares of tomorrow, that weigh a man down. For the needs of today we have corresponding strength given. For tomorrow we are told to trust. It is not ours yet. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.” ~ George MacDonald

One more thought from the New Testament.  Jesus was talking with some of his followers one day and he said to them,

30 “…O you of little faith. 31 Do not worry and be anxious, saying, what are we going to have to eat? Or, what are we going to have to drink? Or, what are we going to have to wear? 32 For the heathen wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. 33 But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things (that you need) taken together will be given to you besides.” – (Matthew 6:30b-33 Amplified Bible)

Why not give all of your worries and fears to the One who formed you? He really does care about you and He knows you far better than you think you know yourself. Our Liberator and Creator is a great listener. In fact, He is listening right now. Go ahead, talk to Him… say what you need to say… and please, stop worrying.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher. © 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta,
all rights reserved. For more information write to: Insight Today, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
I was being called to surrender the very citadel of my “self”. I was completely in the dark. I did not really know what repentance was or what I was required to repent of. It was indeed the turning point of my life.” – Bede Griffiths –

The ancient city of Laodicea was a wealthy and industrious cosmopolitan community located in the province of Phrygia (modern day western Turkey). Benefiting from a prosperous economy, due in part to an advantageous location on a busy trade route, the average Laodicean citizen enjoyed the fruits of affluence. Ancient Laodicea was also an early focal point of Christianity. The Newer Testament writer Paul mentions Laodicea in his letter to the Colossians (2:1, 4:13–16). But the Christians of Laodicea are perhaps best known for the severe rebuke they received from the risen Liberator Jesus as recorded in the Book of Revelation. Having appeared to the exiled writer John of Patmos (Ἰωάννης ὁ Θεολόγος), Jesus refers to himself as: the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Ruler of God’s Creation, and then goes on to chastise the Laodicean church for being lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, and for failing to recognize their apathy and spiritual blindness (Revelation 3:16–17).   Why such harsh words?

Simple, the Laodicean Christians were wealthy and blessed in material things, but they were bankrupt and blinded to their pitiful spiritual condition. Theirs was a church filled with self-deceived pretenders. And so, the Anointed One, the Liberator Himself, called these backslidden Laodicean Christians to repentance. If they would just repent; Jesus would come in and take His rightful place in the midst of them (Revelation 3:20). You know what? I think our Creator is issuing the same call to those who claim to be following Him today.  Is it time for Christians to repent?

Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.” ~Thomas Carlyle

Look around. In many places (especially prosperous nations and particularly the United States of America), multitudes of professing Christians have become apathetic in their passion to truly live for the God whom they supposedly follow. The deceitfulness of an affluent society, the overabundance of modern distractions, and the desires for material possessions have come in and choked the reality of their convictions, making them void of any genuine power. (Mark 4:19). As a result, the contemporary cultural influence of Christianity in the marketplace of philosophies is conspicuous only by its absence.

On more than one occasion the Liberator Jesus referred to His followers as the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) Salt is both a preservative and a flavor enhancer. The Christian Church was intended to be a preservative in the world, stabilizing it from the evils found in a social order corrupted by covetousness, greed and wickedness. Christians who are full of faith and the Holy Spirit, (Acts 11:24) will naturally enhance the world for good.

But, much of the modern Christian Church is broken. The “enlightened” Christian community of our day is in many ways a re-embodiment of the Laodicean church of the ancient past.   Instead of boasting in our comforts and accomplishments, we should be repenting for the impotence of our message.

I submit to you that repentance is one of the least used words in contemporary  Christianity. Not surprising. Calling people to repentance is not politically correct. To compel someone to repent you must first accuse them of wickedness (sin). In a culture nearly intolerant of the mere mention of personal accountability for one’s own depravity (sin), teaching biblical repentance in any form has largely been whitewashed or it is merely ignored.

In the classic Christian world view, repentance means a change of mind that results in a change of action. The Newer Testament writer Paul wrote, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their actions (Acts 26:20). If our repentance is sincere, we will first turn to God for His Saving Grace through the Liberator Jesus and as a result our life choices (and thus our actions) will be governed by the wisdom that comes from the principles and precepts of His word (the Scriptures). Listen again to apostolic writer Paul:

17“Every part of the Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

Sadly, you won’t hear that message in many mainline Christian churches anymore. The modern place of worship is far too busy entertaining the “troops” or embracing worldly ways of opportunity for service and growth. There are exceptions of course. But we cannot ignore the many self-proclaimed Christians who are living on their own terms, following the “doctrines of men” (Matthew 15:7-9) and in conformity with the secular world. The New Testament writer James put it quite bluntly,

4“You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 NLT)

Aligning yourself (friendship) with the god of this world makes you an enemy of the God of the universe.  Any questions?

The mystery of the Christian life is that Christ expects us to flee sin and the devil, but does not expect us to rid ourselves of either on this side of glory. Repentance is a way of life, and so is the pursuit of godliness. I wish every Christian could be reminded of these two things.” ~Kevin DeYoung

In the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, Chapter 30, the prophet describes how God feels about His chosen people making alliances that are inappropriate.  It’s not pleasant reading.  The Chapter begins like this,

1“What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the Lord. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade. But by trusting Pharaoh, you will be humiliated, and by depending on him, you will be disgraced. For though his power extends to Zoan (an ancient city in the Nile River delta) and his officials have arrived in Hanes (a fortress on the N.E. frontier of Egypt), all who trust in him will be ashamed. He will not help you. Instead, he will disgrace you.” (Isaiah 30:1-5)

In this narrative, God is angry with His people because they did not seek the direction of His Holy Spirit. Without consulting Him, Judah hatched a plan that was contrary to the Divine will. God stirs the ancient seer Isaiah to warn them that trusting their adversary for protection (in this case the Pharaoh of Egypt) would end in their humiliation. But Judah did not want to hear it. They wanted a “feel-good” message – something upbeat. And so Isaiah writes,

10-11 “They tell my prophets, “Shut up—we don’t want any more of your reports!” Or they say, “Don’t tell us the truth; tell us nice things; tell us lies. Forget all this gloom; we’ve heard more than enough about your ‘Holy One of Israel’ and all he has to say.” (Isaiah 30:10-11)

Many believe we could apply much of the Isaiah indictment to the modern Church. Perhaps they have a point. It sure does appear that today’s secularized Christians have grown indifferent to the unadulterated truth. The prophetic writings warned us of a coming period of delusion well in advance:

“For there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear. They won’t listen to what the Bible says but will blithely follow their own misguided ideas.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 TLB)

I would say that the time has come, no? The blind are leading the blind. The inmates have taken over the asylums. It’s a dangerous world we live in, bereft of much genuine Divine revelation but full of counterfeit supernatural fascinations. The problem is not with the Almighty One – it never is.

Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms… This process of surrender… is what Christians call repentance.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Fear not, God still has a voice today. The Liberator Jesus said of His followers,

27“The sheep that are my own can hear and are listening to my voice; and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 AMP)

We who still hear His voice are His voice in these last days!

So once again, Should Christians repent?  Well, that’s really between you and your Creator.  But it couldn’t hurt to ponder the question.

Maybe it’s time to change your way of thinking (repent) and get in step with the will of God for your life. Be prepared to admit that you have been wrong.  Accept the fact that you do not have all of the answers.  Acknowledge that you may have failed to faithfully follow in the footsteps of the one you claim to believe in – The Liberator Jesus.  Confession (and repentance) is good for the soul! Don’t just talk about repentance – DO IT!

The Christian message always begins with a call to repent. Before you run off and proclaim the good news of faith in God to others, try to live the message Jesus brought to the earth yourself, as best as you can, every day. God has something far greater in mind for all of us than any of life’s illusions could ever deliver.

Be not deceived.

20 “Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 TLB)

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2016 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
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