37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
The greatest privilege that has ever been granted to mankind is that of being able to have our soul freed from the guilt of the sins that we have committed. We have the ability to commit sin at any time that we desire, but we in and of ourselves can do nothing to remove the guilt of our sins. A good example of what being guilty of sin is like would be if we had committed murder and had been found guilty, and were awaiting our execution. The burden of the consequences of that guilt would weigh heavily on our mind and heart; knowing that dire consequences were eminent. With the deed having been done, there is a sense of hopelessness; there is the reality that this crime will be paid for by forfeiting of our very life. We can’t even offer the argument that we are being treated unfairly, because indeed we are deserving of death because we are guilty. But for whatever reason, someone who has the power to enforce judgment upon us decides that mercy is more needful than justice; and he gives us a reprieve. Not only does he stay execution but he pardons us. We are now looked upon by the legal system as if we had never committed the crime.
Pardoning of a convicted (guilty) individual virtually never happens where there is an absence of remorse. Usually there is a visible manifestation of change that indicates that the murderer will depart from the mindset which allowed him to commit the crime of which he was guilty. In this particular example, it is easy to envision how and why a change took place within our imagined character. There was pain and remorse that was associated with the status of being guilty. His guilt had placed him in jeopardy; his actions placed his life at risk; there was no doubt about what was going to happen if there had not been pardon for his crime.
As individuals who were once sinners, we too faced a certain and harsh sentence. We are guilty of the charge of sin; we are deserving of penalty that sin calls for which is death. (Isa. 59: 2: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.) Our sin separates us from God. Sin carries with it the penalty of death. (Romans 6: 23: For the wages of sin is death;) And to be released from the penalty of death we are totally dependent on something that must be given to us as a gift. (“but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord).
I used to lean heavily on a verse of scripture as I practiced personal evangelism, especially those that were engaged in denominational practices . That scripture was Matthew 7:21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. I used that scripture to make the point that if one does not follow the model of worship that is set out in the bible that their worship was in vain. I would hold out the example of communion. The bible plainly states that it is an act of worship that should be engaged in during worship, on the first day of every week. I would hold out the biblical example of how one was to become a part of the Church that was established on the day of Pentecost that was to be the bride of Christ. (Acts 2:38 : Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 47: Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.).
I could show book and verse on what the preacher should not be called; on the use of instrumental music in worship; how to give, how to live and how to act. But then it occurred to me one day; there were no denominations around when these words were penned. These words were given to those who had no other choice as to which church to be a part of. Jesus was talking to people who would be Christians after the only model that there was. Jesus was telling people who were be potential members of His church that if they didn’t do God’s will then they would not be recognized by Him as a part of His church.
23: And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
I perceive from Matthew that Jesus was addressing individuals who would labor under the misconception that they could devise worship and or lifestyles of their own choosing and it would be acceptable to God. In one way or another, that same misconception is prevalent today. One must offer up to God lives that are surrendered to Jesus.
What I want to discuss with you today is a part of the process that one must go through in order to be the Christian that that is acceptable to God.
The original covenant people of God had a physically identifying mark. The men were circumcised. If an alien was to convert to Judaism they would have to undergo circumcision as well. The corollary to what takes place today is that there is a painful cutting away that is necessary in order to identify with God’s people. Under the Abrahamic covenant the cutting away was a physical cutting. Under the Christian dispensation it is a spiritual cutting away.
28: For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
So what is it that is painfully cutting away in men and women today that is the identifying marker of a true Christian? Over the next few moments I will discuss some of those things that are painful that must be cut away if one chooses to be a child of God.
One must cut away the lifestyle of the old man:
The sacrifice of Jesus was so that we might be able to put away the sins that so easily beset us; that we might escape the penalty of our sin. Our sacrifice would be that we would put aside ungodly things and allow our lives to testify of the God who dwells within us. Sinners sin with impunity; that’s what sinners do. But children of God don’t live in that mind-set. You can’t presume to call yourself a child of God and knowingly live in sin. It is a painful thing when people realize that the lifestyle that they’re living in is viewed by God as being unacceptable. It’s a painful thing to have to decide between living in a situation that pleases the flesh or going to heaven. So many people have convinced themselves that they can have both; but this is far from the truth. It’s painful to put the old man to death. It is painful to repress appetites that are driven by the flesh. Some individuals can’t; sadly, these individuals cannot go to heaven if they choose this lifestyle.
1 Corinthians 6:
9: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10: Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11: And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
It is painful to work for the Lord for some:
28: But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
29: He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
30: And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
31: Whether of them twain did the will of his father?
Having to set aside things that we wish to do to do the work of the Father is painful. We have every good excuse that we need that stands between the work that we should be doing for the Father and what we want to do for ourselves. Our schedules are too busy; we would be missing an opportunity to make some money; I don’t know how; someone else would be better than me at it. The list can go on endlessly; but an excuse never satisfy a need; only work get results.
Why work? Allow me to put it in human terms: How would you like to be in a relationship where you always had to give but you never received? That sums up the relationship that some individuals share with God.
It’s a good thing to take inventory every now and then. Look at the things that God has given us, and then look at the things that we’ve given God. Is it a working relationship or is it one-sided. If it is one-sided then why does God even want to keep us around.
It’s painful to give up practices that we are used to: Drinking, carousing, riotous living, some friends, some language.
It’s painful to give up selfishness:
It’s painful to love someone that you previously didn’t like (your enemy).
These are some of the pains that go along with being born again.