Not just a Comfy Chair

for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

Comfort is a misunderstood commodity.

Often when we think of comfort we think of someone patting us on the knee and saying, “there, there, it will all work out all right.” So when we think of the Holy Spirit, our “comforter” we fall into this trap. We think that the job of the Spirit of the living God is to whisper platitudes to us when we are feeling sorry for ourselves. That could not be further from the truth.

Yes, Comforter is one of the Holy Spirit’s names and descriptors. The Latin behind our word comfort combines com–with and fort–strength. To comfort is to come to the aide of one in need with the strength required to bring success. Big difference, isn’t it?

The Holy Spirit is not the one who takes the role of nursemaid, He comes beside to give strength and help in time of need. It looks nothing like that “poor baby” picture we can easily conjure up. The Greek word here (parakaleō – same root as Comforter or Helper–paraklētos–in John 14) carries the idea of a tug boat coming alongside a huge ship to guide it through tricky waters. The Tug though small is very powerful, and has complete expertise in navigating the tricky waters ahead.

In like manner, the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, comes alongside us as we enter the tricky waters of repentance and ensures that we reach safety, free from the shipwreck of worldly sorrow.

Those who mourn over their sins will find that the Holy Spirit comes alongside, and gives them the strength and direction they need to walk out true and complete repentance. There is a comfort and confidence that comes from this victory over sin.

Are you feeling blessed yet?

cropped-BenHeadshotOh, we’re just getting started.

Keep the light on!

Ben

Repentance – the path to Comfort

Before we dig in today, I want to state that this is one of my core teachings. I share this message when I have the opportunity because I truly believe it’s a missing note in the current chord of Christianity. If we get this idea planted in our hearts and stop resisting this wonderful gift the Spirit offers, we can experience true victory over sin in our lives and the real comfort that comes with it. So, here goes… enjoy!


Blessed are those who mourn… – Matthew 5:4

How could mourning ever lead to blessing? Mourning about what? Is Jesus talking about people who have lost loved ones? Blessed are the grieving? Is He talking about sad people here?

Once again, the answer is an emphatic NO.

We are talking about people who realize their need for God, the poor in spirit. As they perceive the great distance between their current state and the holy God a godly sorrow–mourning–overtakes them. This sorrow leads them down a straight path directly to repentance.

So then, what is repentance? Does it happen at the front of a church? Is it tears at the altar? Is it just saying I’m sorry? Does it simply mean to change your mind, as it is commonly taught today? Again, no. Repentance is one of the most basic yet most important parts of the Christian life. Without repentance, you can never achieve true freedom from sin. Repentance is Christianity 101.

Repentance – a biblical definition from 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things, ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. – 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 KJV

Sorrow of the world produces death: There are a couple types of sorrow that will kill you. One is self-pity. Feeling sorry for yourself will put you into a downward spiral from which there is no return. Another deadly type of sorrow is that which is born of condemnation. The Greek word translated devil in our New Testament means accuser. Condemnation comes from the accuser of the brethren, and it shows up as a general feeling of unworthiness. Condemnation is vague and depressing.

Godly sorrow which works repentance: In contrast, the Holy Spirit convicts.

Conviction is specific and actionable. Conviction always comes with the gift of repentance. That’s right, gift! Repentance is a gift from God. God offers to turn your sin and weakness into strength and victory.

And now Paul walks step by step through the process of repentance.

what carefulness it wrought in you: You are careful not to get yourself into situations when you can even be tempted by this sin. Job speaks of a covenant made with his eyes. Back in the 80s before Disney bought downtown Manhattan, I had a job where I had to walk right through the sleaziest part of town. I made a covenant with my eyes and glued them to the sidewalk. I did not want to puff out my spiritual chest and believe that I could resist. I took the extra effort to protect the gates of my soul.

Solomon offers a six-part plan to avoid temptation:

Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on. ~ Proverbs 4:14-15

In the specific area of your repentance, this is the way to go – find a way to get around it. Remember also that Paul tells us:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13

what clearing of yourselves: You get rid of everything that pertains to this sin you are fleeing. You don’t keep a stash of porn, or a bottle of booze around for when you lose your resolve. You clear the decks.

what indignation: You take offense at anything or anyone that would draw you, or others, into this temptation. You actually see this sin as the enemy of your soul. You realize that this sin will kill you if you give it any quarter. You have a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude toward that which once held your reigns.

what fear: You have a healthy realization that sin in general, and this sin specifically, ends in death. Hear the words of James:

Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. ~ James 1:15

Understand, there is a fear that is right – not a terror, but a respect and understanding. The fear of the Lord is probably best defined as an unwillingness to offend God. It’s not a fear of punishment, but a fear of separation. Remember when Jesus was in the garden, and prayed for deliverance from the cup He was facing. The thing He wanted to avoid was not the physical pain, but the separation He knew He would face as He became sin for us.

what vehement desire: Vehement would be a good adjective for a raging forest fire, like those that hit the West Coast of the US in dry seasons. Repentance brings a ferocious desire for purity.

what zeal: Zealots usually look crazy. We all know someone who is zealous about something. Some people are zealous with their exercise routines, and some with their finances. The ones that make the news are those who are zealous for their religion and blow something up. I met a man who would chain himself to abortion tables, or clinic doors because he was zealous for the unborn. In the case of repentance – you are ready to be outspoken about the evil of this thing, and you will do whatever you can to dissuade others from taking up this sin.

what revenge!: Finally revenge. Your passion leads others from going this way, and so you break the power of this sin in your life and in the lives of those you influence.

All that being said, true repentance is actually a gift of God according to God’s Word in Acts 5:31 and 2 Timothy 2:25. God only gives gifts He intends for you to use, and God’s gifts are powerful. When you repent in this way, God’s intention and promise is that you can be free from the sin He brought to your attention.

So, how do I know if I have been given repentance? You will know if you sense conviction. Conviction is a specific realization that something you have done has offended God. Not some vague condemnation that you are not good enough, but you know that you know that what you did is wrong. If you have been given repentance, that means God will give you the freedom from that sin once you repent. True repentance can set you free from sin, as God leads you through these steps.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by today.

Walk in the light.

Ben