The Effect Of God's Grace In Us:
As stated above God's first Work of Grace in our lives is "Justification". Through the blood of His own Son, God looks beyond our sin, not laying it to our charge, and OFFERS us (FREE of charge) Salvation (deliverance) from the power and influence of Satan and the old sinful nature of our flesh - this is Justification! He declares us righteous [in Jesus Christ]. And through the Gospel He invites us to accept [take possession of] His free gift. But no matter how much He justifies us, it'll do no good until we ACCEPT and take possession of it. The question is: How can I take possession of this gift?
There are three steps into possession of this gift of God. Have you noticed how much we have used the number "three"? God is perfected in "three" - Father, Son and Holy Ghost; the Believer comes to perfection in "three" - Justification, Sanctification and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost; and our Lord Jesus set "three ordinances in the church - Water baptism, the Bread and Wine, and the Foot-washing ordinance. Therefore, God has ordained three steps of faith into possession of His Gift of Salvation, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course the moment you genuinely believe and "choose" to obey God's Word - Salvation has come to you and God goes to working out that Salvation in your daily life. Philippians 1:6 says, "...he which hath "begun" a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ:" But first, let's take the steps necessary to get on the highway to glory.
Acts 2:37-38 sets forth clearly the three steps to entering into the Salvation of the Lord. This was definitely preached by the early church and most definitely preached by William M. Branham, the Prophet to this last age. Let's refresh our minds again with the words of Peter:
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.
Here, the Apostle outlines the three steps we're speaking about - (1) Repentance, (2) Water Baptism and (3) Receiving the Holy Ghost. In today's modern church this first step is mentioned less and less. Yet, without the first step the second is in vain and the third impossible. But if we sincere in receiving God's Justification in our lives we will take this absolutely necessary first step of "REPENTANCE". In Luke 13 Jesus warned the religious leaders, saying, "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." In Mark 1:15 Jesus preached saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." In Revelation 3:19 the Church was commanded to: "be zealous therefore, and repent." Therefore, repentance is not an option, it's a must.
In a world where very little emphasis to put on repentance we must be careful to "make our calling and election sure, by the Word, because when it comes to the modern day teaching of "just believing", remember, the Devils also believe and tremble (James 2:19); but the Devils are NOT saved - they cannot experience Salvation. And True Salvation is an "experience" with God, after which we are NEVER the same again. Inwardly, in the realm of the soul, we're born again by the incorruptible Seed of the Word of God (1st. Peter 1:23). Because of the importance of this subject, let's take the time to seriously consider these three "steps" which leads the believer to Salvation.
Most "Salvation-preaching" today is so "watered-down" from the original that the difference is like night and day. It's been watered-down so as not to offend certain individuals and/or groups of individuals. One of the "key" elements of Salvation-Preaching is left out or white-washed, and that "Key" is "Repentance". Without this first step of repentance there is no Salvation. And we're not just talking New Testament here. Repentance is found throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament thunders, "Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin." (Ezekiel 18:30). Again the Old Testament commands: "Repent, and turn.....from your idols.....and all your abominations". Jonah took a message of Repentance to the people of Nineveh. The Old Testament prophets came screaming "Repentance" to the Nation of Israel.
In the New Testament the Gospels begin with a message of repentance.....
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, REPENT ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 3:1-2
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, REPENT: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.Matthew 4:17
When Jesus sent out the disciples to preach the Gospel, the Bible records, "And they went out, and preached that men should REPENT" (Mark 6:12).
The Bible commands "repentance", our wickedness demands it, justice requires it, Christ preached it and God expects it. The Divine unalterable edict is still valid, "God commandeth all men everywhere to REPENT." (Acts 17:30). As much as one professes to believe in Jesus and accept Him as their Saviour, without genuine "repentance" from the heart, all of your believing is in vain. But there is a generation of preachers who are afraid to include the element of "Repentance" in their preaching; because they would then be under obligation to identify the "sin(s)" for which men and women need to repent; and because "sin" is so rampant in the church and among the clergy, the idea of putting emphasis on "repentance" is out of the question.
Almost one hundred years ago, William Booth, the Founder of the Salvation Army prophesied of this time, saying, "In the twentieth century they will preach forgiveness, but no repentance; Heaven, but no Hell; producing a form of Christianity with no Christ." At the end of his age he saw the direction in which Christianity was headed. In fact a recent Gallop poll indicated that only 14 percent of Americans 'associate the Name 'Jesus' with forgiveness'.
What William Booth said is also confirmed by the Scriptures in Revelation 3:14-22. Herein we find a description of the Church in these last days.......
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: .....be zealous therefore, and REPENT. Revelation 3:15-17,19
This is absolutely amazing to discover that the Lord Jesus Christ is commanding the church in this last Age to bring forth "Zealous Repentance". Why? Because, at the judgement seat of Christ (The WORD of GOD), they have been found "guilty" of "[drawing] nigh unto Him with their mouth, and honouring Him with [their] lips; but their heart is far from Him; And in vain they do worship Him, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8-9). Equally amazing is the fact (which we may have already mentioned) that according to Rev. 3:20 Jesus Christ is on the "outside" of the Church, knocking trying to get back in.
Bro. Billy Graham in his message on "Repentance" stated.....
I was shocked to find that this theme [repentance] proclaimed so emphatically in the Bible by prophets and apostles is scarcely mentioned by contemporary preachers. The clear trumpet blast calling men to repentance is conspicuous for its absence from the modern pulpit.
He went on to say.....
We have preached the dignity of man rather than his depravity. we have declared his goodness rather than his wickedness. We have vindicated ourselves rather than confessed our guilt. We have made of ourselves, despite all of our inherent sin and evil, little cherubs of perfection with halos on our heads, harps in our hands and wings on our shoulders.
Modern preachers - men of the cloth - preach a modern doctrine of exoneration which was expressed by Byron in his "Bloody, But Unbowed" sonnet:
"...the spirit burning, but unbent,
May writhe - rebel - the weak alone repent!
Who is right - God or Byron? God COMMANDS Repentance! So let it be as Paul said in the Romans 3:4, "...yea, let God be true, but every man a liar;".
Continuing with his message on "Repentance", Bro. Billy Graham said.....
The word "sinner" has all but been deleted from our vocabulary. The drunkard is no longer looked upon as a wayward selfish man; having failed to adjust to society, he is now just an alcoholic and a sick person. The criminal is no longer a law-breaker...but rather a psychopath in need of treatment. The juvenile delinquent is no longer looked upon as an incorrigible; he is just an unfortunate child, the victim of circumstance.
And so it goes; no one is to blame for his sins. In upholding the theory of the dignity of man we have vindicated all, condemned none, and provided alibis for each and every offender...Thus every offender of God's moral law - is found "not guilty" in the court of public opinion, there is therefore no need of repentance.
But either the Bible is wrong or the modern pulpit is wrong. When we look at the fruits of this unrepentant generation, I am convinced that we need to blow a loud blast of the trumpet of biblical repentance.
The First Step - Repentance!
But What Is Repentance?
Repentance is NOT a word of weakness but a word of power and action. Repentance is NOT joining church; attending church once a week or only during Easter and Christmas; it is not putting your name on the church books; being good to your neighbour; being generous in your giving; or shaking the preachers hand. Repentance is NOT penance, remorse or self-condemnation - We should hate our sins but not ourselves.
Referring to Acts 17:30, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:", Dr. Scofield stated, "Repentance means "to have another mind", to "change the mind"". It is used in the New Testament to indicate a change of mind in respect of sin, of God, and of oneself. The 'son' in the parable of the "two sons" in Matthew 21:28-32 illustrates "True" Repentance." This young man "REPENTED" for not having done his father's will, and then he went out and showed that he was sincere in his repentance by "bringing forth fruit meet for repentance." (Luke 3:8). Jesus said, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46).
One dictionary defines "repentance" as 'feeling such regret over one's sins so as to decide to change one's ways'. Another dictionary says, 'Repentance is sorrow for sin...and complete turning from sin.' Scripturally, repentance has three main elements...
Conviction: It is God's red flag warning us that we are going in the wrong direction. Being born in sin, we continue on in sin - doing that which is right in our own eyes without due regard for what God requires in His Word. Therefore, God, through the preaching of the Word, brings conviction that we need to change our ways to line up with His Word. Of course, many are so calloused in their spirits and spiritually blind, that they are are not able to experience Spiritual Conviction. Conviction is the first step toward the Kingdom of God - God is calling YOU to obedience to His Word.
Contrition: This is a sincere sorrow - a godly sorrow - brokenness for our sins (2nd Corinthians 7:10). The Bible says, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." (Psalms 34:18). Contrition is NOT a shallow sentiment nor an empty emotion. It is a sincere regret over past sins and an earnest, humble desire to walk in a new path of righteousness, according to the instructions laid out in God's Word.
In Isaiah 57:15 God promised, "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit; to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Repentance includes 'humbling' ourselves to God's ways. When we stand at the Cross of Calvary and see what our sins cost God, our hearts should be broken and contrite - humbled; and we should cry out like the Publican, "God, be merciful to be a sinner" (Luke 18:13). The Bible tells us that when Peter considered how he had ignored and denied the Lord, he went out and wept bitterly because of his sin (Matthew 26:75).
Desire To Be Changed: This is the third element of "Repentance"; the desire for God to change your thought pattern, change your attitude, change your ways, change your motives and objectives in life, to conform to His ways and will for you. In 2nd. Corinthians 7:10 the Bible says, "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to Salvation." "IF any man be in Christ (having truly repented), old things (old ways and thoughts) pass away and behold all things become new" (2nd Corinthians 5:17).
On the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter preached the first Message of Salvation, pointing men and women to the Scriptures fulfilled in their day (Acts 2:1-36). That 'first' anointed message produced "conviction" in the hearts of the hearers.....
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 mutlitude was "convicted" of their sin of unbelief in the whole Word of God, and their need for forgiveness. It caused them to scream out, "Men and brethren, WHAT SHALL WE DO?" In essence, they were asking, "What must we do to experience God's Justification, Sanctification and Eternal Life?" Note Peter's answer (a Scripture we have already mentioned).....
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. For the promise is unto YOU, and to YOUR CHILDREN, and to ALL that are afar off, [EVEN] AS MANY as the Lord our God shall call.ACTS 2:38-39
Peter's first word of instruction was "REPENT". On that day 3000 souls "Heard and Obeyed", being not of them who draw back but of them who believe "unto" the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:39).
According to the Scriptures "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Like David in Psalms 51:5, we were ALL "shapen in iniquity; and in sin did our mothers conceive us"; and because we are ALL sinners by virtue of our natural birth - ALL under the curse of death, we need a Saviour, born by a Virgin birth, bypassing the curse - a Redeemer, a Perfect One, a Just One to lay down His life as a Perfect Sacrifice (in our place) to satisfy God's righteous Law, justify us and Redeem us back to God again.
God's Grace - unmerited favor - provided that Sacrifice in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His Life He fulfilled every letter of the Law for us; then willingly laid His Life down as an offering for sin; but because He was not born in sin, neither knew no sin, death could not hold him. On that Resurrection morning Jesus rose from the dead to give us Eternal Life. John 17:2 says, "As thou (Father) hast given him (Jesus) power over all flesh, that he should 'give eternal life' to as many as thou hast given him."
BUT WE MUST FIRST REPENT! Turn around in our atitudes, motives and objectives of life, change our mind and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Giving ourselves unreservedly to Him in obedience to do only His Will, according to His Word.
We do not take lightly what's written in the Scriptures - "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). To the True Believer, the Bible is more than just 'the good book', it is a "Book of Life"; a Book of Doctrine, Reproof, Correction, and Instruction in Righteousness (2nd. Timothy 3:16). We will be judged according to what is written in the Book - the Bible. Therefore, we approach the Book with a "fervent" desire to know what God wants me to know about Himself, His plan, and His will for my life.
EVEN THE CHURCHES HAVE BEEN
COMMANDED TO REPENT
"Unto the Angel of THR CHURCH of Ephesus, write, ... I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and REPENT, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove they candlestick out of his place, except thou REPENT."(Revelation 2:5)
In this Last Church Age - Laodicea - the Church was given this command:
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and REPENT!(Revelation 3:19)
God, in this Age, demanded "Zealous Repentance" - not a cold, formal, tearless repentance but sincere, genuine, zealous contrition, rending of the heart kind of repentance - nothing less will satisfy.
Having thoroughly REPENTED before a Holy God, the seeker now comes to the second step in Peter's Instructions - Water Baptism, by immersion in water, IN THE NAME of the Lord Jesus Christ. This step must also be taken voluntarily, of your own free will. It must also be entered into sincerely.