One vital aspect of true Christianity remains almost unknown—and widely misunderstood. Is the missing "R" word in your vocabulary?
No, it is not "recession"—though many economists fear one is coming. It is not even "resurrection"—though that word is often left out or completely misunderstood by professing Christians.
Then what is it?
It is the word that God's servants have described, again and again, as the first step of genuine Christianity—the first step toward eternal life. When John the Baptist came preparing the way for Jesus Christ's ministry, he began by saying: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:2). The gospel of Mark records: "John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins" (Mark 1:4–5).
Then Jesus Christ came, proclaiming: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (vv. 14–15). And: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).
On the Day of Pentecost, when the New Testament Church actually began, God inspired the Apostle Peter to challenge the thousands who heard his voice: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). The entire New Testament clearly shows that God's Holy Spirit is granted only after genuine repentance and sincere acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is a vital point, often completely overlooked or "watered down" by "mainstream" churches today!
I know that certain mainstream evangelists use the word "repent" from time to time—though not nearly as often as they should. However, in nearly every instance, they utterly fail to give a true biblical explanation of what repentance is all about. Notice how the above verses explain that you must repent and be baptized for the "remission of sins." If you repent and are properly baptized, your sins are to be forgiven.
Obviously, then, the first step is to "repent" of sin!
But what is "sin?"
Why do so many who call themselves Christ's ministers fail to tell you the inspired biblical definition of "sin?" Because it would automatically condemn their "just believe" gospel! Because it would clearly indicate how shallow and misguided their "just give your heart to the Lord" message truly is!
Please notice carefully the biblical definition of sin: "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV). In plain language, "sin" is breaking the Ten Commandments!
Yet almost every "mainstream Protestant" preacher will recite the mantra: "You are saved by grace, so you don't have to keep the Ten Commandments!" Some will admit that the Ten Commandments are a "good general guide" for living, but insist that Christians "are not bound to keep them, as they are now under the new covenant." Or they may say: "Christ nailed the Ten Commandments to the cross, so they are now done away."
Do you get the picture?
If you doubt me on this, please, please go and ask your own pastor: "Are Christians today commanded to keep all the Ten Commandments?" If you ask the question in this way, you will definitely get some variation of the answers or excuses that I have just cited!
If our nominally Christian friends really followed Jesus' instruction and example, they would have to stop all the wars! Yet many of our wars in the last several hundred years have involved "Christians" killing "Christians." World War I saw Germans fighting fellow Catholics and Protestants in Britain, France and the United States. World War II saw Germany and Italy fighting millions of fellow "Christians" in Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Belgium, Poland, Britain, the United States and Canada.
But Jesus clearly told His followers: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:43–44).
Shortly before He was put to death, Jesus told Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36). But our anti-law, professing "Christianity" has its ministers and priests "blessing" their troops—on each side—in time of war!
As you know, the vast majority of American, British and Canadian churchgoers would be very upset if their ministers told them, regularly and powerfully, that they could not remain members in good standing if they divorced their mates for any non-biblical reason, or if they lived in fornication, adultery or homosexuality!
Wow! The drop in membership would be frightening if professing ministers of Christ preached the full Truth of the Bible! And if these ministers preached regularly and powerfully against lying, cheating, taking God's name in vain, or indulging in pornography, gambling and similar vices, who would be left in the mainstream "Christian" churches?
Many years after Jesus was crucified, God inspired James—Jesus' brother—to write: "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:10–11).
So, my friends, all ten of the Ten Commandments are definitely binding on true Christians. Regarding the time when Christ's followers must flee to safety, just before the coming Great Tribulation, He tells us: "Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath" (Matthew 24:20). Does anyone sincerely doubt that Jesus was talking about the seventh-day Sabbath—which He and His disciples always observed, along with the rest of the Jews? Notice what God inspired Isaiah to write about Christ's soon-coming Millennial reign on the earth: "And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the Lord"(Isaiah 66:23). God's holy Sabbath was never "done away." And it will be observed—as Isaiah was inspired to foretell—by "all flesh" in Christ's soon-coming reign on the earth!
But do you have the faith and the courage to do what God says now—in this age? Do you have the vision and the strength to obey Jesus Christ as Lord and Master, and to let Him live His life within you through the Holy Spirit?
Most professing Christians do not have that kind of faith and commitment. Though many Jewish religious leaders in Jesus' day came to believe He was the Messiah, the pressure to "conform" to the majority held them back. As the Apostle John explains: "Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42–43).
How about you?
As 1 John 3:4 clearly states: "Sin is the transgression of the law" (KJV). Though many professing Christians say, "all we need is love," the apostle answers: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). The real "love of God" that Jesus wants us to have flows down the riverbed of the Ten Commandments. God's magnificent spiritual law tells us how to love God and how to love our neighbor. Jesus Christ and the apostles magnified the law (Isaiah 42:21) or expanded its application to include the spirit or attitude involved; they did not "do away" with God's law.
For instance, Jesus explained that we are not only forbidden to commit adultery, but we are not even to entertain lustful and adulterous thoughts in our minds. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27–28). Is this "doing away" with God's commandment against adultery? Of course not! It is making it all the more binding! For God's righteous law is—as James wrote—the "law of liberty" (James 2:12). If universally followed, it would indeed "liberate" us from the problems of war, adultery, broken homes, theft, fear, frustration and emptiness. The whole world would truly be a much better place!
How dare misguided preachers tell people that God's wonderful law of life is "done away"!
This terrible error, in fact, blinds millions of sincere people from knowing how to repent! In many mainstream churches, people are given just a general idea of sin and are almost never told that sin is specifically breaking God's Ten Commandments! In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ directly condemned such false ministers. He stated: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:22–23).
"Lawlessness"? Do you think for one minute that Jesus was talking about the traffic laws in an age of donkeys and ox carts? No, indeed! As God in the flesh, Jesus knew that false ministers would try to do away with, or water down, the great spiritual commandments that God actually gave through Jesus when He was the "Word"—the "Rock" (1 Corinthians 10:4)—the One who literally spoke the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai as God's Spokesman!
When He came in human flesh, Jesus always told people that His way of life was to obey the Ten Commandments! When a young man came asking the way to eternal life, Jesus replied: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). As Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount: "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19). So—in Jesus' mind—all of God's commandments are vitally important. Not one of them was ever "nailed to the cross" or remotely "done away," as you see when you honestly put all of the scriptures together.
The Apostle Paul tells us: "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters" (1 Corinthians 7:19). And near the very end of the New Testament, God describes His true saints—those who are genuine Christians: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
As we have seen, human beings are cut off from God—unable to receive the precious Holy Spirit—until they genuinely repent of "sin"—the transgression of God's law. Then they must humbly receive Jesus Christ not only as personal Savior, but also as "Lord"—the One they will truly obey! As the Apostle Paul wrote: "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:7–9).
The unconverted, selfish, "carnal" mind of man wants its own way. So it will not submit to God's law, as Paul explains. But, through the Spirit of God, true Christians can "master" the carnal attitude and the desires of the flesh and walk within God's laws as a way of life. But first, to receive God's Holy Spirit, one must truly repent. To "repent" means to change. Yes, it means one should be sorry—but one must be so sorry that he or she really turns around and goes the other way!
True repentance, therefore, involves a total surrender of one's mind, heart and will to the Creator God, and requires the acceptance of the death of His Son in payment for sin. For sin demands death. That is why Christ had to "pay" the death penalty on our behalf. As the Apostle Paul wrote: "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Sin is so awful—so vile in God's sight—that it automatically brings death in the Lake of Fire unless it is genuinely repented of. Perhaps the best example of true repentance is shown in David's prayer after his sin with Bathsheba. David cried out to God: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge" (Psalm 51:1–4).
Notice that David never tried to justify what he had done. He called it "sin," and acknowledged that he needed to be "cleansed." He also recognized that his sin was not primarily against Bathsheba—nor against her husband, Uriah, whom he had murdered—but against God Himself! David described his need to be delivered from the "guilt of bloodshed" (v. 14). Finally, David acknowledged: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise" (v. 17).
This attitude of total repentance and surrender to God was a major reason why God called David "a man after My own heart" (Acts 13:22). God also loved David for having such a profound love for God's commandments and laws—so totally unlike preachers today who say God's magnificent law is too strict or harsh or burdensome. David wrote: "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me" (Psalm 119:97–98).
Jesus cried out: "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Jesus is not your "Lord" unless you obey Him! Frankly, you are not a true Christian unless you are willing to obey God and do what He says! Could it be any simpler?
Long after the death of Jesus and the original apostles, misguided priests and theologians during the Dark Ages began to twist the whole concept of true Christianity around in strange ways. They began to teach the idea of "penance" rather than repentance. People even tried to "buy" their way out of sin by purchasing "indulgences" from the priests. Martin Luther—the founder of Protestantism—was so horrified by this rotten practice that he started the Protestant Reformation. Luther was undoubtedly sincere—as are most Protestants today. But he only came part-way out of an entirely Babylonish system!
Because he considered the Roman Catholic "church laws" to be harsh and misguided, Luther invented the idea that Christians are "freed" from obeying God's law. He introduced the idea of being saved by "grace" alone. In fact, in his German translation of the New Testament, Luther purposely mis-translated Romans 3:28, which states: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." Luther, however, put it that "man is justified by faith alone." When one of his critics corrected this mis-translation, Luther haughtily replied: "Should your Pope give himself any useless annoyance about the word sola, you may promptly reply: It is the will of Dr. Martin Luther that it should be so" (Alzog, Manual of Universal Church History, p. 199). Luther gave no other reason for such an unscriptural change. When it came to Luther's own personal doctrinal convictions, he was truly a self-willed man.
From then on, most Protestant preachers and theologians have grown up with the concept that we are somehow "freed" from keeping God's commandments! In their thinking, they confuse the physical ordinances of ancient Israel with the spiritual law of the Ten Commandments—though the two are totally different! They try to imagine that the Ten Commandments are not required under the new covenant. But God's word makes it clear that the spiritual law of God—the Ten Commandments—is the very basis of the new covenant! Specifically describing the new covenant, Paul tells us: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Hebrews 8:10).
Again and again—throughout both the Old and New Testaments—God gives a consistent teaching on obeying His spiritual law, The Ten Commandments. Even before the old covenant was given, Abraham—"the father of all those who believe" (Romans 4:11)—was blessed: "Because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Genesis 26:5). We have seen that David loved God's commandments—and he is designated as a future king under Christ to rule over millions of people in Tomorrow's World (Ezekiel 37:24).
Then Jesus came along, telling the young man who asked the way to eternal life: "Keep the commandments"! And, contrary to misguided Protestant teaching, the Apostle Paul definitely practiced obedience to God's laws, kept God's Sabbaths and Holy Days, and wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:19: "Keeping the commandments of God is what matters"!
In the soon-coming reign of Jesus Christ, all nations will be keeping God's commandments! This will be the basis of the entire way of life in Christ's soon-coming reign over this earth! Describing God's Kingdom to come in the "latter days," the prophet Micah clearly states that God's law will be taught and obeyed. "Many nations shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Micah 4:2).
The truth is that each human being will eventually have to surrender his life and will to God and—through Christ living in Him—keep the commandments of God, which reflect His entire way of life! Hebrews 13:8 tells us: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." And the Apostle Paul wrote: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
Christ—living His life within you through the Holy Spirit—will help you grow and overcome to keep God's commandments as a way of life, just as He did. For He is the same. He does not change His basic spiritual standards. Please understand that!
The very starting point of true Christianity is to fully surrender to God, and to repent of breaking His commandments and the entire way of life they represent! Then, one must come to a profound realization of the depth of God's love in giving His Son to be our Savior—and one must genuinely accept Jesus as Savior and Lord! Then, there will be no arguments—no trying to get around the clear, consistent example set by Jesus, the apostles and the entire Church of God for hundreds of years until paganism took over the name of professing Christianity and only a few small groups of true Christians remained! That "falling away" was predicted many times in the New Testament (see Acts 20:29–31; 2 Thessalonians 2:3–12; Jude 3–4). That is why the Apostle John was inspired to write about "the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).
May God help each of us to be willing to surrender completely to do the will of our Creator, and to keep His commandments. Keeping them brings about a truly wonderful way of life! We must not be afraid of the "R" word! You and I must repent at the beginning of our Christian lives, and keep on repenting and growing in grace and in knowledge all the days of our lives. God's Word tells us: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). Only then may you receive and have the help of God's Holy Spirit, "whom God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32). Only then will you truly be learning and practicing the way of life that will prepare you for service in Christ's soon-coming Kingdom to be set up on this earth (Revelation 5:10).