These lessons are part of a series of bulletin inserts at Blainesburg Bible Church. The online versions contain minor edits for the expanded online audience. This lesson originally released on March 24, 2019.
Reading the lessons in order provides the best results as each lesson builds upon the prior one.
Following Jesus Requires Repentance
When John the Baptist was working his ministry as the one to prepare the way for the Christ, he was baptizing people in the Jordan River. When the religious leaders of the time—Pharisees and Sadducees—came to where he was baptizing, he said in Matthew 3:8-10 (ISV), “You children of serpents! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit that is consistent with repentance! Don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have father Abraham!’ because I tell you that God can raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones! The ax already lies against the roots of the trees. So every tree that isn’t producing good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Those are some harsh words! Imagine telling religious leaders who were able to have you imprisoned that they were children of snakes and needed to do things (bear fruit) that proved they had a change of heart. Think about the seriousness of John the Baptist telling religious leaders that trees that don’t produce good fruit were ready to be cut down and burned. He told them the ax was already in place at the roots of these trees—them! It was a warning for them to repent and to do it now!
The God’s Word bible version puts repentance in plain English where instead of the statement of “Produce fruit consistent with repentance,” it says, “Do those things that prove you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act.”
Repentance, in New Testament Greek, is a combination of “meta” and “noia” to make the Greek word “μετάνοια.” The combination word means to “think differently after.” In application it would mean to think differently after you believe in Jesus as your Savior. This thinking differently results in actions taken to act differently. The common definition of “repent” from the pulpit is to make a 180-degree turn from walking (living our daily lives) in a manner that takes us away from God to beginning to walk toward God in our thoughts and ways/beliefs and actions.
Learning Who You Are Not In Christ Helps You Understand Who You Are
Why is bearing fruit that demonstrates repentance important? Let us consider a statement Paul made about who we become after putting our faith in Jesus as our Savior. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, right after Paul told the Corinthian church to flee sexual immorality, he said, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (emphasis mine). YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN! You were bought back from your lost state of being separated from God—redeemed—by the blood of Christ shed on the cross.
The knowledge that the Holy Spirit dwells within you should be enough for you to force your thoughts and actions into compliance with the will of God—to repent from your old way of doing things when you were not serving God. Again, you are not your own! You were bought with the price of Jesus’ blood on the cross! This brings about a change in the core of our being that is supposed to result in our thoughts/actions becoming obedient to the will of God.
First Steps for Body Ministry
The first step of taking your place in the Body of Christ, which later lessons will cover in detail, is to first take control of your own thoughts and actions and to realize there are consequences for failure to do so. To be able to take control is to first truly be in communion with the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.
You have probably heard it quoted many times where Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV), “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . .” However, the point Paul was conveying is a continuation of verse three, and the King James Version punctuation has verses three through six as one long sentence.
So, let us take a look at the whole thought Paul was conveying to the readers using the New King James Version of the bible:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
That is a lot to consider, and the words after the final comma may sound peculiar to many who routinely quote this passage. Though we can and should apply the points to our own spiritual battles, Paul was actually pointing out the authority he has as an apostle. Here are the points we can apply to ourselves too:
- Followers of Christ are human beings living in bodies of flesh, but the war fought as Christians is a spiritual one. Modern warfare is mostly fought using guns and explosives of all types. Spiritual battles are fought through the Holy Spirit in us (1 John 3:24, 1 John 4:4), using God’s word (Luke 4:1-13), and prayer (James 5:16 second sentence).
- Spiritual weapons God gives us pull down fortified resistance, and eliminate false arguments and anything that tries to set itself up higher than God in our lives. These spiritual weapons bring our very thoughts captive into obeying Jesus.
We usually end the thought of this passage in our minds with “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . .” We often use this when we need to remind ourselves that we are in a spiritual war against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. When it is quoted, verse six is almost always left out. However, verse six is when it comes to the beginning of understanding one’s place in the Body of Christ.
Verse six speaks of learning to obey Christ along with the consequence of punishment of disobedience. The Apostle Paul continued in 2 Corinthians 10:6, “ . . .and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” Paul told the Corinthian Christians he was going to use spiritual weapons to destroy anything in the Corinthian church against Christ. And once the church learned how to be obedient to Christ, Paul would be ready to punish disobedience.
The Corinthian church was in a learning phase, learning everything they needed to know to bring themselves into the willful obedience of Christ through the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.