Thursday, February 29, 2024

EVANGELICAL REPENTANCE #1 : The Heart of Biblical Repentance

 OUTLINE (4 Sessions) 

1. The Heart of Biblical Repentance

2. True and False Repentance

3.  Repentance -  A New Testament Overview

4.  Biblical  Repentance is a  Spiritual Medicine



Psalm 51

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the castle door at Wittenberg on the 31st October 1517, the very first thesis read: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Matt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance”. We are going to say much about this.

Some context is needed here. The years leading up to Luther’s conversion were an agonising exercise in trying to understand how a just and holy God might forgive a sinner. He essentially struggled with the question, “What is effective repentance? How do I know that I am truly forgiven by God”? Now Luther, an Augustinean monk, and a doctor of Theology had understood the essential nature of God.  He had understood that God was righteous and holy. He had also understood  the  problem of original sin, and all the sin that flows  from that. His greatest problem was that he did not yet understand how this holy and righteous God could accept human works of repentance for salvation. He did not yet understand how God could effectively justify sinners. He had not yet understood the ‘once and for all’[1] death of Jesus. What made it worse was that the Latin Vulgate, the official church Bible of the day had misleadingly rendered ‘repent’ in Matthew 4:17 as, ‘do penance’[2], which is consistent with the works-based teaching on repentance by the Roman Catholic church. It is a mistranslation and misrepresentation of the Greek word ‘metanoia’, which indicates a radical change of mind, that leads to a deep transformation of the life[3].  Luther was stuck on the concept of a works- based justification. When he finally understood “that the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16,17), everything changed. He understood that by Faith ALONE, in Christ ALONE, a sinner can be fully justified, by trusting in Christ’s ‘’once for all work”. That change of mind is ultimately brought about by the Holy Spirit, the Agent of our regeneration.  And it is a Trinitarian work. God the Father, by giving His eternal Son as a substitute for the sin of the world, by means of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, leads the sinner to a life of true repentance. And so, we learn that repentance is firstly a gift from God, BUT it is also a duty commanded to every person  (Acts 17:30; Lk. 13:3).  The gift enables our duty. A true Christian is one who has repented of their sinful and vain efforts to justify themselves. A Christian is one who continually looks to Christ for justification. A Christian is one who turns their back on the old life and follows God commandments in newness of life.

And so it is that we find at the heart of Luther’s Theses this emphasis: Repentance is a characteristic of the whole life and not the action of a single moment. I want to stress this frequently: The believer in Christ is a lifelong repenter.  The Christian life begins with repentance and continues in repentance (Rom. 8:12-13).[4] Ongoing repentance is necessary on this side of the grave because sin is an ongoing reality for us. In this regard we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, whilst leaning strongly on the grace of God. (Phil. 2:12-13)


Knowing this then, the great work of the church is to preach the gospel - THE GOOD NEWS, because there is bad news. The proper response to this bad news is repentance, which is to believe the Gospel.  This gives us vital perspective on the work of the church. The most essential part of a church’s ministry, and of a Pastor’s work has to do with calling people to repentance. This was essentially the work of John the Baptist and of Jesus. You will remember that their essential message was, Repent for the kingdom of God is near!” John and Jesus knew what was at stake. Guilty people were perishing in their sins. And so, the church’s ministry ought to be built upon this conviction: Without repentance a person cannot get to heaven. That is a weighty truth! What is at stake if men, women and children do not repent? Answer: The wrath of God remains on us (Romans 1:18ff). Therefore, we must repent! We must turn from sin. We must turn to God. We must flee from the coming wrath. We must urge repentance! No repentance, no heaven! Listen to how Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) puts it:

“After Paul’s shipwreck he swam to shore on planks and broken pieces of the ship (Acts 27:44). In Adam we all suffered shipwreck, and repentance is the only plank left us after shipwreck to swim to heaven”.[5] 

Therefore, the doctrine of repentance is no theological side issue. It is cardinal. It is crucial.    It is alarming that concerning the wrath to come we hear little urgency from our pulpits. We hear little preaching that urges repentance upon its hearers. Moral Therapeutic Deism[6] rules the day.   This has become a pastoral problem because we constantly battle with people who want to feel good, but who have no inclination to be as good as the Bible calls them to be. It has become a pastoral problem because this mindset  is sapping the energies of the pulpit, tempting pastors to become therapists, forsaking their prophetic callings. It is a pastoral problem because the people that are walking into our evangelical reformed churches are walking in with their heaped-up sins. They want our help but very often they want feel- good- help.

How will we help them? Jeremiah asked this question in his day:

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?” (Jer. 8:22)

It is clear that people with heaped up sins must turn to someone. And they do.  In this vacuum modern psychology has generally found a lucrative market gap. In fact, Psychology is a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ in the attempt for the cure of sin sick souls that refuse heavenly remedies. I am excluding here genuine medical problems. Sadly, many pastors and churches have endorsed the dictates of secular psychology. Psychology calls sin ‘sickness’ - something that happens to you and which is beyond your control, and by implication therefore repentance becomes irrelevant. The general remedy is psychotherapy and psychotropic medication, which does grant some relief, but fails to deal with the heart.  Sin, man’s greatest problem according to the Bible, and its remedy, repentance, is hardly addressed. This is what the prophet Jeremiah refers to when he says,

“They have healed the wounds of my people lightly, saying ‘’peace, peace’’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11 cf. 6:14).

So I ask again:  How we help people that  are anxious, guilt riddled, angry, bitter, depressed - and who manage their days by living on endless pills, alcohol, drugs, pornography, continual spending (and staying in debt)  to suppress  their deepest  problems?

A life of ongoing repentance is the key! Jim Packer says,

“Repentance is the drainage system on the highway of holiness on which God calls us all to travel. It is the way we get beyond what has proved to be dirt, rubbish and stagnant floodwater in our lives. This routine is a vital need, for where real repentance fails, real spiritual   advance ceases and real spiritual growth stops short.” [7]

And now as we have Psalm 51 before us, we must ask: What is the issue here? Was David a sex addict in need of psycho-therapy and medication, or was he a sinner in need of a fresh  encounter with God – by way of a process called repentance?   We all know that in the midst of his years as a God’s anointed king and as a believer, David fell under a dark spell of sin, which he tried to ignore until he was convicted by the Holy Spirit, at the hand of Nathan the prophet. That is when David repented of his sin. Psalm 51 is the result.

Psalm 51 is the profound statement of repentance spoken by an adulterer - one who broke up the marriage of one of his most loyal and committed soldiers. He even caused this man’s death! The context is found in 2 Samuel 11 & 12. Nathan was sent by God to expose David’s sin (2 Sam. 12:1). We find that upon exposure David’s confession is immediate. “I have sinned against the Lord.“ (2 Sam 12:13). No arguments. No denial. No excuses. No - “the devil  made me do it“,  and  no pulling of rank,   even though he was a successful  and powerful king in the Middle East  at that time. David knows that he is guilty as charged.

And so, we have here the outpouring of David’s heartfelt, godly sorrow for sin – and hence a meaningful Psalm of repentance. We know that His repentance was genuine, for God accepted it (2 Sam. 12:13), even though it still meant that David had to face a number of the grave consequences of his sin.

What Led To David’s Sin, And Why Was Repentance Necessary?

Something went wrong in David’s heart before he took Bathsheba and before he disposed of Uriah her husband. David’s problem began with God. His heart had been drifting from God, and so he saw, coveted, and took.  When he had understood this it amounted to a heartfelt sorrow, an owning up to his sin before God. His sin against God was the real cause, and the rest was the effect. And so he rightly says in Psalm 51:4

“Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight”. 

He expresses his brokenness over that cardinal sin which led to every other sin he committed thereafter.  

If the root of sin is unfaithfulness towards God, then it is axiomatic to say that repentance must begin with a look at our own hearts in the light of the God against whom we have transgressed.

How Will The Doctrine Of Repentance Help Us?

Biblical repentance includes, but it does not begin by saying sorry and making restitution   for having done a wrong to someone. Too often repentance is only dealt with by way of saying ‘sorry’, or ‘please forgive me’ to the person offended. But biblical repentance is far profounder than that. It looks beyond the action to the heart of the problem – that problem which underlies the action. The heart of the problem is the heart. Notice then the genesis of sin in Genesis 3:6 which underlies your and my fundamental problem:   Eve said, “I saw… I took… I ate”.  Or in Joshua 7:21  - Achan said, “I saw … I coveted… I took”.  The sin of Eve and Joshua and David  and every other sin begins in the heart. It is essentially an expression of disbelief in God’s words and therefore in essence it is rebellion against God and God’s law. So, if begins in the heart, and if sin is not killed there, it will spread like a virus – and if unchecked, it will kill you.  John Owen famously said, "Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you."[8]

Therefore, biblical repentance must begin with God. We must begin with the God whose law we have transgressed, and if this so then it follows also that we must begin by looking to Him for the forgiveness of that sin.  The biblical doctrine of repentance is given us to deal with the heart of our most basic problem - the ongoing sin problem. It is given for our good and it is a necessary chronic medication to be used daily for our soul’s well- being.  


From David’s life we see that it is possible for true believers to sin – and even to sin grossly.  Sin will not spare us for one day. The difference between a true believer and a false believer is not that the true believer never sins and the false believer inevitably sins does!  No!  The truth is that true believers may sin as heinously as any non-Christian. So where do we find the difference?

We’ will wait for the next session!

[1] Hebrews 7:27, 9:12,26 ; 10:10,12,14

[2] The Latin Fathers translated metanoia as paenitentia, which came to mean "penance" or "acts of penance. Tertullian protested the unsuitable translation of the Greek metanoeo into the Latin paenitentiam by arguing that in Greek, metanoia is not a confession of sins but a change of mind. (Wikipedia)

[3] Sinclair Ferguson: The Grace of Repentance (2010), Crossway , p.14

[5] Thomas Watson: The Doctrine of Repentance, p.13, Puritan Paperbacks

[6] This term first introduced in the 2005 book “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers"  by the sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. Based on interviews with 3000 US teenagers, the following describe their common beliefs:

1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.

2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.

3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

[7] J.I. Packer : A Passion for Holiness, Crossway, p.122

[8] John Owen: The Mortification of sin : Puritan Paperbacks ,p.5

Sunday, December 31, 2023



It is fitting that the last day of this year today falls on a Sunday, or as we prefer to call it – the Lord’s Day. We are bidding 2023 goodbye and look forward into 2024, comforted by the fact that despite a globally chaotic 2023 we may know that this world remains in God’s hands. For me personally it is also fitting to end my labours as a pastor of the Eastside Baptist Church among you on the Lord’s day. 

I do so solemnly and yet gratefully.

I have chosen this particular text from the book of Proverbs for this occasion, because it has been in many ways an anchor text for my life and ministry. In my pastoral practise and counselling, in hospitals and in many other settings I have shared and impressed this text   upon the minds and hearts of many people, young and old. Therefore it is fitting that I use this portion of sacred Scripture as my last word in my capacity as an outgoing pastor of the Eastside Baptist Church, as I commend you to the Lord with these words. I shall of course continue to use it, along with all the Bible, as  long as the Lord lends me breath. 

And now to the text.

1.      Introduction (3:1–4)

3:1–2 The father (Solomon) begins with two admonitions: “my son, do not forget…” lit. do not cut yourself off from my  authoritative teaching (Heb. torah), but “keep” (lit. guard) my “commandments”. The two admonitions in turn are linked to two promises, which are conditional upon the son’s obedience: (i) “length of days and years of life” and (ii) “peace” (Heb. Shalom-  indicating  a sense of holistic well-being)

3:3–4 These verses contain two further admonitions urging the son 

(i) not to let go of the virtues of “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Hebr. chesed -  covenantal faithfulness ) but to 

(ii) “bind them around your neck” – i.e. let these virtues  be  prominently  and visibly displayed  in his life (see 1:9).

Life needs a solid foundation. The Jews saw this in the Torah. We see it in the completed revelation of God which ends in Jesus (Hebr. 1:1-3). He is the fulfilment of the law. Let us  therefore make it our aim,  with all our heart,  to display  the Lord Jesus prominently in our lives. Let our lives be attractional displays. Let us find favour and good success in the eyes of God and man (3:4). Let us see how we may do this..

2.      Main Body (3:5–10)

3:5–6 Three admonitions (3:5–6a) challenge the son to “trust in the LORD”,

·         entirely—“with all your heart[1]

·         exclusively—”do not lean/ rely on your own understanding”

·         extensively —“in all your ways acknowledge Him”

Charles Bridges says of these verses, that this is 'the polar star of the child of God- faith in his father’s providence, promises and grace'[2]. This is the North Star - and just as in old times  it guided  ships  in the ocean, these verses are able to guide the child of God in their life.

To trust the LORD means to put one’s entire confidence in God because He alone knows the complete picture. The word “trust” here (Hebr. batach) means literally to lie helpless, facedown- like a captured person. It is a picture of a man totally stretched out on his face before God. He is totally subjected to His will.  This reminds us of the Lord Jesus,  who  "fell on his face, and prayed ... not as I will, but as you will" (Mt. 26:39).

Self-confidence, trusting in our own abilities  by contrast is dangerous because of our own limited knowledge and understanding. It is not safe to trust in ourselves!  We must acknowledge Him in all  our ways,  literally “know him” (Hebr. yadah, “to know” - intimately and personally). It describes experiential knowledge (Prov.1:2). It is the knowledge David spoke about in his counsel to Solomon at the end of His life:

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found  by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever." (1 Chr.28:9).

Our trust in God grows as we learn more and more about Him. The more we know God, the more we get to know Him and trust Him, the easier it becomes to commit our ways to Him. Trusting God cannot be separated from intimacy with God. If we do this, we are assured of this promise: “He will make straight your paths”. The verb “to make smooth; to make straight”… (Hebr. yashar) indicates the making of the way free from obstacles cf. Isa 40:3. By trusting God, He will make the way smooth for the believer, even among many challenges, helping you to reach your heavenly goal.

3:7–8 Two admonitions:

(i)                 one is negative, warning the son “not to be wise in his own eyes” (i.e. not to be an arrogant know-it-all). Be very  careful in  making your own understanding, whatever seems reasonable and logical according to your temporal, human understanding  the measure of all things. You may yet find  that your thinking may be absolutely foolish when measured against the Bible. Learn to pray (Prayer is trusting God!) that you would be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9; Eph. 5:17).  Indeed, our greatest challenge in this life is to learn to think God’s thoughts after Him.

(ii)               The other admonition is positive, exhorting his son to “fear the LORD” (3:7) – which is the beginning, the starting point of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). Again the keeping of this command leads to two promises 

(a) that knowing and trusting God brings  “healing to  your flesh” (lit. navel[3])-  The image here is of the health-giving nourishment  which  flows from the mother’s body through the umbilical cord into her preborn baby’s body. The navel thus  symbolizes  the nourishing of the flesh – the  whole body  

(b) refreshment (lit. drink)  to the bones (i.e. skeleton). The  fear of the Lord is a healing flow into our sin-sick souls. It is the marrow or nourishment-drink, refreshment for our bones.

The wellness of flesh and bones signifies holistic, physical and spiritual health i.e. wholeness to body and spirit.

3:9–10 Here we find a single admonition followed by two promises. The admonition relates to the public worship of God. To “honour the LORD” means to think of Him as supreme and to show it publicly not only with our lips, but also with our lives... such as honouring the LORD with our wealth (3:9a) … expanded by “the giving of our first-fruits” (3:9b) … the giving of the very best. The double promise in 3:10 indicates that God will reciprocate with abundance to those who honour him with their wealth.

Conclusion (3:11–12)

The conclusion urges the son to embrace the LORD’s discipline because such discipline is rooted in love. It reflects the essence of a true father-son relationship. Hebrews 12:3–12 provides an authoritative commentary on these verses.  As Christians we need to learn to see ourselves as in God’s hands, and if in God’s hands, then in the hands of our heavenly Father. This means that  the sum-total of our experiences, the hills and the valleys, God’s encouragements  and His fatherly chastisement  must be  received as from His hands. 


Our brief meditation has been on the nature  of  true  godliness  which  manifests itself   in

(i)                 3:1-4 Embracing the teaching (Torah- which has its end and perfection in Jesus), rooted in the covenantal disciplines of love and faithfulness. This really pleases God.

(ii)               3:5-8 Evidenced in  an experiential  trust in the LORD -  intellectual humility

(iii)             3:9-10  and seen in  actual works  such as  submission of material wealth to God’s rule  and patient acceptance of divine discipline (3:11–12).

APPLICATION : Reflections and Resolutions 

As  we find ourselves at the end of 2023, facing 2024 it is good  to use this text to make  some godly resolutions. 

Here are  4  questions, resolutions  and promises  taken from our text for our consideration 

1.      How have I related to God’s Word? 

Have I forgotten His teachings? Have I sinned against God’s commandments? Have I been a visible imitator of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness?

Resolution: Get to know His Word better in 2024 

Promise: A better quality of life - length of days (better quality of real living) and real peace; more favour  and good success in the eyes of God and man.

2.      Have I trusted God’s Word more than my own understanding? 

Have I acknowledged Him (made it my business to get to know Him more and more)? Have I been too wise in my own eyes?

Resolution: Trust God more implicitly; be more suspicious of my own capacities to understand; get to know Him better; fear Him; turn from all evil.

Promise:  I will be guided by God. He will make straight my crooked paths; my psychosomatic ills may disappear.  

3.      Have I honoured God in my life ?

Particularly with my wealth? Have I observed the First- fruits principle?  

Resolution: Be more deliberate in honouring God practically.

Promise: barns filled; vats bursting – meaning that you will know that you have more enough, when God becomes your Provider.

4.      How do I relate to God’s discipline? 

Have I perhaps despised Him for it? Have I become weary of it?

Resolution:  Learn to appreciate God’s discipline.

Promises:  Discipline is a sign that God loves you and delights in you.

I leave you now in God’s good hands, and trust  that the good work which He has begun in you He will be pleased to complete (Phil. 1:6) 

[1] The “heart” commonly refers to the mind as the center of thinking and reason (Prov. 3:3; 6:21; 7:3). It includes the emotions (Prov. 15:15, 30), the will (Prov. 11:20; 14:14), and thus, the whole inner being (Prov. 3:5). The heart is the fountain of all wisdom, the source of whatever affects speech (Prov. 4:24), sight (Prov. 4:25), and conduct (Prov. 4:26, 27).

[2] Charles Bridges: Proverbs, Banner of Truth,p.23

[3] Hebrew word for "body" = umbilical cord, navel (the source of nutrition in utero).

Sunday, December 24, 2023

John 14:1-14 "Jesus helps me to know God personally"


Today is the 4th Advent. 

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or "arrival".  We speak of the four Advent Sundays which come to a climax with the arrival or birth or advent of our Lord Jesus on Christmas day.  This reminds us on a yearly basis also that there is also another advent in view – namely the second coming of Christ. Don’t forget that!

We have taken as our general text 2 Corinthians 5:19 for this advent season: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 

And in this season  we are thinking of at least 5 reasons why we ought to be thankful for God’s indescribable gospel gift:

1. Jesus, the indescribable gift from God makes us have peace with a righteous, holy, just God. We need peace, for through we have become enemies of God.  By trusting in Jesus I may have my sins truly forgiven and His judgment taken away. In Christ, I am truly free! “If the Son set you free, you will be free indeed!” (Jn.8:36)

2. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus assures me that beyond the grave I will possess life and joy and not a fearful prospect of judgment.

3. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus also satisfies the deepest, ultimate longings of my heart, and not just the superficial desires for personal comfort and prosperity.

4. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus helps me to know God personally. We shall consider this fact today.

5. And then lastly, this indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus can really change people. The testimony of the characters of the Bible, and the history of the influence of the gospel of Jesus in the world is an eloquent testimony to this fact. This will be the subject of Christmas morning.

Our anchor text for this message is John 14:9.  

Jesus said to Philip, ‘If you have seen me you have seen the Father’".  

And our main point is this: When we see Jesus as He is, then we also see and understand God as He is - in His essential Nature and Being. Therefore get to know Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible, and you will get to know who God is and what He is like.  This means that you and I will have to be in the daily presence of Jesus and it means  that you and I  must be engaged in a lifelong study, prayerful meditation of the Bible, both in engaging in it for ourselves and also by listening to sound preachers of the Word. Always remember that God has given us an inspired Word[1] – a Testament in two parts about Himself.  And if you want to hear God speaking, read His Word aloud. Hear it spoken aloud. That is the safest way to get to know God.  

The great church father Augustine, before his conversion, was in a bad state. His life was falling to pieces, but the prayers of his godly mother Monica were being answered. Sitting in a garden, he heard children playing and singing, “Tolle lege, tolle lege” … take up and read. He  grabbed the Bible next to him and  read aloud  the first text that opened – Romans 13:13,14. The rest is history. He was a changed man.

We now consider the 4th aspect:  God’s indescribable Gift, the Lord Jesus helps us to know God personally. It is this personal knowledge of God which we must now consider. Personal means, ‘near us’ and ‘in us’. We were made for intimacy with God.

7 Reflections: We were made for a Personal Relationship with God 

1. Consider the fact that we were originally made for this purpose

        i.            In the act of Creation we (mankind) were made for intimate fellowship with God. We alone of all creatures were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).  We alone, of all creatures were made to have a capacity for a relationship with the Creator.  

      ii.            BUT we also must recognise the fact that we no longer possess that special relationship. We are a fallen people.  The Bible teaches that sin has destroyed that personal fellowship (Genesis 3). This sin has alienated every descendant of Adam and Eve. No-one is righteous – not even one (Rom. 3:9-12; cf. Ps 14:1-3; 53:1-3).  We are far from God – each one of us. And Jesus, God’s indescribable gift alone can deal with this problem of our alienation from God.

    iii.            AND SO CHRIST CAME AT CHRISTMAS! In grace and mercy and unfathomable love, God has created a way to save those who look to Christ the Saviour (John 1:29). Those who look to Christ are freed from the bondage of sin, and they are led back into a personal relationship with God via the road of progressive sanctification. Those who look to Him are radiant, says Psalm 34:5. Why so?  

They have rediscovered their sense of identity, purpose and destiny. They are able to answer life’s three most important questions with confidence: Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going?

2. Immanuel is personal! Consider the fact that the holy God has made Himself known to fallen sinners once again in the person of His Son, who is Jesus Immanuel – which translates as ‘God with us’. (Matt. 1:22;  cf. Isa. 7:14).  ‘With us’ means that He is near, and if He is near  then He is also personal. In Christ, God has become once again accessible to us: Ephesians 2:13-22, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ… so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God ...”.  If we are born again and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and in fellowship with the household of God  where we are fed through  sound expository preaching we learn to get to know the  God from whom we became alienated. 

3. God the Son: Consider again who Jesus is, and what qualifies Him to make the Father known to us: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father". (John 1:1-4,14).  Jesus is here declared to be One who is from God and not only that. He Himself  is God. More than that, He as God took on flesh – our nature – minus sin (Philip. 2:1ff). If then He is  from God, but also One who became flesh, then He  is qualified to make God known, and that is exactly what the Bible says in John 1:18, ”No one has ever God; the only God  (note the deity of Jesus) who is at the Father’s side has made Him known.”

4. Jesus’ own promises of a continued personal relationship through the Holy Spirit:  Remember that Jesus, at His ascension told His disciples that He would not leave them as orphans (Jn. 14:18), but that He would send one like Himself (Jn.16:7), the Holy Spirit who would “dwell with you and in you (Jn. 14:17). The Holy Spirit was given by God to bring Himself near to His people, and to maintain the closeness of God with His people. He is the indwelling Spirit. He is with us and in us. That is very personal, but people often forget that the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit is not primarily related to power manifestations, but to the leading of people into the knowledge of God through His Word, so that they might become what He is. It is a tragedy that the intimate Spirit has been abused by carnal men and women who are only after His effects - signs, wonders and miracles, but not after Himself, and not after  the defining virtues of holiness, godliness and Christlikeness.  The Holy Spirit’s main work is to make the person and work of Christ known (Jn. 14:26), and if Christ, then also the Father. Again I must remind you   what this is ultimately all about. We were created for God Himself. We have all fallen into sin. In that state we do not know God. We possess only the remnants of a far and distant and corrupted memory,  and that is why there are so many religions. They are all corruptions and false notions of God. Our greatest need is to get to know God. Jesus,  and the outpoured Holy Spirit ALONE  can  help  us  to find the way back to the one true God.  

5.  Jesus personal prayer for His people: Consider John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer, and particularly 17:26, the great conclusion of that prayer: “I made  known to them your Name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love  with which you have loved me  may be in them, and I in them”.  In this prayer Jesus   reveals His primary reason for coming: To make the God  whom the world has lost known, and to reignite a personal relationship  between  those who believe and the Father and the Son.  I remind you from Romans 8:34 that Jesus continues to pray for His people –  and essentially that they may remain intimate with their Father in heaven.

6. In Christ! Now consider one of Paul’s favourite phrases, applied to believers -”in Christ” – illustratively applied to Ephesians 1:1- 14: cf. verses 1b,3,4,6,7,9,11,13. In Christ or ’into Christ’ expresses our nearness to Jesus, the  Mediator between God and men. When we are ‘in Christ’ then we are also ‘in God’.  

7.  Our Future Destiny: The Father’s House – our future personal place. Finally we consider John 14:1-14, the text with which we began as we see how Jesus, in a most touching way leads us back in to the Father’s house and into the Father’s presence. This beautifully connects the parable of the lost Son (Lk. 15:11-32) with our own story. Consider that each  one of us is a lost son and daughter,  and by our conversion we are returning to the Father’s house, where we  are so well received  and where we shall finally see Him for who He is!   

Consider  from that text:

(i)        The necessity of believing in God and in Christ  in order to gain personal knowledge of God  (14:1,10,12)

(ii)       The certainty of being received into  a real place - eternal dwellings - the Father’s house (14:2)

(iii)       The assurance of  being in the personal presence of the Saviour (14:3)

(iv)    God’s patience with our uncertainties in the meantime: He bears with Thomas and Philip,  and in both cases  He reminds them that the way to heaven is  rooted in a firm  attachment (14:6) and a firm look at Christ. Jesus said to Philip, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). 

We end where we began. Our grand purpose, the meaning of life and our destiny is rooted in what we were made to be. We were made for God. We were made for intimacy, fellowship. 

Sadly we have gone in search of many things, other gods, other ways (idolatry).

But God who is rich in mercy gave us the very best, His Son. Those who look to Him  will  know the Father!   God wants to be known. He wants to be loved. He wants to be our Father and our Friend in the profoundest way imaginable. Although He is great beyond all imagination, He came near in Jesus so that we could know him. "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him" (John 14:7). And if you have received this personal friend, who is also at the same time  the Mighty God  then you can truly say this Christmas,

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift."  Amen!


[1] 2 Tim 3:16. We therefore depend on the Holy Spirit to be  the proper Interpreter


  OUTLINE 1.  The Heart of Biblical Repentance 2. True and False Repentance 3. Repentance -  A New Testament Overview 4. Biblical  Repentanc...