Demonstrating Repentance–and Christianity

Scripture Focus: Acts 26.20
20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.

Reflection: Demonstrating Repentance–and Christianity
By Bridget Jack Jeffries

King David. Martin Luther. John Calvin. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These are names that we as modern-day Christians often revere, names of men who fought for the kingdom of God. 

Yet King David is also known for his murder of the righteous Uriah and his taking of Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Martin Luther was a rabid antisemite who called for graphic violence against Jews. John Calvin was complicit in the state execution of Michael Servetus, while Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an unequivocal plagiarist and serial adulterer who spent his last night on earth with another woman. 

My point here is not to diminish the enormous accomplishments of these men, nor to cross-examine their Christianity. My point is that actions matter and their own actions (very unfortunately) cast an enormous shadow over their work for the kingdom of God. 

Paul also preached that actions matter—that we as Christians “should repent and turn to God and demonstrate [our] repentance by [our] deeds.” This is because Paul understood that few things would undermine incipient Christianity faster than Christians whose lives were indistinguishable from non-Christians–that is, Christians who continued in sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6.18) or greed (1 Timothy 6.10) or neglect of the poor (Galatians 2.10) or the worship of other gods (1 Corinthians 10.14). We see the consequences of neglect of Paul’s teaching in the modern-day church, where many Christians are “deconstructing” and leaving their faith because they see no actual Christianity in the lives of the so-called “Christians” and “Christian leaders” around them.

We believers often have a fraught relationship with works, and it certainly is grace that saves us (Ephesians 2.8-9). Yet Jesus also advised that we could discern true Christians from false ones by their fruits (Matthew 7.16-20), meaning their actions and results. Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah warned that we can be undone by our own actions: “Your wickedness will punish you, your backsliding will rebuke you” (Jeremiah 2.19a). 

Ultimately, being Christian is not supposed to look the same as being non-Christian. We should pursue lives of “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5.23-24), lives that showcase the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within us. By this Spirit, Jesus promised to teach us and lead us into lives of holiness, if we will only surrender to him.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

Today’s Readings

Jeremiah 2 (Listen -5:54)
Acts 26 (Listen – 5:17)

Read more about The Ever-Patient Agriculturalist
The purpose in deconstruction is reconstruction…in uprooting is to replant…May we rejoice in being pruned and replanted.

Creator of Worlds :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Michelle Perez, from New York, NY
This extols the beauty of the Lord’s creative work with such reverence and joy! I especially love that the prayer from Jamaica includes the importance and beauty of each created human life and pleads with the Lord to remember those who do not look at “life” through that lens.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 148.1-4
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Reflection: Creator of Worlds :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 12th, 2019
By John Tillman

Scripture tells us that creation groans to be released from sin. If the beauty and wonder of creation is what shines through despite its being shackled with sin, how much more beautiful may it be when all has been restored?

And…if creation is still capable of beauty and wonder through its groaning and pain, so much the more are we. We are not mere rocks that cry out, but God’s children whose mouths are filled with ordained praise. 

We are not trees that clap our hands with the breeze but God’s own family who celebrate the grace of God our Father even with our faces set firmly against a blowing gale.

With joy, we join this prayer from Christian brothers and sisters in Jamaica, praising and calling on the Almighty God, creator of all worlds!

Creator of Worlds
Prayer for the preservation of creation from Jamaica

Almighty God: Creator of all worlds!

We honor you for the marvels of your creation, and thank you for that part of it which is our home— the mountains, the green fields, and the sea— the abundance and energy of life in us and around us.

We confess that we have often forgotten that the world is yours and so we have misused and abused your gifts, causing distress and pain to others and to ourselves.

Out of your forgiving grace—hear us now as we pray for healing in our world.

Remember those who behold but cannot appreciate your wonderful world and those who abuse and deface its beauty—that they may discover the joy of tending the garden of the Lord.

Remember those who squander and waste resources you have entrusted to them, but are not concerned that others are starving.

Remember those who respect not life, your precious gift, in themselves and in others, and who from greed, or anger, or malice destroy human life without pity or fear.

Remember those who bear rule in communities and nations, acting with arrogance and without wisdom—that they may know that power is a trust for which they must give an account to you the only Absolute Ruler. May they in humility exercise the stewardship you have allotted them. May their labors promote peace and prosperity among the peoples of our troubled lands.

Oh Lord, help us all to be good stewards of this beautiful universe your mighty hand has brought into being.

In Jesus’ great name.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The trees of the Lord are full of sap, the cedars of Lebanon which he planted,
In which the birds build their nests, and in whose top the stork makes his dwelling.
The high hills are a refuge for the mountain goats, and his stony cliffs for rock badgers. — Psalm 104.17-19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ruth 1 (Listen – 3:33) 
Acts 26 (Listen – 5:17)

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Read more about Overgrown by the Gospel
May the gospel make ruins of our pride and selfishness. May we be overgrown by the gospel.