Guilt: What To Do With It

Are you struggling with feelings of guilt? Are you ashamed of something you have done recently? Perhaps your whole life has been one failure after another. You’re powerless to do what is right. You can’t stop doing the things you do. While you may have given up a long time ago, there is hope. You just have to look beyond yourself and look to God who already has provided a solution to your problem!

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

– Luke 18:27

When it comes to guilt, you’re not alone. Everyone has done wrong. Some people pride themselves in being ‘law-abiding citizens’, however there is not one person who has not broken God’s law and offended Him in some way. It’s human nature.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

– Romans 3:23

God is absolutely righteous (morally good), but we are not. We may try to do things that please Him at times, but even our best is futile in God’s eyes:

We are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.

– Isaiah 64:6

The problem with the wrong we do is that it cuts us off from God. He cannot look on sin because it goes against His nature, and He will not violate His nature.

Your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

– Isaiah 59:2

The wrong things we do cut us off from God. The Bible calls this separation “death”:

The soul who sins shall die.

– Ezekiel 18:4

For the wages of sin is death…

– Romans 6:23

The short-term consequences are bad enough. The long-term consequences are unthinkable. Unless sin can be dealt with, we will spend an eternity in hell, separated from God forever:

“The Son of Man [Jesus] will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

– Matthew 13:41-42

It sure sounds hopeless. And it would be, except that God still loves sinners…

God loves you!

These are not just empty words. He proved it by providing a way out of our dilemma. Two thousand years ago, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to pay the penalty of sin for you and I. He lived the perfect life we could not live, and then He willingly died a shameful and agonizing death on a cross in our place so that we could live eternally with God!

For when we were still without strength [i.e. without hope], in due time Christ died for the ungodly. … God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

– Romans 5:6-8

Jesus’ death was no accident. It was part of God’s plan from the beginning. 700 years before His birth, Isaiah prophesied about Jesus:

Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. … By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. … He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

– Isaiah 53

God did not have to do this. But He loved you and me so much, He sent His Son to pay the complete penalty for our sin. To prove that Jesus’ death was acceptable, God raised Him from the dead, and now Jesus is at God’s right-hand, interceding (mediating) for those who trust in Him. It is His intercession that ensures those who trust in Him will never be separated from God:

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 8:33-39

Once you place your trust in Jesus, sin no longer separates you from God because Jesus’ blood continually cleanses you from your sin:

The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

– 1 John 1:7

Once you place your trust in Jesus, you are perfect as far as God’s acceptance of you is concerned:

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

– Hebrews 10:14

I have placed my trust in Jesus Christ to save me. You can too. All you have to do to be saved is:

1. Recognize you are guilty before God,

2. Recognize God’s offering of mercy through Jesus Christ’s death,

3. Desire no longer to live for yourself but for God,

4. Ask God to save you, trusting only in Jesus’ work on the cross.

When you’ve had it with the results of doing things your way, try God’s way. Turn your life over to Jesus. He lived the perfect life you could not live, and died to pay the penalty for your sin.

By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

– Ephesians 2:8-9

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

– 2 Corinthians 5:21

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 6:23

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

– John 3:16-17

There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

– Acts 4:12

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

– John 6:40

Titanic

The world is like the Titanic. When Adam disobeyed God, we struck the iceberg. At that point the ship was doomed, even though things didn’t look too bad on the surface. But now the end is near. The ship is up-end and sinking fast. The opportunities to get into the lifeboat are drawing to a close.

But even with the world falling apart, people are still trying to enjoy the cruise. They’re ignoring the danger and refusing the warnings of those who really care for their well-being.

Satan has this world convinced that Christians hate sinners. But we don’t hate sinners. We love sinners. If we really hated them, we wouldn’t warn them of the consequences of their sin. We wouldn’t tell them about Jesus. We’d let them go to hell.

It is every believer’s responsibility to warn the lost in love, directing them to the Lifeboat (Jesus) with humility, gentleness, and urgency. Most will not listen (Revelation 9:20-21). They prefer to listen to the one who really does hate them (Satan). But a few will listen, repent, and turn to Jesus.

Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.

– Acts 17:30-31 HCSB

I don’t judge anyone because I am not qualified to do so, but soon it will be time for the One who is. Be ready!

Abandoning Fleshly Righteousness

The fleshly nature has two ways of expressing itself. The first is the one we are most aware and ashamed of: it is our desire to sin. But the second way is also bad, and maybe worse because we are not ashamed of it – we’re even proud of it: it is our desire for self-righteousness.

When I say self-righteousness, I’m not talking about a holier-than-thou attitude, or a hypocritical righteous facade. I mean sincerely trying to do the right thing through one’s own willpower and determination, but apart from reliance on the power of God. This kind of ‘righteousness’ falls far short of the righteousness God requires for salvation or for living the Christian life. That law-keeping is insufficient for salvation can be seen in Mark 10:17-23.

A young man came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied with the commandments, “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not give false testimony, Do not defraud, and Honor your father and mother.” The man replied, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth.”

Jesus did not call the man a liar, nor did He try to undeceive the man on his ability to keep the ten commandments. This young man was able to keep the letter of the law – I’m sure not perfectly, but Jesus didn’t make an issue of it. But also notice Jesus did not say, “Don’t worry about it then. You kept the Law, you’re in!” Instead, He said, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” Jesus said eternal life requires more than just keeping the ten commandments.

As he walked away in sorrow, Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!” This amazed His disciples because the Law says nothing about wealth hindering one’s entrance into heaven. (Actually, the Law mentions nothing about heaven.) The Law even includes blessings of wealth on those who keep its commands (Deuteronomy 7:12-24, 28:1-14). But Jesus’ told the man to sell all he had, give to the poor, take up the cross and follow Him. The reason He did so was to reveal the fleshly heart condition that was keeping him from eternal life. The man was still a slave to his fleshly desires. 1

The righteousness of the flesh looks deceptively good because it claims the letter of the Law as its standard. We think if we can keep the letter of the Law, we’re righteous. We can see this in the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18:11-12:

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus to himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.

– Luke 18:11-12 (VW)

Again, there is no indication that the Pharisee was being deceptive in his prayer. He was able to live up to the letter of the Law. And yet, it was the sinful tax collector who left justified, not the law-keeping Pharisee.

I can see Paul in this Pharisee. Before he was saved, Paul was also able to live up to the letter of the Law “blamelessly” (Philippians 3:4-6). But once he was saved, Paul realized his legalistic self-righteousness had brought him no closer to God. You see, the letter of the Law covers only a portion of the standard of righteousness. It is only the beginning.

Imagine somebody handed you a bottle with the label “Lemon Juice” on it, but you were suspicious that it might contain something else that was perhaps poisonous. How would you know the contents matched the label? You would test it against the characteristics of real lemon juice.

Lemon juice is a slightly yellow sour liquid. As you look at the bottle, you see it is a yellowish liquid, but how can you tell it is sour without tasting it? You can do a litmus test. Blue litmus paper turns red when dipped in acid. So you dip the litmus paper in the liquid and it doesn’t turn red. You have proved the liquid is not lemon juice.

But even if the paper did turn red, that would not prove the liquid was lemon juice, because any acid will do that. To prove the liquid is what it says it is, it has to pass all tests for lemon juice (which goes beyond testing just for ‘a slightly yellow sour liquid’). Each test by itself can only disprove what it is. Only all of the tests together can prove what it is.

The Old Testament Law is like a litmus test for righteousness. If you break just one command, then you are not righteous. But even if you keep all of the Law to the letter, that still doesn’t prove you are righteous. The Law is only one test – just enough to disprove our righteousness, but not enough to prove it. Jesus gives more tests for righteousness in Matthew 5:17-48. You may have kept the letter of the Law in regards to murder, and yet still be guilty of murder. You may not have committed adultery by the letter of the Law, and yet still be guilty of adultery. Keeping the letter of the Law does not prove you are righteous, because you still fail the other tests. But by breaking the letter of the Law (i.e. any one command), you immediately prove yourself a sinner.

For whoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

– James 2:10 VW 2

If you break one command of the Law, the Law has done its job in proving you a sinner (Romans 3:20).

The flesh thinks it can live up to the Law, but doesn’t realize the Law actually condemns it. Jesus shows us God’s righteousness is so perfect, we have no hope of fully meeting all of its requirements. We have to exceed the letter-of-the-Law righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). The Pharisee’s righteousness, and ours, are just filthy rags.

Self-righteousness is done in our own power, with no real need to be grateful to God. It is not the righteousness of (i.e. from) God 3. Only Christ’s righteousness satisfies God’s standard. But that righteousness will only do us good if we forsake our own weak, fleshly attempts. When Paul was saved, he abandoned his own “blameless” legalistic self-righteousness, and trusted entirely in the righteousness of Christ. Let’s follow his example.

But no, rather, I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

– Philippians 3:8-11 (VW)

Notes:

  1. Notice Jesus told the man, “One thing you lack,” then proceeded to mention four things: sell all, give to the poor, follow me, take up the cross. What the man lacked was not these things he had to do, but a heart that was fully submitted to Jesus.
  2. Likewise, Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them.”
  3. Isaiah 54:17, Romans 3:21-22, 10:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, James 2:23

Is Sanctification By Law Or By Faith?

We tend to misunderstand what was going on in the Galatian church. Well, let me rephrase. I have misunderstood what was going on in the Galatian church, …but I do think many of us share the same misunderstanding.

What I mean is, as we read Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, we assume they were trying to be saved by the works of the Law of Moses. It’s real easy to come to this conclusion when we see warnings of “a different gospel,” and read statements like “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through the faith of Jesus Christ,” and “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” There is so much justification-by-grace-through-faith doctrine in Paul’s letter that we think he was correcting their misunderstanding about how we come to salvation. And there is nothing wrong with applying the doctrine in this manner. We are saved by faith, not by works. Any gospel that says otherwise is a false one. But salvation by works was not their main problem.

While there may have been exceptions, for the most part, the Galatians were not trying to earn their salvation. They had already received the true gospel (Galatians 1:9,4:9), and as a result they had already received the Holy Spirit by faith (Galatians 3:2, Ephesians 1:14). Getting saved was not their problem. The issue was how they lived after they were saved. They had a misunderstanding of sanctification.

That their problem was a practical one can be seen in Galatians 2:10, where Paul mentions Peter, James and John’s instructions on how believing Gentiles are to live, while leaving out any instructions on how Gentiles are to be saved 1. But it becomes much more evident in chapter 3 where Paul really starts chewing them out:

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

– Galatians 3:3 (KJV)

This is the first place where Paul directly confronts them with their error. Notice the word ‘Spirit’ here. This is a gigantic clue he is not talking about how to become or stay saved …otherwise he would have said something like, “having begun in Christ.” It is the Holy Spirit’s role to make us practically righteous, not to declare us righteous before God.

The Greek word for ‘perfect’, epiteleo, is used nine times elsewhere in the New Testament. Every one of those usages refer to accomplishing something through actions 2. Epiteleo is never used in reference to our gaining or maintaining a right standing before God. In other words, we have no need to perfect our righteous status before God, because Jesus has already perfected it.

Also notice Paul did not condemn his readers merely for seeking perfection. He condemned them for the manner in which they sought it. This is another clue that sanctification is the topic at hand. The Galatian believers were trying to attain practical perfection through the Law. They thought they could achieve sanctification by works of the flesh. But sanctification is purely God’s work (John 17:17, Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 5:26, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 2:11, 10:10, 13:12, 1 Peter 1:2, 3:15). They began their walk correctly (‘by the Spirit’), but then they ceased submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit and let the Judaizers divert them. No wonder Paul was upset with them!

Although we apply the doctrine of justification in this epistle to our evangelism of the lost, it was written primarily to us believers, because we are vulnerable to the Galatians’ error. Sanctification by works is a much subtler error than justification by works, because it infects our minds so easily without knowing it. In some churches today, the Holy Spirit’s role goes no further than doctrine. Practically speaking, the Trinity becomes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Scriptures. Perhaps this is a reaction against the errors of some who tend to have a fixation on the Holy Spirit at the expense of good doctrine. I don’t know. But I do know there are serious dangers in trying to live by the Law:

• It actually empowers sin in our lives (Romans 5:20, 7:5,8, 1 Corinthians 15:56). The more we seek to live by the Law, the more power sin has over us, even if that sin is only a prideful self-righteous attitude over others. It’s not the Law’s fault – the Law is righteous and good. But our flesh still has sinful desires which attempts to use the requirements of the Law to make itself look good.

• We downplay what Paul said in Galatians 3:10, that those who insist on living by the law are under a curse, because they put themselves in debt to keep the whole law, with its sacrificial system, holy days, circumcision, etc. While this is not the curse of Galatians 1:8,9, it is still a very bad thing.

• And a legalistic sanctification mindset slowly infects our justification mindset, eventually sowing seeds of doubt about our salvation.

I think a big part of the problem is our lack of appreciation of the gospel. When we read or hear a message about the death of Jesus, or the importance of trusting in Him, we file the information away under the heading ‘How To Be Saved’, not realizing the gospel is also good news about what God does to enable us to overcome sin in our day-to-day lives 3. Jesus’ death on the cross not only has justification benefits, it has sanctification benefits (Romans 8:3-4), and both come on the same basis: by grace through faith.

The Christian life is not one of following a standard but of following a Person. Many believe the only way to avoid sin is by keeping the Law. They are unaware that walking in the Spirit and abiding in Christ prevents sin, and does so much better than trying to obey the Law. (I’m not advocating lawlessness – that would lead to sin. Instead, we are to live by a different law: the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2-4).)

But we lack faith to live this way. We’d rather hold on to our own works through law-keeping because we’re afraid to trust God to make us holy. As a result, we find no real victory over sinful habits.

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

– Galatians 3:24-25 (KJV)

Justification happens as a one-time event, but sanctification is a process that continues for the rest of our lives. We don’t drop law-keeping at the point of salvation, and then immediately take it back up again afterwards. We are no longer under that schoolmaster 4. We live by faith. Faith is not only the beginning of the way of life but its entirety. The faith that trusts God to justify us when we abandon our self-righteous works and believe in Jesus is the same faith that trusts that He will sanctify us as well when we abandon our self-righteous works and walk in His Holy Spirit. It is part of the same gospel. This is why Paul uses the doctrine of justification to address how the Galatians lived the Christian life. Sanctification is tied inseparably to justification.

We do not partake of a partial grace that gets us into heaven but doesn’t make us fit to live there. The gospel is the good news of all that God does to restore us to Himself. If we continue to rely on law-keeping to make ourselves presentable to God, it would be well to ask ourselves what Paul asked the Galatian believers: “Are we so foolish?”

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 {i.e. ‘in’} the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

– Galatians 2:20-21 (KJV)

Notes:

  1. This is also seen in the practical words “our liberty in Christ” in verse 4, and “walked” in verse 14. Even the word ‘gospel’ in chapter 2 is repeatedly used in the context of how believers are to live, showing the gospel includes the doctrine of sanctification as well as justification. When Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11-21, it was over a practical issue of how he lived, not about his lack of faith in Jesus to save him.
  2. The word is used elsewhere in Luke 13:32 (‘perform cures’), Romans 15:28 (‘I have performed this’), 2 Cor. 7:1 (‘perfecting holiness’), 2 Cor. 8:6 (‘he would finish‘), 2 Cor. 8:11 (‘perform‘), Php 1:6 (‘He will perform‘), Heb. 8:5 (‘make the tabernacle’), Heb 9:6 (‘accomplishing the service’), 1 Pet. 5:9 (‘afflictions are accomplished‘).
  3. Another confusing point is that Paul uses the word ‘justified’ six times in his letter, while never using ‘sanctified’. We like to separate the meanings of the words into how to get saved and how to live. But these words are sometimes used interchangeably. We need to pay attention to the context. In this letter, even though we see Paul using the word ‘justified’, he writes about how we are live.
  4. The Law still has a purpose: to convict men of sin and to lead them to Christ. As the standard, it remains. But the Mosaic Law is eliminated as a means of living (Romans 7:1-6). Look at Paul who used to follow the Law “blamelessly” before he was saved (Philippians 3:6). After he was saved he didn’t use his salvation as an opportunity to keep the Law more perfectly. Instead, he counted law-keeping a total “loss”. This is what he meant when he called the Galatians (and us) to “be as I am; for I am as you are.” If you find this difficult to accept, I suggest reading straight through the epistle to the Galatians once a day for at least a week, so you can get familiar with the flow of Paul’s argument.

Is Jesus an honored Guest?

Today’s Christians, myself included, tend to think of God wrongly. We think of Him as the honored guest in our lives.

My wife and I like to have people over for dinner at times. Wanda likes to cook, and whenever we have guests, she’ll cook up something special – and maybe go overboard with it. And that is a good thing. It’s part of being hospitable.

We also spend time talking with our guests, and maybe we’ll watch a movie together. But eventually, it’s time for the guests to leave. We then clean up and retire for the evening.

That’s the nice thing about guests: you can enjoy the fellowship, and then enjoy getting back to your own lives when they leave. Generally, guests don’t overstay their welcome.

A guest may be greatly honored, but a guest does not have the same rights as the home owner does. A guest can’t rearrange furniture, move his stuff in and yours out. He can’t dictate what kind of food will be served and when. None of that. A guest just comes, and then leaves.

When we enter into a relationship with our heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, it is not a guest relationship. Rather, it is one where God now becomes the Owner and Master, and we become His children. He has the right to dictate what stays and what goes in our lives. We don’t have the right to kick Him out when we feel He’s overstayed His welcome – when we think He’s getting a little too demanding.

We worship God, but do we seek His will and obey Him? That also is worship.

When Repentance Happens

It really bothers me when I see no results after putting a lot of time and effort into something. As an electronics technician, I have to troubleshoot various electronic equipment problems. I enjoy doing this so long as I make some kind of headway. But if I spend weeks working on an especially stubborn problem with little or no progress, I get frustrated as I run out of ideas and energy.

Sometimes I forget that success, in any area of life, belongs to the Lord.

One of the things many pastors desire to see for their communities and congregations is people coming to repentance. Ceasing from sin, and humble submission toward God are great things to see, and very beneficial to the church as a whole. But many pastors get frustrated when they see little or no results after investing much time and effort into preaching repentance. Instead of fruit, the people get hardened to the message, and the pastor gets burned out and depressed.

Lately, I’ve been mulling over some examples of repentance in the Bible, thinking about the events that led to the change of heart. I’ve discovered that sometimes repentance happened seemingly out of the blue. A chief tax-collector repented after Jesus invited Himself over for dinner at his house. A prostitute showed up at a Pharisee’s house ready to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears. And Peter was suddenly convicted of sin in response to an unexpected blessing…

When he {Jesus} had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing! But at your word I will lower the nets.”

The fishermen were cleaning their nets after a sleepless and fruitless night. They were fatigued and disappointed, and looked forward to just going home and getting some rest. But Jesus had another idea: “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Exhausted, that was the last thing they wanted to hear.

But even though they had no hope for success, Peter decided to humor his Lord to prove the fish were elsewhere. But when he did, the unexpected happened!

When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets started to tear. So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they were about to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

– Luke 5:4-8 (NET)

Suddenly, it seemed the sea was full of fish! As the nets filled, the men forgot their fatigue. They whooped it up, while straining with all their might to bring the catch into the boats. Jesus didn’t just provide an adequate haul of fish, but an overabundance of fish – to the utter limit of what both boats would carry. All of the fishermen rejoiced… except Simon. He had a different reaction. He fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord!

Now this is not the reaction I would have expected. Of all the times Peter could have been convicted of sin, why did it happen at this time?

As much as preachers and evangelists would like, most people don’t truly repent when called to. It does happen sometimes, but not that often. Job repented (Job 42:6), but not because God told him to. Isaiah repented, even though nobody said, “You are a sinner!” (Isaiah 6:5). Even the prodigal son didn’t have a change of heart due to an encounter with the message of repentance.

Not that preaching repentance is unnecessary. I believe it’s very necessary. The way I see it, preaching the message of repentance is like sowing seed. You scatter the seed everywhere, but you shouldn’t expect a harvest right away. Instead, after scattering the seed, you let it sit for a while. The message needs to remain undisturbed for a time so it can sink in. You can carefully water the seed or even sow more, but after sowing, you don’t plow the soil (i.e. aggressively push for a decision), otherwise you have no reason to expect any harvest!

The important thing to remember is that God is in control of the harvest. He is the One who grants repentance (Acts 5:31, 11:18, 2 Corinthians 7:10, 2 Timothy 2:25, Ezekiel 36:26). It happens when God brings about some circumstance that triggers germination of the seed that was sown earlier. That circumstance is supernaturally engineered to bring the message from the head to the heart. It may not make sense to us, but it doesn’t have to.

In Peter’s case, the seed was sown in his life through the message he heard from John the Baptist and his own Master: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Jesus engineered the miraculous catch of fish as the trigger for the message to cut to Peter’s heart. I can’t explain how this event had such a powerful effect on one disciple, not on the others. But I do know God knows what He is doing. He accomplishes what He sets out to do.

Sow the seed, but rely on God for the harvest. Only He can open the eyes and ears of the lost.