Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Thought for Wednesday 6/19/13

“Whosoever shall have lived wickedly and luxuriously may repent; however, there will be need of much time to conquer an evil habit, and even after repentance his whole life must be guarded with great care and diligence, after the manner of a body which, after it has been a long time afflicted with a sickness, requires a stricter diet and method of living; for though it may be possible to break off the chain of our irregular affections at once, yet our amendment cannot be secured without the grace of God, the prayers of good people, the help of brothers and sisters, and our own sincere repentance and constant care.”  Flavius Josephus, “Discourse concerning Hades”

Josephus was a Jewish historian born approximately four years after the Crucifixion of Messiah.  Much of what he writes accounts for certain “gaps” in the Bible.  There is no real theological claim in his writings, but there is a great deal of wisdom in his observations especially in the account of Hades and most especially in this observation of what repentance is really about.  This perspective he offers confirms what John the Baptist calls upon from those who came to observe him in his time: “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.”  In other words, “YOU must change your habits”.

Christian theology teaches that we cannot overcome sin by our own power.  However, our experiences should affirm this truth: old habits die hard.  And just as a once sick body needs extra care to get over an illness, so must the soul take extra care to move beyond these old habits that were bringing us to judgment.  There is no magic in our Lord’s justification when we become aware of the sin in our lives and our need for a Savior; there is necessarily a will and a determination to change our lives, our habits in order to be “transformed” from our former “conformation” into what we think others expected of us.  And Josephus backs up the usefulness and our need for the “assembly”, the Church.  We need our brothers and sisters to not only pray for us and with us, but to also help to hold us accountable to the new life we’ve chosen in gratitude for the Lord’s mercy and grace.  This is the essence of discipleship.

Finally, we cannot take our repentance for granted and come to think that somehow being “saved” or justified (depending on the language of your tradition) suddenly makes sin acceptable or makes temptations go away.  A new life of repentance requires constant vigilance, prayer, Scripture study, a mind toward Messiah, and the Church.  Even though we have been given a new heart with a renewed sense of purpose, we cannot ignore human habits.  These things do not simply go away.  Repentance requires effort on our part.  It is all part and parcel of what it means to become truly transformed.

“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another …” Hebrews 10:24, 25  As the writer states, we need one another to overcome the old life and find fulfillment in the new life into which we have been called.



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