There are times to recognize that characters are bad and should be left alone. Jesus said concerning false teachers, "Leave them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind" (Matt. 15:14). Jeremiah said of Judah, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil" (Jer. 13:23). Although some have given in to evil, the premise of the gospel is that sinners will change -- they have it within them to serve God.

"...Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk. 24:46,47). Repentance is a change of behavior brought on by a change of heart, and the gospel is designed to bring these changes about.

The city of Nineveh is a great example of repentance. "The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and , behold, a greater than Jonah is here" (Lk. 11:32).

When Peter realized that he had sinned by denying the Lord, he "went out and wept bitterly" (Lk. 22:62). He never was guilty of that atrocity again. Afterward, he was arrested, publicly humiliated, and threatened, but he and his fellow apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus (Acts 5:41).

When the Jews on Pentecost were shown their sin, and that the blood of the Christ was on their hands, "they were pricked in the heart," and asked what they could do to make things right. The instruction from the Holy Spirit was to "Repent and be baptized..." They were told to change.

When Jesus healed the infirmed man, He said, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (Jno. 5:14). To the woman taken in adultery, He said, "Go and sin no more" (Jno. 8:11).

"Conversion" is a word used by Jesus and the apostles to explain what happens to sinners when they are exposed to the gospel of love, grace, and opportunity. It is said that Jesus atoned for our sins, something we cannot do. However, He expects us to change our hearts and our behavior -- something that we can do.

So, the next time you are exposed to the idea that people will sin, that boys will be boys, that folks will be fornicators and adulterers, or that teens are going to drink or smoke dope; remember that they DON'T HAVE TO SIN. The church is not an agency for social Band-Aids, and the Bible is not intended to nurse the wounds of sinners. The goal is to change the hearts of sinners, bringing about a change of behavior so that men and women will be acceptable to God (Isa. 59:1,2; Lk. 13:3,5).

By George Hutto in Tidings, Vol. 22, No. 2, Feb. 2007.

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