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From Lawless to Flawless

Biblical text: Acts 2:38

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

There were fruit flies in my office. They flitted over my desk by the dozens. I attacked them with bug spray and tried to kill a few with my bare hands. But for all the one's I got, there were dozens more to take their place. Every time I annihilated one, two more popped up. I never heard of fruit flies in an office. A deacon told me the only place he ever saw fruit flies was around rotting fruit. So I checked my wastebasket, and there it was...a dirty, fuzzy tennis-ball-looking rotting orange in the wastebasket, covered with fruit flies. I had thrown it in there last Sunday. I emptied the wastebasket, and sure enough, the fruit flies disappeared.

That rotting orange reminds me of our sin nature. Our lawless lives are nothing but rotting flesh. And all we attract are sins flies. Sin festers and grows in us like stinking fruit, until it consumes us. But Thanks be to God, there is a way to clean up our stench and get rid of the flies. We can go from lawless to flawless. It's called Salvation. And the way to achieve it is to empty the wastebasket of your heart, because Christ cannot dwell in an unclean place.

In our text, Peter says there are three steps we must take to get rid of the flies.

Step One: You've got to repent. Then Peter said unto them, Repent. "Repent." It's a word that's hard to understand for several reasons. First, we don't see the point. Second, we don't have anything to be sorry for. And third, My business is my business! That's the tough, exterior shell of a man or woman that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has to crack.

Here's another reason repentance is difficult. It's not a one-time confession. Oh, I know that John the Baptist said, Repent and be baptized. And I know most of you have already done that. But the command to repent isn't a one-time thing. It's a continual manifestation...its an on-going experience.

When we reflect on our own conversion, and the newness of our life in Christ, it gives us a sense of awe and wonder that God could take this vessel we call man and transform our sinful flesh into a saintly fortress. And that's the mental picture we want to preserve, like a snapshot in our wallet. Look at me. Im all cleaned up and ready to serve the Lord. But what about those sins you committed yesterday? Didn't they smudge that picture up just a bit?
· How about that guy you avoided in Walmart because he talks for half an hour?
· How about the resentment that flared last night when you saw a commercial for that certain department store in the mall whose security followed you around the store ten years ago?
· What about the R-rated movie you saw last weekend?
· What about the piece of candy or the pinch of grapes you sampled at the supermarket? Or the case of water they forgot to charge you for, that you just took home as a gift?
· What about that person you won't sit next to in church because she claps too loud and shouts too much?
Is that picture God has of you getting a bit smudged yet?

We commit sins every day without a single thought of how it affects our spirit. So you can see why a repentant spirit has to be a part of our ever-evolving spiritual makeup. Repentance not only has to be specific, it has to be current and daily. When we recall our unkind thoughts, our careless words, and our selfish deeds, our repentant spirit allows those sins to immediately fall away and be buried with Christ. And that's how our spirit's eternal newness keeps springing up. God makes us new every minute, not by ignoring our sin, but by shining the light of His forgiveness upon it.

Repentance calls for a change of mind that leads to a change of life. We TURN from our sinful life, toward a perpetual desire for a sin-free life with God. The Bible says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7).

I knew a man who had to forsake his ways, big time! He was a thief. Big stuff, little stuff, it didn't matter; if he could swipe it, he did. Hed take a womans wallet out of her purse while she was telling him to have a nice day. During his wicked days, if there were cops around, he said he would never look them in the eye because it would give him away. He ought to know. They caught him three times, and he spent three stretches in prison.

He's eighty years old now, and has long since repented of his ways. But he told me something one day that I never forgot. He said that an artful thief knows the eyes are incorruptible. They always tell the truth. He looked me straight in the eyes when he said it, and I knew exactly what he meant. He had made his peace with God, and was enjoying the fullness of God's forgiveness. I could see it in his eyes.

The eyes are the gateway to a man's soul. You can hide your eyes from men, but God is staring you down. He sees your greedy spirit, your carnal attitude, your selfish disposition, your proud look, your bitter tongue, your rebellious soul, your jealous glare, your quick temper, your critical stare, your offending remark, your shameful deed, your neglected duty, your polluted passion, your filthy habit, your shady story, your ugly gesture, and your broken promise, because your eyes reveal the truth that is in you. Repentance is the only way to beat the wrap for all that sinful stuff we pull. God forgives a repentant spirit.

So if you want to be transformed...if you want to go from lawless to flawless, STEP ONE is to repent. For He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Proverbs 28:13)

Step Two: You've got to trust in Christ. "Be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." Repentance just makes you sorry for all the sins you've committed&past, present and future. But saying, Im sorry! doesn't remove the penalty for your actions. Men try to remove the penalties for their sins. We say, Im sorry; we give up bad habits; we even try to make restitution when it's possible. And sometimes people forgive us, and sometimes they don't. But the truth is that their forgiveness does not wash away our guilt. Guilt has a way of sticking around and knocking on our door, over and over again.
Scrub that lying tongue...still guilty.
Scrub those mischievous feet...still guilty.
Scrub that filthy heart...still guilty.
The only way to stop the guilt from destroying us is to let Christ do the scrubbing.

When guilt knocks, there's a door WE can knock on that will erase all the guilt. Jesus says, I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved (John 10:9). You see, forgiveness can only be accomplished by a loving Savior who paid the price for your sins on Calvary. You've got to trust that He died for your sins, rose again to make you right with God, and lives to be your Savior. I know that's a tough one, but that's the door we all have to walk through. Jesus said, I am the Way, the truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

A pastor used to carry a big wad of keys that his members jokingly called, The keys to the kingdom. A young boy in his congregation marveled at the way the pastor could pick the right key to unlock any door in the church. He would watch as the pastor flipped through the shiny keys...most of them were brass...and choose just the right key to gain access. One day the boy asked, "Pastor, how do you know which key to use? They all look the same." The pastor showed him the secret. Each key had a letter etched on it...F for front door, B for back door, K for kitchen, O for office, S for study, and so on. It was all a matter of using the key with the right mark on it.

You've got the key to the Door for your forgiveness. It's the one marked with a C. The C stands for Christ. Christ says, Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:20-21)

So, if you want to take the journey from lawless to flawless, Step One is to REPENT; Step Two is to TRUST CHRIST. But there's one more step in this three-step process.

Step Three: You've got to receive the Holy Ghost. "And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Of the three persons of the Trinity, man has always had the hardest time describing this one. Luke describes Him as a mighty rushing wind...powerful, yet evasive; strong, but invisible. The very name HOLY GHOST suggests something formless, indefinable, and beyond words.

When we hear GOD THE FATHER, it fills our mind with concrete pictures...our earthly father, or for some, the father we wish we had. When we hear GOD THE SON, the picture takes on a very human form, much like our own. And the Bible paints a vivid picture for us of the Son's journey from Bethlehem to Calvary.

But when we hear GOD THE SPIRIT, the picture suddenly becomes a bit muddled. Our carnal mind can't envision it. Artists portray Him as a dove, because that's the form He took when He descended upon Christ at His baptism. But that's a strange image of an Almighty God...a gentle bird that flutters out of reach when you try to grasp it!

I like the title Jesus gives the Holy Ghost...Comforter. We need a Comforter, an Advocate, a Helper, a Counselor...someone to help us navigate through this mess we call living. But there is no visible manifestation of the Comforter, for the most part. He doesn't suddenly materialize in all His finery with power for the whole world to see. Instead, He remains elusively out of sight, because His role is to be an inward experience for the soul rather than an outward feast for the eyes.

And what is that role? He is our daily source for strength and guidance. The Holy Ghost is our guide who helps us do the Father's Will. First, we repent; then we trust Christ, and we receive the Holy Ghost. But the Holy Ghost is not an addition to our faith...HE IS THE SOURCE OF OUR FAITH. He is the well-spring of our faith's existence. Paul said, "No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3).

We do an awful lot of talking about tarrying, or waiting for the Holy Ghost. We get that idea from the disciples in the Upper Room whom Jesus told to "tarry, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). So when a person comes to Christ but continues to sin, we say that person has not yet received the Holy Ghost. But let's not get this twisted. The Holy Spirit is everywhere, and if you desire Him, He's yours. It's just that simple. You don't have to wait. You just have to repent and trust Jesus Christ for your salvation...and the Holy Ghost instantly shows up knocking at the door of your heart. If you choose to continue in sin, the Holy Ghost is still present, but He becomes a thorn in your flesh until He becomes a song in your heart. He'll work on your building until it's a temple fit for the King who resides there.

The Holy Ghost's role is to give you a makeover. As you trust in Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit makes you a new person. He will "bear witness with your spirit" that you are a child of God. The Holy Spirit has the power to take us from lawless to flawless, to get rid of the stench of sin and the flies it attracts. Jesus says, And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)

It's true that you don't have to do anything for God. You can turn away from His offer of salvation, and continue to fester like that orange and stink up the world with sin. But if you do, you'll spend the rest of your life swatting flies.
· If you refuse God's mercy now without judgment, you will one-day face Gods judgment without mercy.
· If you refuse God's grace, you will one-day face God's wrath.
· If you refuse to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior now, He will one day reject you, saying, "Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, I know you not."
You have the chance to empty the wastebasket of your heart and begin life anew, and just like that, you can go from lawless to flawless.
Just repent
Empty yourself of the corruption,
The blemish,
The contamination,
The ruin
And the spoil of sin.
Trust Christ
He is the Bread of Life who will satisfy your hunger.
He is the Captain of our Salvation; He defeats every enemy.
He is the Savior of Men; He forgives the guilty.
And receive the Gift of His Holy Spirit.
He will grant peace to your troubled soul.
He will give joy to your broken heart.
He will clean you up and make you new. He will chase those flies of sin away.

"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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