As much as I do earn my nickname Kat Controversy, for the most part I am a rule follower. I suppose the rules just need to make sense to me in order to win my allegiance to them. But when instructions are clear, I can usually accomplish the task. I understand the assignment. When they’re poorly given, or not provided at all, then it gets complicated. If directions are murky, it’s up to me to interpret them. What I think they mean may not be what they actually mean. My performance may fall short and not even come close to the goal. I missed it. I failed.
As I see the world around me becoming more untethered to any sort of shared moral compass, my heart aches.
At times I feel so helpless as I see people I’ve known for years going off on different ideological tangents, straying from the Truth. I’m not so prideful as to sit in judgement. I’ve been distracted at times as well. I suppose that’s why my heart hurts. I understand how easily we can lose our way and no longer understand our assignment.
This burden in my heart is what motivated me to write this two-part series. This week I wanted to focus on repentance. If there is one area of neglect and, by extension confusion, I believe it is this. Many pulpits don’t even speak the word, let alone teach on it. Sin and sinfulness also seem to be taboo subjects lately. I suppose if you water down the reality of our sinful nature then you really don’t need to speak on repenting from it, do you?
The problem is that without repentance, there is no life change.
You may believe that to be a bold statement. You’d be correct. It also happens to be true. But we’ll go deep on that in a minute. First, I think we should define repentance in its proper biblical context. I did a quick search through several online dictionaries, and they all used terms such as feeling: regret, contrition, sorrow. They’re not wrong but those definitions are incomplete. When you repent, you do far more than feel bad or change your mind. You literally change course. You turn your back on whatever sinful act you were engaging in before. You go a different way, a better way, God’s way. You turn from sin to God.
If you doubt me, that’s great. I never want you to just take my word for it. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from biblegateway.com NIV, emphasis added.)
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, (Acts 3:19)
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20:21)
As someone who has sinned more than many, I can assure you the only way to avoid going back to your old ways is to repent. Turning your whole life over to Him is the key. Do I still sin? Yes. Does this mean repentance isn’t real? No. It just means my humanity, my flesh arises from time to time to try to drag me back. But its hold on me isn’t what it used to be. I can make my boast in Christ about that. My areas of sin have decreased. My areas of repentance have increased. Here’s the secret: because He loves me so profoundly and unlike any other love I’ve ever known, I want to change. Thank you, Lord! And my story is far from unique. Our God is so loving and filled with grace and mercy. He offers each one of us the same opportunity to start over, begin anew.
We need to accept that we’ve all fallen short.
Jesus put it so beautifully in this verse. Check this out:
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
Before I came to know Him as Lord and Savior, I was lost in my sinful nature. I wasn’t spiritually healthy. I was sick in my soul. On the surface I seemed fine. I had a lot of the trappings of this world: career, finances, etc. From the outside I looked OK. I could even convince myself I was most of the time. But then there’d be those moments, usually at night when I was alone. I’d begin to look at the totality of my life and wonder Is this all there is? I had friends, family, a job I enjoyed, but there was something missing. Back then I just didn’t know it wasn’t something; it was and will always be someOne.
We have access to a God who loves us. His love is everlasting. He accepts us as we are, yet because He loves us so much He can’t allow us to stay broken, sinful. Check this out:
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (Revelation 3:19)
He will bring correction to our lives, just as any loving parent does. Though we may not enjoy the correction in the moment, I can assure you from personal experience, it is for our benefit. He sees all. We don’t.
Do we have to repent?
In a word: YES! But again, please don’t take my word for it. Check out these two verses:
Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Revelation 2:5)
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)
In another word: YIKES! In the verse from Revelation, God wasn’t speaking to just anyone. The message was directed to (wait for it) A CHURCH: the church of Ephesus to be precise. I encourage you to read the whole chapter. In earlier verses, He tells of their good works. But then it’s time for the disciplining. Seems this church has strayed from first love: love of Him, intimacy with Him, strong connection and relationship with Him.
The verse from Romans is rather intense as well. As much as we don’t like to think about it, this world has an expiration date. Only God knows the exact timing (even Jesus doesn’t know). And when this world is ending, God will come to judge everyone.
I’m going to go in deep on the Final Judgement in next week’s article, the second part in this series. But suffice it to say that no one will be spared judgement. Sadly, I see many Christians believing since they’re saved, they’re exempt from standing before the Lord and having their whole life judged. They’re wrong.
I sometimes say I’m like John the Baptist, minus living in the wilderness eating bugs and wild honey and wearing animal skins. I’m pretty sure I understand my assignment at this time. It’s to call all of us (myself included) to repentance and keep us mindful of the final judgement. Of course, John said it way better than me. Check this out:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2)
Jesus came once to save us. He’s coming back again. Are you prepared? What are you doing until He returns? Do you understand the assignment?
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know. Stay in a posture of repentance.
Look forward to hearing from you,
Awesome article! You have hit the nail on the head of the gospel. You noted how churches treat repentance like a taboo word. So very true.
My pastor (Stephen Brown – pastorsb.com) has taught this truth as long as I’ve know him (over 51 years). Churches and people have slandered him, maligned him, hated him, and fired him for preaching this vital truth of the gospel. He is known to say, “without repentance there is no salvation.”
I hope to connect with you in the future. Pastor Steve has written a book that is due out this spring called, The Death of True Christianity in America. I think you will like it and be encouraged. May the Lord bless you for proclaiming this most basic foundation of the true gospel, which I know well is hated by many counterfeit Christians.
They tell me I am teaching and believing a “works” gospel when I talk about the necessity of repentance. But for any who have gone down this necessary road that leads to the new birth, they know it was the Spirit of God who led them and taught them – God’s grace. No man can repent by his own strength or even know what to do or even see his own faults as Christ does, and especially with the optimism that God can and wants to forgive us and cleanse up and make us new people!
Thanks, Doug for taking the time. It is definitely not a popular viewpoint in many modern day churches. The focus is more on Jesus loves you and God loves you. He absolutely does! But you know what God hates: sin! And we’re all guilty. It is because of Jesus’s love for us that He came to save us from…SIN. Our eternity was secured to be separated from God until Jesus came and took our place and was judged for our SINS. We didn’t earn it. We never could. The wages of sin is still death. But faith in Christ and repentance from sin secures our place. To remove sin and its consequences from biblical teaching is to miss the point. I believe it leaves a doorway open for pride. And what do we need a Savior for if we don’t acknowledge sin? Boggles my mind. But we pray for an explosion of the Truth to light up churches all over the world. Hope you’ll come back next week for part 2 where I’m going into the Final Judgement. Appreciate your comment. God bless. -Kat