The Joy of Repentance

To Repent

: you will hear this term mentioned many times, and perhaps it conjures images of self-flagellation, or perhaps begging for mercy. Actually, repentance is more likely to be accompanied by joy, and a clear-minded thankfulness.

A story

Late one night, before I was saved, I was driving to my house in the foothills of Vermont's famous ski area. I was very tired and had been drinking heavily, and realized that my eyesight was virtually gone. Depth perception and even the orientation of up and down was lost. The on coming cars were blurs of light, seeming to circle around my head. I traveled the 20 miles from the bar, and knew that I was only moments from death as each minute passed. Even though the danger was great, the intoxication removed any fear and sense, so I just drove on. Soon, I arrived at home, and went directly to bed.

In the morning, I awoke immediately recalling the visions and sounds which I had experienced on the way home. Suddenly a great fear fell upon me. I realized how my drunken condition had repeatedly brought me within a hair's breadth of killing someone, and probably myself. The memories flooded in, and more and more clearly I became awed with my own capacity for stupid and senseless action. I was a danger. Seeing my disgusting state I was not about to make a vow of "never again", for I knew myself to be too unpredictable. Instead, I felt that I should never loose the sense of clarity which had come with the fear. So many foolish actions had come from the same heart, and were the product of pride.

I did not hear the gospel at that time, but the feeling and experience comes close to describing the experience of repentance. I was glad to be alive, but realized, if I was to continue to live and be glad, something must change!

Over and over ...

How many times have we all come to that point and felt some hope of a change in ourselves, only to head back in the same direction again? We all have "old habits", and a healthy sense of guilt when we develop and practice behavior which is contrary to the Bible's moral teaching, and to our own conscience (isn't it amazing how they often agree?)

Are we condemned to repeatedly try to reform, or improve our behavior. Changing a habit is one of the most difficult things a person can do, especially when it is contrary to the learned experience of pleasure. Take away a child's lollipop, or favorite toy, and you see how your human nature reacts when asked to change.

But, repentance is not reforming, or improving yourself. It is like a death, And, to the one dying, death is not a matter of hard or easy. It is just something that happens. Repentance will cost a struggle against the ego, and the flesh. Repentance may come with tears, and sad memories as we sift through the true reflections of ourselves having lived as little gods. We are not asked to repent from being human. We are asked to bring ourselves into a place of judgment, and simply be honest, and "face the music". Friend, the gospel makes this possible. If you were facing a firing squad, some should suffer a breakdown, and have their nerve fail them. But, the gospel tells us the nature of the God who we will meet in judgment, and Hallelujah, when we repent, we are being judged by (or compared to His word).

What is the nature of God regarding a repenting sinner?

Have a look:

"What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance" - Luke 15:4-7

God is overjoyed with the response of repentance.

Can we boast of repentance?

Nope. It occurs in response to God drawing a person to experience truth, by the Holy Spirit. What is the first thing to come into focus when we are about to walk into a place where everything is right? ... It is US that comes into view. The mirror of God's word prortrays us accurately, and shows all our flaws. But it moreso shows the Love of God. Setting one's eyes on the mercy of God when he begins to see his condition, results in godly repentance.

"But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." - Matt 9:13

"Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" - Romans 2:4

Again, repentance is likened to death. Can a dead person boast of his death? Could Jesus boast of the cross, or his executioners? It is the law which empowers the death. A transgressor, or sinner such as we all are when we come to God, is owed the death. The perfect law of God cannot change for sin is sin and will always be sin. You will experience either the destructive power of repentance or death in sins. One or the other. In death, we call it judgment.

Theologians note: therefore repentance is not a work which makes an effort to earn salvation.

Repentance from "dead works"

This simply means turning from selfish will, and sins which are obvious to you. You know in your heart that you are not strong enough to guarantee that you will never do it again, but for a moment, for a day, and before the presence of God, you can sincerely put yourself in His hands, and agree that you need to repent. You can repent today. Why not email me so we can arrange for you to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, which is the way to bring that repentance to God and "bury" that repentant sinner? If you have already repented and followed God as you understood how, you too need to e buried in the likeness of His death, in Jesus' name baptism!