January 7, 2017

True repentance

God arranges incredible ‘coincidences’ to drive home truth needed in my life. Before reading “Grace for Today” I read a portion of a book on prayer. The section was about repentance and how important confessing sin is to hearing from God.

Based on the author’s examples, my first thoughts were some bad attitudes I have toward another Christian with whom we spend time. She was raised in legalism, knows it, but has not been able to shake it. While I’d like her to be set free, I’m starting to become annoyed with her constant apologies about not being good enough. My problem is pride, lack of patience, and several other bad attitudes, which I confessed. Then I read today’s devotional. It is entitled “Repentance unto Life” and begins with this verse . . .

“When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” (Acts 11:18)

God grants repentance, but as the author points out, there is a repentance which is not from God but produced only by human emotions. He says that fear of consequences, a desire for moral reform, remorse for sin, a desire for heaven, and just saying the words are frequent substitutes for repentance. He points to Cain, Esau, Saul, Ahab, Judas, and others who all perished under God’s wrath because their temporary repentance was false. A couple weeks ago, I realized that being ashamed of myself is not about repentance either. Instead, repentance is sorrow for failing to glorify God.

This series of ‘coincidences’ got my attention. Since God grants repentance that leads to life, I want to be certain that my confession of sin is truly from God and not just a ‘duty’ or some other false utterance to get me out of trouble or relieve a sense of failure. I also find it far too easy to dismiss my sin with a quick ‘I confess . . .’ without having any feelings involved . . .

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”(Zechariah 12:10).

Besides sincere mourning, ‘repentance that leads to life’ involves other essentials like hating sin and my failure to glorify Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit produces these convictions . . .

“And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:8–11).

Sin is lack of faith and the root of my bad attitudes. Sin is thinking I’m righteous when I have no righteousness. Have I confessed these?
Sin is also judged at the Cross where my redemption was accomplished. Because the prince of this world was also judged, the playing field is leveled and my sin was judged right up there with Satan’s. Sin is a far more serious issue than merely being annoyed with someone.

Repentance that leads to life involves turning away from sin but also turning to God. Salvation cannot happen without it, nor can I serve Him if I have my own little shelf of idols — like pride, impatience, and other bad attitudes . . .

“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

God says: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Reconciliation is a commitment of the heart to Christ. As He told the crowds, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple . . . . any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25–33).

True conviction equals conversion equals commitment, but also continuing endurance. I cannot drop those bad attitudes for a day or two. I must also continue to turn from them to the will of God and the love of Christ for others . . .

Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Jesus, I know that repentance produces a changed life, not merely attitudes and behavior, but a deeper faith and with greater perseverance. As I bring all of this to You, I trust You to forgive and cleanse me so that my attitude and behavior will glorify and please You. 

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