What does repentance mean to you? Do you ever repent to God? How often do you say sorry to a fellow human being?
The words repent, repented, repentance all point to being sorry within ourselves for a wrong thought, word or deed. We all have a sense of guilt and innocence, and most times we know when we have done wrong by God and man. Yet sometimes others need to point it out as we are a bit thick. We have missed it. When we become Christians and ask the Holy Spirit into our lives, an infinitely stronger sense of right and wrong should come with Him. We now find we weep when we have breached the Lord's commands and principles.
Think for a moment of a world without repentance—without the word 'sorry' or the sense of it? How would it look? How would our police stations and courts operate, now tsunamied with minor civil offences? How would our Pastors handle the massive influx of arguments in our churches because neither side will repent? How could we engage in communion when its basis is self-examination and repairing relationships? How many marriages and families would be destroyed very easily or live a life in bitterness without a 'sorry' here and there? And how would we ever have a relationship with the living God, let alone engage in the marriage of the Lamb, if we are not prepared to repent?
Despite God providing an avenue for repentance, and that being their only means of staying out of hell, some people will never repent, they are so entrenched in their wrong thoughts and so thoroughly enslaved by their ungodly deeds. (Revelation 2:21, 9:20-21,16:9, 16:11)
When Abraham sought to find ten righteous people in Sodom (Genesis 19), they weren't there. He found one, Lot. I have no doubt the other inhabitants thought they were good human beings and pronounced themselves righteous by their own estimation, as we all do; however, it was not according to God's righteousness. That was the measurement device Abraham had to use. That was the deal between himself and God. Out of the many thousands of citizens, Abraham only needed to find ten that kept the Word of God, yet he failed. Or rather, they failed.
Does repentance fail in your life? Are there wrongs you will never repent of because you think you are justified? Do you sometimes say sorry with your mouth, but your heart is not in it?
God wants us all to examine ourselves daily, not just at weekly communion. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "...If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." In the sense of repentance, this means we try to repair and salvage relationships regardless of whether we are right or wrong. God calls us to let a lot of things go—to release ourselves from the captive chains of disharmony and conflict and humbly determine to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3). This doesn't mean we deny or abandon the truth if that was the root cause of the conflict. It just means we use our judgement to keep the peace and maybe discuss it another day in love and friendship.
Repentance is all about peace and unity and is underpinned by love.
The more we know of God's Word, the greater our sense of repentance should be. The more we mature in our godly walk, the more we see ourselves as worthless without God.
Jesus told Peter to accept apologies seven times seventy. (Matthew 18:21-22). That's four hundred and ninety times from the same person for the same breach. A lot of repentance and forgiveness is in Jesus' words. Where would we be if Jesus said only two or three times before retribution began?
With all this repentance, what does God want to see from us? The Christian has two levels of thought and action. The lower level is of the flesh, where Satan chases and persecutes the Christian through life, using our own lusts against us. He suggests wrongdoing which we seem to obey. Despite being 'saved' we find we are still slaves to the flesh by not taking up our spiritual fight earnestly.
The upper level is where the Christian has overcome the flesh through transformation. These are they who have presented their bodies as true living sacrifices—offering their minds, hearts and bodies, as it says in Romans 12:1-2. They have allowed their minds to be transformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit, no longer conforming to this world.
This step upward only comes through repentance and the love from our Saviour, permitting us to apologise and cease following our fleshly nature. At our spiritual birth, we were given the power to choose between good and evil. This group has learned to cast down wrong imaginations as soon as they appear before they get a foothold in their minds.
1 John 5:4, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
God didn't provide repentance as a means to return to our folly over and over again. Conversely, we are to apply that repentance as a part of God's system to draw ourselves closer to Him through purity.
Let's praise God for the privilege of repentance. Where would we be without it?
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the privilege of repentance. I have used it many times for a range of matters, not all of them Godly. Please help me align myself with your ideals for repentance, so I can see it as truly a privilege and not a means to fake my salvation.
Photo by Alex Shute