Category Archives: Repentance

Repentance – the lost emphasis in discipleship

John the Baptist began his preaching by declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” Matthew 3:2.  Jesus began his preaching by declaring, “The time has come…the kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news” Mark 1:15.  Repentance—metanoia—means to “turn around.”  It means we can’t get into Christ until we turn from whatever we’re presently in.  To the Rich Young Ruler it meant turning from his wealth.  To Simon Peter, his business.  To Saul of Tarsus, his ancestry.  Whatever it is that we designate as our purpose, our goal, our life’s intent must be abandoned.  Repent…change your direction.

Human nature is neither awed nor disciplined by morality.  It’s sometimes only barely renewed by conversion.  Nevertheless, there stands the word we cannot avoid if we want forgiveness:  REPENT.  Change.  Turn around!

Unfortunately, preaching not emboldened by the Spirit has allowed the development of permanent cultural depravity not oppressed by morality, let alone converted by repentance.  That has led American society into a state of judgment before God.  Though some Christians feel revival in America is still possible, our ego-driven age has no interest in, let alone appetite for, repentance.  The flagrant wickedness in society isn’t an aberration followed by repentance.  It’s a permanent depravity followed by judgment.  Revival may come during judgment, when all our pleasant dreams dissolve into nightmarish realities.  Only when convinced that we’ve sinned against God’s grace and need to repent, will revival resurrect from blasted egotism.

Jesus neither compromises nor sacrifices this absolute for the expediency of interesting the unsaved in some relational contentment.  People can’t be separated from their ideas, good or bad.  Jesus never attempted the separation.  He did convert people by repentance so their ideas would be acceptable to God.

When Jesus saves us through repentance and baptism, we have no place to go but out of our sins.  No place to come but into his grace.  And no way to live except in self-denying obedience to his will.  In whose lives God is a household guest, not merely a household word.  If we want a summary of repentance, you just read it.

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Repentance – not penitence, is what God seeks

Eleventh century Christians looked favorably on self-beating for religious purposes.  Italy adopted it with wild abandon.  Nobles, peasants, children as young as five years and ancients barely able to totter, all walked by the hundreds through villages and towns, wearing only a cloth around their midsection.  And that in the dead of winter.  Visiting churches, and armed with scourges, they lashed themselves without pity, groaning and crying.

They thought to show penitence.  Which differed from repentance.   They thought to punish themselves for their sins.  But they senselessly beat themselves since Jesus had already secured the removal of their sins.

God demands a change when we come to him.  But scripture nowhere teaches that the beating of one’s body guarantees, or even contributes to, repentance.  The context of I Corinthians 9:25-27 indicates that Paul’s language is to be understood figuratively, not literally.  Especially as we see his disregard of all the forms of religion popular in his time Colossians 2:20-23.

Repentance means change, not just sorrow.  Sorrow leads to repentance, as Paul wrote in II Corinthians 7:10; it isn’t repentance.  Oftentimes we sorrow and call it repentance, but it is not.  Penitence creates sadness while Repentance provokes a life-change.  Repentance means making an apology, or restitution, or a resolve not to do the evil again, or to start doing something neglected.

God invites us to come to him.  He urges us.  He craves our fellowship.  But on his terms, not ours.  And his first requirement is always, “change your life”!

Repentance – in act of dying

A few blogs ago revealed that the imminence of death doesn’t usually alter thinking or habits.  This blog reveals a pleasant exception to the rule.

It occurred the day notorious William—Captain-Kidd died in London.  As in America later, hangings in 18th century Great Britain drew large crowds.  Let’s face it, humanity in every age has been voyeurs, unable to resist any spectacle that promises to be violent, bloody, or both.  Consider the fascination freeway travelers have for wrecks along the road, the worse the crash, the more rubber screeching the better, until traffic is slowed or stopped.  To say nothing of our obsession with the NFL and NHL.

British spectacles naturally drew the underworld, giving pickpockets a chance to snatch watches, purses, scarves, etc. from those fixed on the scene before them.  Like that underworld, the infamous Kidd had been a buccaneer for years, sometimes with the unspoken support of English authorities.  He surrendered in 1699 on the promise of pardon, which was revoked.  To London he went in 1700 for trial.  In 1701 he was condemned to hanging.  The custom was to hang the prisoner at low tide “until three tides had washed over them.”  Boats jammed River Thames as people watched the infamous pirate die.  Across the River, others fixed their spyglasses on the site.  Since he had committed his depredations with the approval of high government officials, he hoped for a reprieve from them, knowing they had profited by his piratical excess.  They didn’t stain their sterling reputations by remitting his penalty, however.

As was customary, the party on the way to execution often drank liberally of the liquor passed to him by the crowd, Pirate Kidd no exception.  When he arrived at the site, he orated about his innocence by blaming others for his guilty condition.  Also, on this occasion, being difficult to hang by being thoroughly “inflamed with drink,” the executioner could hardly collar him with the rope.  And, while the hangman pleaded for a change of attitude, Kidd ignored him.  Then, when hanged, the rope broke and Kidd tumbled to the ground.  In those few seconds he apparently reconsidered the blame due for his blood-lust, his evil,  and his ill-gotten gain.

The hangman stood by him as he was hoisted to the tree again, again pleading with him to seize the advantage God’s mercy had given him to repent and be saved.  To his delight, the man found the suddenly-sober Kidd more amenable to the suggestion.  Despite his rum-mind, atop the ladder Kidd “declared loudly that he ‘repented with all his heart, and dy’d in Christian love and charity with all the world’”.  1700, p. 323

But what of the MANY who don’t have the rope break, the chemicals fail, the electricity disrupted?  A second chance may save some from eternal death.  But don’t count on sinful mortals being that smart even if given the chance.

Waiting till death comes to repent of one’s mis-spent life defies the purpose Jesus gives for HIS life in us John 10:10.  It denies the opportunity of a resurrected life in a fallen world.

However, better at the last breath to seek God’s mercy than to die facing God’s justice.  Better a broken spirit at death than a bold unforgiven spirit beyond death.