Some Thoughts On Repentance…
Acts 3:17-20 (NIV):
“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.
18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets,
saying that his Messiah would suffer.
19 Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
20 and that he may send the Messiah,
who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”
This is so important, loved ones.
The Lord Jesus’ mission—
providing forgiveness of sins for sinners like us
& giving us His righteousness—
is directly linked to repentance.
Repentance is not saying that you have to CLEAN UP your life
before you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior,
but it is agreeing with God generally and specifically
- that you NEED to get cleaned up,
- that you take personal responsibility for the mess of your sinfulness,
- that you bring that sinfulness before the Lord Jesus
for forgiveness & pardon,
- that you ask Christ to be not just your consultant but your Master,
in charge of you now moving forward as HE cleans you up
(from every sin, especially the ones from which we used to get our identity)…
not just cosmetically but at the soul level,
at the level of even your deepest desires,
- that you ask Him to change you completely in such a way FOR HIS GLORY
that your present self will not recognize your future self.
Repentance is a crying out to Christ
not just to forgive you of your past sins
but to do whatever He wants
to transform you to sin less and less in the future,
to no longer hunger & thirst for sin
but to hunger & thirst for Christ Himself, for holiness, for righteousness.
That is repentance, and that is not what people are often taught—
they are taught simply to believe in Jesus in an abstract or purely intellectual way…
a way that doesn’t really change us on the inside or outside…
- Hospitals have cafeterias, and some hospitals have fantastic food
for a relatively inexpensive price
that anyone can walk into and purchase,
even if you are not a patient at the hospital.
The cafeteria is not the main reason for the hospital’s existence,
but it is a feature that it offers.
Many people are similarly taught to go to Jesus
not for His main benefit (rebirth, forgiveness, adoption, imputed righteousness)
but for one of His secondary benefits—
helping them through a particular problem, meeting a specific need they have, etc.
We teach people to go to Jesus for these,
we tell people to believe in Jesus in the sense that
He can meet some of their earthly needs if they would believe He can,
but we don’t often tell them about repentance.
It’s like going to the hospital for lunch
when what you really need is a total heart transplant.
Repentance is an important ingredient in having saving faith in Christ—
we must not be content merely to be in the hospital—this alone does not make us well!—but we must submit to the doctor’s diagnosis and cure—complete heart transplant.
Isaiah 30:15: This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
Like the people who run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain:
they are running WITH the bulls, in the same direction as the bulls,
they are scared at times but are actually enjoying the situation in a way,
and yes many of them get hurt and knocked down,
but they want to do this kind of running.
But repentant Christians, while they still get knocked down by the bulls (sin),
have a subtle but important difference:
they are knocked down by the bulls
because they are running TOWARD the bulls,
not with them;
they are running in the opposite direction,
and when they get knocked down,
though they are tempted to run with the bulls because
everyone else is doing that and because
that will for a time lessen the impact of colliding with the bulls,
they continue to run against the bulls, against the current.
That is an imperfect picture of repentance.
Oh loved ones, how repentance seems to be a forgotten word today.
We focus on the Biblical Truth of God’s love–as we should!–
but we leave out the not-as-fun-to-hear
but equally important Biblical Truth
of God’s command to repent,
to turn away from our sinfulness in general and individual sins in particular,
to weep and grieve and throw ourselves at the feet of the Lord Jesus,
beating our breast like the tax collector
(Luke 18:13-14, Jeremiah 31:18-20, James 4:4-10, esp. verses 8-10).
We think the best way to encourage & refresh people is
to NOT tell them about the importance of repentance,
to not talk about the terribleness of sin, of THEIR sin, of MY sin.
We think being positive and simply talking about one aspect
of the love of God
is the best way to refresh people.
But God’s ways are not our ways.
We see above in Acts 3 that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit,
points out the sin of the Israelites in rejecting the Lord Jesus–
Peter doesn’t beat around the bush but confronts them with their terrible sin.
And then he commands them to repent,
to turn from that sin & all sin & throw themselves down
at the nail-scarred feat of the Lord Jesus
with three amazing benefits:
- so that their sins will be forgiven,
- so that refreshment will come from the Lord, and
- so that eventually the Father will send His Son back to earth
to bring to heaven all His forgiven & redeemed & adopted people.
But many miss out on the refreshment that comes from the Lord
when we truly repent.
Often without realizing it,
we think that believing in Jesus is like being at a coffee shop:
we order our drink and the barista says,
- “Would you like whipped cream on top? It’s free!”
- We pause for a second–we weren’t even thinking about adding whipped cream, but it’s been offered, it’s sweet, it looks great on top of our beverage, the barista is so nice, & so we say, “Sure! Free, sweet, sounds like a great deal. Why not!?”
For many, Jesus is simply a sweet add-on, an enhancement, to our current lives–
He is offered as a nice topping,
a way to add a little blessing or energy rush or flavor to our lives,
the beverage of sin/selfishness that we order every day,
a way to make us smile as we continue to go with the flow
& chase our dreams & follow our hearts.
But that is not Biblical salvation;
that is not saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.
Remember what the Lord Jesus said,
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
Grieving over sin and turning from it,
weeping at the terribleness of our sin even though we still sometimes do it,
reaching out to the Lord Jesus not just for Him to make us happy but to make us holy,
this is what Christ says that He is calling people to! This and nothing less than this!
Not just continuing to go with the flow of sin & the sinful culture of the world,
but reaching out to Him to transform us to swim against it,
even though this makes our lives harder in the short run.
And even as He teaches us to swim,
remembering that it is Him and His Branch (Cross)
that will ultimately protect us from going over the waterfall.
Remember Peter again in Acts 2–
the Holy Spirit cut the people to their hearts,
convicting them of their terrible sin
of rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ and previously screaming, “Crucify Him!”
God opened their eyes to the terribleness of their sin–
though EVERY human is guilty of rejecting Christ!–
and they said, “What shall we do?”
Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, told them
and be baptized
into the name of the Lord Jesus!
He told them to turn from their sinfulness,
to bring their guilt to Christ
and cry out to Him to forgive them AND to transform them to sin no more!
May we realize that repentance is an important part of salvation,
of Biblical faith in the Lord Jesus Christ…
2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,
as some understand slowness.
Instead he is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.”