rep enta nce

Most of us think we have a good idea of what repentance is. But, I want to take some time today to study repentance and to highlight the beauty of this gift we have received from God!

It is hard to be thankful for a gift when you have no understanding of the gift’s purpose. So, let’s take a good look at what God has given us.

The New Testament word for repentance means:

Changing one’s mind so that one’s views, values, goals, and ways are changed and one’s whole life is lived differently.

It is easy to confuse repentance with another human experience called “attrition”. Looking at the definition reveals the difference.

Attrition – remorse, self-reproach, and sorrow for sin generated by fear of punishment, without any wish or resolve to forsake sinning.

The difference between repentance and the act of attrition is found in the finished product. In both repentance and attrition, you will find some aspect of sorrow. But attrition, at best leads only to some type of outward change. It may lead to someone being more careful so they don’t get caught but it does not lead to a hatred of the behavior itself.

When a person repents, the change is radical. It involves change, both inwardly and outwardly; mind and judgment, will and affections, behavior and life-style, motives and purposes – all are involved.

Attrition is not sufficient for godly transformation because it allows the love for the sin to continue to live within us. Repentance means going in the opposite direction -to practice the virtues, motives, and behaviors most directly opposed to the sin.

One theologian said that repentance is a fruit of faith. I agree because by its purest definition repentance involves a change in how we think and how we respond. In essence, one cannot truly repent without having something to turn to. God provided His Son as a sacrifice for our sins; a way in which we can live differently than we do when dominated by a life of sin. The sacrifice of the Son of God allows an alternative to the dominance of sin and death. In its purest form, faith is part of the gift that God has given to us – opening the door to the gift of salvation.

Faith cannot operate without repentance. To trust in God, we must have a revelation that the road of sin is leading to death and then, we must change our mind regarding how we will live and receive the gift of salvation offered by God through His Son. The bridge between revelation and transformation is repentance!

The idea that there can be saving faith without repentance, and that one can be justified by embracing Christ as Savior while refusing Him as Lord is a destructive delusion. True faith acknowledges who God really is- Priest and King. True trust in Him as Savior will express itself in submission to Him as Lord also.

The culmination of all God’s gifts to mankind are summed up in the reality called “The Kingdom of Heaven”. To receive the Kingdom involves walking a pathway along which we come upon many gifts along the way. These gifts are not haphazardly placed on this pathway, but placed according to a priority necessary for the realization of the final product.

Repentance is the first gift we find as we walk the pathway.

Every true preacher of the gospel always points this gift out first to those seeking to walk the pathway to the Kingdom. In the Old Testament, the prophets pointed the gift out to Israel as they sought to return to the God from whom they had strayed. John the Baptist pointed the gift out as he prepared the way for the Savior. Jesus pointed it out as the first step to the Kingdom. The Twelve pointed it out to the Jews, Paul pointed it out to the Gentiles and the glorified Jesus pointed it out to the seven churches in the book of Revelation.

Impenitence is always the road to ruin. Repentance is always the path to remission of sins and the surety of God’s favor.

If you don’t see repentance as a gift, then think of what the world would be like without it! Even with Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind, without repentance there is no way to embrace it.

 Thank God for the gift of repentance! May repentance always be one of my closest friends!



Fastest Way to Change

If your relationships are not working, here’s a fast way to create change. Notice: this will first create change in you. The changes in you will be noticed by others and create a pathway for God to work in them. It removes you from being part of the problem and makes you part of the solution. It’s like the “rock in the pond”. You throw a rock into a pond. The rock enters at just one point, but the ripple effect is felt all throughout the pond. Let God change you through submission to Him and the ripple effect will be felt by everyone around you. While I can guarantee that everyone will notice and have to respond to the changes in you, I cannot guarantee that everyone will change for the better. But, this is the fastest way to find out what is going to happen in your relationships and the quickest and surest way to your peace.

Submission to God requires:

Humility: I agree with God’s assessment of who I am.

Repentance: I turn away from lies, attitudes, actions, and outlooks that do not reflect God’s Word.

Release: I release my relationships to the power and authority of God. I stop trying to change others and I stop judging them.

Obedience: I put all my energies into seeing myself become a Spirit walking, Word obeying, child of God.

No Rationalizing or Denying: I give up denying my sinful behavior or rationalizing my sins because of what others have done to me or because of bad circumstances.

If you use this as another manipulation technique to get others to do what you want, this will fail. But, if you do it because it is the right thing to do for you, then you have a chance to see God restore you and everything around you!

Useless or Useful?

Last time we were together, we talked about the book of Philemon. This is a book that is not studied much in the corporate setting in the church but it has something very powerful to teach us about success in the kingdom of God.

Here’s a short recap.

This letter is written by Paul to a believer saved through Paul’s work in Colossae. This brother in the Lord had a slave working for him named Onesimus. At some point, Onesimus ran away and went to the area in which Paul was preaching the gospel. Upon hearing Paul, Onesimus was born again, giving his life to the Lord Jesus.

Paul could see that the young man had ministry gifts and would be of great benefit to Paul in the ministry. But, before proceeding any further in ministry, Onesimus has some things that he needed to take care of from the past.

To create a foundation for a successful future in the Lord, it is important to successfully handle the past. Even though we are new creations in Christ and we are not to live in the past once we are born again, we still must learn to successfully reconcile our past so that we can move forward in our lives with integrity.

We made an observation last time that reconciliation is not just a relational term but an accounting term as well. Auditors look at the books of a company and seek to ensure that the company is operating with financial integrity. Are funds received going where they are supposed to? Are accounts payable being taken care of lawfully and expeditiously?

These “audits” testify to financial integrity on the part of the owners of the business.

When we are saved, the Holy Spirit does an “audit” of our lives with the same intention: to ensure personal integrity for our lives. The Spirit will bring up things from the past in which we “owe” someone a debt so that we can get these “debts” taken care of in a biblical manner.

Taking care of these “debts” biblically become part of our testimony. They prove several things:

We are truly under Christ’s authority.

We are serious about living a righteous life.

We can be trusted with the things of God.

Onesimus had not been freed by Philemon, he was a runaway. That broke laws of the day and caused a rift between Philemon and Onesimus. Before God would use Onesimus further, Paul sent him back to take care of the debts of his past.

Here are a few things we can learn from this:

  1. God’s plan for progress includes closing out “open accounts”.

Most of us come to God with a lot of brokenness in our background. Some have broken relationships that have not been healed. Others have people they have stolen from. Others may have lies they have told others to benefit themselves. Whatever the case may be, for our testimony to carry any spiritual integrity, we must close our open accounts from the past. It is very easy to look back at the mess and say, “Oh man, that’s too much to dive into. I’ll just let bygones be bygones and move forward”. The problem with this is that God is concerned with the people we owe things to and He is also concerned with our integrity. How you respond to your past builds a foundation for your future. Ignoring things is not God’s way of reconciling them. To make them right, you make a decision to deal with them God’s way.

  1. Coercion leaves behind a poison that causes a situation to live on rather than healing it.

Paul was an authority over Philemon spiritually. He could have commanded Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to send him to Paul. But, Paul understood that a gift not given freely is a gift given in bondage. Philemon and Onesimus needed to truly deal with the issue before them scripturally. At that point, Philemon and Onesimus would be free from the past and would be able to move forward into God’s will. Paul’s integrity before Philemon was at stake – Paul’s love for Philemon was at stake – Onesimus’ integrity was at stake. Give no place to the devil to bring an accusation against you. Take care of past “debts” so that the future will not expose your lack of integrity.

  1. Use as your example God’s forgiveness and reconciliation to us.

Paul told Philemon, “If you count me as a partner, receive Onesimus as you would me. If he has wronged you or owes you anything, put it on my account. I will pay for it. Not to mention that you owe me your own self besides.”

We owe God our own being. We live because of His intervention. We are commanded to love one another as He loves us. We are commanded to forgive as He forgave us. We release forgiveness to others, not based upon their worth but based upon Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance of us! If you don’t feel as if the people you are going to with past debts “deserve” your forgiveness, keep this in mind!

  1. God will turn something useless into something useful.

Onesimus’ name meant “Useful or profitable”. Paul makes a play on words here to get his point to Philemon. Before Onesimus knew the Lord, he was useless to you in his behavior. But now, God is turning this into something useful to Philemon and profitable for the kingdom. God will do the same for you. Even things that appear to have no redeeming value, God can turn around and use is for good.

Have you dealt with the “debts” of the past? It takes a lot of humility and biblical focus to do so but God uses our actions to teach us obedience and integrity. And, He also uses our reconciliation of debts as a testimony to the reality of His existence and as a testimony to the reality of our change.

When a tornado goes through an area, it leaves destruction behind. Before rebuilding can start, clean up has to occur. If you past life has left destruction in its wake……to the best of your ability, clean up after yourself! Then, redemption becomes more than just a hope – it becomes a reality!

The Friend Called Sorrow

2  Corinthians 7:10: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

It seems as if only a masochist would call sorrow a friend. In truth, I don’t believe that any one, including myself wants to jump into the front of the line to experience sorrow. We recently had prayer in our church for people that were experiencing sorrow over things occurring in their lives. Many more than I expected responded to the call for ministry. Generally, sorrow is a negative term to us. We associate it with pain and truly, it is usually brought on by some form of pain.

But, the Bible teaches us that, at a general level, there are two kinds of sorrow. I’d like to look at the difference between the two.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke of these two types of sorrow. I believe that the two types of sorrow mentioned can have much in common. For instance, they both begin with pain. They often have the same source pain as their point of origination. In other words, worldly sorrow and godly sorrow could begin with pain from the same source; i.e.; death of a loved one, failed expectations, etc. It is not the source that makes one sorrow worldly and one godly, it is where the sorrow leads that defines them.

When we experience pain, sorrow is not our enemy but the messages we accept and responses we take determine where it leads. Worldly sorrow comes when we sorrow with no hope – when the pain or loss we have experienced sends a message to us that things have changed for the worse and will never get better. When we receive and believe these messages, the hopelessness that accompanies them brings death to our emotions and, if not dealt with, can culminate in death spiritually and in some cases, physical death. I’ve seen people experience the death of a spouse or a child and literally give up hope. Some even die soon after their loved ones. I’ve seen some experience a loss and then kill themselves. I’ve seen others simply give up on having anything good happen in the area that they experienced the loss in. Some purposely choose bad alternatives because they have lost hope for anything good.

Godly sorrow may begin with similar origins as worldly sorrow, but the outcome is much different.

The reason being that godly sorrow is processed through the Bible and the Holy Spirit and through these agents, hope remains alive. The word of God tells us in Romans 8:24-28:

“For we are saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

Look at this!

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

In the midst of sorrow, the Holy Spirit is working to strengthen us and to turn what has happened around to bring us something good. This revelation brings us hope in the midst of sorrow. Even when we are the source of our pain and sorrow because of personal failures, we have a dear friend called “repentance” who opens the door for us to deliverance.

That’s the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow:

Godly sorrow opens doors. Worldly sorrow closes them.

You may be experiencing some sorrow right now. What form will it take? Where will it lead you? Allow the Holy Spirit to rule you in the midst of sorrow and you will find a door open at the end of the hallway – one that you did not even know was there!