THERE is a great tendency nowadays for telling each other “it’s ok, it’s not your fault. It could have happened to anyone. Try to move on. You have to forgive yourself. Get over it. Move on.”
Forgiving ourselves and moving on seems to be the accepted M.O. for most of us. Sure, we fall into trouble, we make the wrong decision with our eyes wide open, we act on impulse and enjoy the fall before the guilt creep in. But now we are so clever at excusing ourselves and moving on, that little by little the guilt is wearing off. It was bad the first time, but now it’s not so bad. Guilt stays at the gate. After all, we are only human. After all, we deserve a little happiness. After all, it’s not hurting anybody. After all, its my life.
Now imagine someone says to you “Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” (Ezekiel 14:6) What will you do? On a scale of 1-10, where would you be in identifying all your idols? Your detestable practices? Can you at least identify, let alone renounce?
Why is this so important? Because there is no salvation without repentance. Acts 3:19 tells us – Repent, then, turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Here is how King David repented-
Psalm 51- Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
First step, if we really can’t figure out what the big deal is, because we have “moved on”, ask God to grant you repentance. We are so deeply entrenched in our sins, we don’t even recognize it. So how do we repent for what we don’t see? Many people have said, “I am not crazy like most people. I don’t drink or smoke. I provide for my family. Sure, I have some minor defects, but then, who doesn’t?” See, most of us believe we are good people because we don’t commit murder, steal or tell really big lies. This is how we justify ourselves. By doing this, we are telling Christ, we don’t need Him. We can manage on our own, thank you. Don’t live in this delusion. Ask God to give you this gift of repentance.
2 Timothy 2:25 – …in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to knowledge of the truth.
Next step, hopefully you have now seen your sin and acknowledged what you have done was quite detestable, and repented. For some, this happens in one sitting (or kneeling). For others, repentance may take a few days. In the process, sorrow has to be felt. Sorrow leads to true repentance.(2 Corinthians 7:10) Maybe lots of crying, because after all you are getting totally cleaned out – as white as snow.
This is the order of events I see from the gospels.
Jesus heals the sick. Asks them to repent.
We are told in 2 Timothy, repentance leads to knowledge of the truth. And repentance leads to the producing of good fruit (Matthew 3:8).
What happens when you have been the recipient of a miraculous healing or gift and fail to repent and turn to God? Matthew 11:20 tells us that Jesus denounced such towns that saw miracles but failed to repent. So here we see that the miracles are for the benefit of the unbelievers for them to see the glory of God and repent and be saved.
Without repentance, we are also not able to produce good fruit. Matthew 3:10 is very clear about what happens to those who don’t produce good fruit – cut down, thrown into fire.
Now as unbelievers, all this drama hardly makes any sense. But the moment you are saved, the impact of these verses will hit you hard. Much of the Christian faith can be intellectually understood by a non-believer. But there is so much more to be understood and known upon regeneration of the spirit. This knowledge comes only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Only to the children of God.
The moment you become a child of God, you realize the mess you were in and the tremendous miracle of being yanked out of that mess. You cannot wait until you do your bit to get everybody else out as well, because now you clearly see the reality of heaven and hell. That is why sometimes our zeal overtakes our knowledge. But God will always work out His purpose His way through His children.
Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”