Monday, April 28, 2014

Repentance: A Condemning Command from an Angry God or a Joyful Invitation from a Rejoicing Savior?

I have been listening to messages from a recent conference called Together for the Gospel.  This years conference was centered entirely around evangelism.  One speaker spoke on heaven's rejoicing at the repentance of the lost.  It is this message that is the inspiration for this post.  Sometimes as believers, all of which are called to evangelize, we get burdened with results.  We do not feel we have been successful unless we have led everyone to the Lord whom we have shared the gospel with.  The trouble is two fold.  One, we forget that it is God who brings results.  It is our job to sow seed and water that seed.  God gives the growth(1 Corinthians 3:5-7).  Two, is we forget that Jesus said, heaven rejoices over one sinner whom repents(Luke 15:7).  Just one.  While we share the gospel often and always call sinners to repentance, we need not manufacture numbers or force decisions when evangelizing.  God honors the faithful spread of His gospel, not manipulated conversions.  I want to speak to a misunderstanding of repentance by the unrepentant.  I will write a second post regarding the response of sinners when they realize the worth of the gospel and the response of believers to the sinners repentance.

A Misunderstanding
It is to the second point above that I wold like to speak here.  Both to believers and unbelievers. Repentance is generally defined, not only as turning away from sin, but turning to God.  Unfortunately, in our day, most see a call to repentance as hateful judgement.  Whether it is one fellow believer calling another believer to account for obvious unrepentant sin, or a believer calling an unbeliever to turn from their sin and put their trust in Christ for the first time, the call to repentance is not generally well received.  I believe that this is because we have a misunderstanding of the intent of the call.

Why are we called to repentance?  Is it the condemning command of an angry God that is threatening us or is it the joyful plea of a rejoicing Shepherd who died for us?  I believe this perception makes all the difference in our response.

The Answer is Both
Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth, is angry.  The word of God tells us that He is Holy God that cannot tolerate sin.  In fact, Psalm 5:4-6 tells us that God hates ALL evildoers and abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.  Perhaps you may be thinking that you are a good person, that this could not possibly describe you.  Genesis 6:5  and Genesis 8:21 tells us that the intentions of man's heart is only evil continually and that it is so from our youth.  Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags.  Paul reiterates this and many other parts of the bible regarding the worthlessness of man's righteousness in Romans 3:9-20.  So you see God is justified in His anger because we have rebelled against Him and deserve His just, wrathful, judgement(Romans 1:18-24).

Many like to say, "don't judge me" or "only God can judge me".  I see that second statement on t-shirts and  tattoos all the time.  It scares me.  While the final verdict and judgement will not come until you stand before God, the truth is that God has already judged sin and condemned all sinners.  That is why we need a Savior(John 3:16-17).  We must understand our sinfulness in relationship to a holy God if we are to appreciate the grace by which He saves us.

He is a loving God, righteous in all his ways.  Thus, in order to save us from our sins and still satisfy the righteous judgement that is due our sins, He sent a Savior.  He sent a Good Shepherd.  His Son.  This Son who would not only die for our sins, but would pursue those whom belong to God.  Those who were bought by the precious blood of Jesus, God's Son, on the cross.  This Good Shepherd pursues each lost sheep individually and heaven rejoices every time one is reclaimed for God's glory.

Jesus's Answer To This Misunderstanding of Repentance
Jesus explains it in three parables.
1.) In Luke 15:1-7 we are told of the value of one lost sheep.  Jesus explains that such value is placed on that one lost sheep, that the shepherd will leave the other sheep to go reclaim the one.  Not only that but afterward, he gathers all his friends and calls them to rejoice with him over that lost sheep.  In the same way, Jesus pursues every lost sheep that is supposed to be a part of His flock and upon it's return, all of heaven rejoices.  We are called to rejoice as well.

2.) In Luke 15:8-10, Jesus tells the parable of a woman who has lost one of ten coins in her possession.  She values this one coin so much that she searches the whole house for it.  When she finds it, she is so elated that she entreats her friends to rejoice with her in it's return.  Again, heaven rejoices with the Savior.

In both cases, you will notice that the owners of the sheep and the coin decide that it is not enough to let the one go and continue to enjoy the others.  No, they place such value on each, that they do not stop searching until the lost one is found.  So it is with Jesus as He pursues each of us that are lost, yet were determined to belong to Him before time began(Ephesians 1:4).

The Prodigal Returns
3.) The final parable to conclude Jesus' teaching on the value placed on sinners who repent is found in Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the prodigal son.  This parable is generally taught with great depth in a lengthy sermon because it is so rich.  At the risk of oversimplifying this parable I will sum it up just so.  It is about the Father, the sinner, and the pharisee.  The part I would like to emphasize at the moment is the Father/sinner relationship.  Rather than the emphasis being placed on the seeking out of the son, it is placed on the celebration that comes as he returns.

As you will have read, upon recognition of his dire state, the son/sinner realizes that the Father's servants are doing better than he is.  Because he knows that he no longer has the right to claim sonship, he determines that he will return as a servant and throw himself on the mercy of his master.

  • Isn't this just how we view the call to repentance?  We rejected the Father to begin with because we did not understand the depth of relationship that He wanted to have with us.  Consequently, we misunderstand the call to repentance because we see God only through the master/servant relationship.

 However, when the son returns home, the Father runs out to meet him.  In fact, the son does not have the chance to unveil his plan of servitude because the Father wraps him in His arms and reclaims him as son before he gets the chance.  The Father plans the party of all parties to celebrate His son's return.

  • What would happen if we viewed repentance with this understanding?  Whether you are a believer who has strayed or an unbeliever (i.e. prodigal son/lost sheep) who has been found, you need to understand that the Father will rejoice in your repentance.  He will celebrate your new life.  He will treat you not as servant but as sons and daughters.  As it says in verses 24 and 32, as an unbeliever, you were dead and now you are alive, you were lost and now you are found, if you place your trust in Jesus.
Leave the old life behind.  You will notice that when the son left his destitute life, he did not try to take any of the ways of that life with him.  He did not grab a prostitute and say maybe Dad will let me keep one of these while I serve him.  The son abandoned his old life.  He turned away from it and headed home.  This is an important part of repentance.  Scripture says that when we are in Christ, we are a new creation.  The old has past away and all things are made new(2 Corinthians 5:17).

Life in Christ
I beg you to consider this today.  Contemplate what is revealed in this teaching.  Gain a new understanding and attitude toward repentance.  It is the call from a loving Heavenly Father and a faithful Good Shepherd whom seek you out and want to celebrate your return.  A Savior that sacrificed His own life for yours. Come to an understanding that without repentance and faith in Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins(Ephesians 2:5).  We are living this mortal life for ourselves, to die spiritually for eternity.  

However, through faith and repentance, by the power of the Holy spirit, we are not only dying in this body of flesh, but we are dying to ourselves daily and living for Christ, obeying His commands.  In this way, we are dying now, to live for eternity.

A Pleading Ambassador
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 represents my purpose.  I cannot say it any better than the Apostle Paul.  It states, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  working together with him, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For he says, 'In favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you'.  Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation"

I will end with this.  Faith and repentance go hand in hand.  You cannot have one without the other.  If you have faith in Jesus, you will strive for repentance and obey the teachings of God's word.  If you do not care to repent, if you have no interest in applying the word of God to your life, then your faith is dead and you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  You will spend and eternity apart from God, suffering and eternity of conscious, fiery, torment.  Longing for relief that will never come.

As an ambassador, on behalf of God the Father and Christ the Son, I plead with you this day.  Cry out to God to save you.  Have faith!


In Jesus name,


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