So now we hopefully understand that the holy and just God of the universe abhors sin and must poor out His wrath against it. We also hopefully understand that He is simultaneously a patient, loving God who keeps His promises and sent His Son as the perfect, substitutionary sacrifice as a demonstration of that love for all those whom He choose from the foundations of the world.
Not only that, but we know that God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and all of the host of heaven rejoice when one lost sinner comes to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We know that the Godhead aka.Trinity values one individual soul so much that we are told He doesn't stop pursuing until that lost soul is found.
What a wonderful God we serve. What a incredible gospel we get to proclaim. The good news that God would have been completely just in destroying every sinner that rebels against Him for all eternity, yet he chose to have a plan in place that would satisfy the cost of that rebellion so that lost souls could be saved and enjoy eternity with Him.
What a Glorious Treasure!.....or is it?
Do we really see it that way? Do we live as if this gospel treasure, is the key to the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus says is the treasure?
Matthew 13:44-46 gives us two short parables that are loaded with truth regarding the value that we should place on discovering that we are partakers of the kingdom and the joy that it should bring.
- Read Matthew 13:44. You can hover over the reference in blue if you are on the blog page or look it up in your bible. Observe the radical response to the man's discovery. He finds a treasure so valuable that he is willing to sell everything to have access to it. It says that with great joy, he sells everything and goes to by the field containing that treasure.
- Matthew 13:45-46 tells us that another merchant of fine pearls finds a pearl of such value that he sells everything, just to buy that one pearl.
However, scripture says that the people in these examples didn't work harder, go into debt, or save like crazy. No, they sold everything they had. That is how much value they placed on this treasure. This is how valuable Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is.
Can we say our lives reflect such a value for the kingdom of heaven. I certainly can't. At least not consistently. In our sin, we often fail to keep before our minds eye, the value of what Christ did for us, what is available to us because of the price He paid, and how our lives should reflect that.
Repentance Is That Joyful Expression
Return with me for a moment to the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32. Consider the son's response to his realization of what benefits he could gain from being part of his fathers "kingdom". Consider his regret when he realizes all that his Father had made freely available to him and yet he had rejected it.
There are plenty of people in the world who would rather remain selfishly broke and starving both spiritually and in the flesh than to humble themselves and acknowledge their need to be taken care of. They love the possibility of the pleasures of this world too much. Yet this son realizes that even his father's servants were better off than he was and so he leaves all the pleasures of the world behind with the intent of going back and serving his father. Yet he does not do it reluctantly or begrudgingly. Once he realizes the value of his father's "kingdom" he finds joy in returning there.
That joyful return to the Father's "kingdom" or house is not fed by a hope that he will get everything He wants. Simply the hope that his most basic needs will be met. He does not return to his Father's house dragging behind him a cart full of worldly desires and possessions topped off with a prostitute. No he leaves that entire life behind. He brings nothing but his brokenness. THAT is repentance.
Still there is another piece that needs mentioning. Though it could be fleshed out much more than I will do it here. Jesus intends the older brother in this story to be a representation of the pharisees. While the pharisees were religious hypocrites, not followers of Christ, we need to recognize that, even we followers of Christ respond as the older brother does. Did you notice how angry he got in Luke 15:25-32 when his father rejoices and celebrates at the return of his son. He gripes that his father never did this for him. What does the father say? Son, it was already yours.
Even as believers, we often spend our time taking for granted the blessings that are available to us as members of our Father's house. We forget that we don't deserve those blessings. We don't live as if they are valuable to us. Then we have the audacity to get mad when we see people drawn into our Father's house because we don't think they deserve it. We have forgotten that our Father brought us into this world and made these things available to us by His grace.
When you see other lost sheep being returned to the fold or lost children being welcomed into the Father's house, never get angry or envious. Never forget that you were once lost and are now found. You were once blind and now you see.
Repentance is Part of the Plan
God does not command that repentance is merely doing the right thing or simply ceasing doing the wrong thing. Repentance is about being part of the plan. It is a lifestyle. God commands repentance as a means of bringing himself glory. How you say? Which do you think brings more glory to God? Is it chasing after the world or cheerfully chasing after Christ? Which do you think brings God the most glory? Is it selfishly pursuing our own desires or selflessly and joyfully being part of God's master plan to gather lost sheep, and tell lost children that they can come home. Repentance from sin and repentance toward the things of God are both fundamentally important, not only to your own salvation but to the salvation of others. Your repentance points others to Christ.
You must realize that God could do it on His own. You must realize that He does not need you to accomplish His purposes and yet He chooses to include you as the means by which people come to know who He is and what He did for them. You must realize that the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a privilege that every believer is intended to enjoy. Getting to be a part of watching God change hearts and lives for all of eternity is an unspeakable opportunity. When you do, you will have GREAT joy! That's right, evangelism is a part of repentance. You turn from proclaiming the joys and pleasures that this world has to offer and living for those, to proclaiming that the joys, pleasures, and freedom that is found in Christ.
Repentance cannot be done begrudgingly when you understand the mercy of God in it. It can only be done with joy when you come to fully realize that it is only by His grace that you are able to repent and believe to begin with. Repentance is REAL work. Grace is not cheap. It cost Christ His life and it is supposed to bring the same sacrificial living in our lives. The grace that is freely offered is intended to produce the fruit of righteous works. Read Colossians 1:28-29, Philippians 2:12-13, and 1 Corinthians 15:10. Hard work, performed by believers, yet totally empowered by grace from a loving, faithful God.
Repentance is not something we do simply at the point of initial confession. Repentance is a lifelong, grace empowered privilege. Do not take it for granted. It is our joyful response to the glorious treasure that is Christ in us, the hope of glory
Coram Deo! (Living Before the Face of God)