I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe repentance is the primary missing element in most of our modern day preaching. Think about how many sermons you’ve heard that have called you to “accept Christ” or “ask Jesus into your heart” or “receive Christ as your Lord and Savior”. All of those statements hint at what salvation involves, but ultimately they fall way short because they lack any element of repentance, or a genuine “turning away” from sin. The two spiritual elements that take place when one is saved are repentance and faith. Repentance involves turning FROM something (sin). Faith involves turning towards SOMEONE (Jesus Christ). Without this two-fold reality occurring, no one is ever saved. But where is the call to repent? Sadly it’s lacking in many pulpits. The life offering plea to turn from sin and be saved has largely been replaced by a lukewarm, pathetic, cheesy, sales pitch to “repeat this prayer after me” and go to Heaven. No one is offered a new life in Christ…because no one is ever told that they’re sinful enough to need it. It’s just a silly game of say the magic words and gain eternal life. How different this mentality is from the life and message of Jesus Christ.
“From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’" (Matthew 4:17 NASB)
“And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:27
Not only is repentance seldom mentioned in many modern day sermons, repentance (when it is mentioned) is often misunderstood. Repentance is not a one time deal. Repentance is a lifetime process. To be sure, there is an initial repentance in which we turn in conviction from our sinful and depraved nature. But, sadly, our individual sins continue to manifest themselves in this fallen world, with our fallen natures. Once we’re born again, we no longer take pleasure in sin. At least not the way we once did. The Holy Spirit sees to it that sin pierces us, rather than pleases us. The joy we find in sin is fleeting and ultimately leads to despair. It’s like eating a big, juicy apple, only to find there’s a slimly diseased worm buried within. The sin may have brought temporal pleasure, but the ultimate result is pain and shame. Therefore, we must repent, and renew our commitment to Christ once again.
Repentance becomes a way of life for the believer. We sin. We repent. We ask God’s forgiveness. Sometimes we have to ask another person’s forgiveness. Then we take up our cross and carry on again down the narrow road behind our Lord. At times it can be frustrating because a true believer will long to be like Christ. Yet they will continually find themselves falling short and sinning once again. But, ultimately, we’re not in serious trouble because we still struggle with sin. We ARE in serious trouble if we sin….and DON’T struggle with it. It your sin makes you miserable…REJOICE! That’s probably a good sign you’re a child of God. If you can sin and NOT BE MISERABLE over it…watch out! You may be deceiving yourself into thinking you’re saved, when in fact you’re not. So when you sin….are you GENUINELY repentant?
Repentance is one of those things that, in a sense, God must lead us to. When we sin, we know its wrong. And we know we should turn and commit ourselves once again to holiness. And we know that we should seek God’s forgiveness. But KNOWING something is sin…and being CONVICTED of it (which leads to repentance) are two different matters. For example, there have been times, when I have sinned and known I needed to repent, yet, in a way I couldn’t. Why? Because the Spirit hadn’t really convicted me and broken me sufficiently yet. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you’ve said or done something that you know is wrong and yet you don’t really feel bad about it. The emotions are still too searing, and your heart is still too prideful. Make no mistake, we’re in the wrong, whether we “feel” it or not…and we must take it to the Lord in prayer, whether we feel like it or not. But there have been times when I’ve prayed for God to bring the conviction and brokenness that I need to really repent of the sin. I KNOW I’ve done wrong, but I’m not as broken over it as I should be. Thankfully, the Lord is faithful, both in healing and in chastening. The conviction ultimately comes, and true heart felt repentance follows.
The Christian life is no picnic. Don’t get me wrong; there is joy unspeakable when we follow Christ. But living in a sinful world, with a sinful nature, after you’ve been changed into a Spirit-filled disciple of Christ, can create some painful situations. But it’s a GOOD pain. It’s the pain of conviction and it drives us to our knees and compels us to cry out with the tax collector: “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13 NASB) And we know He will be merciful, because our heart is broken, and he promises to heal us. He promises to forgive us. And he promises to restore us.
Sin carries an awful price. Our sin cost Jesus His life on the cross. And there are times in which our sin will cost us dearly in temporal consequences. But PRAISE GOD…our eternal consequences were poured out upon our blessed Savior. That should cause us to shout with joy…and weep with brokenness. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16)
So keep following Christ…and keep repenting. Christianity is not a one time “decision” like you so often hear. Christianity is a LIFETIME commitment. When you sin, expect to be convicted of it. Pray for conviction. But don’t get discouraged, and whatever you do, don’t give up. If you do, you’re playing right into Satan’s hands. His desire is that you “throw in the towel” on Christianity and let your sinful desires rule you. But we mustn’t give Satan his way. We must carry on and follow our Lord….no matter what we’ve done, and no matter how we feel. We must follow Him in joy and in pain, sorrow and gladness, fear and courage, good days and bad days, in faith…and in REPENTANCE. Even if it’s Redundant Repentance. We must carry on and renew ourselves once again to following Christ…and daily becoming more like Him in all things.