It is never easy or fun to deal with personal sin. Being honest about one’s true condition at heart is scary, because the depth and pervasiveness of sin runs so deep. Instead of turning to God and His remedy, we are prone to seek solutions via superficial means.
We often view stimulants as the jolt to shake us out of our spiritual doldrums. Some look for a new hobby. Stamps used to be the annoying thing they licked and stuck on an envelope. Now they are the most valuable resource on the planet, and they can’t spend enough time tracing them down. We all naturally, without God’s grace, turn a blind eye to sin and seek satisfaction in new cars, new wardrobes, new medicines or new friendships.
I am so thankful that as true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, God is jealous over us (Exodus 20:4-5; I Corinthians 10:22). I’m grateful that it is God’s intent to reclaim us when we have fallen. We don’t need a new hobby, sports car, closet full of cloths, new job, new wife or a different church. What is it that you and I need? What we need is precisely what Galatians 6:1 tells us: RESTORATION
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should RESTORE him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
What you and I need when we are broken spiritually is restoring. That is God’s word for it. In other words, you don’t need something NEW, you need something OLD. You don’t need something exotic or a change to your environment, you need a RETURN. This is all implied in the word restore.
More specifically, to be restored we need to repent. We must get back to first admitting we have a need. When people do not acknowledge the truth about their state spiritually, there is no hope.
The great news is that the Lord can do this so easily. God is the One who brings about restoration, and He does this through repentance. He did it for Peter with one look. When Jesus crossed Peter in that courtyard between His trials, the Lord looked at Him. In response to Jesus’ rebuking look, Peter left the courtyard and wept bitterly. But I can tell you with assurance that Peter was much more recovered and restored as a man weeping bitterly than when he was standing around the fire denouncing the Lord boldly.
The Lord graciously accepted true repentance for many people in Scripture. In fact, any true child of God has experienced initial and continued restoration and repentance. What does true repentance look like in Scripture?
Second Timothy 5:25 tells us that repentance is something that starts inwardly. It is first a change of one’s mind:
correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
Repentance is a total change of thinking. It is something that takes place internally in your heart and mind. There must be an alteration in thought.
Consider the churches in Revelation, six times John says, “repent” (Rev 2:5, 16; 3:3, 19). What John is referring to is not merely sweeping the dirt off the front porch. Many people come to church and just deal with the unsavory things that are outwardly showing to other believers or their spouse. Yet in the confines of the soul, there is a lot of junk and sin festering.
What Repentance is NOT
- Sorry that something happened
- Being exhausted with the consequences
- Wishing it never happened
- Wouldn’t do it if another chance happened
- Not penance: something needed to be done for forgiveness
- Being involved in organized religion
What Repentance IS
Repentance, which is distinct from mere apologies, begins with recognition of reality, of who and what God is and of who and what we are. It begins with the knowledge of the greatness of our sin and misery.
It’s not just a matter of somehow getting cleared of some deed we’ve done. It’s a matter of getting freed from what we are that prompted the deed, prompted the words, and prompted the desires.
No man can exercise faith in Christ without repentance, and we cannot get back in right relationship to God unless He works in us to bring about that repentance. The Scripture is replete with calls to repentance, not only for the staunch unbeliever, but for the Christian as well. Whether it’s John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul or Peter, the answer to the spiritual destitute and fallen is repentance and restoration found in Christ (Matthew 3:2; Acts 2:38; Matthew 4:17; Acts 17:30).
- Repentance is a turning from sin. What does that mean? The word that is used refers to a change of thinking, that produces a change of living. It is very similar to the word for conversion, or a turnaround.
- Repentance is a turnaround of a sinful, self-centered disposition. The Old Testament word for repentance gives the idea of a 180 degree turnaround. A man is going one way, realizes he is going the wrong way, and therefore turns and travels in the right direction. Think of the last time you had to do a U-turn because your GPS showed you traveling in the wrong direction.
- Finally, repentance is not something that happens only at one point in your life. Rather, when you turn from your sin to the Savior, that repentant attitude continues. The unbeliever doesn’t have a repentant heart towards his sin. An unbeliever has a love affair, a cover-up relationship with sin. On the other hand, a true Christian trembles at God’s Word consistently, and he believes God’s Word.
- Genuine repenatance will produce a change of lifestyle. The gospel writers record that man must “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8).
What God requires is a change of mind about the truth we rejected. About the expressed will of God we violated. About the sin we committed.
Now, I want to end by assuring you that repentance is beyond human capability. We must turn to God to repent, for He alone can grant repentance. One of the Old Testament prophets said, “Can a leper change his spots? The answer is emphatically NO! The power of salvation resides in the Lord. That is true previous to our justification, and it remains true throughout our sanctification process as believers.
That is why Philippians 2:13 is such great assurance:
For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
We are commanded to work out our salvation, yet we have assurance that God is he one who energizes in us the “to be willing” to do that, but also in the “to be doing.”
For one who might say, “I have no willpower,” God will energize in you the willpower. For the one who says, “I am completely unable to say no to sin,” I would say that is the best place to be, for God has been trying to teach you and me that truth our entire lives. In fact, that truth must be accepted in order to be saved from hell.
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
IF you are His child, you can count on His intercession. He is able to save YOU to the uttermost. Today with confidence, you can collapse back into His grace. The Lord’s heart is for you and His prayers are for you. Seek out repentance and restoration found in Christ alone.