Categories
Preach the Word

Inspiration

Creation begins to make the case for the giving essence of God’s authority. The incarnation of His Son also demonstrates willing exposure of His sovereign Self. In both creation and the incarnation, God shows not only who He is, but also what His goal is with us: fellowship. The revelation of His Word is the third aspect that demonstrates the purpose of disclosed truth and the inviting nature of true authority.

Inspiration

The Scriptures reveal God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness. The law stops every mouth and makes every man accountable to God (Romans 3:19). None are righteous, no one understands, no one seeks God, there is no fear of God before our eyes (Romans 3:10-11, 18). The Bible exposes our weakness, our ungodliness, our rebellion, and our deadness (Romans 5:6, 10; Ephesians 2:1-3).

But the Word doesn’t see our deadness and mock us. It sees us dead and raises us to life. We “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God, for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you'” (1 Peter 1:23-25). The Word wields authority for our life.

David wrote about the potency of special revelation to change us for good.

The law of the Lord is perfect, > reviving the soul; > the testimony of the Lord is sure, > making wise the simple; > the precepts of the Lord are right, > rejoicing the heart; > the commandment of the Lord is pure, > enlightening the eyes; > the fear of the Lord is clean, > enduring forever; > the rules of the Lord are true, > and righteous altogether. > More to be desired are they than gold, > even much fine gold; > sweeter also than honey > and drippings of the honeycomb. > Moreover, by them is your servant warned; > in keeping them there is great reward. > Psalm 19:7-11

Paul wrote about the efficacy of “the word of His grace” to protect and establish us.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:29-32)

The Word saves, the Word sanctifies, the Word builds. Authoritative truth seeks our good. Paul loved the truth, he wanted the Ephesians to be alert for the truth, and he gave himself ceaselessly and affectionately so that they might have the truth. Why? Because truth invites life. Revelation invites relationship with God (and with each other). Carl Henry’s second thesis was:

Divine revelation is given for human benefit, offering us privileged communion with our Creator in the kingdom of God. (God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol 2, 30)

That’s the authoritative Word at work for us, not against us or in spite of us or at a distance from us. Truth works and wins us. God uses truth to bring us into His true joy.

Categories
Preach the Word

Reorientation of Our Passions and Pleasures

Repentance involves remorse over our sinful nature and sinful acts. Repentance also involves renunciation of our self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. Now we come to the third ingredient.

3. Repentance involves reorientation of our passions and pleasures.

Maybe that sounds strange. Pleasure is probably not what first comes to mind when we hear the word repentance. But I think this is the part that’s missing most. This is the part that we misunderstand most, and the reason that our repentance is often so short-lived.

Too often we confine repentance to stopping or avoiding sin. Repentance is not less than a change of bad behavior, but it also must include a change of desires. Repentance keeps us from worldliness, not because our minds are changed about the definition of sin. True repentance keeps us from worldliness because our minds are changed about wanting sin. Note how Paul perceived “godly” grief in the Corinthians:

For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. (2 Corinthians 7:11)

Godly grief produces “earnestness” and “eagerness.” It produces “zeal” instead of lukewarmness “the Laodiceans were indifferent”) (cf. Revelation 3). Repentance is a change of mind, that results in changed wants not merely changed ways. We stop denying that we’ve disobeyed His standard. We stop declaring that we have our own righteousness. And we start desiring God as our greatest pleasure!

So what is repentance? It is a change of mind that involves remorse over our sinful nature and acts, renunciation of our self-sufficiency and self-righteousness, and reorientation of our passions and pleasures. It is a turn toward joy.

Categories
Preach the Word

Renunciation of Our Self-Sufficiency and Self-Righteousness

There are three ingredients to repentance. Previously we saw that repentance involves remorse over our sinful nature and sinful acts. When we repent, we humbly and sorrowfully confess our rebellious condition and disobedient conduct. There is more.

2. Repentance involves renunciation of our self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.

Repentance is not turning away from sin and bringing something of value to God. It is turning away from sin and coming to Him because we know we have nothing good to bring. We admit our inability to please Him, as well as our inability to desire Him. We give up attempting to offer our goodness or holiness to please or appease Him.

Denial of our sin is the first enemy of repentance, but the second enemy is dependence on our righteousness. Trying to earn salvation by doing good things may keep as many or more people away from God as those defying Him. He is not interested in what we have or what we can do. None of us meet His perfect standard, nor could we. When we repent, we not only sorrowfully acknowledge all the wrong we’ve done, we also give up claims to any good on our own.

That is the reason John the Baptist rejected the Pharisees and religious leaders when they met him at the Jordan River in Matthew 3. They thought they were bringing their own good to the table. John told them to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The indictment against the Laodiceans disclosed ignorance of their true condition, and they were urged to repent from making such arrogant claims of prosperity.

Confessing sin, but claiming righteousness, kept the Jews from salvation.

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:2-3)

Renunciation of self-righteousness is also the reason why belief is so closely connected with repentance. Repent and believe…what? Believe that Christ bore the penalty for our unrighteousness and that He provides His righteousness. Genuine repentance includes abandoning any reason for boasting in ourselves.

Categories
Preach the Word

Remorse over Our Sinful Nature and Sinful Acts

Repentance recurs regularly in the Bible. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated repentance is metanoia (μετάνοια), which, in its most basic sense, means “a change of mind.” But as we examine its usage, I think we can see a more precise understanding of all that is involved in that change of mind. I want to point out three parts of this change of mind or, three ingredients of repentance, starting with the first today.

1. Repentance involves remorse over our sinful nature and sinful acts.

There would be no need for repentance if there were no authority, who held no standard, or if we were perfectly obedient to that standard. One of the reasons repentance is not a regular topic of conversation is because we have a relativistic (without one standard) and pluralistic (without one authority) mindset. Biblical repentance recognizes that God is the authority and that His Word is the law.

According to His Word, we are all guilty of disobeying His standard. The very first man God created broke the only rule he was given within the first few days of his existence. Since then, we are sinners by nature. We inherit a sinful nature from Adam. Even more, that nature inevitably causes us to act, and the more we act, the greater our slavery to sin. All of us have sinned. None of us, not even one, does good. We are all guilty.

Repentance begins with a humble, sorrowful acknowledgement of our condition and conduct. The acknowledgment is what we call confession.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

1 John is addressed to believers, which means that even after salvation, confession or acknowledgment of sin is an ongoing need. The fact is, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Confession is a part of repentance, not separate from it. I draw that conclusion because John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). In verse six, those who responded to his message were being baptized and “confessing their sins.” Confessing our sin, therefore, is part of repenting from our sin.

But as I said, it is to be a humble acknowledgment. Again, the “kingdom of heaven” was at stake in Matthew 3:2. Jesus preached the same message about the kingdom connected with personal repentance in Matthew 4:17. Then in Matthew 5:3, the kingdom of heaven is constituted by the “poor in spirit.” In other words, God’s people are spiritually humble people. These blessed ones also “mourn” (Matthew 5:4), presumably over their sin. A truly repentant person is broken over his sinful condition.

Grief, sorrow, and mourning are clearly connected by Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10.

For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

The apostle had written to confront their sin. They responded with sorrow. The acknowledgement of sin, of having violated the standard and offending the Authority, is not an unaffected, cold assessment. It includes remorse, that is, deep regret for a wrong committed. Repentance involves heavy, broken-hearted sorrow. Job illustrated this attitude when, after God confronted him for four chapters, he exclaimed, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

But grief, in and of itself, does not equal repentance. There is a “worldly grief” that leads to death. It is possible to be sorry and not repent. It’s possible to feel bad, to have pangs of conscience due to sin, and still not be repenting. Augustine spent at least nine years previous to his conversion overwhelmed by sorrow, but not yet repenting from his sin.

For that matter, fear of hell does not equal repentance. Augustine asserted that, “A man who is afraid of sinning because of Hell-fire, is afraid, not of sinning, but of burning” (quoted in Brown, 372). Repentance involves godly grief, remorse over our sinful nature and acts. That isn’t all.

Categories
Preach the Word

Toward True Joy

What do we think about when we hear the word “repentance”? What things do we associate with repentance? What synonyms would we use for repentance?

Perhaps the most important question is, when was the last time we repented? Do we repent on a weekly, or even daily basis? Is repentance something we do only once, when we get saved? Is repentance something we do only when we’ve committed a major sin?

The word repentance is closely connected with the Bible, or at least it used to be. Prophets preached repentance in the Old Testament and apostles preached repentance in the New Testament. Certain cities and nations were spared for repenting (Ninevah). Other cities and peoples were dramatically destroyed for failing to repent (Sodom and Gommorah, as well as Jerusalem). John the Baptist came preaching repentance. Peter preached repentance on the day of Pentecost. Jesus revealed that His earthly mission was aimed not to serve the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.

Yet repentance has largely disappeared from our culture’s vocabulary (along with a lot of other biblical language), including our Christian conversation. The people who seem to use it most are usually those that come across as angry. They stand in front of football stadiums wearing sandwich board signs and shouting, “Repent or die!” and, “Turn or burn!” We might use the word repentance as a last resort, keeping it in the bag until the last possible moment, fearing that any talk of repentance might turn people away from Jesus.

In our daily spiritual walk we rarely refer to, let alone practice, repentance. When we encounter God’s discipline or when we’re feeling guilty over sin, we talk about change, or maybe we talk about doing better next time. But it’s shamefully rare to hear someone come out and say, “I had to, or need to, repent.”

To be fair, there exists a small community of “grunge” Christians who have responded to the goody-two-shoes, Sunday-best Christians, who know that no one can be perfectly righteous, and who run the other direction. It seems like these brothers and sisters can only talk about how wicked, vile, and sinful they are. They write songs and blogs divulging their nasty, sinful secrets and demand that all Christians do the same in order to be “real.” But ironically, this group doesn’t understand repentance any better. It is as if they think being bad and wallowing in sin is more authentic than confessing sin and then moving away from it.

So what is repentance? Our goal is to answer that question in a mini-theology of repentance, and hopefully it will have very practical and immediate benefit. We’ll try to unravel the biblical teaching on repentance by asking three simple questions: What is repentance? What is repentance from? And, What keeps us from repentance?