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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.

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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.

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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?

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Enjoying the Process

A Spectacular Something

The annual resolutions review is good. And humbling. And heartening. And yes, both at the same time.

My two 2009 resolutions were very much related to two teaching series that occupied my mind: a verse by verse study through Genesis and a retreat on Repentance.

Articulate something six days a week.

This resolution was spectacular, a spectacular fail. It was my “most specific resolution ever,” and though the wheels rolled, they never left the ground. The pilot of my mind was either too lazy, too undisciplined, or too slow to leave the torpor tarmac.

Now, I did do a little light journaling, tweeted a tad, made a few offerings to the Void, sent 52 Weekly emails to our youth staff (probably my most gratifying effort), and answered a plethora of electronic and handwritten correspondence. I also figure I preached between 90-100 times in 2009, many of those messages required new prep. But I know the authorial intent behind my resolution, and spinning the story still won’t make it fly.

On the bright side, this resolution to write was originally charted due to my study of God’s creating men as His image-bearers. As far as that goes–meaning my understanding of His mandate and my perspective on being made for responsibility and relationship–my life, marriage, and ministry have never been more Trinitarian.

Tangentially, I have also taken long strides in my interest in, and capacity for, celebration. The Persons of the Trinity could not be more happy, and my happinesslessness reflected wrongly on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I’ve repented of running only on the commiserating leg, and that leads to the second resolution.

Initiate individual and interpersonal repentance.

By God’s grace, repentance was back on my heart’s radar week by week. I neglected regular confession in private prayers less, and I did better at including confession in times when leading corporate prayer. I saw (some) sins more clearly and tasted sweeter delights by turning from them. Though it was humbling, a bellyful of knotted-stomach grief came out as I sought forgiveness from others, especially from some who are close, those for whom the flesh prefers to save face. Speaking about repentance at the snow retreat wasn’t done from a platform of perfection, but neither was it done from pretense.

It’s certainly possible that someone reading this may feel like I missed one, with them. If that’s the case, there is no statute of limitations, and let’s get some gospel on it. Otherwise, repentance is one of those resolutions that I hope to have less need for, but am quicker to do, for a lifetime of sanctification.

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Every Thumb's Width

Seeing Sin for What It Is

Augustine had a powerful and profound impact because he accurately identified the real problem, in his own heart and in the church. He knew the problem wasn’t low self-esteem or bad parents; the problem was sin. He also accurately understood the remedy to the problem was not more of the world, but more of God. He saw sin, not only as an offense to God, but as an obstacle between he and God. Sin lied to him, proffering itself as soul-satisfying. God helped Augustine see sin for what it is, and that God Himself was his highest good.

Augustine’s testimony and insight on the misery of sin help us see sin not only as a hindrance to holiness and to heaven, but also a hindrance to happiness in God. Augustine hated sin so much because it spoiled his delight in God.

God is often pleased to change the world through the bright lights of those lit by joy in Him. We may not affect the church for the following two millennia as Augustine did, but our restless hearts can have joy like his, and it starts with repentance.

A few years before his death, on September 26, 426, a large congregation gathered as Augustine installed his successor, Eraclius. After the decision had been officially recorded, Eraclius stood forward to preach, while the aged Augustine sat behind him on his raised bishop’s throne. “The cricket chirps,” Eraclius said, “the swan is silent” (Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 408). Just the opposite has been true for 1600 years. We should thank God for His loud voice through Augustine.

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Every Thumb's Width

A Biographical Jet Tour of Augustine

Augustine’s testimony is typical. He was born, lived in sin until God saved him at age 32, soon after was called to the ministry, and shepherded the same flock until he died. That said, he was no ordinary sinner, nor was he an ordinary pastor. The following provides a jet tour of his 75 years. As is the case for every Christian, God’s work in his life through people and providence is a cause for praising God’s grace.

The Roman Empire, c. AD 395

The Chronology of Augustine’s Life

354 – Thagaste

Augustine was born November 13, 354, in Thagaste, a small city in northern Africa. His father, Patricius, was a poor, unbelieving farmer, though his mother, Monica, was a devoted Christian in the Catholic church (which was the only orthodox church). Augustine was 16 when his father professed faith; he died a year later. Augustine later lamented that his father

did not care what character before You I was developing, or how chaste I was so long as I possessed a cultured tongue–though my culture really meant a desert uncultivated by You, God. (Confessions, II. iii.)

366 – Madera

From 366 to 369, between the ages of 11 and 15, Augustine went to school in Madera, about 20 miles from Thagaste. His father desired that his son to have the best education possible; education was the only way out of poverty for a young man like Augustine. He was “acutely anxious to be accepted, to compete successfully, to avoid being shamed, terrified of the humiliation of being beaten at school” (Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 35). After those three years, he spent a year at home (370) before leaving for additional schooling.

371 – Carthage

Carthage was the big city. Boys from small towns all over northern Africa came to study, and to play, in Carthage. Augustine came to Carthage as a 17 year-old full of lust.

I went to Carthage, where I found myself in the midst of a hissing cauldron of lust….My real need was for You, my God, who are the food of the soul. I was not aware of this hunger. (from his Confessions, quoted in Piper, 47)

Augustine discovered the theatre in Carthage, and wrote “it was a world ‘full of reflections of my own unhappiness, fuel to my raging fire'” (Brown, 39). His only shame was that he wasn’t as bad as his friends.

I went on my way headlong with such blindness that among my peer group I was ashamed not to be equally guilty of shameful behavior when I heard them boasting of their sexual exploits….I went deeper into vice to avoid being despised, and when there was no act by admitting to which I could rival my depraved companions, I used to pretend I had done things I had not done at all, so that my innocence should not lead my companions to scorn my lack of courage, and lest my chastity be taken as a mark of inferiority. (Confessions, II. iii.)

He took a concubine, who we might call a live-in girlfriend, or more palatably, a mistress, and lived with her for 15 years. It was socially acceptable but never acceptable to his mother. In five million words of published works, and even though she bore him his only son, Adeodatus, he never mentions her name.

Augustine was a slave to the praise of men and the love of women. For all his external success and advancement, dissatisfaction grew within him.

373 – Thagaste/Carthage

He went home to Thagaste for a couple years to teach grammar, then returned to Carthage for nine years (374-383) to teach rhetoric. During this time Augustine became part of a religious cult, the Manichaees. Along with other heretical beliefs, these followers of Mani were dualists, teaching an eternal battle between the good spirit and the evil flesh. This temporarily soothed Augustine’s guilty conscience, because Manichaeism claimed that sin wasn’t really the fault of a person, it was the fault of the person’s body. Manichaeism was so dishonorable that Augustine’s mother didn’t even let him back in the house.

Ironically, he grew tired of the apathetic, out of control, rebellious students in Carthage.

383 – Rome

He moved to Rome when he was 29, believing that he would find better students there. He did not. The students often skipped out on the teacher before the final class when their tuition was due.

384 – Milan

Desperate to get away, burnt out by pathetic students and the politics of Rome, he moved to Milan. Most significantly in Milan he met the bishop Ambrose. Augustine enjoyed Ambrose’s teaching style as well as his explanation of parts of the Bible Augustine had misunderstood. Now 30 years old, Augustine realized many of his previous objections to Christianity were based on untrue things.

While living in Milan, his mother arranged a wife for him. Marriage would make Augustine proper in her eyes. In his eyes, it was merely a way to advance his career. He sent his concubine back to Africa though he said, “this was a blow which crushed my heart to bleeding. I loved her dearly” (quoted in Brown, 88). He never married and took another mistress. He was unwilling to let loose of, and unable to escape, his lusts.

That is until 386. His conversion deserves more attention later, but after getting saved, Augustine returned to Thagaste in 388. His mom died in 387, and soon after, his son died.

391 – Hippo (Regius)

Augustine aspired to start an monastery now that he was a Christian. Hippo was a fairly large city, and more importantly, the church already had a bishop, so Augustine figured he would be free from broad, public, ministry responsibility. Much like John Calvin, however, others soon pressed him into the role of assistant bishop (396), and five years later he became the primary bishop. Augustine served the church in Hippo for almost 40 years until his death in 430.

For a number of years he spent his mornings arbitrating legal cases. I can’t imagine how much I would hate that; Augustine hated it too.

Augustine would visit jails to protect prisoners from ill-treatment; he would intervene, tactfully, but firmly, to save criminals from judicial torture and execution; above all, he was expected to keep peace within his ‘family’ by arbitrating in their lawsuits. … Augustine would listen for hours while families of farmers argued passionately about every detail of their father’s will. (Brown, 195, 226)

He spent much time writing against the Manichaean heresy, and during the last few years of his life, he debated Pelagius over the issue of man’s depravity and the place of God’s grace in salvation. Augustine himself listed over eighty heresies he had fought against (Brown, 35-56).

Possidius, a friend of Augustine, wrote about him as a “man who ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his see” (“Augustine,” Wikepedia, accessed January 3, 2009.)

Based on the frequency and tone of his references to Monica, I personally tend to think he was a bit of a momma’s boy. I also suspect that after salvation he swung a little too far toward the “fasting” side and missed out on the “feasting” side of enjoying God’s gifts to His people. Yet I have come to love Augustine as a tenacious pastor and a prolific author, who wielded a worldview always ready to magnify God, and who had remarkably great optimism regarding God’s work in and through the church. He was constantly trying to resolve tensions that were within himself, learning and making progress till his death.

In [Augustine] we discover heart and mind married in an intimate union where deep, thoughtful theology, rooted in Scripture and never afraid of condemning error, nonetheless burns and sings with a spiritual vibrancy that makes most modern piety seem pale and sickly by contrast. (Needham, 43)

But the reason I find him so compelling, the reason I think God graciously chose to use him as an instrument to change the world, is because he saw sin for what it really is. He loathed his sin and lauded God’s grace.

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Every Thumb's Width

Portrait of a World-Changer

Sandro Botticelli’s first major fresco commissioned in 1480: Saint Augustine

Augustine of Hippo may be the most important man in church history. German historian, Adolf Harnack, called him the greatest man “between Paul the apostle and Luther the Reformer, the Christian church has possessed” (quoted in Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, 24). Of course, Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk for many years, and my personal hero, John Calvin, quoted Augustine no less than 342 times in the fifth and final edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. B.B. Warfield summarized Augustine’s impact as follows:

His direct work as a reformer of Church life was done in a corner, and its results were immediately swept away by the flood of the Vandal invasion…[but] it was through his voluminous writings, by which his wider influence was excited, that he entered both the church and the world as a revolutionary force, and not merely created an epoch in the history of the Church, but has determined the course of its history in the West up to the present day. (quoted in Piper, 24-25)

We owe much of our thinking and theology to Augustine, in particular, “our developed anthropology and soteriology, [and] our understanding of the Bible’s teaching on the relations between human sin and divine grace” (Nick Needham, “Augustine of Hippo: The Relevance of His Life and Thought Today”, SBJT 12/2 SUMMER 2008, 39). We stand downstream in the torrent of his teaching on original sin and the sovereignty of God.

There are a few reasons, however, that understanding his life and thought is difficult for us. First, Augustine lived from AD 354-430, so we are removed almost 1600 years from his culture, language, and experience.

Not only is the time gap difficult to jump, but also the mountain of his writings makes for a grueling climb. Few can claim to have read everything written by him, and none can claim to have read everything written about him. There are more than five million words in his recorded works (especially remarkable considering he had no electricity, let alone a computer). There are almost 600 words in this post, so it would take over 8,333 posts pasted together to reach five million words. Benedict Groeschel, a Catholic historian, wrote an introduction to Augustine’s life and said,

I felt like a man beginning to write a guidebook of the Swiss Alps….After forty years I can still meditate on one book of the Confessions…during a week-long retreat and come back feeling frustrated that there is still so much more gold to mind in those few pages. I, for one, know that I shall never in this life escape from the Augustinian Alps. (quoted in Piper, 45).

The other difficulty is that, among those five million words, we find numerous contradictions, including some teachings that we would say are clearly unbiblical. I hate, for example, Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of numerous Old Testament passages (his approach to Genesis narrative is atrocious). Worse than his hermeneutic, Augustine seems to have attributed special, or sadly, even saving power to baptism. We do not agree with him here at all.

But for all that, I am convinced, now more than ever, that we need Augustine for our souls and for our churches, which in turn would change our world. I’ll explain why I think he’s so helpful and try to make my case as we follow two lines of thought in the following posts: the chronology of his life and the confessions of his life.


A free PDF download of this book is available here. The book also includes chapters on Luther and Calvin. It is currently #8 on my list of books that influenced me the most. The original manuscript and audio of Piper’s biography on Augustine is available here.

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Rightly Dividing

Eyes to See

We learn much about seven churches’ problems in Revelation 2-3. Five of the seven addresses include the command to repent, by the way: Ephesus for lost love, Pergamum for failing to confront false teachers, Thyratira for allowing sin in the church, and Sardis for sleeping. But the last church addressed, the lukewarm Laodiceans, may be the closest parallel to us. Their presumed spiritual prosperity was really poverty, and Jesus implored them to be zealous and repent.

How can we fix our broken hearts, our broken churches, and our broken culture? Is it possible for our souls to be spiritually rich and righteous? Is it possible for our churches to be spiritually hot and bright lights in our culture? The answer is a resounding Yes! And what we need is repentance.

Things are not good, yet we are indifferent, and worse, ignorant of our indifference. We often fail to see sin for what it really is. Sin deceives us, offering us substitute, short-term joy of second-rate quality. Our churches suffer as a result. As our personal interests are worldly, so are our corporate programs. As our souls are apathetic, our local bodies grow perilously anemic.

We need a change. We need repentance. We need Augustine. Similar to today, “The congregations who heard Augustine preach were not exceptionally sinful. Rather, they were firmly rooted in long-established attitudes, in ways of life and ideas, to which Christianity was peripheral” (Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 247). He “preached to men who thought they knew what the Christian life consisted of” (ibid., 244).

Maybe more than anyone else in church history, Augustine of Hippo wrestled with blinding, joy-stealing sin. He was afraid to let loose of his lusts for fear that he would lose joy.

But in his Confessions, Augustine described God’s sovereign reproof and loving discipline that lead him to repentance. We will consider his life and his teaching, throughout this continuing series, as someone outside our century, who may give us perspective and remedy for the problems in our own day. By God’s grace, we may have our eyes opened. Or, as John wrote in Revelation 3:22,

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

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Rightly Dividing

The Invitation

The richest, most cherished fellowship awaits the repentant.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Jesus is close. He says, I stand at the door and knock. Differing arguments are made as to whether Jesus stands at the door of unbelievers’ hearts, or at the door of sinful, lukewarm believers’ hearts, or if He was standing at the actual door of the Laodicean church.

The singular pronouns indicate a personal rather than corporate knocking: “if anyone,” “come to him,” “eat with him,” “he with Me,” “the one who conquers.” At the same time, the passage is addressed to the church. Therefore, I think the invitation is to those who were in the church, who may have been indifferent to, and ignorant of, their spiritual condition. The ones who didn’t even realize what they were missing are now graciously summoned to intimacy with their Master.

Jesus is pictured as the master returning to his house (cf. Luke 12:35-36), whose servants should be alert, attentive, and eagerly awaiting their master’s arrival. They know that the master is their good, not the things that he left behind in his house. Jesus offers Himself to the repentant, to those who give up their ignorant claims to prosperity, who want Him more than anything else. Of course, only those He loves will actually get up and open the door.

Jesus emphasizes sweet communion, eating face to face with His servant over dinner. No other relationship in the universe provides such soul fulfillment. For that matter, no other religion in the world offers a man such personal intimacy with His Lord.

Even more, as He did with the previous churches, those who conquer or overcome will reign with Jesus on His throne. This promise anticipates the rest of the book of Revelation, the King’s second coming, and the final destiny of the world. The invitation is to fellowship that begins now and that we will enjoy forever. But, as the entire paragraph makes clear, that intimacy is a result of repentance.

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Rightly Dividing

The Imperatives

There is only one approach to receive His generous gifts offered in verse 18. There is only one path to escape spiritual poverty, shame, and blindness. There is only one source of fulfillment, honor, and sight. There is only one program to exchange indifference and ignorance for intensity, only one way to avoid being spit out of Christ’s mouth: repentance.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

According to verse 19, Jesus doesn’t leave the ones He loves in a lukewarm condition, at least not for long. He will reprove and discipline; He will correct and train. In this context of spiritual lukewarmness, the design of Jesus’ discipline is to fire up His beloved.

At least two implications stand out about Christ’s loving correction. First, do we realize that conviction is a blessing? If we don’t know something is wrong we’re unlikely to seek a remedy. Perhaps our current misery is a training grace to turn our attention to the One who makes rich.

Second, do we realize that indifference is a judgment? Apathy is bad. Ignorant apathy is worse. Being left in ignorant apathy is the worst! God curses us when He affords us with what we think we want. Unchecked unconcern not only leaves us in the ditch, it also demonstrates we are not loved by Jesus.

I’m afraid this is where many in our churches are today. Things aren’t good, around us or in us, and we don’t care. We go on, desperately trying to act like things are okay. Our affections are lukewarm. But if our love is regularly running low, we may be experiencing God’s judgment, not His blessing.

He doesn’t allow His own to go on unaware forever. His tender, loving discipline brings those He loves to repentance.

So be zealous and repent. These are the two imperatives. The indictment is not final or irreversible, if we will repent. “Lukewarmness is not necessarily terminal” (Thomas 318), and that is good news.

The first command is Be zealous. It confronted the predominant Laodicean problem. Jesus required His followers to be hot, on fire, boiling over with zeal. The command to be zealous comes first for emphasis, but second in sequence.

That’s because the spiritual heart-fires spark when we repent. Proper passion is the result of repentance, otherwise we could be (presumably, and incongruously) excited about being cold.

Repent fundamentally means “change one’s mind.” Repentance includes ownership of our wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked state. Repentance makes no claims of possessing what we need. Repentance turns from self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and self-justification. It comes with empty hands to the only One who can fill them.

We wrongly think about repentance as giving up what we really love for what someone told us we should like better. With reluctance we turn away from what was sure to please us in the past, even though the pleasure was temporary. But we miss that repentance is not a turning from pleasure to empty handedness. Repentance is a turning from a mirage of pleasures to the real, highest, and substantial pleasures. He makes rich! He covers our nakedness! He opens our eyes to finally see what is truly glorious! And the doorway into spiritual fullness is repentance.