Saturday, May 7, 2016

Repentance Is Not Optional

I have noticed an attitude among Christians that says that repentance is a good thing, but nothing more. One can repent, or not, as he sees fit. It has become more of a matter of feelings. That is, if a sinful act has brought feelings of guilt, then repent, so you can feel better about yourself. But that is certainly not a biblical view of repentance.

First of all, repentance is a command, not a suggestion. Consider Acts 17:30: "[God] commands all people everywhere to repent." From Whom does the command originate? From God. To whom is it directed? To all, man, woman, and child, whether professing Christian or not. And people where? Everywhere, i. e., in every nation, of whatever culture. And the logic is compelling. Since every human being (Jesus excepted, of course) is a sinner (Romans 3:23), without regard to age (Psalm 51:5), and is under judgment for that sin (Romans 6:23), there is no human being (again excepting Jesus) who is not in need of repentance.See also Luke 24:47.

However, since we are sinners, we are incapable of any spiritual good (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10-12). That is because sin has killed us, spiritually speaking (Ephesians 2:1). That leaves us without the ability to fulfill this command out of our mere will to do so. In fact, it is impossible for us to will to do so. Rather, it is necessary for God to change our wills (Philippians 2:13). When He does so, then He enables the regenerate sinner to repent of sin (Acts 5:31, II Timothy 2:25). What a wonder that is, that He creates in us the thing that He demands from us!

But the amazement continues: when He grants repentance to the sinner, there is celebration, both on earth and in heaven. When men see a sinner repent, they give glory to God for His grace (Acts 11:18). And in heaven, even the angels celebrate (Psalm 89:5, Luke 15:10).

In writing this, my hope is that someone, somewhere, feeling the oppression of his sin, will answer the Lord's command to repent, turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of that sin, that I and the angels may celebrate! My email address is in the panel to the right. I hope that someone will write me to tell of that experience. But, even if you don't, I hope that you will receive and experience this gift of God, and know that the angels in heaven celebrate with you.

Someone may be saying that he doesn't understand what repentance is. I will give you an historical answer, question 87 from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, one of the doctrinal documents used in Presbyterian churches: "What is repentance unto life? Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience."

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