By Robert Wurtz II
GENUINE REPENTANCE (Part 1)
The first step to being truly born again is repentance. The word 'repent' is the first word of the message of the Gospel. It is the first necessary step that everyone must make in order to be saved. The importance of this one subject cannot be overstated- as a person who has not genuinely repented is yet in their sins and is under the wrath of God.
As we begin this study of genuine repentance I purpose to show what repentance is and what repentance is not. We will explore the subject of repentance in such a way as to ensure that all who participate in this study will have a clear understanding as to whether they have genuinely repented or not. We will discover if the repentance of our lives has been total or selective or permanent or temporary. We will examine the motives and fruits of repentance and will probe into whether the repentance we exhibit towards God is biblical and therefore acceptable in God's sight. We will further explain that there is a limit to the amount of sin that God allows a person or nation before judgment comes to the utmost. This is a consistent teaching in scripture that will be quite new for most Christians, but has existed since the book of Genesis.
Revolt against Repentance
The single greatest obstacle to genuine repentance is pride. Human beings by and large simply refuse to humble themselves before God. Pride, in fact, is at the very root of iniquity itself. Pride creates a refusal to submit to anyone and repentance requires great submission to God. The pride of a persons hearts can so blind them- that they are enabled to successfully ignore the continual warnings of an infinitely powerful God and in turn ignore His perfect wrath. True repentance requires brokeness before God and an agreement with Him that we have in fact sinned against Him. It requires examining ourselves to discover the depths of our wickedness in the sight of God- this is an act that pride will reject. Genuine repentance requires that we humble ourselves before God and man and confess our sins before them; whereas pride wages war against these necessities and refuses to comply with God's demands. This is the true essence of hardness of hearts. Every time God convicts of sin and leads to genuine repentance and the person refuses to repent- the chances are lessened that they ever will repent. Resisting God when He calls for repentance only strengthens pride until the pride of the heart is stronger than the call to repent. As this happens on an ongoing basis it becomes less and less likely that the proud person ever will repent; while at the same time pride tells the person they can repent when they get ready. This is the delusion that has won millions of souls to hell. It is the apex of pride to believe in our heart that we can repent before a holy God when we get ready. God responds to such behavior by hardening the person's heart when they reject the Gospel message. Most people do not consider themselves to be proud, but this is also a delusion. Any amount of pride sufficient to keep a person from humbling themselves before God is sufficient to warrant God's eternal wrath.
The Wrath of God is Revealed
The book of Genesis tells us how everything began. The book of Revelation tells us how everything is going to end; but the book of Romans tells us how to be saved from God's wrath. The book begins by informing us that God's wrath is revealed from heaven against all people who suppress the truth by their sinfulness (Romans 1:18). No matter who the person is they have a certain amount of knowledge of God (light) that they are accountable to God for how they handle it. Jesus sums this up when He said... And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more (Luke 12:47-48). This is a description of the varying levels of punishment in hell based upon how much information we knew about God. The more we are aware of concerning God the more we are accountable for.
ALL Are Without Excuse
Roman's teaches us that every human being born on the earth has some basic knowledge of God. We read in Romans 1:19-21... For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God (NLT). Everyone is born knowing there is a God and most people immediately begin suppressing that knowledge. The pagan natives who commit all sorts of wickedness are utterly without excuse before God. God will hold them accountable for the truth they know and of a certainty they are not walking in the light of their conscience or in the light of nature.
This rebellion against such little truth is far more than enough to warrant a sentence of eternal damnation. How much then would you suppose that the wrath of God would be revealed to those who have a bible? When you consider that only since the printing press was developed (the last 400 years) have bibles even been available in the world to individual families, etc. Going all the way back to Sodom and Gomorrah they did not have bibles. As a matter of fact, Jesus said that had Sodom and Gomorrah heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ they would have repented long ago and it would still be a city today. Other nations destroyed by God's wrath would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. Jesus went on to say that because of that- these people God judged will rise up in judgment against those who reject repentance after hearing the Gospel (Matthew 11:21-24).
So what then shall come of those who have been enlightened (made to see literally), tasted of heavenly things, received the Holy Spirit, the good (rhema) word of God, and the power (dunamis) of God? To whom much is given much is required. The peril of an unrepentant person who is pagan is tremendous; but what shall we make of the impending doom and utter destruction upon those who have been thoroughly acquainted with the things of God and have familiarized themselves with Him and yet rejected Him as they have known Him? What will be the fate of those who have passed by over fifty thousand churches in their lifetime and yet rejected every reminder that they ought to repent. Every time they see a minister on TV or a Christian bumper sticker. Every time they found that old bible while sorting through the closet and yet tossed it up higher on a shelf to forget God? What shall come of those who have mocked the messengers of God and despised his word? In Hebrews 10:27-31 we read... They who despised Moses law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The Cup of Iniquity
Many people do not realize that God has placed a limit upon the amount of sin that He will allow a person or a nation commit. The strength of this iniquity is based upon the amount of ‘light' that the person or nation had in order to know to do right. The more about God that you know, the faster the cup fills up. Both individual people and this nation are sinning as though there was no legal limit on sin. But every person and nation has been allotted a measure of sin.
In Genesis 4:13 Cain tells God 'my punishment is more than I can bear.' This is the first occurrence of this Hebrew word (here translated ‘punishment'). In every other passage in the bible but 3 it is translated as 'iniquity.' Iniquity means perverseness, evil, or lawlessness. Immediately in scripture iniquity is proportional to judgment. In other words- iniquities are like judgment debts that have to be paid. The second time it is used is in Genesis 15:16 where we read... But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. This is because all impenitent sinners are treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath (Romans 2:5). Matthew Henry comments on this saying there is a time when people in their wickedness are 'ripe' for judgment. The sins of Sodom were great before the Lord and they were brought to ruin quickly as was also the Jews when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. The Amorites took a while for their sin to fill up and therefore Abraham was not able to go in and possess the land yet. Jesus told the Pharisees... Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Paul also used this illustration in I Thessalonians 2:14-16... For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. Individuals, peoples, and nations that refuse to repent are 'filling up their sins.'
How Full is The Cup?
As a nation we for certain are fastly filling up the cup of iniquity as an invitation to God's wrath upon us. Has there ever been a nation upon the earth that had as much ‘light' as does America and yet showed the level of contempt for it as we? Have there ever been a people who have as much knowledge of God as individuals as does the average American and yet continue in their sins? In America God has made Himself known on every hand. Many sin hotspots are within eyeshot of a church or a cross. If Sodom had bibles, as does America- would they have vexed Lot with their sin? What if there was a church in every community of the city- would they have so sinned? What about legitimate Christian TV and radio? An abundance of Christians?
In his book Repentance the first Word of the Gospel, Richard Owen Roberts asks a most riveting question to both impenitent individuals and nations. He asks 'Have you ever considered what it would be to be under the wrath of God to the utmost? Do you have any idea how close to full your personal measure of sin is? It is possible that it is precariously close to full at this moment. It is possible that one more sin is all that is allotted you. Your final sin could be your refusal to repent right now.'
How much longer will God extend his hand of mercy to us? How much longer can we refuse to repent? Many have not just read the bible, but millions have even seen the Passion of Christ and a realistic depiction of Christ's sufferings. What level of judgment are we at based upon how much we know in comparison to a pagan native who has never seen a bible? Could this be America's final altar call? Could this be everyone's final altar call?