By Robert Wurtz II
GENUINE REPENTANCE (PART 6)
Have You Really Repented?
In our previous section we discovered that we must lay aside certain weights in our life in order to maintain the victory over sin. We need to take control over our senses and ‘discern' between good and evil. We need to continually be turning from sin as the world brings it up before us- and we must not set any evil thing before our eyes.
When we cease to have certain weights in our life taking up much of our time- that time must be used for the edification of our spiritual lives. The enemy loves it when we simply ‘shift' our weights around and gain no real spiritual ground. This is particularly dangerous in our generation because the world has so many enticing things to offer as a substitute for true joy and happiness. Christians set down weights that were a stumbling block to them and then pick up something they see as less harmful, but in fact may end up coming between them and God as much as the thing that was originally causing them to stumble. This is simply load redistribution. Anytime we lay something down that was hindering us we need to replace it with something that will edify us.
Turning From Sin To God
It is not enough to simply turn away from our sins. We have to turn to God. Jesus talked about a person in whom was a demon and after it was cast out the demon returned and found the ‘house' swept and clean. He then went and invited seven more wicked spirits than himself to enter in and the state of that man was worst than the beginning (Matthew 12:45). This is a picture of a person wanting free from sin and Satan and not making Christ the Lord of their life. People don't want sin because of its effects; and when liberated they don't want to live righteously either. This throws the door to the devil wide open. God liberates us from sin for the purpose of coming and communing with us. If we do not begin to seek God's face and follow Him we are wide open to the enemy. This ‘halting between two opinions' is a dangerous place for anyone who has come to God for deliverance from sin. God delivers them and when they get relief from the burden of the sin and the consequences of sin- they turn right back and end up more vile than they were before (II Peter 2:22). This is why it is dangerous to hear a repentance based message and not turn to Christ.
Liberation from sin is only the beginning. God wants us free to walk with Him in communion and fellowship. Christ did not die on the cross to simply stop men and women from going to hell- He did it to restore the fellowship with man that was there between man and God in the garden. The ‘good news' of the Gospel is not so much that man can avoid hell- as it is that man can be restored to fellowship with God. The heart cry of the Gospel is 'Be ye reconciled unto God.' (II Corinthians 5:20) God desires fellowship with man and has paid a dear price to receive it.
When people simply pray off the conviction and return to their sin they are always worse off than before (II Peter 2:20). Sadly, this can happen on a weekly basis. In a matter of months a person can become so hardened and vile because of their rebellion to a message of repentance- that they have near reprobated themselves. God says repent and the devil is there with lies. They act on the message and then turn back again. This process has a hardening effect on a person as it also did with Pharaoh.
‘Repentance' for All the Wrong Reasons
One of the great frustrations for any minister of the Gospel is to spend countless hours seeking God, ministering, and praying with people at the altar and yet they weep and pray and then go out and return to their sin. Not that ministers are frustrated with the lost efforts, for God is glorified in our lives for our obedience to preach what He tells us. The frustration is that the person has endured another encounter with God without being changed. Many are ‘moved' or ‘challenged'- but they are not changed. This no doubt stems from wrong motives in repenting to begin with. The end of all genuine repentance is the restoration of fellowship with God. Wrong motives lead to ‘temporary repentance' and a relapse into sin that makes the person more vile than before. Dealing with these false motives will go a long way in preventing this perpetual hardening of the heart.
'I'm ‘Sorry' for My Sins?' (‘Common' Sorrow)
One of the great myths about repentance is that sorrow is the same as repentance. Although sorrow is part of the process of repentance- it must be understood that sorrow itself is not repentance. To further understand this we must also realize that there are two different types of sorrow biblically: 1) Godly sorrow that leads to life not to be repented of. 2) Worldly sorrow that leads to death. Richard Owens Roberts in the book 'Repentance The First Word Of The Gospel' writes, 'One can experience the deepest possible ‘remorse' over sin and yet still not repent. Both Esau and Judas demonstrate this. Indeed, we must all come to distinguish between the sorrow that comes from being caught and the sorrow that comes from a deep, inward hatred of sin and longing for the glory of God that is the distinguishing feature of the regenerate person.' Many are sorry for the pain the sin caused or sorry for the loss they sustained from their sin- but this is NOT a godly sorrow. This is a self-centered sorrow that is common in the world. People ‘sorrow' every day over the bad consequences of their actions. Countless tears are shed by people who sustained loss in their sin. Some loose their health, wealth, friends, and family- it is a common sorrow. People realize that their health is in jeopardy and make all sorts of New Year's resolutions to 'turn over a new leaf,' but this is not repentance either.
False Sorrow Brings False Assurance
It would be near to impossible to come as close to repenting as did Judas and still not be converted. He made restitution by bringing back the thirty pieces of silver. He confessed that he had betrayed the innocent blood. What horror and anguish must have gripped his soul at that moment, but it was too late. Just as Esau he found no place of repentance once the wheels of sin were set in motion- so likewise Judas sold out his birthright to be an Apostle of our Lord for almost nothing- and like Esau, another was given his place. Moreover, his confession was to men only and not to God. We read of no account of Judas addressing God about this matter. He did not call upon the God that would abundantly pardon if we would simply repent. He never declared himself before God to be a wretched sinner. Matthew Henry writes concerning these things saying, 'To his own shame, he confesses that he had sinned, in betraying this blood. He does not lay the blame on any one else; does not say, \\"You have sinned, in hiring me to do it;\\" but takes it all to himself; \\"I have sinned, in doing it.\\" Thus far Judas went toward his repentance, yet it was not to salvation. He confessed, but not to God, did not go to him, and say, I have sinned, Father, against heaven. He confessed the betraying of innocent blood, but did not confess that wicked love of money, which was the root of this evil. There are those who betray Christ, and yet justify themselves in it, and so come short of Judas.' The man sorrowed until he hanged himself and never once repented of the root of his sin-, which was the idolatry of greed. When he tried to return the money the leaders replied 'What is that to us?' What madness was in the mind of this man who had watched our Lord love people and then be tempted to sell him out for his own greed. The enemy paid 30 silver coins for the worst sin ever committed.
Godly Sorrow that Leads to Life
Godly sorrow is a God-centered sorrow. It concerns itself first and foremost with the offense towards God, and man is at a distant second. When Peter denied the Lord three times- the rooster sounded and the Lord looked at Peter. In that moment Peter's heart smote him and he wept bitterly. The Greek word in this passage could have been translated ‘violently.' It was a sorrow that brought about a change. It was such that once he was converted- he strengthened his brethren. That word strengthened in this passage means to 'establish them in the right direction.' This is the difference between one who genuinely repents and one who has had a sorrow that leads to death. Genuine sorrow that leads to repentance will bring forth fruit. People who genuinely repent and are born again seek to turn others to Christ. This is the opposite of a high maintenance and low impact ‘conversion.'
Fear only Convinces Some
Fear is often a great cause for people turning from their sins, but unless there is genuine repentance fear is a short-lived reason to repent. Hell fire messages have brought many to repentance- but just as many have heard and still turned back to sin. In time people become so hardened to preaching that they can stare hell in the face and not change. God can bring them to such a place of fear and trembling at the thought of hell- that they hurry themselves to the altar; and then as they find relief from the ‘message' they straitway forget the pangs and sufferings.
Unless a persons sees their sin as God sees it and agrees with Him concerning it- there is no repentance. Fear is a legitimate tactic for plucking souls out of the fire (Jude 23), but the person must turn from their sin to genuine faith in Christ. Again, Richard Owens Roberts writes concerning hell fire preaching, 'It is not without consequence that neither John the Baptist or Jesus came preaching saying, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of Hell is at hand.' God's purpose in demanding our repentance is not that we might escape from the damnation of hell but that we might experience the 'change of mind' which characterizes the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.' Jesus preached hell more than heaven- and yet wept over Jerusalem because of their refusal to repent. The people would not weep bitterly over their sins- so He wept for them.
The Cleansing Effects of Bitter Weeping
It has been rightly said that tears ought not to be wiped away until they have had time to do their work. When we see our sin as it is we will grieve deeply for how we have hurt God. Not weeping because we have to suffer the consequences of our sins, but weeping for the pain and suffering that it caused Christ on the cross. When we radically repent we will begin to believe that Christ died for our own personal sins and not merely the sins of the whole world. Our sin will become personal between us and God. Many people cry for minutes or hours over their sins. Some cry for days. Yet others cast their tears as far as the east is from the west and immediately begin to claim the joys of the Lord before the enormity of their sin has had a chance to really sink in.
What cleansing effect has bitter weeping had on your life? Does sin grieve you? Are you vexed by sin? Have you heeded the message of repentance? Has the message hardened you more and more? Have you laid aside the weights that you know are besetting you? Have you kept yourself busy as not to become idle and a point of contact for the enemy to tempt you? Idle time is the great enemy of repentance and the great ally of sin. Do you keep your mind on the Lord? Are you exercising your senses? Are you casting down vain imaginations (thoughts)? Have you wept for your sin until you would rather die than do it again? Are you setting evil things before your eyes and making provision for the flesh? Are you closer to God now than you were a year ago? The answer to these questions and other like questions will go a long was in aiding us in our discovery of whether we have really repented in godly sorrow- or had a common sorrow for sin that all who are in the world display.