What Is Repentance and How does it fit into our Christian thought? (3rd in Series)

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Opening Commentary:

I should remind you, I’m not a pastor. I don’t run a church. I’m a continual student and I’m free to think and write whatever I think is right.

(The) United Church of God Writes:

Repentance 

We believe that all who truly repent of their sins in full surrender and willing obedience to God, and who by faith accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, have their sins forgiven by an act of divine grace.

Such individuals are justified, pardoned from the penalty of sin, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which literally abides within them and supplies the divine love that alone can fulfill the law and produce righteousness.

They are baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ, which is the true Church of God.

We believe in a true change in life and attitude. Only those who have the indwelling presence of and are being led by the Holy Spirit are Christ’s

(Acts 2:38; Acts3:19; Acts 5:29-32; 2 Corinthians 7:10; John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:9; Romans 3:21-26; Romans 5:5; Romans 6:6; Romans 8:4, Romans 8:9-10, Romans8:14; Romans 13:1; Jeremiah 33:8; John 14:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Philippians 2:3-5).

I request you to indulge my commentary for a few moments.

This, which we have just read, is an extremely powerful statement, in that it debates whether one can be justified and sanctified (made right before God and set aside as one of His own) without true and complete repentance!

As I understand this, they are in complete disagreement with churches that say, or imply that you can say a 15-second prayer and have a free ticket into God’s Kingdom forever and ever. No, they are saying. Emphatically NO you cannot. You must completely change your ways and follow God’s Way as much as you possibly can.

Everyone stumbles, falls, and has to try again, through their entire life. Even Apostle Paul admitted to that! The effort we must make is to constantly pray and seek to be more on the right path.

In fairness, I should say that an online organization called CARM called United Church of God a cult because they don’t fit the exact definition of older traditional “main line” churches. But, does that matter? One might argue the main line churches are in error to the extent that they are the cultists and true followers of God’s Righteous Way are the true church indwelt by the Holy Spirt!

We should consider this carefully because Jesus the Christ warned us that in the last days many would fall away from true faith, many would say they had done good deeds in an effort to be acceptable before God, many would be called but a very small remnant would be accepted as the most righteous.

One may debate that there is first a place “not of this earth” (in an parallel/alternative universe we call “Heaven” and then there will also be  the new earth and New Jerusalem upon which those who sought God but were unrepentant and not completely self-disciplined will dwell while they become more righteous. They will have flesh and bone bodies and reproduce more children and study God’s Way until they are finally qualified for a change of “estate” to the higher “Heavenly Realm” and spirit or “light” bodies.

There is nothing new under the sun and these ideas are certainly not original. They at least comfort me because I love and fear God, but still I am a sinner. I can still hope there is a place for me in God’s Dream. Even if I must begin from a humble station and work my way up, it’s a place to begin, for which I would be grateful.

Women and men in their naturally born condition do not want to admit to being wrong. It seems (to some church writers) as soon as we’re born Satan’s minions go to work on the infant to turn that child toward ego-centric, selfish, defensive character weaknesses. The child grows up in a society made of similarly self-proud and self-defensive people who go into denial about anything that might indicate they are anything less than perfect! It is no wonder (to a logical thinker) that the world is such a disaster and now growing ever worse as the influence of Christian thought is being replaced with various New Age secular humanist philosophies. American society as of this date January 28, 2019 seems on the brink of civil war. This is the result of America turning her back on God, displacing God’s Ways with humanist constantly wavering philosophies.

Indeed, within the week beginning January 20th through the 26th 2019 two bills were signed about Baby Abortion. The governor of New York State signed a bill allowing abortion/murder of an infant even until 1-minute before the child’s birth! Let’s not debate as to whether there was a minute more or less before the child’s birth. The issue of definition is, (my thinking) there’s no respect for life and the infant is seen as non-human until s/he takes a first breath. I think that is completely insane.

In Iowa the governor there admitted she knows she will probably be in court over this issue, but signed a bill outlawing abortion as soon as a fetal heart beat can be heard, which is generally about 6-weeks into term. And the law still allows this law is null and void in case the conception was because of rape or incest.

Centuries ago there was rape and incest and children were born anyway. Nowadays all over the world, women exchange partners like they might exchange bed bugs! Many children are born and there’s no idea who the biological father was. There have even been cases in which a woman gave birth to non-identical twins, one Caucasian the other Negroid. She had two ovum in her uterus, and each was fertilized by a different lover. People should not behave like dogs and cats.

Maybe the problem is that women need to be more thoughtful about their choices. God is NOT amused and society is the weaker for these broken families and fatherless children. It’s one thing to be a biological father. It’s entirely another to be a responsible child raiser! A television and smartphone cannot raise your children. YOU HAVE TO DO IT, and if you’re unwilling to do it, use condoms, foam, or birth control pills, or get a vasectomy, or use another option – but NOT abortion!

Now the legal eagles are debating about whether one is alive or dead when the heart is not beating. Therefore, in between my heart beats I must be the living undead. I’m dead but refuse to lie down.

The definition of life is entirely wrong in my opinion. If the person (or animal) is aware of being aware, and obviously wants to survive, it is Alive! Even if it’s a roach and it’s afraid of you and runs into a dark recess to avoid being killed, it is by this definition proving it is aware of being alive.

Did you know (?) you can drop dye into water near a single celled animal (an amoeba) and it will move away from the dye. It wants to survive, eat, eliminate, and reproduce, therefore it is alive. Based on that view, abortion at any moment is murder. Perhaps I could agree that a fetus is not self-aware until the brain is better formed, but in any case God said HE is aware of it and HE wants it to be born healthy.

This sort of debate is cause for vociferous arguments about women’s “reproductive rights” by people who believe God is a myth and believers are crazy. I’m giving them less than 10-years and then they’ll find out which of us was crazy.

The real disturbance it my mind is, the entire country is so corrupted and so anti-God, true theology doesn’t even come into the discussion! So long as the USA and many other societies ignore God, they grow ever closer to their own destruction. Ours is a world in terrible trouble because the majority of us refuse to Repent and Believe in God and His coming Kingdom and in Jesus the Christ as the only one who can regenerate, rescue/save us and justify us before God. Thus, the only truly unforgivable sin is the willing denial of salvation through Jesus the Christ.

What follows are three short articles from the United Church of God about Repentance. They make “a hard saying.” People don’t want to follow the uphill rocky road in the scorching heat of God’s demands. That truth does not make the United Church of God wrong in their demand that you follow God’s Righteous Way. It makes those who want to follow the easy downhill glide into Hell wrong by every definition I know.

 

What Is Repentance?

Cecil Maranville

Editing and Additions: Stephen Newdell

 

Most people have only a vague idea of what the word repentance means. What exactly is repentance?

Jesus, Christ, Christian and saved are words familiar to many in the Western world. But repent is seldom mentioned by religious figures, and few people comprehend what it means.

You may be surprised to learn how much the word and concept of repentance are a part of the teachings of Jesus Christ, the early Church and the entire Bible.

For example: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’ ” (Mark 1:14-15, emphasis added throughout). So begins Mark’s account of the message Jesus brought.

While many religious teachers quote the apostle Paul, they don’t usually point out that repentance was a central part of his message. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked,” said Paul to the Athenians, “but now [He] commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world …” (Acts 17:30-31).

All followers of Christ should clearly understand repentance. Likewise, every genuine servant of Christ should teach what He and His early disciples taught. “[Christ] … called the twelve [disciples] to Himself, and began to send them out … So they went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:7-12).

Theme of God’s messengers

What did Jesus, Paul and the original apostles say to people? What did they expect their hearers to do? Most important, what does their message have to do with you and me?

“That people should repent” is a consistent theme of God’s messengers and ministers. We find the message of repentance throughout the Bible, Old and New Testament alike.

In the Old Testament God’s command to repent was most often directed at nations or other groups, whereas the New Testament’s emphasis is most often on the individual’s need to turn from his wicked ways.

If you have thought that “repent” pertains only to criminals, pornographers, drug dealers and the like, you’ve been misinformed.

A good place to begin to understand the meaning of repentance is with these plain words of God through the prophet Isaiah: “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16).

Evil is a strong word. The phrase “cease to do evil” is foundational to understanding repentance. Simply put, we are to stop doing wrong things.

Wash off the dirt

Starting with God’s words through Isaiah, what do we learn that we need to wash off? What is the evil that God wants us to stop doing?

If you answer that “dirty” and “evil” refer to breaking God’s laws, you are on the right track. Repentance requires that we stop doing bad things-the things that, whether we realize it or not, hurt others and ourselves. God’s laws define the kinds of thoughts and behaviors that cause people to suffer.

Notice Jeremiah 26:1-6, 13. In this message from the prophet Jeremiah to Judah, God defines “evil” as breaking His law and “repentance” as turning to obedience to God’s commands. When God told the Jews to “turn from [their] evil way” (verse 3), the Hebrew word for “way” means a journey, a course of life, a way of life. An up-to-date synonym is “lifestyle.”

If they didn’t repent, God said, He would make them “like Shiloh.” This warning reminded the people of the Philistines’ annihilation of that city several hundred years before. This was a warning of the consequences for flagrant and sinful courses of action if they didn’t change their ways. God takes sin seriously. (To better understand the purpose of God’s laws, and where sin leads, please read the free booklets The Ten Commandments and Why Does God Allow Suffering? )

So we begin to construct our biblical definition of repentance: Repentance involves turning from a life of evil and disobedience.

Exodus 20 New International Version (NIV)

The Ten Commandments

20 And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Now let’s take notice, God says don’t worship images or idols. and in the same chapter we read:  25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’ 

So, by this we may infer if one looks upon people exposing their nakedness and having sexual connection it is a distraction from things of God and should not be done, even though this specifically was not written into the 10-Commandments. HE does not want us behaving like whores, He wants us living a sober, pure thoughtful lifestyle, and focus our mind upon HIM and His Ways.

I doubt your church will soon change the alter to a pile of rocks, but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if the church leaders did. 

But what is “good”?

We’ve seen from the Bible what we need to turn from. But our definition is not complete. Now we need to consider what we must turn to. Not only do we need to stop doing bad things, we must do good things instead.

We read earlier in Isaiah 1:16 that God commands us to “cease to do evil.” The very next words of God that follow are “Learn to do good …” (verse 17).

God expects us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ-in the awareness of what He says is acceptable (2 Peter 3:17-18). This must be a continual task of every truly devoted Christian, an enduring commitment. Sadly, many religious teachers speak only of an initial commitment to God rather than a new way of life. However, Apostle Paul wrote many things to amplify including the discussion about looking upon naked people and being “involved with sexual immorality.”

Most normally want to be thought of as good, but few are stirred to investigate what God calls good. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul urges us to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

To “prove” in this context means putting something to the test, to examine, to try, to discern. That speaks of learning through doing, accompanied by reason and reflection. In other words, the proof of what is the acceptable-the perfect-will of God is in the doing.

As a Texas woman preacher once said over radio, “You can’t just read the Bible, you got to DO the Bible.”

Our lives constantly change. Change comes to us simply through the process of maturing and aging. Circumstances around us change as there are changes to our eomployment, finances, health and family. As these changes occur there are changes in our personal pressures and stresses.

In addition to such physical matters, if God is working with us He brings various spiritual concepts to our awareness at various times. These factors all demand that we continue to ask and discern what is good. The Bible is the source of the answer.

Then we must continue proving what is good by putting it into practice, by a changed way of living that is now in accordance with His instruction.

A different way of thinking

Repentance goes beyond living by what we personally consider to be good. Repentance is a way of Godly thinking that guides our actions. Notice Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:13: “I desire mercy [a way of thinking and resultant action] and not sacrifice [religion based only on ritual].”

Christ amplified this thought in Matthew 18:3: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (New Revised Standard Version). The Greek word translated “change” means “to turn quite around or reverse, to convert” ( Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance ).

This is a much greater commitment than short-lived promises made on the spur of the moment. It’s also deeper than the pledges people make in moments of crisis, sincere though they might be at the time.

While we’re looking at the meaning of words, let’s consider how the New Testament uses repentance and repent. To paraphrase the Strong’s definition, repentance includes a sense of compunction for guilt, a reversal of one’s decision, a resolve to think differently, to reconsider. We find in these meanings a combination of conviction and action.

Now we’ve added significantly to our construction of a definition: Repentance is turning from a life of evil and disobedience to an obedient way of thinking and living.

Feelings can mislead

Our definition is still incomplete. Let’s explore the idea of “compunction” a little further. It is defined in The American Unabridged Dictionary as “uneasiness caused by guilt, a prick of the conscience; remorse.”

We find a biblical example of compunction in Acts 2:37-38: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]” (King James Version).

This passage demonstrates that repentance begins with the “prick of the conscience” but goes beyond that to thought and action.

Although a sense of guilt can trigger the beginning of repentance, we need to realize that emotions aren’t always an accurate guide in this crucial spiritual matter. We can see how inaccurate one’s senses or feelings can be by looking at Christ’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus showed that it is possible for a person to feel spiritually acceptable when he clearly is not. The obvious message is this: Don’t rely solely on your feelings when it comes to spiritual matters.

John adds that there is a time to respond to our feelings and a time to ignore them (1 John 3:18-21). We have to properly educate our conscience. Our conscience is the basis for any sense of guilt or remorse, through study and proper understanding of God’s Word.

In this same chapter, 1 John 3, we read of yet another defining aspect of repentance. We are to learn to love other people, believe in Christ and all He taught and choose ways that please God. These actions will result in a personal relationship with God and godly relationships with other people (verses 22-24.) This implies we must not do or focus our attention upon people, things or goals which will upset our friendly relationships.

I remember watching a televised marriage counseling discussion. The woman was crying, and said, “My husband looks at photographs of younger women with fabulous figures and I don’t look like that.” Obviously she felt her relationship was threated and did not want to lose the man she loved. He was focused upon what would ruin their relationship, and you might say he was “worshipping” these as gods or idols. Our theology requires that we think, consider and behave as our logic and the leading of the Holy Spirit dictates.

God amplifies His expectations in Jeremiah 7:1-14, 21-23. First we must change our thoughts, then our actions. Part of the change is to learn to conduct our relationships with other people in a godly manner.

“For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you …” (verses 5-7, NRSV).

Notice John’s words on this point: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21). We must build godly relationships with other people if we are to build the right relationship with God.

Some mistakenly view Bible prophecy as a club and prophets as the men who wielded it. On the contrary, prophecy is an appeal from God to His people, asking them to change so He can fully demonstrate His love for them. Our relationship with God includes responding to His direction and correction. God describes this as an intimate relationship in which “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 8:10). These words and others about being adopted or “grafted in” imply that YOU can become part of God’s family but that doesn’t come without pure thought, and pure thought comes after repentance.

Let’s assemble what we have found into our definition: Repentance is turning from a life of evil and disobedience to an obedient way of thinking and living that results in a personal relationship with God and a godly relationship with people. 

So now I put it to you: If a man or woman claims to be a Christian and is an overt hypocrite what message does that transmit to others who might also become Christian?

A comprehensive definition

Do we now have a comprehensive definition? Not quite. We need to add one more important aspect. We have seen this element in several references so far, although we haven’t specifically pointed it out.

When is a person finished with repentance? Never! If you aren’t familiar with the section of Scripture quoted at the beginning of this article, Isaiah 1:16-20, take time to read it.

Isaiah 1:16-20 New International Version (NIV)

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

These verses summarize the meaning of repentance. They speak of a lifelong way of thinking and acting. Repentance is not limited to a point in time or an emotional experience when a person makes a commitment to God-commonly said to be “giving your heart to the Lord.” It is much, much more.

So we add this final thought to complete our definition: Repentance is a continual turning from a life of evil and disobedience to an obedient way of thinking and living that results in a personal relationship with God and a godly relationship with people.

If this concept of repentance is new to you, you probably have not repented-as shocking as that might seem. We don’t say this in judgment but to give you the same message Jesus taught. You can see how integral repentance is to the Christian way of life and God’s expectations for us.

The bumper sticker that says, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” implies that we are constantly attempting to perfect ourselves toward pure thought. It does not imply that we just say a short prayer and continue our wicked ways and we are forever forgiven. If we do that God might say to us, “I never knew you.” Heaven Forbid That!

Failing to understand and respond to God’s call to repent could prevent us from enjoying all of the blessings He would like to give us. The foremost blessing is salvation itself. So the subject of repentance couldn’t be more important to you.

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