Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Repentance unto Salvation

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)

The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:41)

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3, 5)

The call of the Gospel of Christ has always been a call to repentance. To be specific, the Gospel is the call to the repentance of sin. It is easy to think of sin as a specific act done by a person against another person. 1 John 5:17 notes that "all wrongdoing is sin" and it seems that because we do wrong to one another, sin is primarily an issue pertaining to human relationships.

The Bible defines sin very differently. The Bible defines sin as an issue against God.Romans 3:23 states this quite clearly but it is easy to miss. The verse says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". What we sin and fall short of is the glory of God. Glory means weight or essence. We fall short of the essence of who God is. We fall short of the Substance of wisdom, of love, of justice, of all the things that effect the created order. The effects of sin are felt in this world but what we sin against is the glory or essence of God. When we sin we are saying that the essence of who God is is not the highest thing that there is. In Romans 1 Paul talks about this pretty plainly.

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (v.18-20 NIV)

There are two general truths that all human beings have knowledge of.

Despite what it may be based on, all humans know that there is a moral standard. This is the first truth. We know that something is that we know that something is that which we are not. We know and understand things like perfection although we are not perfect, justice although we are not always just, love although we are often not loving. They realize that there is something that makes these things what they are. As theists, we believe that the embodiment of these characteristics help to make up the attributes or essence of God. Christians say statements such "God is love" and "God is just". We know that it makes up who God is. So there is a knowledge of something that is, although we are not that and a knowledge that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Some people try to rationalize the reality of God and call it matter, but matter is still what is the creator of life as we know it. Everyone has a knowledge of a creator and an embodiment of morality.

The second truth is that man cannot live up to the moral standard that they have. They may have moments where they are able to, but they feel a gap between what their actions are and what they know is right or moral behavior. I have actually met a few people who are athiests who embody no sense of morality as a substance but that they do what they need to in order to get what they want but people like that are rare. And people like that are also very depressed and are savage people to coexist with.

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (v. 21-23, NIV)

So man, with the knowledge of morality instilled in him since birth, did not ascribe to the essence of God in how to live life. Adam's sin and my sin is that we want to be God. We want to live by our standard and not by God's. We disobeyed in Adam and continue to disobey in our lives now and basically tell God "No thanks God! I am better than You. My way is better. I define wisdom. I define love. I define justice. I am the highest value by which everything is defined." And in doing this, we put the created before the Creator. We put the thing that was defined above the thing that Defines. We trade the truth and embodyment of all that is Good and live in a reality that is not based on truth but on an illusion.

"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen." (v. 24-25, NIV)

Because we desired an illusion, God gave us over to what we wanted. We traded the essence of Good for something that is not Good and started living backwards. This is the understanding I have of how the world works. We live in backwards world.

And we cannot help but live in backwards world. When Adam sinned, God seperated His goodness from Adam and with this, the ability to know God is gone. The essence of who God is was taken from us. We had been left with something like the essence but not the essence itself. It is only the goodness but backwards. This is what perversion is. It's something good in and of itself but the way it is used to twisted.

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." (Romans 5:12,13 NIV)

And Adam's sin was accounted to us because we were in Adam. We were partially in Eve too, but they both had put the thing created above the Creator and twisted reality. It makes no rational sense that I should be punished for something I was born into. Kind of like punishing people for being a female. We can't help it; we were born that way. But it is not something that will make sense to the rational mind because we don't see it the way God sees it. When God is the highest value to judge thing by it is okay for God to "bound all men over to disobedience" (Romans 11:32 NIV) because we realize how much less value we have than the worth of God. Because God is love and just, He must do whatever He knows is necessary to uphold that the essence of Good is preserved. He must hate that which is not good. This is what wrath is.

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8 NIV)

"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

There are many verses that talk about man being unable to come to God apart from a work of the Holy Spirit. We like to think we can take God or leave Him at any time, but we cannot come to Him at all unless He enables us. A man has no ability to even repent apart from Christ.

Simply acknowledging or admitting one's wrong is not what the Bible means by repentance. The English word "repent" is the Greek word metanoeo. It has two parts: meta and noeo. Meta means a change or movement. Noeo is a word refers to the mind and its thoughts and perceptions and dispositions and purposes. So repenting literally means a total change in one's mind, disposition, and will. This means that we turn away from trying to make the Creator something we have created and let the essence of Good define how we live.

In repentance two truth are revealed to us. The first truth is that we ackowledge that God or the essence of Good defines reality and nothing else. The second truth is what we have done with the essence of Good or the Worth of God and what will become of us if we continue to do so.

"Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:25,26 NIV)

But God grants us repentance. The acknowledgement of the two truths that accompany repentance brings us to a third truth: that God has made a way for us to know the essence of Good and have it in our lives.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph. 1:1-10 NIV)

For all who will trust in Christ, God has granted to us the gift of the ability to be changed in our minds from a twisted view of reality to see things how God wants us to see them.

"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 1:5-10 NIV)

So what do we do to be cleanses from our sin? We confess or repent from our sin. True repentence always results in life change. As noted in the passage above, God has not saved us if we are still living in sin but if we confess that we have sinned, we will be cleansed.

This presents some problem for us. We still sin and sometimes even have habitual sins in our lives. All people do. So as Christians, how do we know that that we are saved if we have sin in our life?

"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:16 NIV)

And if the Spirit is testifying with our spirit that we are God's child, how do we stop from sinning? The obvious answer is that God will enable us not to. But God always uses means to accomplish His will.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

First, offer yourself up to God so that when your mind is renewed you will know what God's good, pleasing, and perfect will is.

"How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11 NIV)

Secondly, we hide the Word of God in our heart.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

Thirdly, after we hide it in our hearts, the Word then becomes alive and reveals to us the truth about reality. The goal of obedience is not simply so that we won't be punished. It is about putting us in line with reality and with the essence of Good.

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cornithians 10:4,5 NIV)

Fourthly, when a lie comes up and you know it is a lie, take the lie and insert the Word of God that has been hidden in your heart. Trust your weapon, The Word of God, like nothing else because it has power to demolish strongholds. In Revelation, Satan was conquered "by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:11 ESV).

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:29,30 NIV)

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:4-6 NIV)

Lastly, trust Christ with all that you have. He promises us that He will carry the work He has started to completion. Change and liberation will come. If God has called us, He has also already justified us and glorified us (See Eph. 2:1-10). It already is a reality. We cannot change that. Christ has been God's plan from before the world began. He made a provision for us in Christ both to fulfill His ultimate purpose of showing His grace (See Eph. 1) and to save us from our sin before we were even around to do it (See 2 Timothy 1, Ephesians 1, Rev. 13:8).

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:31-39 NIV)

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