Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A Christian’s Need For Repentance

      Simon was a newly baptized believer. Unfortunately, even though he had been forgiven of his past sins, he retained some of his worldly tendencies. After succumbing to the temptation to think and act contrary to what is expected of a follower of Jesus, he is divinely instructed: “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22, NASB). While Christians are forgiven people, we are still imperfect people who sometimes stumble in our walk with God (1 John 1:10). Repentance, therefore, is not only a requisite for our initial salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19), it continues to be an important part of our spiritual journey.

What is Repentance?

     The sinful attitudes and behavior of the disciples at Corinth prompted Paul to write the document we now call First Corinthians. Throughout the letter he seeks to turn the situation around with exhortations, rebukes, and corrective instructions. In the follow-up correspondence he continues to emphasize reformation of life, including the admonition: “let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). This implies personal responsibility. The noun “holiness” is derived from the adjective “holy,” essentially meaning “different” or “set apart.” The Corinthians are repeatedly reminded to leave behind their old sinful ways and worldly mindsets.
     In the verses that follow, Paul informs his readers that despite difficult and discouraging circumstances, he is comforted by the positive report he has received concerning their response to his exhortations. He did not regret having written the previous letter, but he did regret, at least initially, the temporary sorrow it generated. Nevertheless, the outcome caused him to rejoice because the Corinthians were led to repentance.
     Note that repentance is not merely an internal feeling of sadness, although this is the necessary spark leading to repentance (v. 9a). Biblical repentance begins in the heart with a sorrow “according to the will of God,” i.e., “godly grief” (ESV), “as God intended” (NIV), “in a godly manner” (NKJV) (v. 9b). The statement, “so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us” (v. 9c), indicates that the Corinthians would have suffered great spiritual harm had Paul not had the love and courage to take on the unpleasant task of writing the aforementioned letter (cf. 2:4; 7:12) that had such a transformative impact.
     The “sorrow of the world” is essentially a selfish concern when facing consequences but no real remorse for disobedience, which ultimately leads to spiritual death (v. 10b). Conversely, “the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (v. 10a). Having begun in the heart with sincere conviction, repentance involves a simultaneous turning in two opposite directions: away from sin and back to God. This is demonstrated by an observable change of life, as the following verse affirms. These disciples (for the most part) had exhibited genuine repentance and are no longer guilty of wrongdoing (v. 11), particularly in the matter of allowing and condoning immorality in the church (cf. 2:5-9; 1 Cor. 5:1-2). See also Matthew 21:28-31; Luke 22:32; Colossians 3:5-10; James 5:19, 20; 1 Peter 2:25.

A Recurring Need

     Surely the aim of every child of God is to avoid sinning (Romans 6:1-2; 12:1-2). Regrettably, however, we are not always successful, so the Lord has made provision for these sporadic lapses of weakness (1 John 1:7–2:6). Those who comprised the first-century church at Ephesus were reminded “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4, NKJV). But years later they are told, “you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4b). How was this dismal state of affairs to be corrected? “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (v. 5). Both the stern warning and the opportunity to make things right represent the ongoing concern of our heavenly Father with constant love, mercy, and grace. May we, therefore, live our lives accordingly.
--Kevin L. Moore

Questions to Consider

1. Why do Christians sin?

2. What provision has God made for Christians who sin?

3. What should be the Christian’s attitude toward sin?

4. What is the difference between “the sorrow of the world” and “the sorrow that is according to the will of God” (2 Corinthians 7:10)?

5. What does biblical repentance entail?

6. What key component of biblical repentance is highlighted in the following passages? Matthew 13:15; Acts 3:19, 26; 9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 26:18-20; 2 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:9

7. What do the following passages share in common about how repentance is actuated? Jonah 3:10; Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8; John 8:10-11; Acts 26:20; Galatians 1:23; Ephesians 4:28

8. What is the danger of not repenting? Luke 13:3, 5; Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-23

9. How is God’s expectation of holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 1:4) to be achieved in the Christian life?

10. How does the biblical doctrine of repentance apply to your walk with the Lord?

*Originally prepared for the Make Disciples Training Program <Link>.

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