Leading By Example

When our consciences catch up with us, do we truly repent or just apologize

You know that all too familiar feeling when we knowingly do something wrong, and our consciences finally catch up with our behavior, where we suddenly become so overwhelmed with guilt we apologize and stop whatever it is we were doing?

Oh, sorry, of course not, right, what was I thinking, you have no idea what I am talking about!

/endSarcasm

But for the rest of us, during these moments, we need to ask ourselves if we just want our guilt to go away, and avoid consequences for our actions, or do we really want to change our lives after realizing our mistake–there is a world of difference!

Temptation Is Tempting, News And Sports At Eleven

Hold on to your hats people, I am going to drop a bomb on you: sin is tempting

*gasp*

I know, I know, this is mind blowing, but it is important to understand the dynamics of temptation, as the enemy is not going to dangle something in front of us we do not find appealing in some way or expose us to situations we are not weak in

The enemy absolutely hate us, and wants to separate us from God by leading us to sin whenever and however possible

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full

1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

However, despite knowing the coniving, hateful, vigilant nature of the enemy, it does not always stop us from jumping head first into temptation when they parade it in front of us, oops

Buy why is this?

To understand this further, look at how James taught we only give in to sinful desires which are *already* in our hearts, otherwise there would be no thread for the enemy to pull on in the first place

James 1:14
…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed

Even though some sin is appealing to us, the good news is God never allows us to be tempted beyond what he knows we can bear, which means, yep, our choices to sin are because of the desires found in our heart; talk about accountability time!

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it

Okay, now that we understand the nature of temptation, as well as how these things originate from our own hearts, let us look at the true meaning of repentance as it is not just saying an apology, it means much more than that!

The Bible’s Definition Of Repentance Means Having Real Life Change Through The Power Of God’s Spirit, Not Just Saying Sorry

Whoa whoa whoa!

So repentance means we actually have to stop doing something instead of just apologizing for it afterwards?

…whaaat?

A totally shocking concept I know, but in both the OT and NT, the Bible defines repentance as turning away from our sinful ways completely, not just conveniently seeking God’s forgiveness after we decide to give into temptation

Not that any of us have ever done that, right?

Well, maybe once or twice

*cough*

Anyway!

All kidding aside, to understand the Bible’s concept of repentance fully, we need to compare how it defines repentance under the old and new covenants as they are dramatically different

For example, in the OT Hebrew, the typical word used for “repent” means “to turn back or away, to restore, to reverse”, while in the NT Greek, the typical word for “repent” means “a change of mind, reversal of the heart”

At first, this may not seem like a big difference, but the separation in meaning between these two definitions is huge, as in the OT, repenting involved turning away from sin, while in the NT, it means someone not only turns away, but God changes their heart to the point where sin becomes completely unappealing, ie: the OT meant “to turn away” while the NT means “reversal of the heart”

To make this even more clear, under the new covenant, God made it possible for our hearts to be healed to the point where we can rise above temptation altogether, as we can take on the very holy, righteous nature of God himself

2 Peter 1:3-4
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires

This passage makes me want to fall out of my chair, as Peter tells us plainly God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life, and that we “may participate in the divine nature”, which allows us to “[escape] the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”

Now, by contrast, think about how powerless the enemy tries to make us feel when we are facing temptation, as they want us to forget God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can say no to, and that we have the power of God’s spirit guiding us to his very righteousness

With that said, since overcoming temptation is not an instant or overnight process, how do we receive this freedom–we need to understand what grace really means

The Purpose Of “Grace” Is Not A Get Out Of Jail Free Card, It Is To Lead Us To True Repentance

Despite a lot of contemporary meanings, in Greek, the word “grace” translates to “through unmerited favor, receiving God’s influence on the heart”, it does not mean “unconditional forgiveness of sins regardless of how we live” or other unscriptural meanings that are often taught today

Even further to this, look how Paul taught “grace” is the very thing which teaches us to overcome sin, as no author of the Bible taught us to treat grace as a license for immorality, acting under the premise that we have forgiveness regardless of what we do so it is then somehow okay to willingly stumble all the time

In fact, the authors of the Bible directly warned against having this attitude, as it reflects there is no change of heart about sin, ie: no repentance

If we continue to sin after receiving God’s direct influence on our hearts it says a lot about our preference for sin over righteousness, and how much we still need to be healed

Titus 2:11-12
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

(We see the effect of grace is supposed to teach us to say “No” to sin, and temptation, it is not an unconditional blanket of forgiveness regardless of how we live, as receiving God’s influence on our heart is supposed to teach us to “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives”, it is not an excuse to keep on sinning because we feel like we have God’s favor after raising our hand at an altar call)

2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death

(In this verse, Paul openly talks about the difference between having a profound spiritual sorrow over our sin as part of coming to a place repentance in comparison to have a form of sorrow that involves guilt or a self-centered fear of consequences, as the former “leads to salvation”, while the latter “brings death”, this is a whole other topic of course, we will discuss this later)

Jude 1:4
For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord

(Note how Jude openly warns about people who abuse their relationship with God as a way of continuing in sinful ways, as even then, there were people who willingly kept on sinning, justifying their behavior thinking they will be forgiven anyway)

1 Peter 2:16:17
Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor

(We see Peter addresses the exact same thing above, as he warns us not to use our relationship with God as a means of feeling free to sin without worry of facing consequences, warning us to, instead, “fear God”)

Isaiah 26:10
But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord

(In this passage, “grace” in Hebrew meant “favor, pity, mercy”, so we see human nature has not changed since the days of even the OT’s authors, as people back then abused God’s kindness just as much as we do today)

These scriptures are important as they show how we should not seek to just be forgiven after our consciences catch up to us, but to seek out the repentant, change of heart, and true freedom grace can lead us to, as, thankfully, just resisting temptation until we stumble again is not the full victory available to us–we have the power to overcome sin completely!

Having Victory Over Sin Means Being Completely Free, If We Continue To Stumble We Just Need To Keep Growing

One of the most amazing parts of grace, is it fulfills God’s promise that we have “everything we need for a godly life”, which does not entail only having a partial victory over sin, but a complete one

Jesus did not shed his blood on the cross so we can still be slaves to sin, he died so we might become the very righteousness of God by loving one another, and living holy lives according to the power of God’s spirit

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God

1 John 4:16-17
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus

(Note how John says “we will have confidence on the day of judgment” if “In this world we are like Jesus”, understanding that Jesus is described as one “who had no sin”, which shows we have both a standard of conduct made available, and marked out for us to follow!)

These verses are beyond exciting, as they show we can be like Jesus, living out the very love, and righteousness of God, not just as a some ideological concept, but in each of our individual Christian lives!

Ahhh!!!

(Oops, wait, I need to catch my breath, hold on a second…

Okay, sorry, I got too excited, moving on!)

However, many of us have grown complacent with our pursuit of righteousness, as if living according to the Bible is so difficult there is no urgency since “nobody can be perfect”

Or, Worse yet, many excuse their lack of honoring God by saying only some Christians are able to live in any way that is truly spiritual or righteousness, as not everyone can live that way

*thud*

Um, hello, where in the Bible does it say “When we feel like our lives meet an acceptable standard, it is okay to stop pushing ourselves”, pretty much nowhere, as that does not reflect repentance, it reflects people who are willing to tell God they are “good enough”, regardless of how he commanded us to live

Also, keep in mind we are commanded to perfect holiness out of respect for God, which does not involve deciding for him what is an acceptable standard to live according to–go figure!

We should rejoice knowing God will never command us to do anything that is impossible for us to accomplish, which is why he gave us “everything we need” to live in true freedom through the power of his spirit

2 Peter 1:3-4
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires

Deuteronomy 30:11-14
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it

2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God

1 Peter 1:14-15
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”

Despite having “everything we need” to overcome sin, what is completely tragic, is the enemy has blinded many of us to the point where we go around assuming, and even being taught, we are walking in the fullness of what a relationship with God has to offer, yet we still struggle with sin, and never come to a place of true repentance or freedom that resembles what the Bible teaches

It is completely okay to humbly acknowledge we are not as spiritually mature as we want to be, but it is not okay to be fine with it

Honestly, sadly, this is one of the reasons many Christians have no true joy, as we are not new creations, we are just resisting our old ways but have not been truly reborn according to the glory of Christ so we mature past temptation altogether

Yes, this is a difficult thing to read, but if we examine ourselves, we have to ask why some things are so difficult to overcome if we are supposedly new creations, is God’s power incapable of healing us in those areas or is it something else, ie: are we not surrendering something to him out of fear, do we enjoy something more than a relationship with him, etc…

Also, to be clear, I am raising these points with humility, as I did not truly experience a lifestyle of joy with God until the last eight or nine months of my life, which was the result of a sincere desire for life change, and a fierce commitment to lay sinful ways down so I could fully walk in God’s truth, not just assume I understood repentance as a concept while willingly holding onto sin

You know the attitude I am referring to, as we often tell ourselves, or others, silly things like:

“Oh, God is working with me on that”

“Some sins are just impossible to overcome”

“We can never be perfect”

…yeah right!

Do not make me tap the sign again, as we have been given everything we need to live godly lives through the same power God used to raise Jesus from the dead, which allows us to partake in the very holy, righteous nature of God himself!

Oh, but wait, here comes the part where we have to hold ourselves accountable as walking in this freedom requires actual obedience, God is not going to magically make sin unattractive for us overnight

I know, I know, more shocking concepts!

Obedience Is The Key To Experiencing True Repentance: There Are No Shortcuts

This is a challenging concept at first, as we often ask God for strength to overcome something we find tempting, yet often forget God never allows us to be tempted beyond what we can bear in the first place

Knowing this, we also have to take ownership of the choices we make, either for sin or righteousness

This is why we need to hold ourselves accountable for our behavior, as both Jesus, and Paul were clear obedience is required on our part in order to experience freedom from sin, as without surrender, and obedience God’s power is not going to have effect in our lives

No amount of Bible study can replace the benefits of obedience, as intimacy and true freedom from sin only come through honoring God by following his commands

John 8:31-32
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free

(The word “hold” in Greek means, “remain, not depart, keep continually”, which shows how a lifestyle of walking in obedience is how Jesus defined his true followers, as only they would know the truth of his teachings, and be set free from the bondage of the world–an amazing promise to remind ourselves with when sin seems too tempting to let go of!)

Romans 8:17-18
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness

(Note how Paul openly says those who “have come to obey from [their] heart” have “been set from sin”, this is incredibly important as we cannot attain freedom through true repentance unless we first start obeying–stop waiting for a miracle to start obeying God’s commands, just start, the freedom comes *afterward*, not before!)

See what I mean when I said accountability was important, there is no freedom without obedience on our part!

One additional point on this, is whenever we face areas of sin we struggle to overcome, we should ask God for the wisdom to understand why something is tempting in the first place, not just blindly ask for strength because we lack the self-discipline, and/or the desire, to obey, as, *ahem*, we were in fact given everything we need to live according to God’s righteousness, remember?

2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline

James 1:5-8
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do

Do not get me wrong, asking for strength is important as David demonstrates below, but we should also ask for the same amount of insight into God’s commands he did so we can follow them as well

Psalm 19:13
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me

Psalm 119:33
Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end

Again, this transformation is not one that happens overnight, but it is also one that does not happen unless we are sincerely trying

Do not be fooled by the enemy’s game to have us think we can plod along at our own pace, achieving the same results as if we were seeking to love God with all of our soul, mind, and strength–true repentance is never an accident, it is the result of honoring God’s influence on our hearts by following it–what a concept!

One other thing, as I cannot stress this enough, there are no shortcuts to a changed heart, just obey, and do not allow yourselves to come under attack by feeling like the battle is impossible when we fall short along the way–just do not give up, God loves us tremendously, and his mercy towards us is renewed constantly, as he delights to show mercy, we should just not abuse his kindness

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness

Micah 7:18
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy

Facebook Comments

comments

6 Comments

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    • Hi Dave,

      I try to use different communication methods, especially around difficult or challenging topics as it presents them in ways that are often more accessible

      Was there a particular comment you had a question about?

      • Oh, sorry, of course not, right, what was I thinking, you have no idea what I am talking about! /endSarcasm this comment i feel was just unnecessary and dosent realy add but seems to take away from the message you seem to be wanting to get across. In any case I think the work you are doing is truly good and I see you as someone just as myself wanting to honor the Lord your God keep the faith strong and Love over flowing brother and God bless you in you travels 🙂

  • I think this is a great article! As every human has a sin nature, we can’t just expect to become Holy with no action on our part. “Good enough” is never good enough. Jesus himself raises the bar in Matthew 5 with “You have heard it said…but I say” each time he is taking away the excuse of being “good enough”. However isn’t the true key to repentance Illumination from the Holy Spirit? If we truly understand the Gospel, than we should desire to please God out of love, am I wrong? We absolutely have to be active in obeying, but if taken too far obedience can turn into legalism, making us no different than the Pharisees who worked to make sure they were following the law to the “T”. True that God does not give us more than we can handle, but I think that He doesn’t give us more than we can handle With Him. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for strength to over come something because doing things on our own leads to the sinful desires of our heart or at the very least doing things on our own give us the potential for pride.

  • Hi Nathan,

    Thank you so much for writing about repentance and what God says about repentance. The scripture is awesome and appreciate the way you have explained them. What tools do you use to stay in line with the truth of Gods word and not stray away from the truth. In other words, which other books, do you use to help explain the truth of Gods word. I’m asking about other books to help with my studies and further the truth of the gospel.

    My heart is to soon open a blog to share Gods word, with truth and to spread the word about Jesus Christ through sermons and hymns.

    Thanks again for sharing about repentance, may our Lord bless you with more to share in your writings to further the gospel.

/* ]]> */