March 19, 2015

Nehemiah 9:33 “In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong.”

I would call this whole document an excellent foundation for repentance. By itself it is not repentance, but simply a thoroughgoing admission of guilt, along with a request for relief. Repentance is demonstrated by the change that comes after the admission of guilt, but it cannot happen without the foundation of that admission. We put ourselves in real danger when we overlook either half of repentance: the admission of guilt and the will to change. Far too many people are baptized into churches on the basis of an intellectual agreement with the facts of the Gospel, but that really just gets them wet. Protestant churches have largely lost the practice of confession, and that is a big loss. Institutionalizing it is perhaps not the answer, but we desperately need the awareness that we earned the punishment that Jesus took on Himself. On the other side of that, Catholics sometimes have a “tit for tat” feeling, calculating that such and such a penance would be worth the pleasure of a particular sin. There is no will to change in that! We’ve got to have both sides of the coin, acknowledging our guilt and choosing to change. It is also important to recognize that the power to change is found in God and not in ourselves, but if we honestly ask Him to, He will do the “heavy lifting” to get the job done. That’s what 1 John 1:9 is all about.

This has of course been an issue in my life all along. I’ve never had a problem with the “intellectual assent” part of it, growing up in a home that was immersed in faith and Scripture, but I have struggled at various times with either acknowledging my guilt or with really desiring to change. After all, lots of sins are fun at the moment, and we are experts at excusing ourselves. God in His patient mercy has brought me through such struggles time and time again. It was indeed liberating to me when I realized the depth of His forgiveness. Once I have genuinely repented, it’s as though I had never committed the sin in the first place, so dwelling on it is counterproductive. The devil loves to have us mull over all the sins we’ve committed, because doing so convinces us that we are simply that kind of person and cannot hope to do better. The good news is, by faith we become the righteousness of God in Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:21) That is the Gospel I am to proclaim, firmly rooted in genuine repentance but unlimited in its implications. That is glorious indeed!

Father, thank You for helping me get this truth into a concise expression. Help me now communicate it effectively to as many people as possible. I can’t force anyone into repentance, but I can help them understand what it is and what it is not, to open them up to the work of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8) I pray that this church would be filled with people who are genuinely born again and filled with Your Spirit, a powerful army for Your kingdom, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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