Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reformation: Tearing to Heal

Of greatest importance is what God desires to do in our hearts today and how we respond to His urgings and convictions by the Spirit and through the Word. Eugene Peterson said, “the Bible is interested not so much in whether we believe in God (it is assumed most people do) but in our response to Him.”

I’ve been urged by God through a series of events going back several months now, to look more closely at the concept of repentance. The Bible’s story is of a God so passionate about creating that He made the heavens and the earth. He is so passionate about community, having experienced its perfection in the Fellowship of Three from the unbeginning-forever-eternity-past, that He created people in His image. And He is so passionate about holiness that He sent Jesus Christ to bring to Himself a people of faith that have been made holy in order to be included in that eternal fellowship.

To begin and finalize this relationship, God spoke in the language of Jesus (Heb 1:2a) and initiated the supreme sacrifice. Therefore, every story, sign, wonder, miracle, battle, sacrifice, symbol and prophecy in the Scripture culminates in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Savior, who is the exact representation of God Himself – God in the Flesh, come to rescue sinners by providing forgiveness of sin.

To receive this gift of salvation and enter that eternal fellowship, we must repent: change our mind about God – go from unbelief to belief about His Son and receive Him as Savior and Lord. That initial repentance is of supreme importance and gains the repentant entrance into God’s Forever-Family.

As Peter preached to the crowds at Pentecost, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,...” (Acts 3:19-21)

And it doesn’t stop there. We are urged to a life of repentance throughout Scripture. As the red arrow of redemption runs through every book of the Bible, so the concept of repentance is sewn into all of God’s urgings to His people in both covenants. In fact, putting the biblical material together we find that a life of repentance and confession defines authentic faith in God through Jesus Christ His Son.

Before I go any further, as one of our pastors said recently, “The atonement of Christ and the forgiveness that act provided gave entrance into the Kingdom of God for all who believe and take Jesus as Master and Savior. If you never confessed one more sin as long as you lived, you’d still go to heaven.” That’s really how complete the work of Christ is for His followers! BUT . . . (there are some really big but’s in the Bible and this is one of the biggies!) the issue at risk without a life of repentance and confession is the awesome fellowship with Jesus that results in maturity, service, obedience, and reward making our lives purposeful, and our eventual and literal wedding in heaven so exciting to anticipate!

Repentance is a change of mind towards God and a turning away from disobedience.

Repentance is not a popular term, and has been subtly morphed, as one author put it, to penance. However, the Bible presents Jesus as Propitiator of sin (the turning away of God’s wrath by a perfect offering; Romans 3:24-25; I John 4:10) and the once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12:10:10) needed to provide once-for-all access to God the Father. No amount of human sacrifice could ever make up for one drop of the Savior’s blood shed to procure this final necessity.

Instead, we shy away from this concept of true repentance relegating it to the category of past irrelevant rituals that have no bearing on us in the 21st century. We include it in the same grouping as “turn or burn sermons” and “Hell-fire-and-brimstone” preachers whom we’re supposed to believe were intending to literally scare the Hell out of sinners. (Have you ever really had the Hell scared out of you?)

So why, the hell, is repentance so hard? Exactly! The world, the flesh, and the Devil (Hell) make it hard to repent – but also prove the necessity of living a life of repentance. Repentance is serious and important business to God. We’ll talk it through the next few blog entries. I’ll discuss what I’m learning about the incredible act of mercy along my journey, demonstrated again and again as God urges his people towards repentance.

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