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Archive for March 2010

Repentance, Repentance, Repentance…where’s the faith?

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I’ve been thinking lately about the preaching of Repentance.  In many circles “Repentance” has kinda become the new buzz word.  In reality this should be a good thing because so much of modern Christianity refuses to preach any kind of repentance.  Yet, like any biblical truth if it’s taught, presented, or preached in an unbiblical manner it can do more harm than good.  In fact, I’ve seen many believers come under a weight of despair and hopelessness under so called repentance preaching.  I think some of the problem has to do with the fact that many have a faulty definition or idea of what repentance is and others don’t know how (in relation to believers) to preach repentance in a way that brings life to those they are preaching too. 

Many for some reason have the idea that the word repent or repentance means to stop sinning.  They equate repentance with the action of stopping something that God considers sin or doesnt’ like.  While this is true it’s only partially true.  Partial truth can bring about a false repentance or lead believers to a place of frustration in their walk with the Lord.  Strong’s defines repentance as:  “to think differently, to reconsider”.  To be a little more clear it in essence means to be convinced and change our mind and agree with God.  Repentance starts in the mind and heart and then leads to a change in our life.  This is exactly what John the Baptist says in Luke 3:8 when he says:  “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance,”.  In other words, if you have truly repented, been convinced – changed your mind and agree with God, then produce actions that now agree with your convictions.  True repentance is not just a changing of behaviour but primarily is a changing of the way one believes.  Changing one’s behaviour without the truth needed to change one’s mind can lead to a false repentance and a frustrated life. 

 I find that often when a BELIEVER is involved in a sin (pick your sin) and it’s something that has a hold on their life that many times other believers will tell them of their sin and tell them to repent.  While it’s true a believer who is in known sin needs to repent the preaching of repentance is often not enough (especially in this day and age when many believers seem to be lacking in understanding a lot of biblical truth).  I think a great example of confronting believers with their sin, with the expectation of seeing repentance, is found in the book of 1 Corinthians.  Specifically Chapter 6.  Notice how at the beginning of the chapter Paul is chastising/rebuking the Corinthians for suing each other (taking each other to court).  Not only that, they were doing so in front of non-believers and have them judge the matter.  He is rebuking the believers for defrauding each other and because they would rather go to court than suffer wrong.  (1 Cor 6:7,8)  These believers are openly sinning against each other.   Paul then goes on to tell them that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God by stating:  “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  Paul rebukes these BELIEVERS and tells them that if they continue to practice these things they will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In dealing with a believer who is in sin.. here is where I find that most people stop their preaching.  They confront the sin and then tell them the consequence of continuing on in that sin.  But Paul didn’t stop there and this I believe is vitally important to know.  Paul continues on as says….”AND such WERE some of you, but ye WERE washed, but ye WERE sanctified, but ye WERE justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God. (1 Cor 6:11)  Paul reminds them of what had happened to them as believers in Jesus Christ.  He is sharing these wonderful truths that are true for these believers in an effort to remind them and to get them to BELIEVE what they have in Christ.  In short, he is moving beyond preaching repentance and is preaching FAITH.  He wants them to see what they’ve been given in Christ so they can walk in it.  As they believe these truths the truths will become a reality in their lives.  That is where I see a break down in much of the repentance preaching today.  It consist primarily in preaching about sin and very little with helping the believer see who they are in Christ.  Preaching sin and repentance (to a believer) without helping them see what Christ has done for them and what they have been given in Christ can often times lead a believer to a place of frustration.  FAITH is the missing element in most repentance preaching today. 

I’ve practically seen this play out again and again in believers lives.  For example, I’ve know several believers who have been in bondage to the sin of lust.  They even hated it while they were in it but felt powerless to overcome.  They had heard the repentance messages over and over again.  They knew they need to repent but found themselves often powerless to overcome this sin.  What they needed was not more repentance preaching what they needed was what Paul preached AFTER rebuking the Corinthians.. they need to hear 1 Cor 6:11.  They need to be reminded of who they were in Christ and what Christ had done for them.  In one instance a brother I know found complete deliverance because he came to understand the wonderful truths in Romans 6.  It was the revelation that his old man WAS crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6), that he WAS (already) freed from sin (Romans 6:7), and that sin WOULD NOT have dominion over him (Romans 6:14).  As he received this BY FAITH he found the power to walk in this truth.  FAITH in what Christ had already done for him brought about repentance.  He had been convinced of the truth about himself in God’s word and found the power to walk in it.  That is what is entirely lacking in much of today’s “repentance preaching”.  We have to ask ourselves…what is the goal of repentance preaching?  Is it to merely get a believer to stop a certain sin…to change their behaviour?  Or should our goal be to get a believer to see who they are in Christ and help them walk in this truth?  That should be our ultimate goal with believers.  To help them grow into the fullness of who they are in Christ.  To receive all that they ALREADY have in Christ.  Repentance and faith MUST go hand in hand for there to be true repentance.

Now some, especially in certain theological camps, would say that a true believer would not come into a place of deep sin.  They would say that if you’re born of God that you will bear fruit and that fruit will be a lifestyle of Holiness for the believer.  They would say that if a believer is overcome with lust or some other sin that they were never converted and need to be born again.  This however, while sometimes true, is not always true.  1 Cor 6 (and almost the whole book of 1 Cor) shows that believers can and do sin and do not always produce a life that consistently bears fruit.  In Corinthians Paul address these BELIEVERS and confronts them with their sin.  He is very clear that these ARE God’s children by his statement in 1 Cor 6:13.  Paul does exactly what we should do when we see a believer in sin…warn them of their sin and the consequence of continuing in it (not inheriting God’s kingdom)..but also reminding them of what they’ve already received in Jesus Christ.  I’m not saying that a believer will live their whole life in willful sin and die in it (nor is there any comfort, assurance, or security when one abides in that state by any means).  That is not the abiding mark of a believer.  But there is a place where a believer falls and needs to be brought out of their sin so they can continue to grow in Christ.  And while many believers are preached to as if they need to be converted for the first time I believe in many cases they need to be rebuked/corrected and then shown who they are in Christ and HOW to walk in an overcoming way.

So in regards to a believer, when preaching repentance, let us not forget to preach FAITH and give them the means to bring about true repentance.

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Written by Sean Scott

March 1, 2010 at 1:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized