By: Dan Seale
Before GPS, if you were driving and became lost you would be faced with the decision to try to drive your way out of your lostness or to stop and ask directions. More often than not trying to drive your way out of your lostness ended up in becoming more lost. With the advent of GPS, we are told when and where to turn and also warned of accidents and traffic jams so that we can arrive at our destination faster. It seems the worst-case scenario is we miss a turn or start heading in the wrong direction and GPS tell us to make a U-turn and get back on the right path. There is no such device for our walk with God.
There is a sense in which God does provide a road map through His law and wisdom and leading by the Spirit but we are not given second by second directions to navigate life nor would most of us truly want that. Too often through our own folly or rebellion we end up lost and headed away from God and His design for us. Too often pride, guilt, shame, and fear of rejection and fear of consequences keep us from asking for help from God or from others who love us. And if we are honest there are times when we love our sin more than we desire to return to following God.
What do we do when we find ourselves in trouble having ignored God and His wisdom?
We need to return to God which in biblical terms is faith and repentance. We may also need to ask for help from friends and experts if we find ourselves really lost and disabled on the side of the road due to our sin or others – but that’s a topic for another day.
Today I want to share some insights on repentance that I gathered in my studies preparing for the sermon on Proverbs 1 &2 that didn’t make it into the sermon.
If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.
We have a choice (If you turn). We can turn back to the Lord and get back on the right path and he will guide and direct us or we can choose to stay on the path of folly and reject God’s wisdom, thus rejecting God himself. The heart of repentance is returning to God.
We are faced with a choice and Proverbs often helps clarify those choices.
You can choose to experience the pain of change or live with the pain of regret.
Which will you choose?
In 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, Paul distinguishes between worldly sorrow and godly grief which leads to repentance. How can you tell which is which? Both tend to produce tears. Both seem to have sadness for the damage that has taken place. Only time can help you distinguish the difference between the two. Initially they can look the same. We can mistake being sorry for being repentant.
Let’s say Adam sins against me. How can I tell if Adam is repentant or just sorry he got caught? With just worldly sorrow Adam will feel sadness and regret for the harm that he caused and for the consequences and fall out, but his focus will be more on himself than on me and how his actions harmed me.
Worldly sorrow sheds tears over the pain I am feeling more than crying over the pain I have inflicted.
Over time godly sorrow leads to repentance so that Adam takes full responsibility for his words or actions. He doesn’t try to blame me or circumstances, or rationalize and defend himself, or lie, minimize or deny what he did. Godly repentance leads Adam to make amends not just in words but in new obedience. Adam will endure the appropriate consequences of his actions without complaint having been humbled before God enabling him to keep his mouth shut and not defend or minimize his sinful actions.
Words do not immediately restore broken relationships. New behaviors restore trust.
However, this is still not a full orbed repentance. True repentance recognizes the pardon of God. We must turn away from looking at our sin to looking at Christ, so that His grace can enable us to repent and believe. True repentance is a gift of God as he melts our heart and draws us back to him. Repentance is a return to God and life marked by the light of God in our lives.
Here are several marks of repentance from 2 Cor. 7:8-11
1. Earnestness – serious attitude about sin– before indifferent & careless to sin
2. Eagerness to clear themselves – not self-defense – BUT rectifying their faults – deal with the cause of their sin lest they be found guilty again
3. Indignation – vexation/frustration with themselves
4. Alarm / fear – fear – awakened conscience and seeing they are under the discipline of God
5. Longing – longing for things to be right with God and others –
6. Concern / zeal – restoration to Christ and the body of Christ – zealous to obey Paul and God’s commands
Repentance is comprehensive. It impacts our emotions but extends to every aspect of our being. Repentance means the whole of life returning to the purpose of God.
The paradox – as faith deepens and brings new levels of joy and assurance, so also repentance deepens, bringing ever more profound an awareness of our need of Christ.
We may not have a spiritual GPS but we have something greater, a living vital union and communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May God by his grace and mercy continue to work deep faith and repentance in us for His glory and our good.