Posted tagged ‘Repentance’

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done = Repent and Believe

December 13, 2011

At the very heart of the Lord’s Prayer is the petition, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Like so many other familiar passages of Scripture, I fear that there are myriads of truths that fail to be apprehended due to our contemptible satisfaction of superficial understanding.  Such has been the case for me regarding these petitions of our Lord.

One of the remarkable things I’ve been learning lately is how the gospel interconnects kingdom come and the Father’s will being done on earth.  The gospel intertwines this petition precisely because the response these realties demand are that of repentance and faith.

Whenever Jesus preaches about the kingdom, the action invariable associated with it is to repent.  The arrival of His kingdom means the removal of your kingdom.  The arrival of His reign means the surrender of your rights.  His position on the throne of your life necessitates the crushing of all idols and rivals to Him as Lord and King.  With the inauguration of the kingdom in the life of a believer, there is a corresponding denunciation of the kingdom we had built with ourselves at the center.   Simply put, when the King is present, our rights are absent.  We repent. We look away from ourselves.  We turn from our rebellious, treasonous ways. We renounce all our self-righteous deeds.  We gladly submit and surrender our lives to His sweet sovereignty as the one who alone has the right to govern our lives.


Atmospheric Repentance

August 17, 2011

That’s a new term I learned from Dr. David Powlison after watching the video below.  Atmospheric repentance is based on the initial cry of the Reformation as articulated by Martin Luther in the first of his 95 Thesis:

When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

The point is that the expectation of every follower of Christ is to experience Godward change and transformation that begins with the heart.  The means by which we become more and more like Christ is through repentance and faith as the gospel mode of operation.  Christians are commonly called “believers” because of faith in Jesus Christ.  Christians should also commonly be called “repenters” because we are daily turning from sin and self-reign to glad submission to the reign and rule of Christ as King.  Our response to Christ is simultaneously a repenting faith or believing repentance, and when that characterizes the predisposition of a follower of Christ, it is atmospheric.

Those “not far from the kingdom” may be farther than you think

November 22, 2010

Reflecting on the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 makes me think about the temptation to legislate morality by arbitrarily judging which sinners we think are most “savable.”  If the Temple that day were a typical Sunday morning, I presume most churches would cater to the man with moral superiority.  He shows interest in religion and shows a genuine desire to “get right” with God. We cater because he is most like us, over against the other scandalous men like adulterers, extortioners, and tax collectors.  After all, they don’t come across all that “receptive” in the seeker kind of way.  No, this latter group classifies people less savable, so we think, because their lives are really jacked up.  They are far from the kingdom while the moral man like us is “not far from the kingdom.”

Perhaps because we feel encouraged by the moral man’s sincere attempts of being good, we tend to ease off on the gospel.  After all, he is not as bad a sinner as the rest of the guys who really need a healthy preaching of the gospel, right?  I would submit to you just the opposite is true.  Those we think are “not far from the kingdom” are really farther than we think because they have convinced themselves they are not as bad as they really are, and therefore the good news for sinners is substituted for good advice for those who simply need a little self-help.


No one needs the gospel more than me.

March 11, 2010

This morning, I enjoyed another meeting with two young men of Grace (my A-team) at Panera talking about being faithful to apply the gospel to our own heart.  If I truly know myself, we will be quick to confess that the worst sinner in the room at any given time is me.  Therefore, there is no one who needs the gospel more than me.  This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others.  When my heart is renewed in the gospel and utterly satisfied with all that God is for me in Jesus Christ, then the joyful overflow of the gospel’s work will enlarge my affections for the lost and loose my tongue to share of the amazing mercies found in Him.

The gospel should never be like that computer file stuck in your hard drive that has not been accessed in over a year so that it is impossible to find.  Instead, when the gospel is retrieved time and again on a regular basis, it be readily accessed to share and for others to “download” for themselves.  If we believe that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) we cannot limit that transforming work to a brief period at the beginning of a Christian life.  For those who are being saved, it is the power of God unto salvation in an ongoing basis as we see more of God’s excellencies, expose our sinful depravity, and increasingly exult in the glories of Jesus Christ who is for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Let me give you a personal example from this morning . . .


Forgiveness – is it unconditional or conditional?

December 12, 2009

A couple of days ago, I pitched this question to folks on Twitter and Facebook.  The disagreements on the issue of forgiveness is not one that is divided between conservatives and liberals but between conservatives and conservatives.  Since forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith and that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us in Christ (Eph. 4:32), then it is important that understand why and how we should forgive one another.

The Issues

The fundamental issue is whether forgiveness is unconditional (not dependent upon the repentance of the offender) or conditional (granted only when the offender has repented and asked for it).  Both camps would argue that repentance is necessary for reconciliation between the offender and offended parties, but those in the unconditional camp would argue that repentance is not required for forgiveness.  In order, then, it would look something like this:

Sin/Offense –> Forgiveness –>Repentance –> Reconciliation (Unconditional)
Sin/Offense –> Repentance –> Forgiveness –> Reconciliation (Conditional)

As you can see, the key issue is the role that repentance plays in differentiating granting forgiveness and actual reconciliation between two people. Let me attempt to provide the case for each position, as best I can understand them.


Heaven – Home of Gospel-Embracing Repenters

October 13, 2009

Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Because heaven is a prepared place, our Christian lives should be characterized by rejoicing and anticipating being with the Lord.  Because heaven is for a prepared people our Christian lives should be characterized by repentance and turning away from ourselves.  Therefore, the Christian life is both one of rejoicing and repentance, at the same time.  In fact, it could be said that, though we mourn over and hate our sin, our repentance should be joyful knowing that God has promised bring to fulfillment that which he began in us, namely the glorification of His Son in us.  There is no genuine joy without thorough repentance, and genuine repentance ought to bring about increasing joy as sin is displaced and we draw nearer to Jesus.

We often call Christians “believers”.  “We are a gathering of believers . . .” but Christians are also “repenters,” so why don’t refer to a gathering of repenters?  Our response to the gospel at conversion is both – a repenting faith or believing repentance, and our response to the gospel from that moment on is the same.  The more we behold Jesus by faith as seen in the gospel, the more we are transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another.  If there are no degrees of glory being experienced on earth, then what, pray tell, would such a professing Christian claim to experience in heaven?  The very degrees of glory we experience in the daily transformation of our lives through repentance and faith are meant to be a foretaste of the fullness of glory to be seen when we are “taken up into glory.”  To miss it here is to forfeit it there.


Repentance must keep pace

October 10, 2009

“With every increase of mercy you receive from God there will be an accompanying increase of responsibility. . . . As you grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and receive more and more of His mercies with each passing day, your repentance must keep pace.  Any failure here is an open demonstration of a lack of love and appreciation for the boundless mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Tragic is the case of any individual whose repentance does not increase with the gifts and graces of God he daily receives.”

– Richard Owen Roberts, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, 297.

Repentance is perpetual

October 9, 2009

“[Repentance] is perpetual. . . . The Christian is a new person in Christ, but he is imperfectly renewed.  He has died to sin and has been raised to new life.  But this mortification and vivification continue throughout the whole course of his life on earth.  We are no longer what we once were, but we are not yet what God calls us to become; and as long as that is the case we are called to an ongoing battle for holiness.

[ . . .] Repentance does not merely begin the Christian life.  According to Scripture, the Christian life is repentance from beginning to end!  So long as the believer is simul justus et peccator (at the same time righteous and yet a sinner), it can be no other way.

[ . . .] True repentance can never be reduced to a single act only found at the beginning of the Christian life.  It arises in the context of our union with Jesus Christ; and since its goal is our restoration into the image of Christ, it involves the ongoing practical outworking of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection–what Calvin calls mortification and vivification–that is, being conformed to Christ crucified and risen.”

– Sinclair Ferguson, The Grace of Repentance, 20, 28, 30.

We are not antinomians . . . we have something to do – repent.

October 8, 2009

“Repentance is necessary for God’s own people, who have a real work of grace.  They must offer up a daily sacrifice of tears.  The Antinomians hold that when any come to be believers, they have a writ of ease, and there remains nothing for them now to do but to rejoice.  Yes, they have something else to do, and that is to repent.  Repentance is a continuous act.  The issue of godly sorrow must not be quite stopped till death.  Jerome, writing in an epistle to Laeta, tells her that her life must be a life of repentance.  Repentance is called crucifying the flesh (Gal. 5:24), which is not done on a sudden, but leisurely; it will be doing all our life.

Search with the candle of the word into your hearts and see if you can find no matter for repentance there:

1.  Repent of your rash censuring.
2.  Repent of your vain thoughts.
3.  Repent of your vain fashions.
4.  Repent of your decays of grace.
5.  Repent of your non-improvements of talents.
6.  Repent of your forgetfulness of sacred vows.
7.  Repent of your unanswerableness to blessings received.
8.  Repent of your worldliness.
9.  Repent of your divisions.
10. Repent for the iniquity of your holy things.

Behold here repenting work cut out for the best.  And that which may make the tide of grief swell higher is to think that the sins of God’s people do more provoke God than do the sins of others.  The sins of the wicked pierce Christ’s side.  The sins of the godly go to his heart.”

– Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, 69-72.

Repentance and the Glory of God

October 8, 2009

Romans 3:23 is a verse that man Christians should be familiar with–“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Typically, this verse is spoken to emphasize the universal nature of sin and man’s need for rescue, and rightly so.  But rarely if ever does the last phrase receive much attention.

Sin is described in various ways throughout the Bible, whether iniquity, transgression, lawlessness, or here as “missing the mark.”  The mark is the glory of God.  We were created for it, rather for Him.  God put us on this earth that we might be to the praise of His glory, and yet because of the devastating impact of the Fall and our sinful nature, we exchange the glory of God for the glory of ourselves.  We have each went astray and turned to our own way (Isa. 53:6)–a way manifesting the hidden idolatry of our hearts and vain pursuits of meaningful existence without God.

Sin is what caused us from glorying God outside of Christ and what keeps us from glorifying God when we “in Christ.” Turning from sin and to the living God in a lifestyle of repentance addresses the very thing that prevents us from glorying God (negatively) and is the means by which pursue God in holiness (positively).  Gospel-centered repentance is inherently glorious, because it is in the gospel we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and are changed into His image.  That change is brought about by joyful repentance of having seen and been satisfied by the God you’re called to glorify through genuine transformation of the heart (turning from idols to serve the living God – 1 Thess. 1:9).

When we are given over to sin, we are saying at that moment, “I am more satisfied in ________ than Jesus Christ.  I find my purpose, significance, identity in __________ than Jesus Christ.”  How can our affections which have become weights to pull us down into depths of depravity be transformed into wings which lift us heavenward?  We who have been in “the domain of darkness” need the “light of the gospel” to shine in our hearts to see sin for what it is and to embrace Christ as a great Savior of great sinners.  Meditating on the gospel and preaching it to ourselves are important means of grace to cause our hearts to rejoice in Jesus, being satisfied in all that He is for us, all that He has done in us, and all that He promises to do through us.  Only when we are satisfied more in Jesus than anything in this world will our repentance from sin produce the deep, transforming work that we so desperately need.

All those who love the glory of God must necessarily love the gospel, and all those who passionately embrace the gospel must necessarily respond regularly in a repenting faith in Jesus who died to redeem us from the “futile ways handed down from our forefathers,” not the least of whom is Adam.  When our repentance is gospel-induced, our repentance is driven by a delight in God and the mercies in Christ Jesus rather than mere determination to make behavioral improvements.  Our repentance should be mercy-inspired and fueled by grace, lest our very attempts of repentance prove to be vainglory and yet another expression of just much we indeed fall short.

May the God who grants us repentance be pleased to be glorified in those who, in light of the gospel, are satisfied with His Son and regularly abandon broken cisterns for the well of living water.

True Repentance: A Wound That Bleeds Till Glory

October 7, 2009

“[Repentance] is not a transient action, as Papists and some ignorant creatures imagine, as if a sigh for sin, an act of sorrow for it, a confession of it with a ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ were repentance.  No, no; these may be acts of repentance while they proceed from a truly penitent heart.  But repentance itself is not a passing act, but an abiding grace (Zech. 12:10); a continuing frame and disposition of the soul; a principle lying deep in the heart, disposing a man to mourn for and turn from sin on all occasions.

It is not the passing work of the first days of one’s religion, as some professors take it to be; but a grace in the heart, setting one to an answerable working all the days of his life.  It is a spring of waters of sorrow in the heart for sin, which will spring up there while sin is here, though sometimes through hardness of heart it may be stopped for a while.

They that look on repentance as the first stage in the way to heaven, and looking back to the sorrowful hours which they had when the Lord first began to deal with them, reckon that they have passed the first stage, are in a dangerous conditionAnd whoever endeavours not to carry on their repentance, I doubt if they ever at all repented yet. As when Moses had smote the rock in the wilderness, and the waters began to gush out, those waters ran and followed them in the wilderness: so the heart first smitten with repentance for sin at the soul’s first conversion to god, the wound still bleeds, and is never bound up to bleed no more, until the band of glory be put about it in heaven (Rev. 21:4).

Hence initial and progressive repentance, though the former be the repentance of a sinner, the latter of a saint, are no more different kinds of repentance, than the soul’s virgin love to Christ, and their love to him through the course of their spiritual marriage with him; or than faith in the first, and after actings.  But as the midday and evening sun are the same with the morning sun, so are these; though the rising morning sun may be most noticed by the traveler, who having traveled in the night, was thereby brought from darkness to light.”

– Thomas Boston, Repentance: Turning from Sin to God – What It Means and Why It’s Necessary, 31-32 (emphasis mine).

The Need for Ongoing Repentance

October 6, 2009

“Since believers are not perfected in this life and the flesh relentlessly assaults the Spirit, there is need for continual repentance subsequent to conversion. . . . Ongoing repentance in the Christian life involves sorrow for sin, a deliberate turning from sin, honest confession of known sins (1 John 1:8-9; James 5:16), making restitution wherever possible (Acts 26:20), mortifying the old nature (Col. 2:11; 3:5, 8-9), and putting on the new self (Col. 3:10).  Repentance thus is an important constituent in the believer’s life of sanctification and perseverance until finally perfected in glory.

[ . . .] Scripture thus calls men and women not only to an initial conversion to Christ that enrolls them among the justified, but to a continual conversion that makes them more like Jesus Christ in word and deed.  Progressive conversion validates the reality of initial conversion.  It provides public proof that the seed of the Word has fallen on good soil (Matt. 13:23).  Only by the exercise of daily repentance and daily faith can the saints become more Christlike, more fruitful, and more glorifying to God.”

– Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation, 270-271 (emphasis mine).

Repentance won’t be regular if the gospel isn’t central

October 6, 2009

For the past couple of months, I have been focusing on the functional centrality of the gospel.  Tim Keller rightly argues, “The gospel is not just the A-B-C-‘s but the A to Z of Christianity.  The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom.”

The gospel way of progress in the kingdom is repentance toward God and faith in Jesus.  If the gospel is simply the A-B-C-‘s, then repentance will be emphasized only at the point of conversion, and, much like the gospel, will be shelved and replaced with rededications and resolutions directed to self-determination rather than self-crucifixion, to looking inwardly for resources that are not there rather than looking to Christ whose gospel promises are everything we need for life and godliness.

What followers of Christ desperately need is transformation from the heart, not behavioral modification.  Deep transformation is perpetual when repentance is regular, and repentance is regular when the gospel is central. We need to address not only the fruit of our sin but the root out of which it grows (the heart).  And only see ourselves through the lens of the gospel can enable us and give us sufficient courage to transparently expose our sin for what it is in the eyes of God (wickedness) while at the same time providing boundless hope and comfort in the greater grace abundantly supplied the atoning work of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Repentance will be seen as negative and foreign to the same degree that the gospel is assumed or forgotten.  And yet a life of repentance is the normal Christian life.  Substituting gospel-induced repentance with any other counterfeit robs you from the joy in the faithful and fresh mercies of Christ and prevents you from experiencing renewal in the heart wherein the character of Christ is to be formed.  The same Spirit who convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment is the same Spirit who sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts (Rom. 5:5) and causes us to revel in the adoption we have received as sons and daughters of God.

When the gospel is central in our lives, we will grow in our awareness of the holiness of God and at the same time our awareness of our sin and depravity.  What this means is that we recognize how much we need Jesus Christ–his death (to atone for our sin and pitiful pretending to be okay) and his life (to be clothed in his righteousness instead of performing out of self-righteousness).  The more we understand the character of God and his ways, and recognize more and more areas in our lives that do not conform to His purpose, will, and ways, then repentance will necessarily become greater and more regular.  If the gospel is not central, we are prone to create a new standard than God’s character and law and give superficial treatment to sin by avoiding the idol factory that is our heart.  As those who are called to reflect God’s glory, we simply cannot afford to do this.  His kingdom is established from the inside out, and the evidence of the reign of King Jesus will be seen when we take seriously and apply regularly his first word . . .


Our repentance has to be enlarged

October 6, 2009

“We need to realize that while God’s acceptance of each Christian believer is perfect from the start, our repentance always needs to be extended further as long as we are in this world.  Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.”

– J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 87.

Continual Repentance

October 4, 2009

This week (and maybe longer), I am going to give particular attention to the subject of repentance in the Christian life.  By that I do not mean repentance at the point of conversion but the ongoing work of repentance at every point from conversion until complete conformity to Christ.  Martin Luther, signaling the start of the Reformation through his 95 Theses, began on this note:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

I believe this is one of the most underrated truths in contemporary evangelicalism, and I want to draw our attention to the fact that our entire lives should be one of repentance.  Here is a prayer from the Valley of Vision called “Continual Repentance” that I am praying for myself and those who seek to join me in the upcoming days.