Sometimes, when God wants to teach us, a theme starts cropping up wherever we Go. We aren’t looking for it, but it seems to be looking for us. So it has been for me lately. Many of my friends, who like to center on the unconditional love of God, are suddenly wrestling with the role repentance should play in our coming to Jesus for the frree gift of eternal life. How free is it? Many of us are struggling to see how repentance and grace fit together.
Meanwhile, I’ve just started writing another book: ITwelve Things The Blood Of Jesus Has Done For You. So far, I’ve written only the rough draft of the introduction, but I’ve found that words like “repent” or “believe” can get lost in a worldview that predominated at a point in history.
Somehow, today’s church seems to have a hard time believing that repentance may be a gracious gift from a loving God. Instead, many of us seem to see repentance as a last-ditch desperate measure some of us my need as we try to negotiate with God the Father, who seems to be an exceptionally thorough and zealous prosecutor who is looking for every possible reason to scuttle us into hell.
Yes, Jesus has paid a huge price to enable us to escape our well-earned death sentence, but believing the gospel seems too easy. Surely God demands our repentance. At the very least, He would expect us o be sorry for our sins, especially since it was our sins that nailed Him to the cross.
And with the stories we’ve all heard of revival, many of us have fixated on the angry evangelist who preaches for a God who is angry with transgressors. How dare we tell them the good news of Jesus until we’ve first told them the bad news that they’ve broken God’s law and are on the way to hel
Perhaps our model for the fire-breathing evangelist is John the Baptist. He commanded people to repent, lest they drop into hell. But then Jesus came with “good news,” that the kingdom of heaven had drawn near. Then He called people to repent and believe the good news.
What is repentance? The Greek word used here also means a change of mind – a change in how we see ourselves, how we see God, and how we see one another. This inner change will necessarily cause us to change our actions.
The repentance John demanded was repentance that might avert a threat. The repentance Jesus preached seems to be an invitation to embrace an overwhelmingly positive transformation.
Do you think I’m overstating it? For John’s style, read Matthew 3:1-12. Then, for Jesus’ style, read Matthew 4: 12-25. But as Jesus called His first disciples, He called them with the language of transformation: “Follow Me, and I will make you. Into fishers of men.”
Their repentance therefore would work itself out as they simply followed Him, sand Jesus would transform them.
So whom do we feel called to follow? If we’re John’s disciples, we need to warn people to repent before they drop into hell. But if we feel called to follow Jesus, we will find ourselves inviting people into a transformational repentance that will empower us to learn to live as Jesus lived, at the intersection of heaven and earth.
Paul would write later about this transformation in Romans 12:2. “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The whole new covenant is a covenant of transformation. Wheneever we repent, we get to make choices that speed this transformation along. And as we follow Jesus closely, He will make us into a heavenly people, into something we could not become merely by our own efforts.
Stan Smith :: © 2011, GospelSmith :: http://www.GospelSmith.com