Repentance…..the righteous response, to unrighteous behavior!

Hebrews 12:12-13 “therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”

The struggle with sin as new creations in Christ is very real and very difficult, because the influence of sin is very real and very strong, though we are not enslaved to it anymore and there is no power over us, the influence on our flesh is still very much a reality of this life, and can be daunting at times. But we must take to heart the words that John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, “for He who is in you, is greater than he that is in the world”[3:30]. These words affirm the timeless truths that we know about God, Christ, and the power through His Spirit to combat the influence of sin as we navigate this fallen world living in victory for His glory.

The doors of the jail of sin have been opened by Jesus’ work on the cross, and we have been given the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk out. Most of the time when we find ourselves in a rut of sin, it is due to a poor mindset, whether it be a low view of God and His holiness, a low view of Christ’s work on the cross, or a cheapened view of grace due to a casual view of sin. This poor mindset, can lead to a passivity in our sanctification that is unbiblical, and can lead to years wasted in “captivity” to particular sins. Much like the individual sitting in a jail cell with the door wide open, being held captive by their mind only, is the Christian who has not had real freedom from a particular sin. There is no actual bondage that is physically restraining us anymore, we are a new creation, with a new nature, therefore the captivity is one that is self-induced, due to an unbiblical mindset. Whether it is for a moment, or for a season, it must be dealt with promptly and biblically.

The sobering truth is, that, as redeemed souls, existing in unredeemable housing (flesh), there will inevitably be failures along the way. And just so I don’t soften the doctrine of sin, lets call these failures what they really are, which is sin, which defined further is “missing the mark”. I guess you would have to go further than that and define the “mark” as well. My thought is, that it is Christ, He is our focus, He is our mark or bull’s-eye, and He is our trajectory. Our calling, purpose, and thus our aim should be to glorify God by living in submission to His Son, anything outside of this, in my humble opinion is sin.   Keeping Christ as our focus, and motivation for holy living we should place more emphasis on living victoriously in Christ, but we can’t neglect studying, teaching, and practicing the biblical response when we do falter and sin.

{sidebar: based on my own imperfect thoughts on what sin is, I can see how I daily fall short of God’s glory, whether it is impure thoughts or motives, or a split second of selfishness, anger or pride, an afternoon of grumbling, or a night of laziness. When we take the time to think correctly on the holiness of God, it doesn’t take one long to realize that when compared to the HOLY ONE, even on our best days, our lives look like a pigs trough. We have Isaiah 6:5 as an example of the contrast between God’s holiness and mans “holiness”. Isaiah a prophet of God, that as far as I know, was living a life in full submission to God, and these are his words when it comes to his obedience “Woe is me for I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips”. Even in complete obedience to the Lord, our very best is as “filthy rags” when placed in front of a Holy God. So on my very best days, when I am serving others selflessly, I fall way short of Gods glory (hence the reason for God Incarnate, to live for me). However, for the purpose of this post I am not addressing that humanness, that is embedded in us (even though if that was our worst we still would need a Savior), I am focusing more on the big blunders, major mistakes, and the foolish follies, that most, if not all can claim.}

Why is it important to learn how to respond biblically to sin after we have been foolishly led astray and snared by our desire [James 1:14]?

One reason is contained in Romans 8:28 (and 29 for context), “and we know that for those who love God ALL things work together for good”. This might be a “profound” statement, but all means all.   Before we go deeper with what “all” entails, we need to make sure we define good by vs. 29, which is “to be conformed to the image of His Son”. Good doesn’t mean more money, a better house, a more beautiful girlfriend, better job, or perfect health. Good means being more like Christ, or in other words, whatever is being worked out in my life by God, is ultimately in view of conforming me more like the image of Christ. That may mean that I am more like Christ living in a 750 sq ft condo, than living in a 4,000 sq ft house, it may mean I am more like Christ being single, than I would being married (for a season or for life). Or it may even mean that with the cancer diagnosis I am more conformed to the image of Christ by the humility and total reliance on God that a disease like that would allow for a regenerate soul. I don’t want anyone to misinterpret what I am saying, and it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t bless us with temporal health, a spouse, and or money. But I often hear when there is a layoff, or a broken relationship, people refer to this verse, using it to mean a better job is around the corner, or a more beautiful person to date is waiting in the bull pin. That may not be God’s will for your life, and you may be more conformed to the image of Christ without some of those things, but regardless it is not for us to decide what is best for our lives.

Now lets deal with the “ALL”. All means all, it is that simple, the good, the bad, and the ugly can all conform us to Christs’ image. I do have to be careful here, because in terms of sin, one could inadvertently say that God uses sin to conform us to Christ, this is simply not true, it cannot be true cause it opposes the nature of GOD.  God in His very character of holiness, has no participation in sin whether directly or indirectly when it comes to our lives, He sent His Son to eradicate the power and the penalty of sin. James 1:13 affirms this truth, that God does not tempt us. The responsibility of sin lies completely and utterly on the head of the sinner, whether redeemed or unredeemed.

*However, God, in His divine wisdom and power takes the evil sting out of sin and uses it as a means of bringing good to his children…. this has to be true if we take “all things” to mean all things. Along with suffering and temptation, sin is not good at all in fact it is the antithesis of good, I think this is remarkable that God can use this for our good, it shows the extent of His power and wisdom, we need to recognize that God does not use sin as an instrument of His righteousness, that would be the biggest contradiction, the Lord uses sin for our good by ruling over it, canceling its normal evil effects and miraculously substituting His benefits. God can cause our own sin to work for our good, by leading us to despise sin and to desire holiness, when we fail we should see our weaknesses as they are, and it should be more evident that we need to earnestly seek GOD for restoration and strength, as well as highlight His perfect standard that is 100% impossible to uphold (hence the need for faith in Christ and His work). God can use the sin of others for your good… their failures, consequences, and pain can and will serve as great examples to learn from.

(* referenced John MaCarthur commentary, because of the implication of wrongly phrasing this)

The other reason why understanding the proper response to sin, is so important, is because we can learn a lot about our relationship to God, or as sad as the reality is, maybe lack of relationship with God. I don’t say this flippantly, and I am not basing this on my own opinion and or experience (which I have both, and will share soon), but the Bible gives us 2 men that were chosen by God as Kings of Israel, one responded appropriately to his sin, and the other did not, in both cases each man revealed the true condition of their heart, through their responses, we should use these examples to examine our own hearts.

The 1st man was the son of Kish, and was the most handsome man in all of Israel, and the 2nd was a small unassuming shepherd boy. Both were chosen by God to be anointed as Kings over Israel by the prophet Samuel, (in fact back to back), and both sinned against God. With these similar circumstances, the one difference between the 2, becomes strikingly contrasted, which is why I think we can learn from this, as how, as redeemed sinners made righteous by the blood of Christ, we are to respond when we sin, which should be less and less and we grow in Christ. I like the old saying “We are not called to be sinless, but rather to sin-less.

I’m talking of course of Saul and David. Saul responds to his sin (which by human standards, seems to be a lesser offense than David’s), by not coming clean. He makes excuses as to why he did not follow the Lord’s command. Either he was self deceived or he was trying to weasel out of his blunder, none the less it was not a forthright response, and his fear was not of God but of the people [1 Samuel 15]. We see God’s righteous judgment of Saul vastly different than His righteous judgment on David.

By contrast we have David a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14], who’s sin (adultery and murder), seems to over shadow (by human standard) the sin that Saul committed, by not devoting to destruction every man, woman, child, and beast (which is what the Lord specifically commanded of him). So what is the difference between the two? We see the response from David when he was made known of his sin to be short, simple, but very truthful. He acknowledges, who he has transgressed, even though there was obvious damage to others, he immediately recognizes that the sin is ultimately against the Lord only, and there is no way to wiggle out of a sin against the omnipotent, omniscient, holy Almighty One.

I should be clear here,  I am not suggesting that we are cleared or justified by our “work” of confession and repentance of sin, but rather that as new creations that are imputed the righteousness of Christ through faith in Him, His work, and His resurrection, there is a righteous response to sin, which is confession of that sin, and repentance that is born out of a godly grief, we have from sinning against the Holy GOD. 2 Corinthians 7:10-12 teaches us that there is a worldly grief and a godly grief. The earnestness of godly grief will produce an eagerness to clear yourself, knowing we cant clear ourselves it is the eagerness to put that sin behind you and to strive harder and gain victory through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. It also produces indignation, anger against that sin and the foolish compromise that by your own desire, were snared upon. It will lead to fear, this has to be stated carefully for there is no more fear of condemnation, as a child of God [Romans 8:1], but as we soberly contemplate, the foolish exchange of the fountain of life for broken cisterns [Jeremiah 2:13], (in that moment of transgression), there should be a fear (reverence and awe) as we humbly approach the Holy One with our confession. Both Paul and Peter spoke of this fear that we should have as we conduct our lives, knowing that there will be a day when we give an account for the, carefulness or carelessness, of how we lived our lives. [1 Peter 1:17, Phil 2:12].

David’s words in his song of deliverance that was penned in 2 Samuel 22:23-24 says, “For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside. I was blameless before him and I kept myself from guilt”. This was the reminder that I needed, and that some of you may need, How can these words be true? Especially if these words were penned after the Bathsheba affair, which to my knowledge they were. How can one consider themselves blameless after a blatant blunder like that? It is because righteousness was counted to him not on the basis of his life, but through his faith in God [Romans 4, used Abraham, but applicable to David]. His righteous response to his sin did not clear him, but it showed his heart, and it showed his submission to GOD.

Hopefully I convey this correctly, but in that moment of realizing my sin, when I falter, where there is nothing but utter brokenness, humility, and contrition, my theology seems to be as flawless as it will ever be here on earth. In that moment the holiness of God is unthinkable and I see more clearly the infinite chasm between the Almighty and I, but before my heart sinks to a seemingly unreachable abyss, His amazing love for me reminds me of Hebrews 4:16, which I cant even type without forcibly restraining tears. The writer of Hebrews reminds me that I have a great High Priest, that is able to sympathize of my weakness, and because of this fact I can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” Oh how sweet those words echo in my mind as I view the immensity and holiness of God, that me not even a blip on the screen, can in the privacy of my bedroom, bow on my knees and speak to the Creator of all!

It is this amazing verse, that ties in with the passage that started this post, which basically tells me to get up and wipe the dust off, stand up straight, act like a man of God, wipe the tears from my eyes, and get back on the straight and narrow and strive for holiness, and deal with any consequences that may have resulted from my sin. It is bad enough that we may fall to blatant sin, but this is compounded by the work of the enemy as he will tempt an individual into wallowing in the wake of the sin, with the stench of defeat lingering for days, weeks, or even months. Don’t let this happen, read Hebrews 12 and get back in the saddle, and run the race with endurance, laying aside every weight and sin that clings closely, looking to our Founder and Perfecter of our faith, JESUS!.  Guilt, shame and the resultant grief, are amazing gifts from God to lead us to repentance, HOWEVER, once repentance has been reached, all guilt and shame must be fully released, if not the enemy will terrorize you, and perhaps tempt you into a sin greater than the first, which would be to doubt the authority of God, doubting the power and depth of His grace, as well as questioning His faithfulness. We are called to persevere in our life, but that is only the view from under the tapestry, the view from above the tapestry is God preserving us, it is not our grip on Him, but His faithful grip on us that keeps us in this eternal relationship. Paul understanding this wrote Romans 8 to encourage and affirm the truth that nothing in all of creation, (and that includes my biggest threat which is myself), can separate us from the love of GOD.

Sin is the worlds biggest rip off of all time, see it for what it is worth, which is smoke and mirrors meant to dazzle your flesh with empty promises of satisfaction in every realm. The source of complete satisfaction is Christ, and none other can compare or come close. Christ says in John 4:14 “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again”. He needs to be our focus, not the sin. The crux of victory over sin is, Christ, and staying satisfied in Him alone. Staying satisfied in Him, requires that we abide in Him, as a branch abides in the vine, apart from the vine the branch withers and is collected to be burned as kindling [John 15]. Abiding in Him, starts by letting His word abide in us, which will shape us through the renewal of our mind [Romans 12:2]. The more you are satisfied in Christ, the more obedient to Him you become, and the more obedient you become, the more satisfied you become, because now you are fulfilling your role that God purposed you for as “ his workmanship, created Christ for good works” [Eph 2:10]

Imagine hall of famer Babe Ruth, carefully and diligently fashioning the worlds most perfect bat, for the purpose to hit grand slams with.  That bat was designed and set apart with a very specific and glorious purpose, to hit grand slams with and win games, and thus bring glory to the creator Babe Ruth.  When that bat is used to hit a grand slam and win a game, it is completely satisfied and it’s perfect purpose was fulfilled (imagination required here), because it was designed to hit grand slams and win games, bringing glory to its creator.  Now over the course of its lifetime, the bat will make contact with the ball thousands of times, some of them will be line drives, singles, doubles, triples, RBI”S, even some foul balls here and there, but through out it all, it is never as satisfied as when it fulfills, its created purpose.

Our fulfillment MUST be in Christ, victory over sin starts with Christ, and He must be our source of complete fulfillment! Recall the words of John 4:14, the next time you are tempted by slogans that promise satisfaction!

I must leave you with the words from Oswald Chambers:

Repentance always brings a man to this point: I have sinned. The surest sign that God is at work is when a man says that and means it. Anything less than this is remorse for having made blunders, the reflex action of disgust at himself. The entrance into the Kingdom is through the panging pains of repentance crashing into a man’s respectable goodness; then the Holy Ghost, Who produces these agonies, begins the formation of the Son of God in the life. The new life will manifest itself in conscious repentance and unconscious holiness, never the other way about. The bedrock of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a man cannot repent when he chooses; repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for the gift of tears. If ever you cease to know the virtue of repentance, you are in darkness. Examine yourself and see if you have forgotten how to be sorry.”

May God be glorified!

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6 thoughts on “Repentance…..the righteous response, to unrighteous behavior!

  1. Without repentance no man can be saved (Luke 13:3) and without repentance there will be no revival (2 Chronicles 7:14). Repentance should be a continual position of the believers heart in order to grow more into the likeness of Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen! Thanks for stating this, I hear far to often from Christians that they “had repented”, as if it was a one time event, it is not a one time event, at least for me I find my self daily turning away from selfish mindsets and desires, and turning to Christ!

      “Repentance should be a continual position of the believers heart”…….beautifully captured!!

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      1. Amen!!! Spoken like a true Puritan!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Amen! josh.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, when I see your new post come in I have to wait until my day off to read them, seriously, reading our post is like preparing for a movie. Most people grab a blanket, popcorn and a beverage before they watch a movie and they are in deep anticipation about what will take place in the movie. Last night at 11:30pm I grabbed a $1.00 taco from deltaco, a bag of chips and a Gatorade, before reading your post. Dan, I am so move by your writing so academic as well as theologically sound. I especially like your sidebars, wow! They tie it together and make the application gentle as being hit by a Mack truck. Powerful writing well deserving to be published by IVP (International varsity press) http://www.ivpress.com

    I will not bore you by recapping the entire paper, but I must tell you. Reading your work has inspired me to grow deeper in my walk with the Lord. I anticipate each post that you distribute. Please continue to take your time and feed us as the Lord places words on your heart. I seriously wait until my day off to read your post so that I may have the proper to reflect, just as you take the proper time to write! Well-done Sir, absolutely amazing! Just as we grow in sanctification we grow in repentance as well, it is hard to fathom His ways, but I thank Him for His grace!

    Thank you again Brother may the God of glory richly bless you!

    Paul Perry

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Speechless and humbled, all in the same breath! God’s grace is at work through the medium of writing, because I know that I can barely speak 2 sentences that make sense, much less place words in coherent sentences that form paragraphs and thoughts. Praise God for His slowness to anger, for I have certianly tried His patience over the years. What an amazing God we serve to use us for His purpose

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