Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Doctrine of Repentance

We are at war. It is a deadly war and it’s a lot closer to us than the war being fought in Iraq. I’m speaking of course of the war against sin (Matthew 11:12; Romans 7:23; Ephesians 6:10-17). As I’m typing this I’ve had to work at repenting from my anger. My computer is bi-polar and today is the day it won’t cooperate with me. This presents a great temptation to say and think ungodly things. As silly as that may sound to you most of our sinning is not planned out. We react. We spill over. So battling sin begins with saturating our minds and seasoning our lips with God’s Word (see James 3:1-12). Even then however, we are still in the process of being sanctified and we will sin as long as we have breath on this earth. We fight back through repentance.

Repentance is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied doctrines of the Bible. Repentance is not the same as being sorry. It is more than confession. It is more than seeking forgiveness. Repentance is the willful act of changing directions. Repentance is bound up in faith. To have faith in Christ you have to repent from whatever else you were clinging to before, namely sin. Jesus called us to repent (Luke 13:3). Peter preached repentance (Acts 2:38). Paul wrote to the church about it (2 Corinthians 7:8-13). In fact, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians provides us with some very clear instructions about what repentance looks like. Repentance begins with sorrow. Godly sorrow is not just being sorry you got caught and it goes beyond just being remorseful. Godly sorrow ought to move us to change. Paul lists seven qualities of repentance:

1) Earnestness (this is to be serious about change);
2) Vindication of yourselves (this is to seek and show evidence of reform);
3) Indignation (this is to loathe-not love- the sin itself);
4) Fear (this is to realize the holiness of God- see 1 John 5:16-17);
5) Longing (this is to eagerly desire integrity, trust, and relationships restored);
6) Zeal (this is passion to overcome sin); and
7) Avenging of wrong (this is to make every effort to help those whom you have hurt as a result of your sin).

This is the battle we must fight. It is a serious battle, but when we belong to Christ we do not fight in our own strength. The Holy Spirit works through us to refine us for God’s glory (1 Thess 4:1-8).

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