Just What Do You Mean,
deceived MILLIONS into accepting as a substitute for real, genuine
repentance? Just what are people to repent of, anyway? What is
“sin”? What is the truth about “human nature”? What is wrong
with how humans look at things? Have you EVER really repented
of your sins before God? Or is it all a charade – a religious “game”
of sorts – have you been ‘conned”? Here is a new look at true, godly,
Biblical, genuine repentance before God!
What is the Bible way -- the right way -- the only way of salvation?
On the day of Pentecost, in 30 A.D., shortly after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven, a large crowd heard the apostles preaching the gospel of Christ with power and conviction. As they heard the words of the gospel, they were smitten in their hearts. They knew then that they had been complicit in the murder and death of God’s anointed Messiah. We read in Acts: "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’”
Here we have set forth the Biblical answer revealing the true way to salvation. “Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts -38).
The first thing to do, after you learn the truth, and hear the Word of God, and are convicted by it, is to REPENT of your sins, your previous life and all its mistakes and shortcomings, and to accept Christ as your Savior, and be baptized in His name. The act of baptism symbolizes your whole hearted repentance and turning away from sin, and rising up out of that watery grave a new creature, a new creation, a new person, in Christ!
But what about that little word, “repent”?
“Repent,” Peter said. But what is real, true, honest-to-God, genuine repentance?
I was talking with a friend the other day, and this question came up. He had received a letter from and old friend of his saying that since learning the truth from this ministry, he feels that he should possibly be baptized over again – maybe his first baptism, years ago, in the Worldwide Church of God, was not really valid.
We discussed the matter at some length. I pointed out to my friend that indeed, sometimes a person’s baptism may not be valid. To be valid, one must keep all the Biblical requirements. First of all, one must understand what repentance is all about, and genuinely repent, and give one’s life to Christ, as Saviour, Redeemer, Master, Leader, Shepherd, King of kings and Lord of lords. It is not just a matter of “accepting Christ,” after walking up an aisle somewhere, or professing His as Saviour. That concept has indeed blinded the minds of millions, and deceived them into accepting a FALSE repentance that will not lead to salvation at all!
How many people think they are Christians, but are not? How many have been deceived by the Devil into a false conversion, a fraudulent repentance? Just what does it mean to be a TRUE Christian, anyway?
The apostle Paul was a real Christian. He understood it was both a daily and a life-time commitment. He knew it was not merely a “decision” for Christ – that was merely the “beginning.” He knew it involves a full, whole-hearted, deep and sincere LIFETIME COMMITMENT TO OBEY CHRIST AND FOLLOW HIM! Such a decision should not be taken lightly, flippantly, or superficially. It literally involves one’s WHOLE LIFE! In the future, it could even lead to one’s imprisonment for Christ’s sake, persecution on a horrific scale, separation from family, friends, loved ones – even to MARTYRDOM!
Paul explained to a court of law, before which he had been accused of being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 23:5), “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets” (verse 14).
Becoming a true, genuine Christian changed Paul’s whole life – turned it around completely. He had been a persecutor of Christians; now he was one of their foremost staunch proponents and defenders! (Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16).
Real repentance is far more than most people even begin to assume. It must involve one’s whole life and orientation. A complete change of habits and priorities. Otherwise, it means nothing – nothing at all!
Jesus Himself showed that being a true Christian is not merely accepting Christ, and saying you’ve “repented.” He explained, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ [ie. “professes” Christ] will enter the kingdom of heaven, but He who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt.7:21). He went on to explain that even ministers and pastors will be included in this category. He declared, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (verse 22-23).
Jesus went on to show what true repentance from sin involves. He asserted, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not DO them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (verses 24-27).
True repentance involves not just professing Christ, but DOING WHAT HE TAUGHT –OBEDIENCE to His commandments and teachings!
In counseling people about baptism, we point out to people that to become a Christian means who must forsake their old “way of life,” and begin to live according to the teachings of the Messiah, and the whole Word of God. As He Himself put it, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt.4:4). This concept is so important that it is repeated THREE TIMES in the Scriptures for triple emphasis (“three” in Scripture is the number of finality, decision). It is also found in Luke 4:4, and is actually a quotation from the Old Testament (Deut.8:3).
On that Pentecost in 30 A.D., Peter told the crowds that they needed to “repent” of their sins, accept Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God, and then to be baptized – and they would receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit within them (Acts ). In a second sermon, the next day, he told them, “Repent therefore and BE CONVERTED, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts ).
The word “repent” in Greek is metanoeo and means literally “to think differently, reconsider, (morally “feel compunction”). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines it more fully as, “to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent (to feel sorry that one has done this or that), of having offended someone (in this case, God Himself by one’s thoughts and lifestyle) . . . used especially of those who, conscious of their sins and with manifest tokens of sorrow, are intent on obtaining God’s pardon; to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins . . . i.e. conduct worthy of a heart changed and abhorring sin.” This word therefore begins with a change of mind, which leads to a change in conduct. Says Thayers, “especially the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the token and effects of which are GOOD DEEDS.”
The words “be converted” in this instance are the Greek epistrepho and means “to revert, come again, convert, turn (about), return, turn (again). Thayer’s defines it more fully as “to turn to . . . the worship of the true God,” “to cause to return, to bring back . . . to the love and obedience of God . . . to turn, turn oneself.”
The whole concept of repentance is summed up by the Hebrew word found in the Old Testament of teshuva or t’shuba. It is used by the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 18, and shows how God views human sin and lawlessness. Literally, it means “to return, to repent, to turn about.”
God says to the prophet, and to all His people, and all mankind, “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezek.18:4).
God goes on, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man TURNS FROM all his sins which he has committed, KEEPS all My statutes, and does what is LAWFUL and right, he shall surely LIVE; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.
“ ‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should TURN from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:20-23).
God declares, “Again, when a wicked man TURNS AWAY from all the transgressions which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he CONSIDERS AND TURNS AWAY from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely LIVE; he shall not die” (verses 27-28).
concludes, saying, “ ‘Therefore I will JUDGE you, O
The word for “repent” and “turn” in these verses is the Hebrew word shuwb and means “to turn back,” “to retreat.” Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon explains this word as “to turn about, to return,” “metaphorically, to be converted, as a sinner.” Figuratively, “to turn oneself, to any person or thing,” as to God. It also means to “cease from, leave off” anything, as to turn from an evil way, from sin, evil.”
But just what does God consider evil, sin, or wickedness? Just what is it we are to “repent OF”?
Ezekiel plainly says that we are to repent of “sin,” “wickedness,” and “transgressions” (Ezekiel -22). He also says that to repent and TURN FROM this sort of behavior means that the person “keeps ALL My statutes, and does what is LAWFUL AND RIGHT” (verse 21). “Lawful” means in obedience to the LAWS of God. “Right” means “righteous” or righteousness.”
David wrote, explaining this further, saying to God, “For ALL YOUR COMMANDMENTS are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172).
The apostle James put his finger squarely on the mark. He declared, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the LAW as transgressors. For whoever shall keep THE WHOLE LAW, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:8-12).
In other words, we must repent of SIN which is breaking God’s royal law, His code of statutes, commandments, and judgments.
The apostle John makes this perfectly plain. He wrote, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin IS lawlessness” (I John 3:4). I believe the King James Version makes this even more clear. It states: “Whosoever commiteth sin transgresseth also the law: for SIN IS the transgression of the LAW.”
For a person to “repent,” therefore, that person must become convicted of the fact that they have sinned – they are a sinner – lawbreaker – in God’s sight. They have transgressed His law – His commandments. They have failed to OBEY Him, His teaching, His statutes. This fact must sink down deeply into their heart, mind and soul.
As the prophet Isaiah put it, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
The apostle Paul points out that every human being is guilty of “sin” – falling short of the mark of God’s perfection. Even the most righteous, like Job, had sins deep inside, and were unworthy of God’s gift of salvation, apart from the forgiveness of God through Christ, and the help of Christ living IN us through the Holy Spirit, to perfect us and bring us to spiritual maturity and wholeness.
Paul wrote, “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no,, not one” (Romans ). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23).
Therefore, God sent Jesus Christ, His very own Son, to provide “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [mercy seat, margin] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed” (Rom.3:24-25).
John summed it all up in His gospel – the way of true salvation. He wrote: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John -17).
Christ came, the first time, to DIE for our sins – to pay the penalty of sin FOR us, in our stead, as our ransom – He sacrificed His life for us, so that we might be forgiven our sins and be reconciled to God. As Paul put it, “For indeed Christ, our Passover [lamb], was sacrificed for us” (I Cor.5:7). Paul also explained, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us [that is, a “sin offering” or sacrifice for us!], that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor.5:2-21).
This sacrifice on our behalf, however, is CONDITIONAL! It depends on our willingness to accept Christ as our Saviour, Redeemer, and Messiah, and our willingness to REPENT OF OUR SINS, turn away from lawlessness, and turning back to God and His way of life – our willingness to LIVE according to His commandments, laws, statutes, and judgments!
We must not only believe IN Christ, therefore, we must also BELIEVE AND OBEY what He taught! And He taught repentance from sin and obedience to God’s eternal Law, the Torah, the Word, of God Himself!
Many, today, who are false teachers, claim that Christ did away with the laws of God, and that all we have to do is simply “believe” on Him. But this is a terrible false EVIL teaching and is diabolically wrong! To believe IN Christ means to OBEY Christ!
Jesus Himself said, “Do NOT think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to FULFILL [ie. “fill full” to the brim and running over!]. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the LAW till all is fulfilled” (Matt.5:17-18).
Jesus told a young rich man who wanted to know the way to eternal life, “But if you want to enter into life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS” (Matt.19:17).
Judas Iscariot had “accepted Christ” – believed He was the Saviour. But he thought Jesus would establish God’s Kngdom then, and that he would have a high post in it. When he discovered that such was not to be, he became angry, upset, and plotted to betray Christ.
Later, after the foul deed was done, he felt sorry about it. He became remorseful, and “repented himself” (Matt.27:3, KJV). He was sorry for what he had done – miserable, in fact. But notice – the account says He repented “himself.” His repentance was not toward GOD! It did no good. It was not from the heart, but was self-serving.
True repentance does not merely mean being sorry for your past sins. Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Christ to the Pharisees for thirty pieces of silver, later “repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and alders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:3-5).
Judas repented – he was sorry. But then he went out and hanged himself! That kind of repentance is not genuine, godly repentance. It was a self-centered remorse and self-pity which in the end led to self destruction! God does not want us to feel bad about our sins, and then go out and commit suicide! That kind of repentance is a devilish repentance -- a false repentance!
At the other extreme, God does not want us to merely “accept Christ” in our “hearts,” and then continue living the way we always had been living. He does not want us to stay in that same old “rut” of existence, doing what pleases us and our families. We must come to realize that TRUE repentance involves SACRIFICE!
Let’s understand this!
What kind of repentance does God want?
Paul rebuked them for this sin, and commanded them “To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (verse 5). That is, they were to sternly rebuke him and put him out of the church, and cut off all fellowship with him. Paul sternly warned them that unless they repented of this sin, a little leaven (sin) would leaven the whole lump (the Church). They would soon all become spiritually contaminated!
What did the
Paul sent Titus to see how the
“For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it, though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.
“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces REPENTANCE leading to SALVATION not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
“For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (II Cor. 7:6-11).
Here is an example of true, genuine, godly repentance. Notice! It produces GOOD FRUIT! It does not lead to suicide or death. Rather, godly sorrow and repentance lead to a CHANGED LIFE! A total about face in the way you live! A complete CHANGE in the way you are going! A NEW OUTLOOK! A new attitude! It produces dramatic changes in your life style and approach toward living, a NEW SPIRIT -- a new you!
Godly sorrow and repentance leads you to CLEAN UP YOUR LIFE, to completely overhaul the way you LOOK at things! It leads to zeal, diligence to obey God and be found innocent and pure and useful in His sight! It leads to godly fear, that is, a deep-seated fear of falling back into sin, and the old way of life, the old way of looking at things, and living to please the self! It leads to a vehement desire to SERVE GOD and learn all you can about Him, and His truth!
Do you have THIS kind of desire, indignation, zeal, fear, fervency, hunger for God and His way?
If not – then have you truly, really “repented” of your sins?
Repentance of sin is not merely accepting Christ or an intellectual acknowledgment that you have sinned. It is not merely a matter of the mind, and mental, intellectual understanding -- it is also a matter of the heart. True repentance involves both the mind and the emotion. It is not a “halfway” repentance, or change in your life, but a TOTAL repentance, leading to a TOTAL CHANGE, involving your heart, mind, soul, and strength! True repentance involves your TOTAL BEING!
You have heard of the book the Total Woman or the Total Man, meaning the “complete” woman or man. Well, real, true repentance is a Total repentance, a complete repentance. Nothing is held back. Nothing is restrained. Nothing is consciously hidden away in a corner or left unrepented of. Everything is open and acknowledged before God.
Total repentance is a spiritual process, but it is somewhat akin to the physical process of wanting to throw up -- to vomit up your past life, and your sinful being, and get shuck of it. It involves throwing up your whole being, spiritually speaking, and starting over. It involves coming to see that you were sick with sin, your whole being was shot through with sin, your flesh was permeated with the leprosy of sin; and now you want desperately to get rid of that sinful body, that sinful self, that old carnal YOU -- and to become a new man, a brand new creature in Christ Jesus!
To become a true Christian involves a whole new state of being – of existence. It requires a TOTAL COMMITMENT! Jesus Christ said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate [that is, love much less in comparison!] his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke -27).
Did you think it would be easy?
Jesus said, in Mark’s gospel, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke ). The Greek word for “strive” here is agonizomai from which we get our English word “agony.” It means literally “to struggle, to compete for a prize, to contend with an adversary” – in other words, to FIGHT, to WRESTLE, to labor fervently, to STRIVE (see Strong’s Concordance, word #75).
To follow Christ, repent of one’s sins, and to embark on the Christian life, is no small undertaking. It is a life-changing experience, and it must be whole-hearted, devoted, and utterly sincere and fully committed.
Jesus said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and COUNT THE COST, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-29). Jesus then said, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke ).
cost! Be SURE you know what you
want! Do you REALLY want eternal life
and glory in the
Jesus also put it this way: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt.12:11). The Moffatt translation renders this verse, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, they are pressing into the Realm of heaven – these eager souls are storming it!” The NIV translation has it, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” In a footnote, the NIV says, “forceful men lay hold of it. They enter the kingdom and become Christ’s disciples. To do this takes spiritual courage, vigor, power and determination because of ever present persecution.”
Are you ready to make that kind of commitment?
Paul described the commitment this way. He wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom.12:-2).
Are you really ready? Are you willing to fight to the finish? Are you willing to “endure to the end” (Matt.24:13)? Are you willing to endure the fights, the persecution, the brick-bats, the hatred of the world, the anger of your friends, the hostility of your family, to follow Christ? Are you willing to put Him first in your life? Are you willing to obey God’s law, even if it costs you your job? Are you willing to study God’s Word daily, and pray daily, and fast and seek God’s truth, and to continually “prove all things” so that you won’t be led astray by false, disingenuous teachers and evil men?
Paul declared bluntly, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
God knows that to do this and succeed, we need His help. Therefore, upon repentance and baptism, He promises to give us His Holy Spirit as a begettal in our minds – He seals us ‘with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph.1:13-14). God gives the Holy Spirit “to those who obey Him” (Acts ). It is the Spirit of “power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Tim.1:7).
God’s indwelling Spirit gives us the power to overcome fleshly pulls and human temptations and to walk “according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4). The Holy Spirit enables us to “put to death the deeds o the body” (verse 13).
If we don’t have God’s Spirit, then we are kidding ourselves, and haven’t even begun the true path to salvation. It is the key that unlocks the gates of the heavenly kingdom. As Paul wrote, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Rom.8:9). But Paul goes on, “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (v.10-11).
Does Christ dwell in you, through the Holy Spirit?
If you don’t have the Holy Spirit in you, if you don’t see the signs of obedience to God in your life, and evidence of God working in your life, through His Spirit, then you need to face this question. Do you have God’s Holy Spirit?
Some of the early disciples whom Paul encountered told him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:1-2). They had repented of their sins, but had not heard of the Holy Spirit being given to true believers and followers of Christ! Paul then explained to them about Christ, the Messiah, and, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).
The Holy Spirit is the key to overcoming sin, and obeying God’s commandments. It is our source of spiritual power and strength. Paul wrote to the Colossians, saying, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Phil.1:9-11).
Paul explained, “I can do all things [endure every trial, overcome every obstacle] through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil.4:13).
He also wrote to the Ephesian church, saying he was praying for them, asking God “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph.3:16-19).
The Holy Spirit is “the power that works in us” (Eph.3:20).
Therefore Paul wrote the Galatians, saying, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
To receive this Spirit of power, one must repent of their sins, accept Christ as Saviour, and be baptized in the name of Christ (Acts ). For more information on these subjects, write for our free articles, “All about Water Baptism,” “A New Look at Baptism,” “Laying on of Hands,” and “What Is a Genuine Christian.”
Jesus once said: “Two men went up to the temple to pray; one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself [notice! he was actually talking to himself, not God, insofar as the effectiveness of his prayers was concerned], ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess’” (Luke 18:9-12). This man was very righteous – in his own eyes! But what about the other man? Jesus went on:
“And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” (verse 13).
Notice! This man knew had nothing to be proud of. He didn’t feel good about himself. He didn’t look down his nose at other men, or compare himself with others. Rather, he literally abhorred his own wretched, sinful condition, and detested himself, and cried out to God for mercy. He felt lower than the lowest scum. He felt like the dregs from the bottom of the barrel, or like the dirt beneath the barrel. As far as his attitude about himself was concerned, he was a burned out hunk of worthless old scrap metal, good for nothing, utterly useless. He had no vain pretensions about himself, no lofty ambitions, no false image to protect. He wasn’t putting on a facade for other people to see, to witness how ‘good’ he was. He wasn’t savoring the esteem of people, or praise of men. He was humble, totally self-effacing, beating his chest, totally yielded before God, admitting his real condition.
And in this state of utter humiliation, contrition, and repentance, he cried out to God simply: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” He didn’t ask God to look at his good deeds. He threw before God’s Throne, knowing and feeling that he was worthy of nothing but death. Death, death, death! He just cried out for MERCY!
What did Jesus say in response?
“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).
Have you ever really humbled yourself, like that tax collector, before the throne of God?
Think about it. Have you ever repented like that?
Or does the example of the Pharisee seem to fit you more closely? Snug like a glove? Do you more resemble the self righteous Pharisee – you’re pretty content with your life, your station, happy you’re in ‘God’s Church,’ think of yourself as a “good member”? Maybe you need to re-examine yourself with a microscope, and re-evaluate your thought, attitude, and life?
“Oh that we could see ourselves as others see us!” is a famous proverb. But even better would be, “Oh that we could see ourselves as God sees us!”
I have known many self righteous men in my time. I have known men bitten by the bug of self-righteousness. I have seen them rise up to lofty positions of power and eminence in the church. I have seen them strut in their gleaming paneled offices, with rich, luxuriant carpeting and huge expansive desks, as if they were the chief executive of General Motors or IBM. And I have seen them fall from their heavenly heights, tumble from their lofty perch, and plummet like a stone to the earth below.
False repentance; self righteousness; self importance; pride, including religious or spiritual pride; these deadly cancers can afflict anyone! And unfortunately, people afflicted with this condition are blind to their true condition. To them, why, they really don’t have anything to really repent of – they’re “good” people! But the truth is, they haven’t even BEGUN to learn the TRUTH about REAL repentance, conversion, and following Christ! They can readily see the “sins” of other people, but they cannot see their own real sins. Everyone else they can criticize, but they look all right to themselves!
Each one of us should humbly and prayerfully examine himself for this sin of spiritual pride and vanity, the leaven of self worth and self importance and self image, and deeply acknowledge the truth and repent! If you think you are innocent that may be the greatest proof that you are GUILTY!
Obviously, if a person is guilty of this problem, he cannot see it. So even if you think you are innocent, I suggest that you confess this sin, and ask God in earnestness to help you SEE the truth, and to CLEAN YOU UP and make you PURE in His sight!
David prayed, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from SECRET faults” -- even those sins he couldn’t see, and didn’t know that he had! (Psalm ). The apostle Paul warned: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. ).
Notice also Galatians 6:3: “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself”!
Let’s take that admonition to heart!
If you are living a life of true repentance, then you are living in the constant awareness that YOU ARE NOTHING! You are just another human being. You are no better than any one else! When you see a poor unfortunate person, or a crippled beggar, your thought is, “There but for the grace of God go I!”
Jesus Himself, although He was the Son of God, illustrated this kind of abject humility. He declared, “I can of Myself do nothing” (John ). Even though He had been in heaven with the Father, a Being of great glory, He “made Himself of no reputation, taking he form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil.2:7-8).
True repentance is willing to HUMBLE itself – to admit that of ourselves we are nothing – that GOD is the One who counts!
Paul had this kind of attitude. He was a mighty apostle of God. He wrote more of the New Testament than any other man. What was his attitude?
Paul wrote to his friend Timothy, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Tim. ). Paul didn't say, “of whom I was chief.” He said, “of whom I AM chief!” He did not have an exalted, arrogant, twisted, high opinion of himself. He still had a humble, childlike attitude -- even after years of service to Jesus Christ!
Paul’s attitude: “After that He (Christ) was seen by James, then obyall the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me
also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least
of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I
Paul did not even take credit for his hard labors and work in fulfilling his ministry and calling. He gave all the praise and credit to God!
Now, notice just one more time (three is the number of completion), Paul’s example: “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given,” Paul wrote, “that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). Here Paul even said he was less than the least of all the SAINTS! Truly, he felt in all humility as if he were the lowest among all the members of God’s Church!
It is truly amazing how many people think they are Christians, and think they have repented, and may even be ordained as ministers in a church, and yet haven’t really taken step one on the road to real surrender to God, repentance, and conversion!
Some of them wear their authority like a policeman’s badge; they know to perfection how to chew out a lowly member, or rake somebody over the coals for imagined or alleged sins or “bad attitudes.”
But have they themselves come to genuine repentance? If they had, they would be much more understanding, merciful, and considerate of others, as Paul said, “considering themselves lest they also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
We have probably all known such people. But the proverb of Jesus is truly fulfilled -- the wheat and the tares grow side by side until the harvest. Notice the parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field,” Jesus said. "But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, was sprung up, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said unto him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said unto him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares, you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn”’ (Matt. 13:24-30).
Jesus explained this parable, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom [true converted Christians], but the tares are the sons of the wicked one [Satan]. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (verses 37-43).
The ironic thing is, a tare doesn't know he is a tare. While they are little, the wheat plants and tare plants look identical to the casual observer. It is not until they are fully mature that the difference can readily be seen! But the tares grow up right along with the wheat, in the Church, until the final time of harvest comes, when God Himself will show who are the wheat and who are the tares!
We should examine ourselves, and make sure that we are not the tares! As Paul wrote: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. TEST [prove] yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified [margin, “do not stand the test”]” (II Cor.13:5).
A remarkable example of true repentance is that of King David. At one point in his life, David began to stray from close contact with God. He allowed himself to drift. The lusts of the flesh began to assert themselves. “Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’
“Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, ‘I am with child’” (II Samuel 11:2-5).
The plot thickened. David allowed his gaze to dwell upon the lovely form of this woman until he lusted after her. Even though he found out she was a married woman, his lustful impulses were strong, and wasn’t he the king? He had her brought to him, and he had intercourse with her. As so often happens when we sin, complications developed. She conceived a son! Now she was pregnant, and what would she tell her husband? Adultery was punishable by death, according to God’s law!
David didn’t know what to do. He was in a quandary. How could he get out of it? How could he make the problem go away? But in nine months, it would be all too obvious!
So David hatched a plan. He plotted to bring Uriah, the woman’s husband, back from the battle, giving him a little R and R -- rest and relaxation from military duty.
But to his dismay and chagrin, this clever ploy, this cunning stratagem, this brilliant tactic, didn’t work! When he came back and reported to David, Uriah didn’t go down to his own house or have sexual relations with his wife! If he had, then David reasoned that nobody would really be able to prove the baby was his, and Bathsheba could claim the baby was really Uriah’s. “But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house” (verse 9).
David was beside himself. Mortified, he asked Uriah, “Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” (v. 10).
Uriah was a good man, a loyal and brave soldier of the
King. He replied: “The ark and
David's plot had backfired! He was caught between a rock and a hard place. No doubt at this time David wished devoutly that Uriah had not been quite so loyal! Now how could David cover up his sin?
David plied Uriah with liquor, and strong drink, until he was drunk -- completely inebriated – but Uriah still did not go down to his house to lie with his wife!
At this point David committed the worst sin of his life. In order to cover up his sin (he did not want to freely admit it, or confess it, but he strove to hide it from the people!), David sent a letter to his commander in chief, Joab, saying: “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die” (verse 15).
Joab, a loyal commander, did as the king commanded. And so Uriah died in the heat of battle, a victim of betrayal and disloyalty by his commander, because of David’s own unconscionable wickedness.
One sin had led to another. To cover up the first sin, David committed a far worse sin! Adultery led to deceit and deceit led to outright murder of an innocent and righteous man!
David at first attempted to justify his conduct -- this sin -- to Joab, saying, “Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another” (v. 25). So David thought that he had escaped. His sin would not be discovered. The sordid event was over. Everything was settled. Uriah was out of the way. So after her days of mourning were fulfilled, David took Bathsheba to be his wife.
But was it all over?
In the days of Moses God inspired His prophet to say: “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
David’s sin found him out. Adulterers in high places are no different in God’s sight than any other adulterers. There is no respect of persons or partiality with God.
That which David attempted to hide, and bury (literally!), and sweep under the carpet came back to haunt him for the remainder of his days! God would not let him get away with it so easily!
The sin which David had performed secretly was later blazed abroad! The sin which David had attempted to hide, and COVER UP, God later had shouted from the housetops!
Jesus said: “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).
Jesus also said, pointedly, and plainly: “Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops” (Matt. 10:26-27). Luke adds: “Beware of the leaven [sin] of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light; and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be PROCLAIMED ON THE HOUSETOPS!” (Luke 12:1-3).
Those who try to cover up their sins are committing the folly of fools.. It will not work. It may seem to work for a while, a short time, but God knows everything. The apostle Paul explains: "For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made MANIFEST by the light, for whatsoever makes manifest is light” (Ephesians 5:12-13).
David tried to cover up his secret sin and hide it from view. In so doing, he added sin upon sin, until murder was the result! But God sent the prophet Nathan to him. Nathan used a simple story to convict David of his sin, telling him of a rich man who stole a poor man's only lamb to feed a guest in his home. David was outraged at the act -- it was so brazen, so insolent, so callous. David said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die [deservesd to die, literally, is a “son of death”]” (II Samuel 12:5).
Nathan replied: “You are the man!”
David’s guilt hit him in the breadbasket – the solar plexus. He could no longer deny it. He knew he was guilty. Waves of remorse and shame rolled over him. He knew that he himself was deserving of death!
It took courage for Nathan to bluntly tell these things to the king. David could have had him beheaded, or put to death in some other unsavory fashion. But Nathan was a man of God. He did not flinch or hesitate. With complete confidence in God he gave the king God’s message. David’s kingdom would now suffer terribly in the future, one of his own sons would rise up in rebellion, and war was foretold to come upon him and his people. All because of a slip, a single encounter, which then led to another and another sin, in cover-up!
What was David’s reaction to this message of doom -- this sharp, cutting rebuke?
David is the classic example in the Bible of what the Jewish rabbis call a “Baal teshuva” – that is, a “master of repentance.” This is a person who sins, but who then sees his sin in all its ugliness, and totally, bitterly repents, abhorring the sin. David’s example is so noteworthy because he had committed such an egregious sin, and yet when he repented, he did so with all his heart and soul.
“I have sinned against the Lord,” David said (v.13). He was cut to the quick. There was nothing else he could say. He was thunderstruck. The enormity of his sin, what he had done, hit him in the stomach like a powerful punch. His sin welled up in front of his face. It blocked everything else from his line of vision. It filled the entire horizon. It blotted out everything else like a huge storm cloud.
David felt dead. Worthless. Useless. The wind was totally knocked out of his sails. There was nothing else to say. He knew it was no paltry, tiny, insignificant sin, but a terrible, huge, gross, horrible stain and blemish on his character. He realized, “I HAVE SINNED!”
And notice. David knew against whom he had really sinned. It wasn't just Bathsheba. Or Uriah. Or the people. It was God. “I have sinned against the Lord.” He had sinned against the One who had given him every gift -- the One who had made him KING; the One who had preserved his life from the hands of Saul, who had sought to slay him; the One who had blessed him, and exulted him, and given him great and wonderful promises! David had sinned against the One who loved him so much that He gave His only begotten Son to pay for his sins. David had sinned against GOD!
Did David REALLY repent of this transgression? How do we know? How much did David repent?
Read the 51st Psalm, which was dedicated “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”
Notice how David, broken up, poured out his innermost heart before God: “Have mercy upon me, O God,” he prayed, just like the Publican in the example of Jesus. “According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, BLOT OUT my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and CLEANSE me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” He couldn’t forget it. He couldn’t minimize it. He couldn’t put it out of his mind. It filled his consciousness. It overwhelmed him.
“Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight -- that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.”
David declared, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psa.51:1-5). David felt as if he were filled with sin, since his own conception, that his heart was never really right with God. He had never realized before the ease with which he could suddenly depart from God and commit heinous transgression. David had once thought he was pretty good, a righteous man. But now he realizes the truth about himself. He saw the exceeding sinfulness of his human nature. He was appalled.
He prayed, “Purge me with hyssop [an astringent, harsh cleanser], and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a CLEAN HEART, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence; and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (vs. 7-13).
How To Approach God
David learned the most valuable lesson of all from this tragic experience. He learned the meaning of true and full repentance. David said: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise” (verse 17).
Isaiah the prophet knew this truth. He was inspired by God to tell us: “But on this one will I look,” says the Lord God; “On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2).
Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor (contrite) in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). This was the very first one of the beatitudes!
The prophet Micah also tells us how we are to approach the living God: “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6-8).
Micah says in the next chapter: “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-20).
But He will do that ONLY if we really repent of our sins, like David did! Wholehearted repentance leads to wholehearted forgiveness! Never forget that fact! How much God will forgive you depends on how much, how thoroughly, how mightily, how deeply and earnestly, you fully and completely and truly REPENT.
Have you really repented of your sins? How can you know?
There are perhaps many tests of true repentance, but notice what John the Baptist had to say to the Pharisees who came to hear his preaching. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear FRUITS worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:7-8).
Repentance is not an emotion which we work up by human effort. It is a gift of God. The Scriptures tell us that “the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). True repentance is a state of heart and mind that is produced by God’s leading our thoughts and hearts, and working on them, through our conscience, His Word, and His Holy Spirit. True repentance, at this time, is only given to a few. The vast majority of people, including most church going people, simply don’t even begin to understand it. “What, me repent?” they wonder. “What on earth for?” “What have I done?” Others think its just religious terminology – just so much foolishnessness.
True repentance involves coming to see yourself as you really are in God's sight.
In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus illustrated true repentance. This young man claimed his inheritance from his wealthy father, and set off to see the world. He wanted to see what the WORLD had to offer! He had lived down on the farm long enough. He wanted to see the city, with its glittering lights, neon signs, honkey tonks, gambling casinos, ladies of the night, massage parlors, and the works!
We read that the younger son “gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (Luke 15:13). He really lived it up! Very likely he gambled, wined, dined, slept with pretty women, and had a gay old time! He probably cracked jokes, got rolling drunk, and played dice into the wee hours of the night. He went to bed when the sun got up, and got out of bed when the sun went down.
But soon he ran out of money. He had spent it all, and nothing was left. He was penniless -- flat broke. The only thing left in his pockets was lint.
“But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land; and he began to be in want” (verse 14). He was starving, and dressed in tatters, and needed a job -- any job! At this point, he really didn't care. He wouldn’t turn up his nose at any kind of work! Ditch digger, cesspool cleaner, chimney sweep -- you name it, he would grab it!
“Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.” Yes, he had sunk so low that he would slop the hogs -- anything, to get a bite to eat. Now he was slopping the hogs, without complaint! He had sunk to the depths of the gutter. There was seemingly no place to go but up. It couldn’t get any worse!
But it did. “And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no man gave him anything” (v. 16). He finally reached bottom.
At this point, Jesus tells us, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!’ I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:17-19).
He finally wised up – came to his senses! He finally saw himself as he really was! No more pride! No more stupid parties, wasteful living, foolish behavior! He was humbled down to the very ground.
He finally CAME TO HIMSELF! He came to his senses! He repented! He finally repented of his sins and foolish, destructive behavior and attitudes. He REALLY repented!
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
“And the son said unto him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry: For this my son was dead and is ALIVE AGAIN; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry” (verses 17-24).
This son, who had spent all he had, and wasted his life, finally woke up, and came to real, genuine repentance! He turned his life completely around. He changed his attitude completely. He humbled himself.
The father in this story is a type of God the Father. The young man represents all of us sinners who have gone astray, plunged into the world, and wasted our lives, spiritually speaking. We became dead in sins and trespasses. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
“But GOD, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1-7).
When we really repent, and come to our senses, God is eager and delighted to forgive us, and have compassion upon us, and bestow the riches of His grace upon us!
But the rich man in the parable had another son. What about him? His story is very interesting, too.
You see, to all intents and purposes, he never ran off to “see the world.” He did not spend his life in riotous living. He stayed at home and worked the farm. He was proud of himself. He was very content and self-satisfied. Even smug. He looked down his nose upon his lowly brother. He was like the Pharisee in the temple, looking down his nose at the lowly Publican. He felt superior. He thought he was better than his brother! He was filled with self-esteem, self importance!
Notice his attitude.
“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf,.’
“But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might makemerry withy my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ You can detect the tone of bitterness here. Notice how self centered the older brother is!
The older son's attitude stands out like a sore thumb -- or a red flag. He was jealous. Haven’t you sometimes acted, and thought, that way? Haven’t you sometimes been jealous of somebody else, their success, their advancement, their money, their wealth, their fancy clothes and jewelry, their home or automobile, or their position in life -- or something?!!! Haven’t you felt sorry for yourself, and despised others who seemed to get “all the breaks”?
Admit it! It is human to think that way. It is human nature to be jealous. But, I might add, it is also devilish -- it is the attitude of Satan the devil!
The apostle James reminds us: “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:14-18).
Notice again in the parable of Jesus. The father had a heart full of mercy. His bowels ached, yea, longed, for his errant son! He was easy to be entreated! He was anxious to forgive, to pardon, to have compassion! He really was! He had a fully converted attitude.
But the older son was not. He was still carnal. He was selfish. His heart was not right, with either his father, his brother, or God.
Notice how the father answered the self-righteous son:
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found’” (Luke 15:31-32).
The older brother obviously did not love his younger brother. If he did, he would have rejoiced with him. He would have run inside, and put a big bear hug on him, and wept, crying on his shoulder, slapping him on the back, delighted to see him again -- ALIVE, and safe, and sound, and much the wiser for his experiences! He would have been overjoyed!
That's the kind of attitude God wants us to have -- toward each other. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Now consider for a moment. The elder son thought he was righteous. He obeyed his father. He was busy working in society. He was active in the “church.” He kept the Holy days. He attended church every Sabbath. He believed he was a good person. And humanly speaking, he probably was a decent sort of fellow.
But his attitude is all wrong. He himself doesn’t realize it because he is too self-centered. But in his heart he really despises his brother. He is persuaded that he himself is righteous. He has forgotten the admonition of the prophet Isaiah, who said: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
The classic case of repentance in the Bible, however, is the case of Job. Job was a great man in the East. He was a wealthy king, he had huge flocks and herds and untold wealth.
Job was a very righteous man. He gave to the poor, he helped the widows and took care of the orphans. He had compassion on others. He even sacrificed to God just in case his sons might be sinning! (Job 1:5). He was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). One would conclude, humanly speaking, that Job was indeed very righteous. What would he have to repent of?
God Himself testified of Job’s righteousness. He said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (verse 8). Job was what the Hebrews call a tzaddick – a righteous man.
Satan then questioned Job’s integrity, saying that he would curse God and turn to evil, if God just allowed him to strike Job, and cause him to suffer. God accepted the test – and allowed Satan to destroy Job’s wealth, health, and his children! (Job 1:12-19).
But even so, Job declared, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). By saying these things, and attributing his suffering to God, Job “did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (verse 22).
The story of Job in a nutshell is the story of human suffering – of the sufferings of the righteous. Why does God allow it? Why do good people suffer and die? Why is there so much injustice in the world? For a full explanation of this mysterious book in the Bible, write for our free article, “The Saga of Job.”
The book of Job shows us that all of us will be tested, one way or another. When trials and tests come, we must not grumble, gripe, complain, but learn to suffer patiently, as Job eventually did. Write for our article, “The Saga of Job.”
After God dealt with him, Job finally saw that it was wrong for him to complain about his suffering, and showed a lack of submission to God’s workmanship in his life. To make a diamond, nature has to apply heat and tremendous pressure. Even so, for God to create godly, divine, holy character in human beings also requires “heat” and “pressure” in the form of trials, tests, tribulation, and suffering!
By the time Job’s sufferings were over, he had come to see that he has completely misjudged God, who had allowed his sufferings. Job had the wrong vantage point. He couldn’t see himself from God's point of view. Compared to other men, he might have had something to boast and brag and feel proud about. But not compared to God! Like an ant on an anthill, or a fly in the window pane. Compared to God, Job was nothing at all!
It was not until God answered Job out of the whirlwind, and cut him down to size, that Job quit boasting of his own righteousness, and sat back in openmouthed awe and astonishment!
Read Job 38 -- “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself [“gird up your loins”] like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.”
God finally gave Job the chance he had been begging for -- the chance to bring his “case” before God! Right now Job began to feel pretty puny. Like he wanted to crawl beneath the floor boards or disappear through the nearest knothole. He wanted to fade into the background inconspicuously and sort of just “fade out” like the smiling Cheshire Cat in Alice and Wonderland!
But there was no place to hide!
God said to him, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!” (verses 4-5).
If you carefully read these chapters, you will see that God thoroughly demolished Job’s incredible self-defense system and his every argument. Job – despite being a very righteous man – simply did not really begin to know the awesomeness, love, compassion, mercy, and GREATNESS of the Creator-Ruler-Sustainer-Provider Omnipotent almighty GOD!
God really cut Job down to size. Where were you when I created the Universe? Do you know how it works? Do you know its secrets? Have you ever commanded the morning? Have you ever made the sun to rise and set? Do you know the secret of the Black Holes in space? Do you know what Quasars are, or how to make one? Have you ever set a Pulsar in motion? Have you ever created a star?
Can you send forth the lightnings, and bring on the rain storms, to give rain to the dry earth? Can you count the number of the clouds, or the number of stars, or the number of grains of sand at the sea shore?
We are all very much like Job, whether we want to admit it or not. What about it?
Put yourself in Job’s shoes. Can you make the mountain goats procreate, or do you know the mating song of the bull moose or elk? Do you know the spawning ground of the Chinook salmon, or the way of the Monarch butterfly? Do you know the homing beacon of the Arctic Tern, or the fly way of the Golden Plover?
Finally we come down to chapter 40 of Job. God wraps up His thundering argument, taking Job to task, and says to him: "Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it” (verse 1).
You could hear a pin drop. Job finally got the message. All his trials and tests finally added up – they made sense to him – they paid off.
Job got his voice back, and he answered God: “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5).
But God is not through with Job yet. Job is beginning to see the light. It is beginning to dawn on his “bee-bee” like mind that all his sufferings are NOTHING COMPARED TO THE GREATNESS OF THE PURPOSE GOD IS WORKING OUT IN HUMAN LIVES, FOR OUR ETERNAL BENEFIT AND GLORY!
God spends chapters 40-41, giving Job further lessons about the dangers of pride. Even human pride and ability is nothing compared to the pride and ability of some of the great creatures of God.
Finally, Job, fully aware of the position he is in, and aware of his own smallness and insignificance in the Great Scheme of things, yet a child of God, a man made in God’s very own image for a great purpose, says to the Almighty:
“I know that you can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘You is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now My eye sees You. Therefore I ABHOR MYSELF, and REPENT in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6).
After this final complete heart-wrenching REPENTANCE, when Job finally saw himself and his life as GOD sees them, God accepted His repentance, and blessed him more in his latter end than he had ever been blessed before (Job 42:7-17).
Unless God had opened the eyes of Job, he never would have seen his own problems, He would never have developed truly righteous and steadfast and holy character. It was only after he was tried and tested that his story shines forth for all of us to profit from.
But what about you? Where do YOU stand before God?
Have you ever really repented? Have you really forsaken everything and turned your life over to God, to do with as He chooses?
Real repentance is a precious gift, one which you should not take lightly. If you have not yet really repented, may God help you. Ask Him in prayer to open your eyes, and open up your heart, to see the truth. Satan has truly deceived the entire world, and has led millions into accepting a false repentance that will not save a single soul! He has deceived MILLIONS into a false conversion, a fraudulent repentance, a counterfeit baptism, and a fake Christianity!
May God help you to search yourself, in the light of His revealed Word, and come to full and genuine repentance, before it is everlastingly too late!
Have you repented?
The Devil’s deception of counterfeit, pseudo-repentance is his greatest bargain. It costs him nothing, so he offers it freely to all who want it. But it could cost you your life! The price to you for swallowing the Devil's clever deception is not small. It could be your eternal salvation!
So again I ask. Have you really repented?