This week I was reading through the Book of Joel, with thoughts of a future Disciplers’ study. I have read Joel before, but this is the first time that I saw Joel as a watchman, sounding the alarm and calling the people of Israel to repentance. You know, repentance is an important subject for Christians also. Repentance is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. The Bible tells us that all are sinners and all have come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There is none who does right, not even one (Romans 3:10). This seems to be an insurmountable problem because God is holy and it is impossible for a sinner to find favor in His sight. Sinners are estranged from God and doomed to God's wrath and judgment. Only God could provide a solution to that problem and by his grace and mercy He has! God has provided a way of salvation, through the death and resurrection of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
But how does a person tap into that grace and mercy? How does one take advantage of Christ’s gracious gift of Himself as a sacrifice for sin? It is through faith -- believing that Christ died for your sins and repenting of them. But what does repentance really mean? If God demands repentance, this is an important question and I would like to venture an answer. First of all, repentance is much more than just being sorry. It is much deeper than regret, and it requires much more than merely speaking the right words. Repentance is not that simple. Many years ago, I learned that repentance requires three things: confession, contrition and conversion.
Confession means not only that I must admit I am a sinner, it means I must confess my sins as specifically as I know them. I must ask God to search my heart and show me my waywardness (a polite word for rebellion, which is sin) and admit that He is right about sin. It has no place in the lives of His people. I must agree with God when He reveals many of my thoughts and actions to be sinful. And I must not make excuses. The devil may have tempted me to sin, but he did not MAKE me do it. I am the one who sinned.
Contrition is my sacrifice to God in the face of my sin (Psalm 51:17). Contrition is more than just regret or saying I'm sorry. Contrition is my heart being broken over the damage my sin has done to myself and to others and, above all, the way it has dishonored Christ. The Bible tells us that Esau sold his birthright for a one morsel of food and that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it diligently with tears (Genesis 27:30-40 and Hebrews 12:16-17). Esau was sorry for what he had done, but did not have a repentant heart. His tears were not a sign of repentantance. Judas, one of the twelve apostles, betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, but later he was remorseful. He returned the money and went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). Judas felt guilt from what he had done and regretted it. But remorse is not repentance.
Conversion is from the Latin words “con” which means “around” and “verto” which means “to turn”. It means, “to turn around”. Conversion is actually a military term. What happens when a drill sergeant gives his men the command “about face”? They immediately, without a second’s hesitation, turn on their heals and face the opposite direction. Conversion is an about face! It means to be going in one direction, your own way, and then to make a one hundred and eighty degree turn and go the other way, God’s way.
To summarize, repentance is to admit your sin, to be so sorry about it that you remove it from your life, to change your way of life, and to start living for God instead of for yourself.
So my question to you is, have you repented? Not just one time way back when, but how recently have you repented of your ongoing, habitual sins? How recently have you humbled yourself before God and repented? Have you been content with glossing over sin because you think the world is different today or that it’s okay because every one else is doing it? Have you been content with just saying "sorry"? Have you failed to make an “about face”?
As Christians it is often easy to criticize the world and those around us, bemoaning the gross sins of our society, but how can we expect the world to be any different when we do not repent and set a godly example in our homes, churches, and neighborhoods. The prophet Joel stood as a watchman in Israel and pointed to the destruction that takes place when people glibly speak of turning to God without true repentance. We need watchmen in our world today who live holy lives (lives of intentional repentance) and proclaim with their lives the truth of God’s word.
Will you be a watchman?
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.