Let me begin by saying I’m going to have a little conversation with you in this newsletter about a subject that I certainly will not exhaust all that might be said about the subject. There’re many differing opinions about it and I’d like to, as they say, just ‘chew the fat’ among us friends. This conversation isn’t meant to be in an ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ context. It’s more like one of those Amazon ‘add-on’ items where for a few bucks more this little extra item can come with your order. Those items just get added to your original purchase. I like discussions about the Gospel, even ones I don’t agree with. I’ve enjoyed learning about it on the way of a 50+ year believer’s journey. We should have lots of territory to discover as we study and express the Life of Christ during our lifetime.
The Faith of God becomes faith within us as we continually seek to learn of Him. A friend once described the differences in his and my conversation as both of us looking at a mountain from different sides. It was the same mountain but different descriptions because of where each of us was standing. Having traveled such different roads along the Gospel path had given each of us a different view of the same mountain. I’m not saying the Gospel is to be determined by whim apart from authority; no way I’m saying that! What I am suggesting is when looking at the Gospel we can sometimes express it uniquely because of the unique path we’ve each taken to get to where each is standing. I think more often than not we agree on much of it, but sometimes we let little differences in our expression divide us unnecessarily. One of the terrific experiences we have had at WBVN is the opportunity to care about and encourage a wide range of people with all kinds of unique Gospel expressions, but all unified in one single Christ.
Now to the subject of this letter: repentance– or perhaps you prefer confession. Actually, I doubt there’s much difference in many of us about either, but I thought it would be fun to have this ‘family conversation’ to just slice the idea up a bit. Cut it maybe in a slightly different way. It’s like having an opinion about a thick or thin steak; while we each have our preference, and there’s some difference for sure, there’s not so much of a difference that we would come to blows over it.
Let me begin with the idea that repentance/confession is more than about acknowledging sin. We all know we should confess our sins but that can be expanded to not only include an awareness of our ‘missing the mark’ but secondly, an obligation to agree with God’s solution for Sin. Romans 12:2 refers to a transformation of our minds that steps us away from our rational thinking to His perfect thinking, acceptance of His higher thoughts than our thoughts.
Confession in this letter is weighted toward not only Sin’s presence and the reality that God does not tolerate it, but I’ll also suggest He requires our obligation to say the same about Sin as He says about Sin. We need to come into agreement with Him. He says in the strongest way possible that He has dealt with it in Jesus Christ! That’s really the hard part. Generally, as Christians we have no problems with knowing and even acknowledging our Sin, but it’s our yielding to how much God has done about our Sin that we struggle with sometimes. I think because we know ourselves (and others), we so easily embrace a lesser reality about Sin than God possesses. God was reconciling the world while we were still in our Sin. (Romans 5:10) In Jesus, (from the very foundation of the world) God was preparing a way to not hold our sins against us. He, in the purpose of Christ, entered down, way down, and even more down into our darkness. Jesus was swallowed into our violence, our hatefulness, and suffered our condemnation, not just as a simple substitute, but even more as our representative. He was taking for us, and from us, what we deserved ourselves. (Here, Jesus literally entered the strongman’s house, bound him and spoiled all his goods. (Matt. 12:29) He did that for us! Not only did he cleanse us, forgive us, but emphatically put a period at the end of the sentence about Christ’s purpose. ‘It is finished!’ As a result, now confessing/repenting is not only us telling God about our Sin but also it’s us telling Sin about our Christ. (Too tough?) Again, it’s not the only way to look at the subject but it’s something like that add-on item, comes with the original order, adding to those things you already know about confession. In Christ, we now live in a new day. A day to declare a victory over Sin. With the death and resurrection of Christ, and our place of relationship with Him, our victory over Sin is not just our potential -it’s a Truth!
Now, we can say yes or no to Truth but our agreement with it, or not agreeing with it, doesn’t change Truth. Disagreeing with Him will alienate us from Him in our minds. However, our non-agreement with God only changes us, it does not change Him. That’s the reference in Romans 12:2 about renewing our minds. We’re to be transformed into having right-minds. Right-minds are those that say the same, believe the same things, as the Father says about us. Right-mindedness is opening our eyes and hearts to His thinking. It’s a thinking that’s not our way of thinking; it’s an understanding that’s different than our understanding. In Job 22-21, we find these words: agree with God and be at Peace. Repentance and confession is not about simply being sorry-full and persuading God to forgive you. He’s already done the hard part of that by suffering death to forgive you. Repenting is also to say and agree with God about His Goodness and Purpose in submitting Himself to His own creation for judgment. Paul writes in Romans 2: 4 that repentance is produced by opening our eyes to His Love. Repentance does not lead God to Goodness, it’s the other way round; our coming to knowledge of His Goodness leads us to Him. Eugene Petersen says it like this in his Bible translation- The Message: ‘It is important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what He does for us, not by what we are and what we do for Him’. He has already done more for us than we could ever deserve by Jesus Christ. He is not a reluctant God, we are a stiff-necked people.
If there were ever one chapter of the bible that reveals the heart of God and the nature of man it is in Luke’s story of the prodigal son. There, while the son’s father is longing for his return having already reconciled his son in his own heart, the son does not know the reality of his own father’s love. The son, being aware of the things he deserves, is alienated from his father in his own mind. Then one day that son ‘remembered his father’, remembered who his dad really was and made a journey back to him. The son found a father waiting for him, forgiving him, embracing and rushing to the meet that son. In Luke’s story, even the son that for sure should have known the father, the son already at home in the family, the one that had claim to all but likewise had misinterpreted the father’s heart, was alienated because of his unbelief in the goodness of his father as well. Both needed to agree with the father about who he said they were, needed to agree and act upon their all-ready reconciliation.
OK, that’s my side of that mountain. In Hebrews 11:6, Paul says this: ‘for he that comes to God must (1) believe that He is, and (2) that He’s a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. That ‘two-step’ is the way to experience the fullness of the Gospel. That knowledge of God’s character and Grace is evidenced by the life and actions of Jesus Christ. He’s the revealer of the Heart of God. Christ Jesus is our Reward (Inheritance) but that’s another conversation for another day.