Isaiah 59:20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.
Throughout the Bible we keep running into references to repentance. I think the average person has very little understanding of what repentance is. Japanese is a little easier than English, because the term is a compound that means “regret and start over.” However, even Japanese have little grasp of how to go about it. This particular verse in Japanese specifies the sin of rebellion, not as in an armed uprising but simply a disrespectful going your own way. The repentance God is looking for is saying, “I’ve had more than enough of my own way. I’m going to follow God in obedience.” God indeed comes as Redeemer to anyone who has that heart attitude. However, we make up all sorts of excuses for not having that attitude. There was a bizarre case recently of a woman who had mailed poison to the US president and others in her husband’s name, because they were getting divorced and she wanted to get him into trouble. At her sentencing, she said, “I’m not a bad person.” There’s proof she hasn’t repented! Repentance requires acknowledging, to yourself and to God, that you are bad and you have acted badly. Only God is good, as Jesus said, (Luke 18:19) and only He can make us good by taking our sins from us through the cross of Jesus Christ. Repentance isn’t saying, “I’m not bad, but I slipped up,” it’s throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. Thankfully, God is marvelously merciful to those who do repent.
As I am often reminded, repentance brings true forgiveness, which frees us from what we have done. Otherwise, we are chained to our actions by guilt, and can’t get free to really start over. That’s why Romans 8:1 is so vitally important: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I have experienced that myself, and I seek to lead others into that understanding and experience. I find that many are deathly afraid of acknowledging their sins because they can’t believe real forgiveness is available. When Peter was forgiven for saying three times he didn’t even know Jesus, all the while Jesus was on trial, then we can certainly be forgiven! I am constantly dealing with Japanese culture, that has a very shallow grasp of forgiveness. The problem is, “forgiveness” is a direct homophone for “permission,” and most Japanese aren’t even familiar with the character that means forgiveness. Therefore, “I can’t allow that” becomes “I can’t forgive that,” and people are caught in the devil’s trap. I’ve got to keep speaking the truth in love as well as modeling forgiveness, so that people’s hearts and minds may be opened for the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s forgiveness to them, so that they may repent indeed.
Father, thank You for the tract You enabled me to write explaining the two characters for permission and forgiveness, and for how it has been received. Thank You that I’ll be able to share it again today in premarital counseling. May the couple understand not only that they need to forgive each other, but also that Your forgiveness is available to them, so that they may repent and believe, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!