Ezekiel 18:30-31 “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?”
This whole chapter makes it clear what repentance is all about. Again and again it speaks of getting rid of sins, throwing them out, shaking them off. People today are all too prone to think of repentance as “Oopsie! My bad.” That’s not repentance! Some sins aren’t easy to let go of, but unless the will to do so is there, there has been no repentance. Actions are important. We are saved by grace through faith, yes, (Ephesians 2:8-9) but as James points out so clearly, genuine faith acts. (James 2:14-26) If we really believe that we have sinned and that our sins cut us off from God, being worthy of eternal destruction, then we will change our behavior! Many people say they believe, but their lives are no different from those who say they don’t believe. Frankly, that puts their faith in doubt. The difference between intellectual acceptance of a set of facts and actual faith is that faith will impact lifestyle. Many people honestly don’t know the difference. When they see someone who is genuinely living in faith they think, “What a saint!” They might even think, “What a Goody Two-shoes!” There are no perfect Christians, but a genuine Christian will be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, quick to repent and change course when shown they are in the wrong.
This, of course, applies to me. My understanding of repentance has come the hard way, so to speak. There have been times when I thought I was a good Christian, but I thought nothing of behaviors that spit in God’s face. I’ve learned that repentance is ongoing. That is what 1 John 1 is all about. 1 John 1:9 is often used in evangelism, but the passage as a whole is clearly written to believers. I’ve got to keep my repentance up to date, because the Holy Spirit keeps showing me things I need to change. That’s called growing in holiness! I think it was Jack Hayford who used the illustration of a field with a huge boulder in it. When we commit to Christ, that boulder of sin and guilt is taken away. However, after a little bit we realize that there are head-sized large rocks here and there in the field, and we cooperate with God in getting rid of them. That’s when we start noticing the fist-sized rocks that seem to be everywhere! When I first heard that story it really clicked, and I have re-used it many times in talking with others. As I seek to lead others to repentance, I’ve got to keep my own repentance ongoing as the Spirit directs. That’s not to say I’m to live in a guilt trip; once something is repented of, it’s gone. I should be able to say with Paul, “My conscience is clear,” (1 Corinthians 4:4) but I must be quick to respond whenever the Holy Spirit shines His light on something I need to change.
Father, thank You for all You allow me to experience to show me how I need to repent, and how to repent. May I not only be responsive myself, but also effective in leading others to repentance, so that together we may walk in all that You intend for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!