Repentance, Refreshing and One New Man (Lane)
Repentance, Refreshing and One New Man
by Lonnie Lane
I was recently told the story of a man who was a violent alcoholic who often terrorized his family. On occasion he would show up at the church his family attended and cause a great commotion. One day he came to church on a day when the preacher was speaking about the power of the name of Jesus. The message went straight to his heart. At some point he bolted forward, rushing to the front to everyone’s horror as they cowered in anticipation of his drunken rage. But instead he dropped to his knees, hands in the air and cried out at the top of his lungs, JESUS!!! That’s all. Just the name of the Lord. This was a man who saw his sin and cried out in desperation to Jesus.
He got saved that very moment. From then on he changed. His whole life changed. His speech and his attitude changed. Everything about him changed. That’s the way to get saved. This is a man who knows what he is saved from — himself and his sin. He saw that he was far from God and violating His holiness. He knows Yeshua (Jesus) as his Savior. Saved = Savior; they go together.
But there were actually some people who knew this man who didn’t believe he was really born again, because he didn’t pray the “sinner’s prayer.” He didn’t say the right words, they said. Now I ask you, could you please tell me where the “sinner’s prayer” is in the Bible? Show me where it says in order to be saved we must recite those exact words: Come into my heart, etc. Yeshua never told anyone to say those words. Peter never told the people to say those words. The closest we come to knowing what was said in response to Peter’s Pentecost message was the people asking, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s response wasn’t to say, “Repeat after me.” He told them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Messiah Yeshua for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37, 38).
They each needed to transact their repentance with God and respond to Him, not just say some prescribed words before men. When we share the Gospel with others, we need to help them understand it is God they need to appeal to for salvation. They’re not responding to us, but to Him! “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam’l 16:7). However each person expresses it, God sees when our hearts are in earnest toward Him.
Why am I telling you this? Because it concerns me that there are folks out there that said the words of a prayer one time who think they are saved just because they said the “right words,” but they are not. When we believe we can live a life of compromise and still be acceptable to God, I fear we are mistaken. He expects that once we are saved and He has made us clean, we will stay clean. He has made a way for us to maintain that righteousness, knowing that “life happens” and we “miss the mark” at times and that provision is repentance that comes from our reverence for the Lord and His holiness. Since God “works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28), trials or “tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance (results in) proven character and proven character (produces) hope” (Rom 5:3-5), because having mastered that which caused us to sin, we have hope that no matter what comes, we can maintain our freedom in the Lord. “Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?” (Job 4:6).
So what does it mean to repent? What is it that God is asking us to do? Is it a one-time thing or a way of life? Repentance is appropriate any time you recognize that your behavior, or even your thoughts, have been in violation of God’s holiness, of God’s ways, and determining that you will change your own ways to comply with God’s ways. It isn’t necessarily what you say, but what changes you commit to in your life that make for repentance. John the Immerser preached to the Pharisees and Scribes that they should “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8), meaning don’t just say the words, live out the words. Change! Here’s the standard: “You shall be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). God gives us His grace so that we can live in holiness. He does not expect we can do it on our own. He knows we can’t do better than we do. It’s a matter of faith in receiving and relying (trusting) on Him to live His holiness in and through us.
But I fear that many of us have lost the belief that we can really be people of holiness. It’s a carrot before our faces, like the horse that keeps going trying to reach it, without expecting that we’ll ever get there this side of heaven. But the truth is that available to us NOW is “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus [the Messiah] for all those who believe” (Romans 3:22). We have “been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus [the Messiah], to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:11). Furthermore, you who are reading this can say, I am “in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in [Messiah], the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil 3:9). You have available to you the same salvation as “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus [the Messiah]” who addressed his letter: “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus [the Messiah]” (2 Peter 1:1). Being holy and righteous doesn’t mean we never have anything to repent for. Quite the contrary. It means we avail ourselves of the gift of repentance whenever we “miss the mark” of holiness. It is receiving forgiveness based upon “the blood of Jesus His Son (that) cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). I dare say that the closer you walk with the Lord the more you’re likely to be repenting of even the tiniest infraction, because the bigger issues will have already been dealt with. We “stay” clean through repentance.
Repentance means not to just realize your sin, but must include a response to that realization by turning away from the sin. In Hebrew the word “shuvee” for repentance means to turn, or return. So to repent is to return to God realizing you were away from Him. If one does not turn away from their sin and return to God, it is questionable as to whether they have really seen the error of their ways and that they have violated God’s holy character. Or for that matter, have realized that it matters! It took me a while before I realized all this and that how God saw me mattered. To be honest, it mattered more to me what people thought of me than what God thought of me. Now it’s quite the other way around.
You may be well aware that repentance is not something new to Christianity. It isn’t just a New Testament practice. It sits clearly on the foundation of the entire sacrificial system God gave to Israel. It was all about blood being spilled in order for sins to be forgiven. If you sinned, you had to know it and had to make it right with God, so you brought the appropriate animal to the temple (or bought it there in Yeshua’s day) and that animal which you came to know, especially if you brought it from home, was one you had to turn over to the priests to be killed in your place for breaking God’s law. You saw it die. Sometimes it was that sweet little “lamb-y” with the soft fur and softer innocent eyes that died instead of you for your sin.
God made many provisions for repentance and restoration to Him in the Old Covenant. He knew man would not walk a perfect walk of Torah observance. Only the sinless Son of God was able to do that. But always there is a call from God to walk holy as He is holy. It is always a call toward a higher life, a more perfect life, a more peaceful and satisfactory life of righteousness, and a safer life, for the individuals and the entire community. When we sin we affect not only ourselves but it always affects others. Since we stray from the ways of God which are always righteous, we need to come back to God and righteousness. We need to turn and/or return to God and His ways. Repentance is forsaking the evil way. It means first seeing sin as God sees it, as sin, and then making the commitment to turn away from it if we want to be right with our Father in heaven. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy because I am holy’’” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 19:2; 20:7).
This was what Yeshua said from the beginning: “Repent.” John the Immerser said it in many ways but the message always was, “Repent.” Peter’s famous Shavuot/Pentecost message (Acts 2:14-40) was about repentance. It ended with, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Messiah Yeshua for the forgiveness of your sins” (:38). It may be of value to know that baptism was something one did themselves by lowering themselves completely under water. So you can actually baptize yourself if you ever feel the need for that kind of cleansing. It’s a matter between you and the Lord. You don’t need a pastor or a priest to lower you into the water. That came much later as church doctrine moved into a hierarchical system. (Personally I love congregational baptism services, when people share what God has brought them through. There’s much glory to God in sharing the experience!)
That John or the disciples facilitated immersion (baptism) didn’t mean they ‘dunked’ them all but that they oversaw the process. That 3,000 were saved as a result of Peter’s message meant most likely that those 3,000 went into the mikveh or baptism pools in the temple to immerse themselves, a process they were familiar with, to wash away any uncleanness they may have come in contact with or indulged in. Realizing their sin through the preaching of the word by Peter was cause for mikveh. As there are no rivers like the Jordan anywhere in or near Jerusalem sufficient for baptism, the temple mikveh pools would have been the only place that was possible. To those Jewish persons, entering the mikveh waters was consistent with turning from sin.
Today there are many Christians who are observing the Sabbath and the feasts and fast day of Yom Kippur. There are other practices that are being observed just as the early believers did, not in legalism, but in freedom and in love of the things of God. This is all good! But “occasions” and “practices” aren’t all there is to being One New Man. Repentance was always the primary step to walking with God. Without repentance, there is no biblical salvation. The whole sacrificial system of Israel was about repentance. Repentance is the very core issue of Torah and the prophets.
We who are Yeshua’s can know the light from the darkness, the truth from the lies, the good from the not good. This is a wonderful thing because people without the Spirit of God don’t know what we know. And they don’t know that it matters how they see God or how God sees them. For many, God just isn’t relevant to their lives. They may see the things of God as worthless, because “a natural man (someone without the Spirit of God) does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor 2;14). But we who have the Spirit of God through faith in Yeshua can know God and know the things of the Spirit of God. We see the wisdom of the Cross, for instance. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
God went to great lengths to make Israel aware of the difference between what is good from bad, healthy from unhealthy, prosperous from depleting, joyful from down-hearted, godly from apostacy…. All this is to say that that a major issue of the people who choose to live a One New Man lifestyle is that of being aware of what is godly and what is not.
Repentance is for the unsaved to bring them to God and for the saved to keep us close to Him. It may be that some are living independently from Him, even if you’re not committing something sinful. God sees that as “walking according to the stubbornness of his own…heart, without listening to Me” (Jeremiah 16:12) and a returning to Him is needed. Motivated by an awareness of being unfit, unclean or unacceptable before the Lord by our sin, we become uncomfortably aware that we are separated from Him, which causes us an anxiety to want to get right with Him. This is as it should be and is actually a gift from Him so that we don’t stay separated from Him. Repentance then, to say it again, is a distinct turning away from what separates us from God. It is not saying you are sorry with no real intention to change your ways.
It is possible to be under conviction by the Holy Spirit of sin in your life and be sorry but still remain in sympathy with the sin. That’s the difference between remorse (sorrow) and repentance (turning). Remorse doesn’t remove you from the sin; it just allows you to feel sorry about it but has no power to take you out of it. Sometimes remorse is self-pity that you are stuck in your sin and can’t get out, but you want God to know you’re really sorry about it. It is possible to recognize the sin and yet not even consider life without it. You may struggle with it, but that’s not the same thing as repenting and forsaking it. We may be remorseful about it, but have no expectation of being able to wash the thing away and out of our lives by the power of the Blood of Yeshua so that we never entertain or allow it to manifest in our lives again. Oh, we may be tempted, but “no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Many people tell God they are sorry over and over but still stay in the sin. Believing we have no power to be rid of our sin is contrary to everything the Kingdom of God is about. There is a reason for this mindset that is clearly not a biblical one but one we have been inundated with in our culture today. We live in a society that tells us wrong behavior results from having been mistreated, or from something that we may have suffered, so that it’s not really our fault. We’re not the culprit, we’re the victim. If we’re the victim then we are not responsible. And if we’re not responsible, then we can’t repent and be set free. Victims are powerless to overcome their victimization. That’s why they’re victims. So long as we are victims, then we are always under the control of the person who or circumstance that victimize us. It’s their fault that we’re like we are, and so we are not free.
Freedom comes from taking responsibility for our behavior and attitudes, and repenting of those things that are unacceptable to God. But without repentance, we are stuck in the forces and circumstances of evil that lie beyond our control. So if we do not really repent upon coming to know Yeshua, we do not really know what He has done for us. We can’t know Him as Savior if we’re not really saved from our sin but are still in the muck of it. Neither are we able to enter in to His freedom, love and truth.
He is also called our Redeemer: “I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer” (Is 49:26). These two titles go together in this verse and many others. Wait till you hear this. You’re gonna love it: To redeem means to buy back, to free from what distresses or harms, to free from captivity by payment or ransom, to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental, to release from blame or debt, to free from the consequences of sin, to change for the better, to reform, repair, restore, and to convert into something of value. Is that awesome or what? That’s what Yeshua our Redeemer bought for us with His blood!!! But like a coupon that must be redeemed in order to benefit from its value, we forfeit the value of all that the Lord has made available to us through salvation by not repenting, by not turning away from what is not acceptable to Him. We can really only avail ourselves fully of the redeeming value of our salvation if we “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thes 2:12). If He says we can, then by His grace we can. If He says we should, then by His grace we should.
If we do not know we are sinners, then we don’t know we need His cleansing power. If we say a prayer that asks Yeshua into our life but never really come to repentance, who do we think He really is? Yeshua stated the reason for His coming at the Last Supper: “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28). He died for the forgiveness of our sins, but if we do not really recognize our sin, we cannot receive His forgiveness. Why would you be forgiven of something you don’t see that you have? This is one of the difficulties of some raised in the church who see themselves as “nice” people. “What sin? I’m a good person” — I’ve heard it said by people who would tell you they’re Christians. If we don’t see Him as the one who saves us from the consequences of our sin, we can’t really know Him as Savior or Redeemer.
Now I know that not everyone comes to repentance when they first pray to receive Yeshua. I didn’t. I just knew I was desperately in need of truth and God’s help. It took a while till I actually realized I was a sinner. Repentance didn’t come to me immediately. But it did come. However long it takes, until we see we are sinners and repentance becomes a way of life, we are worshipping (if we are in fact worshipping) “another Jesus whom we have not preached” (2 Cor. 11:4).
We do a great disservice to anyone to offer them what has been termed “cheap grace.” There are no short cuts to salvation. Through a sacrifice we can’t imagine Yeshua made the way. In fact, He IS the way. And His way is repentance. Repentance is God’s great gift to us. It is the only way we are restored to Him when we are separated from God. Repentance is a way of life for the person choosing to live holy before the Lord. “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov 6:23). To live a holy life, whenever needed, confess your sin, don’t ignore it, so you can turn away from it and return to God. There’s great power against sin in repentance to restore us to wholeness. As Peter said,
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
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Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.