“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 3:2, NIV
Pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee and let’s get serious about repentance.
When John the Baptist preached repentance he was not trying to create fear in the listener, but rather faith. You see, repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of God wonderful grace. It is the sincere turning away from sin and toward God in faith. Some people teach that repentance is turning around, making a one hundred eighty degree change, but if a person is headed in the wrong direction a one hundred eighty degree turn does not guarantee that they are now going in the right direct.
In reality, there are five steps to repentance. Chances are pretty good that your pastor doesn’t fully understand repentance, so there is no wonder congregates are confused. The first step is the acknowledgement of being wrong and they must occur in chronological order. To repent, I must understand what I did was wrong and acknowledge that “I am wrong.” This may be the hardest step of repentance for the sinful nature of man does not want to acknowledge wrong, and will try everything to justify his actions. Second, I must acknowledge to God that “I am sorry.” This is another difficult step, as human nature desires to blame others for our failures. Once we are ready to acknowledge to God that we are wrong and that we are sorry, we can then take the third step and ask God to “Please forgive me.” Forgiveness only occurs when we acknowledge that we are wrong, exhibiting a sense of remorse, and ask for it. If we fail in any of these three orderly steps, forgiveness cannot take place. Many people think this is the end of “repentance” but this is only three of the five steps. Repentance includes two more crucial steps to complete this surgical spiritual procedure. The fourth step is crucial, “Father, cleanse me.” Once forgiven, while admirable, cleansing has not taken place. We must ask for the cleansing of God as David did when he prayer “Cleanse me with hyssop that I may be whiter than snow.” The fifth step is equally important, “Father, empower me.” Often we continue to commit the same sins over and over because we lack the power to stop. Why do we lack the power? We lack the power because we do not ask God for it.
When my children were teenagers it was often a battle to get them to keep their rooms clean even though they knew it was a parental commandment. Likewise, we know God’s commandments and rules, but like my sons, we do not always follow them. Now suppose one of my sons came to me and said, “Father, I am wrong. I know I am supposed to keep my room clean, but I did not. I am wrong. Please forgive me.” As a father, I would be pleased that my son had taken the initiative and acknowledged that he had failed to be obedient and to even ask for forgiveness, and of course I would forgive him. But, would my forgiveness make his room miraculously clean? Of course not, his room would still be dirty, and so it is with our lives. My son would still need to take certain actions to clean his room and he would need the help of the father to empower him to clean the room. As a parent, I would need to “empower” my son by providing the cleaning supplies, vacuum, etc., but he would still need to do some hard work.
When we ask God to forgive us, we often have to make amends for our sins. This takes the power of God in us. I call it “Christ-in-you-ity” and “Christ-in-me-ity.” If we fail to take the last two steps, we will be forgiven, but we will still be living in the filth of our sins and too weak and powerless to overcome them during future temptations. So now that you know, what are you going to do?