Repentance: The Only Way Home
August 2013 Blog: 2 Chronicles 7:14
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
Daniel 9:16, 19
"O LORD, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.
O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name."
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
I have been thinking lately about what repentance means and how important it is in the life of a Christian. The term it self seems a little "olde worlde" or should I say out of this world! Outside of Christian circles, I have never used the word. It (repentance) doesn’t seem to have a place in Post Modern society and this to me seems to reflect not only a deep truth, but also a great shame.
Where is God when we need Him? Perhaps this has more to do with the gradual erosion of God, the commandments and anything that appears remotely Christian, as opposed to "religious", from society. By society- I mean British society, I am conscious there are many countries where the church and state are one and the same or inseparable.
Recently I was really surprised to read about how there was a time when faith in God did matter to people was living in this country. So much so that on 26th May 1940 at the request of the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who feared that Britain was due to be defeated by Germany, King George the VI, called the British people to a National Day of Prayer. The result became know as the "Miracle of Dunkirk". So God is still in the business of hearing and answering prayers, if we are in the business of saying them.
That "miracle" was almost 73 years ago. Do we need God less these days? I would argue that although as a nation we have always needed and will always need a relationship with God (no faith in God=no salvation), this needs is obscured. Society is more sophisticated and complex and with all the opportunities that we have in these modern times, we have major global challenges.
The technology revolution has made the world smaller and larger at the same time. We all have access to phones, apps, music, films, information and merchandise at our fingertips. No need to wait, we can have it ALL and we can have it ALL NOW. That being the case, why do we need God? The good book tells us that we are gods (Psalm 82:6), but this is only because we are the children of God. With Post Modernism everything is relative- particularly truth, so God and the bible are equally flexible- we only need to locate them as and when they are required.
Repentance is a verb and according to Oxford dictionaries.com it is defined as "to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin", whilst the Cambridge dictionaries online explains it more simply as "to be very sorry for something bad you have done in the past and wish that you had not done it". Other definitions include "turning away" and agreeing with God who is holy about our "unholiness".
Biblically, repentance is an essential prerequisite of God’s forgiveness and an intimate relationship with Him. The bible also refers to the need for corporate repentance. To be repentant, we have to accept that we have done something that we need to be deeply sorry for. The good book reminds us that as humans, we start from the premise that we are fundamentally sinful and have sin and sinning as a default position. We have "all sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
The verses above were selected to convey the various aspects of repentance. In Chronicles we find God’s response to Solomon’s deep conviction, following the building of the temple, of the sins’ of the people and their need to recommit themselves to God. God’s response to Solomon holds true to us individually and collectively today. Repentance requires the following 4 steps: "humility", "prayer", "seeking after God" and "turning away" from wrong-doing.
David’s deeply sorrowful description in Psalms 51 is a "broken spirit and a contrite heart" God requires us to be heartbroken- we have to feel sorry not just say it! It has to cost us something. Sin separates us from God and we need to recognise that. Without repentance there is neither reconciliation nor reunion with God.
In Daniel we find an example of corporate repentance. In the tradition of many great intercessors, Daniel identifies with his people and acknowledges their collective sins before God. In each case referred to above, God answers. God is not mean spirited like we are. His unconditional love is always waiting for an opportunity to reunite us with Him- He is a God of fellowship. He wants us to "reason together" (Isaiah 1:18). "If we confess sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
In response to true repentance, God promises that He will hear us from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our lands. As simple as that! There is nothing complex or sophisticated about repentance. True repentance causes sorrow and shame, leaving us with the memory of the sin emblazoned upon our consciences as an antidote to repeat offending "Then you will remember your evil ways and the bad things that you did, and you will hate yourselves for all these wicked and disgusting things (Ezekiel 36:31-God’s Word translation).
I pray that like Daniel we will cry out to God, for ourselves and others in true repentance: "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name" and He Will Do It.
© hopecalls.org, 2013 (all rights reserved)
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