Let’s continue our discussion that we started last week about Repentance:
Repenting like David is more than we can do on our own. Christ is the only one who is able to heal our hearts and bring us to this level of forgiveness.
However, this might confuse some people, because many believe that they must first repent and then this repentance prepares them to come to Christ to receive God’s forgiveness for their sins. As a result, many people don’t receive the help that Jesus wants to give them. It is true that repentance does come before forgiveness of sins—because only the broken and sorry heart will feel a need for a savior—but does the sinner need to wait until he feels regretful before they can come to Jesus? Should repentance be an obstacle between sinners and Jesus the Savior?
The Bible does not teach that we, as sinners, need to wait until we repent before we can listen to Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) It is the righteousness of Jesus that leads to genuine repentance. Peter states this directly when he says: “Then God put Him [Jesus] in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven.” (Acts 5:31) Simply repenting without Jesus in our lives is like trying to be forgiven without Jesus being in the picture—it will not amount to anything that lasts long-term.
Jesus Christ is the source of every right desire. He is the only one who can plant in our hearts a hostility towards sin. Every desire for truth and purity, every conviction of our own sinful nature, is evidence that His Spirit is moving in our hearts and lives. Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not convict us of sin to make us feel guilty and stay guilty. They convict us of sin so that we can repent, be forgiven, and experience purity, true joy, and peace again in Jesus.
Jesus said, “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32) We can understand that Jesus died for the sins of everyone in the world, but as we look at what our Savior went through at Calvary, we are able to begin to see how redemption works and how much God really loves us. Understanding that Jesus went to the cross for the sins we committed has the power to soften our hearts, inspire repentance in our lives, and impress upon our minds and hearts a love that is beyond anything we can even begin to understand.
There are some people who begin to feel guilty of sin before even knowing Jesus Christ. They sincerely give up some of the sin in their lives before even realizing that Jesus is at work drawing them to Him. However, it is still Christ who is working in their lives. By deciding to change for the better, it is because Christ is working on their hearts without them even realizing it. Their conscience is strengthened and change begins to happen in their lives, and as they grow towards Jesus, they become more aware of how they have fallen short, and they will begin to understand some of the perfect nature and love of Christ and say, “What is sin?” “Does sin really require a sacrifice to free sinners?” “Was all the suffering and humiliation that Jesus endured simply to demonstrate that He loves us?” “Was the cross necessary for us to be able to live forever?”
Sinners who are being impressed in this way may refuse to be drawn to Christ, and they may choose to resist accepting this unimaginable love, but if they don’t resist, they will be drawn to Jesus, and then learn about the plan of salvation that brings them to the foot of the cross in true humble repentance for their sins.
We have a longing inside for something more. This desire is from the same divine mind that is working on the things of nature. It is speaking to our hearts and creating a desire in us for something that we don’t have. The things of this world don’t ever seem to satisfy this longing, and if they do, it doesn’t last long. This awareness of our longing is the Holy Spirit pleading with us to search for the only things that can give us true peace and rest—specifically the grace of Jesus Christ, and the joy of holiness. The whole Godhead is at work trying to attract our minds from the unsatisfying ‘pleasures’ of sin to the countless blessings that are rewards for following, obeying, and trusting Christ. To everyone who has finished looking for meaning in stuff or money, to everyone who has lost hope that life can have meaning, and to all those who desire more in life but who don’t know where to turn, God’s message is given: “Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17)
If you sense your heart crying out for something more, something better than what you see in this world, realize that this longing is the voice of God speaking to your heart. Show God that you are seeking Christ’s love and His purity by asking for forgiveness from the wrong that you have done. Model your life after the life of Christ, who perfectly modeled His life after the principles of God’s law, by showing love towards God and man. The mission and call of Jesus’ life was to show compassion and unselfish love. His life was a window into the heart of God the Father. Only by looking at Jesus Christ do we begin to see our faults, our shortcomings, and the sin in our hearts.
We may try to praise ourselves like Nicodemus did (John 3), and say that our lives have been good and adequate, and that our intentions are good. We may believe that we do not need to, or that we have already humbled ourselves towards God like a common sinner needs to, but when we look at the perfection and holiness of Christ and His light shines into our hearts, we can easily see how impure we really are. We are able to recognize our selfish motives, and we can see how our motives are pulling us away from God. When we recognize this, we see that what we thought of as our perfection—our ‘good enough’—is like filthy rags, and our only hope is Jesus and His sacrifice for us. He is the only One who can transform our hearts and our lives and give us new ones that are not tainted by the corruption and sin in this world.
One tiny glimpse of God’s glory—or the purity of Christ—will shoot straight into the core of our lives and hearts. It will distinctly reveal every area of dishonesty and sin and we will clearly see the imperfections in our character. We see our evil desires, our disloyal hearts, and our unclean lips. As sinners, we try to rationalize our behavior, but when the Holy Spirit touches our lives and our hearts, we are exposed and begin to see how unworthy we have become and how foolishness our actions have been. When this happens, it hurts our spirit, but we also begin to realize how undeserving we are when compared to Christ’s perfection.
When Daniel saw the glory surrounding the heavenly messenger that came to him, he was overwhelmed with a sense of his own weakness and imperfection. He said, “My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak.” (Daniel 10:8). The life and heart that is touched by Jesus will hate its selfishness. It will seek to be pure through Christ’s perfection, to become obedient to God’s laws, and to model and show Christ’s character.
Paul said, “I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.” (Philippians 3:6); but when he realized the spiritual side of the law, he realized he was a sinner. He applied the letter of the law as perfectly as anyone could outwardly, but what he missed was the inward, spiritual nature of the law. When he saw the law for its intent, and saw himself as God saw him, he realized he was a sinner and chose to humble himself and confess his guilt. He says, “At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead.” (Romans 7:9, 10). When he saw the spiritual side of the law, sin appeared in its true hideous and disgusting form and he realized that following the law in a legalistic way could never transform his heart spiritually.
Next week we will continue talking about repentance and continue learning how we can strengthen our spiritual lives by Growing with Jesus!
P.S. As always, if I missed something, or if you would like to respond on this topic, join the conversation below!