Reformation of Repentance

Posted: November 1, 2017 in Chairman

Last month I shared with you about the need for a Reformation in AG, and I write this today, the 31st of October, exactly 500 year anniversary of Luther’s reformation.

  1. The Foundation of Reformation – Repentance!

When Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany on 31st October, 1517, the first statement read like this:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.”

Just pause and think of this statement! When Luther touched on the word ‘Repentance,’ he touched the very core of the Church. During his day, Pope Leo of the Catholic Church approved ‘selling’ indulgences by the notorious priest John Tetzel to raise money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Tetzel travelled around Germany with a carriage having a special box to which people could ‘pay’ for the forgiveness of sins for those who are in purgatory and said: “As soon as the gold in the casket rings; the rescued soul to heaven springs.” Luther boldly denounced this lack of genuine repentance in his 6th thesis saying: “The Pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God”. So, when the issue of ‘Repentance’ was taught, all hell broke loose against Luther.

  1. Is a Reformation of Repentance needed in the Church Today?

Luther was dealing with the attitude of Repentance among Leaders of his day, and it is similar among church leaders even today. Jesus’ first message was to ‘repent’ – and so was the first message of the Church in Acts 2:38. However, many conveniently ignore repentance due to the forgiveness and grace being freely available through the Cross. While Leaders are very vulnerable to temptation and sin, repentance gives them keys to live an overcoming life. But does just asking for forgiveness for our sins alone imply that we have truly ‘repented’?

  1. Jesus never asked us to just ask forgiveness.

I was surprised that the New Testament never asks us to just ask for forgiveness from God! Out of 31 NT verses where forgiveness is mentioned – 21 times is about forgiving others and 10 times in referring to Jesus forgiving others. Only once we are to ask for forgiveness from God – that is in the Lord’s Prayer – but even that is conditional to forgiving others. This leads us to question why many leaders keep living in sin and failure even though they keep asking for forgiveness.

  1. Forgiveness or Repentance.

We are not forgiven just because we ask for forgiveness – but only because we repent! Jesus commands in Luke 17:3-4: “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Jesus teaches that forgiveness is based only on Repentance! Repentance is an act based on a proper attitude towards our sin and how it has affected others.

The most common passage we use for forgiveness is 1 John 1:9:   “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” However, I read in a commentary:   It is interesting that there is nothing in this verse that mentions asking God for forgiveness. Quite the contrary, we are asked to “Confess”: a Greek word ‘homologeo’ is used, which actually       means “same word.” It functionally means to agree in word with, to admit to, or to take responsibility for. In this case, it is speaking of our sins. In other words, it isn’t the asking for forgiveness that is important. It’s agreeing with God that we were wrong and taking responsibility for committing the wrong. When we agree with what God has said about sin, true confession happens.

It is said that “Repentance isn’t just confession; it’s taking responsibility for our sins and agreeing we were wrong”. It is our nature to do one of several things to avoid responsibility for our action. We tend to make excuses, deny, minimize, or in some way justify our sins. Simply saying “I’m sorry” is just another way of avoiding the issue. This verse tells us that if we own our sins and agree with God that they were wrong for us to do, forgiveness is actualized and we are actually placed back on the right road for a strong relationship with God to grow.

  1. What did Jesus speak of Repentance?

There are 5 key elements about Repentance:

There are 5 key elements about Repentance:

a) Acknowledgement of Sin.

Jesus said that the Prodigal son ‘turned back’ to the Father and ‘confessed’ his sin. The son did not ask forgiveness – but confessed – about sinning against heaven which is a priority in repentance. Repentance is about acknowledging how sin affects our relationship with God and His plans, will and purpose.

b) Confession of broken relationship.

The Prodigal also confessed about sinning against the earthly father and acknowledged the broken trust, ‘sonship’ violated and stewardship compromised with the earthly family or community.

c) Not justifying our sin.

In Luke 13 Jesus speak of repentance referring to two tragedies that has happened: Herod Killed innocent Jews and a Tower fell on some people and killed them. Jews thought this to be immediate punishment from God on those died, but conveniently avoided Repentance trying justifying their own sins because their punishment is delayed! Their philosophy was: Repentance is needed only if sins are immediately exposed or punished. Or, sins which receive immediate judgement are more serious than those whose not exposed. Jesus saw the greater danger in avoiding repentance and perishing in the end, rather than facing consequences now!

d) Acknowledging God’s Goodness.

“…not knowing that the Goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) Paul saw the delayed consequences for sin as God’s way of bringing people to Repentance through His Goodness – and not as ignoring their sins. (“He is patient that none should perish but all should come to repentance” – 2 Peter 3:9)

It is natural to think that condemning the Sinner is what will lead to Repentance – but God does it differently. He shows ‘Riches of His goodness’ to turn us to Him in Repentance. I remember once a leader who was living in sin for some time, but his sin was not exposed and God did not bring immediate judgement on him. Instead, God continued to use him even more! However, He misread God’s goodness as approval of his sin instead of allowing His goodness to bring him to repentance. Samson is a good example on how God does not bringing immediate judgement on sin. Although he sinned from the very beginning of his ministry by deciding to marry a Philistine woman, God used this situation because of His patient goodness to Samson. God did not hold back ‘the Spirit of the Lord’ coming mightily upon him (Judges 14:19, 15:14) many times to show His goodness. But Samson too misread this as God’s approval on his wrong lifestyle and failed to repent. Samson continued going to a prostitute in Gaza and lived in the lap of Delilah, and still God would not withdraw His hand of ‘Goodness’ wooing him to repent. He got so used to this life of ‘cheap grace’ and ‘easy anointing’ until he crossed the line – then it was too late. Judas kept stealing the money – but Jesus kept on being good to him. Peter kept on failing – but Jesus followed him with His goodness. Don’t take God’s goodness and anointing for granted – Repent, before it may be too late.

e) Allowing Godly Sorrow to bring Brokenness.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor 7:10)

If you immediately feel sorry for sin it is not repentance- it is mere remorse. Such sorrow only brings death. Repentance is something ‘produced’ by God. Paul condemned a terrible sinful man in Corinthian Church to Satan because of his sin. However, he repented! How? Paul says that it was the ‘goodly sorrow’ that leads to repentance. The sinner experienced a deep sorrow from the Spirit which produced brokenness to bring the fruit of repentance. (see the 7 fruits of repentance in this chapter) A casual attitude towards repentance can cause serious damage to leadership and the Body of Christ. Could we save our people and leaders from going deeper in to sin if we teach godly repentance?

 

  1. Selling Indulgences in the 21st Century.

So why is Luther’s challenge to Tetzel was that you cannot pay or be saved conveniently by ‘good works’ is important to us today? We cannot avoid repentance by buying ‘Indulgences’ or good works we have done in the ministry. Talking about the number of years in ministry and about the suffering and the price we paid in hard times in ministry will be like Tetzel’s “clink of the gold which will spring the soul from hell to heaven”. It may gain the sympathy and support of church members, family and friends, but Jesus clearly said:   “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5)

Sin in the believer’s life does not become an issue of forgiveness but of relationship and blessings. Our disobedience hinders our ability to fellowship with God and senses His guiding hand in our lives.

Finally, if Luther was alive, will he nail his first theses on the AG Church doors today? His warning that Jesus “willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance,” has serious implications for us today. If we Leaders fail to model genuine repentance in our lives, it can cause believers’ spirituality and integrity to be compromised. While AG may have numbers and quantity, there will be a serious lack of character-change or ‘spiritual formation’ in the Body of Christ. The first nail of Reformation poses a painful question to every AG leader: “Have You Repented”?

Ps. Michael & Debi

 

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