Because my repentance at conversion did not continue as a daily experience, my love for Jesus grew lukewarm. Only penitent sinners—to whom forgiveness is given—are on fire with love for Jesus. So I can tell you that a life without daily repentance is spiritually poor. It has no joy or power and is totally lacking in fruit. Heaven is not “at hand” in such a life. (REPENTANCE - The Joy-filled Life, Zondervan, 1968, p. 10)In the New Testament, metanoia is the Greek word translated “repentance.” It means “a change of mind.” But repentance works as a dynamic process with several consecutive components that form a cycle. As Christians, our initial entry into this cycle culminates by inviting Jesus into our hearts. Afterwards, His indwelling presence makes this cycle of repentance an ongoing pathway for spiritual growth.
Our indwelling Lord won’t let us read Scripture merely for information. How Jesus lived and what He taught take on a new personal meaning. His life and His truth recorded in the written Word have now become the Life and the Truth inhabiting us as the Living Word. Worldly thinking and lazy living can lull us into spiritual lethargy. But our ongoing commitment to Christ within us motivates change and keeps us moving forward. In Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV), Paul describes the direction of transformation: it’s “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” This “new self” is really our true human self in the “likeness of God.” When our relational union with Christ confronts stagnation in our spiritual growth, the Holy Spirit takes over to complete the confrontation with His special work of conviction.
The “worldly sorrow” from sin’s consequences is not the proper heart-response of true repentance. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death,” (2 Corinthians 7:10, NIV). Confronted by Christ and convicted by the Holy Spirit, the conscience is led into “godly sorrow,” which is God’s own attitude toward sin and the basis of His wrath against it. God is broken up over our sin, and He wants us on the same page with Him. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise,” (Psalm 51:17, NIV). In Hebrew, the word “contrite” literally means collapsed. The best portrait of God’s own contrition was displayed in Gethsemane. There, Jesus collapsed in His human spirit over what would soon be sin’s remedy. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). By far the best way to gain “a broken and contrite heart” over our own moral failings is to meditate deeply on Christ’s struggle in facing the Cross and His anguish in becoming “sin for us” upon it. If our faith in Christ is authentic, that meditation will bring “godly sorrow” for anything in our lives displeasing to God. But contrition is not an endpoint. It must be confessed with our lips.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.We must not linger in regret for former deficits and failures, which have been confessed and forgiven. Neither must we think we’ve finally arrived. But “forgetting what is behind” in both previous defeats and present victories, we must keep on keeping on, “press[ing] toward the goal.” Jesus is that goal! He is our momentum! This cycle of repentance revolves around Him, leading us ever closer in our union with Him, “until” as Paul says in Ephesians 4:13 (NIV), “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
There is no real conclusion to this cycle of repentance during our earthly journeys, unless we stop growing in Christ. But I wrote a poem to be a concluding review of the cycle:
CYCLE OF REPENTANCE
Complacency confronted by the Word
must meet the Comforter’s convicting weight.
If wooing from that Spirit’s Voice is heard,
the conscience and contrition soon will mate.
Convinced of sin, believing lips confess.
Convinced of grace, the same sing praise and bless.
Repentance (metanoia) means “to change”
our way of thinking, planning, how we talk.
We turn, transform, renew or rearrange,
converting comprehensively our walk
full circle in communion with the Son,
committed to the new life He’s begun.
— David L. Hatton, 3/19/2018
*(Outlines and recordings of the three sermons I preached in this series are available on my website’s sermon page near the bottom of the list:
66-03-02 - Exploring the Depths of Repentance - 02/11/2018-mp3
43-16-03 - The Comforter's Conviction - 02/25/2018-mp3
50-03-04 - Commitment to Communion - 03/25/2018-mp3)