Isn't it Time to Repent of Sin?
I've fought with this article and God for four days. I can rationalize it because I've suffered from a common cold and didn't feel well. But I could also say, "God had nothing for me to write," so I didn't.
Repent For The Kingdom of Heaven is Near!
The reality is that I didn't write because of the topic that God wanted me to write about, repentance of sin. I didn't want to write about it because I'm tired of defending it. Further, everything I wrote and subsequently deleted sounded like the wild-eyed ranting of a street evangelist after too much high-octane coffee.
"THIS MAY BE YOUR LAST CHANCE! REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS NEAR!!!"
So what am I supposed to do, Lord? Buy a camel hair jacket with matching Jesus sandals at Walmart, walk to the Golden Arches, and order a Big Mac with a locust and honey side order? No response. Fine.
Lord, I Need a New Topic to Write About
So I went out this morning to clear my head and look for a new topic to write about. Repentance of sin is a bummer. And I know God is reasonable. He will see my suffering, rescue me with a softball topic, and end my pathos. All will be well.
But, no matter how creative I tried to get or how much I asked God for Divine Inspiration, He kept throwing the juiced fastball. Like a pitch you can't hit, He keeps throwing out "repentance of sin!" Takeaway: never get into a power struggle with God or the pitches He throws your way. His arm never gets tired. He doesn't back down.
God's Guardian Angels: Junior and Jessica
As I'm heading home, God has a Divine Appointment arranged. God has sent two Guardian Angels disguised as my neighbors, Jessica and Junior. Never doubt God's ability to empower His human force multipliers to make a point when He wants to.
This conversation had an impact. I received a gentle, loving, encouraging message from a trusted brother and sister in Christ. However, it also carried the power of a full-swing foam Nerf Bat. It got my attention.
The negotiation period with God over this article was done. Finally, He had enough of my sinful disobedience and grumbling. I could hear Him saying, "Do you serve cheese with that whine?" It was time to step up to the plate and swing away no matter the consequences.
Here is what I feel compelled to write about repentance of sin.
Isn't It Time to Repent of Sin?
A strange new reading disability has surfaced within the church. It affects many believers who now struggle with decoding simple words in the Bible and comprehending their meaning.
For example, even in my early years as a lukewarm Christian, I understood the spirit and intent of the terms "repent" and "sin." God didn't expect me to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or any other language to figure out how repentance relates to sin. He didn't even expect that I had read all 66 books to comprehend repentance of sin. It's pretty simple, even for a retired secular university professor.
In fact, I don't remember ever failing to recognize sin when it was staring me in the face. Sometimes it was beautiful, other times hideous. It's not like I needed to consult the scriptures, go down the column labeled "sins," and see if my infraction was listed. No, I knew it. I was convicted from within by the Holy Spirit.
But far too often in those days, I still exercised poor judgment, made a mistake, suffered the consequences, and asked for forgiveness. Repentance came after forgiveness because it assumed I wanted to change my ways.
These days, if you want to be perceived as the leper at the office Christmas party, talk about the need for repentance of sin. You will be shunned and asked to sit in the corner next to the "other redneck" sporting a red baseball cap and an American flag t-shirt.
Here's a brief snippet of a recent conversation to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.
Me: You know, Sister Sue, I'm sure thankful that America hasn't reaped the whirlwind for our failure to repent of our sins.
Sister Sue: "What do you mean by that?" she says defensively.
Me: I mean, America seems to be losing its moral compass. There needs to be a clear sense that America knows the right way from the wrong way. Even within the church, it's a rare Sunday when sin and repentance are preached. We are sending a message that the right or wrong ways are subjective and unique to the individual.
Sister Sue: "I know you disagree with people who are pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ+. And, you believe anyone who doesn't subscribe to the 'God in a Box' mentality is doomed to hell. But these are your definitions of sin and are not offered in love. God loves and accepts all people just as they are. Besides, I didn't know you went to seminary. So, how can you say such hurtful, unenlightened things and still call yourself a Christian?"
Me: It's true, I've never been to seminary, and I've just recently read the Bible from cover to cover. But I have read many books in my lifetime. I can decode individual words and comprehend their meaning, given the context and clues provided by the author. None of these books, however, reflected the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of God Himself. Thus, I am even more committed to reading God's Word as He intends it, not as man, woman, or non-binary would like it.
Me: What you call my definitions of sin are not mine. I'm simply reading what God said through His writers and doing my best to follow it. This is where my assertion of a strange new reading disability comes in. The Apostle Paul writes,
"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:18-21
Paul even uses the word "obvious." There is no ambiguity in meaning or intent. We know these acts of the flesh are sins according to God, not just the Apostle Paul. Paul is the messenger, just as we who share the Gospel today.
Although I am not guilty of every sin listed above, I am guilty of some. Dissensions, factions, and discord that I am a part of require repentance of them as sins. I can't see how I could ever agree with a fellow Christian who actively cultivates a lifestyle in direct opposition to scripture without acknowledging the sin and seeking to repent. However, I can ask God to change my heart about them and their choices. To leave the judgment to God.
Finally, I see repentance of sin as a way of loving and honoring Jesus. How can I possibly accept God's mercy and grace, being the sinner I am, without a profound sense of gratitude and desire to change? How can I read His Word and either blindly refuse to accept the truth or ignore the consequences? For me, this is the definition of putting God in a box. God is transcendent to the world, not the other way around.
This may sound like absolutist thinking, but I am convinced that failure to acknowledge sin as identified in the Bible, without a willingness to repent, question the validity and reliability of scripture. Denial as a coping strategy for living in the world will not be an excuse when we stand before God. The topic of denial will be discussed in another article.
How Long Do We Have to Repent of Sin? Until Jesus Returns
The Lord is patient and slow to anger (Psalm 86:15). But He also warns us to stay awake for He will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Thus, we have until He returns. After that, it's too late. It's judgment time.
So when is Jesus returning? Not even Jesus knew the answer to that question; however, many "ordinary" people feel something they can't describe. It's like trying to explain "angst" as an emotion between fear, profound anxiety, and dread. It isn't a pleasant feeling. Many of these ordinary people are Christians who subconsciously question the Bible's authority.
I believe this feeling of angst is God's wake-up call. He is sounding the alarm clock in our hearts and minds. He is allowing us to sharpen our dulled spirits...cast aside the sin that entangles us...and prepare the way for the Lord.
I don't know when Jesus is returning, but I do believe this:
Therefore, the Lord says: "If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them." Jeremiah 15:19 (NIV)
So that's all I have to say about that (ala Forrest Gump). How I "feel" at this point is less important than doing what must be done regardless of feelings.
Thank God for His Divine Appointments today with supportive brothers and sisters like Junior and Jessica. These force-multiplying Guardian Angels offer encouragement to step up to the plate when it's so much easier to shrink back into the security of the dugout. They remind you and me of the scripture,
"Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." Ephesians 5:15-18
Carpe diem! Camel hair jacket, Jesus sandals, locus, and honey are optional. :-)