This is the sixth post in a series of word studies that I am doing to try to reveal the best explanation of a specific scripture:
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.– Hebrews 6:4-6
What is repentance?
To ‘repent’ is to see in a new light after the fact. It’s an afterthought, not a forethought. It is a reversal of your state of mind. God gives repentance and/or leads men to it. It is turning from sin to God through faith. It’s a spiritual conversion. (Vines)
I’m sitting here trying to explain what the ‘ottoman’ is to my five-year-old. She’s about 6 minutes from going out to the bus and driving her eight-year-old sister crazy. Grant it, she’s only standing over her and watching as she ties her shoes, but for whatever reason, it’s making her sister crazy, so I asked her to sit on the ottoman. That’s when I discovered that she didn’t know what it was. (More likely, she was acting so she didn’t have to sit there.) I got her to understand what the ottoman was by telling her what it wasn’t.
Repentance is not asking for forgiveness. It is not a confession of sin. Asking for forgiveness is a confession of sin and a request for mercy.
“I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ – Matthew 18:32-33 (said by the ruler in Jesus’ analogy to the servant on whom he had mercy, but was not merciful to others)
The man to whom the ruler was speaking admitted his fault, asked for mercy, received it, but did not repent. Because he did not repent, he was not set free in grace.
“And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” -Jesus in Matthew 18:34-35
You know that someone has repented and has accepted God’s grace by the way they treat others when it comes to them handing out forgiveness and grace.
“…godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” – 2 Corinthians 7:10
Repentance leads to salvation without regret. Meaning, when you have repented, it turns your sin into something you can thank God for allowing. Zero regret in light of repentance. Repentance is what you learned. It’s the view ‘after the fact.’ It’s a ‘change of mind’. It’s turning from the sin, which causes regret and stings, and it’s turning to God, which causes the relief of salvation. The effect of repentance is the inability to withhold forgiveness from others because you see it differently now.
I’ll illustrate this with pieces of my own story.
My own sin wrecked my life. Because of my affair, I lost my church family, my friends, my marriage, my good name, my future as I saw it, and I lost my self-respect. In the aftermath of my sin, God spoke nothing but forgiveness and grace to me, but I had a hard time accepting the simplicity of it. It didn’t add up as I saw it. I was more wrong than I had ever been and I hated myself. I wanted to believe that He forgave me, that He still loved me, but I couldn’t. I was sorry, I hated my sin, I wanted to go back and change my choices, I wanted to find some way to pay for my horrible and indecent behavior, I wanted others to be free of me and the pain I caused, but I was not repentant. I thought I knew what repentance was and I thought that I had it, I was sorry… I wasn’t sticking up for myself…I was submissive to whatever God wanted me to do, but I realize now that wasn’t repentance. Because of that, I could not accept His grace. I could not be saved from guilt and shame.
Through the journey in the aftermath, I resigned myself to the fact that I could do nothing right and could not talk myself into believing that I was forgiven. So, I began asking God to show me what path to take from that point forward. I could try to mend the life I ruined, but I and the others involved did not want to mend it. I could try to establish my life within the changes my sin caused, but I did not believe that God was with me anymore. I did not want to establish anything that God was not in. I was trapped in a spiritual hell and had no clue how to get out.
I prayed constantly for Him to make the path clear. Everything in my life was set up like a temporary tent. I had a borrowed home, a job that wouldn’t miss me, and zero relationships. I had nothing holding me except for the fact that I had no place to go. I had no home. I was pregnant from my affair, but I saw it as an excuse to move forward in the life I stole and refused to accept it. I didn’t know what to do about that aspect, but I was no longer in the position, because of my submission, to make any choices for my own life. For months I lived with the possibility that I would have to give my baby to her father and return to a marriage I no longer wanted. But, if that was the price I had to pay, then I would pay it. I just needed a clear path, straight from God, and so I prayed. I prayed consciously unworthy and desperate prayers, not for something specific, but for anything at all. Assurance in a direction, …that is all I wanted.
In my brokenness, I turned to scripture to find my answers. It was frustrating, to be completely transparent, because the Gospel did not reveal my condemnation. The further I got into scripture, freedom and grace through Jesus was the only thing I saw. So, I didn’t believe that God had accounted for me in His word. I couldn’t make it add up because it was too easy.
One day, on a whim, I checked out a home that was listed in the paper. It was ‘for sale by owner’ with a ridiculously low down payment and a monthly payment I could afford. My credit, due to my marital spit, was absolutely atrocious. There is no way I could get approved for anything, so I thought it was harmless to check out what I could never have.
I met the man at the house. It was brand new… three weeks away from being finished. I was standing in the living room, looking up at the 12-foot ceilings, when he asked me if I could see myself there. Tears of regret stung my eyes and I swallowed by overwhelming lump of shame to say, ‘yes’. When he asked if I wanted to get the paperwork started, I felt even more shame. That man had no idea that I had wasted his time. As soon as he saw what I looked like on paper, he wouldn’t be so eager.
“Do you want to know anything about me?” It was my resignation talking.
“No. I’m a good judge of character.” His exact words.
No, you’re not. Clearly. My thoughts bled through my eyes, but he didn’t see them.
We sat at a table and I signed a contract. I gave him the money and he gave me the keys. It was that fast. I was overwhelmed and started to panic. This was a decision. I can’t make decisions. I’m a mess. It happened too fast and I was confused. I was either making another horrible choice, or… I didn’t know.
He was standing to leave when I asked him the name of his company.
“Pathway Properties.” he answered.
I almost threw up. …Pathway…
I felt the undeniable Presence. The wind of freedom and absolute blessing was crushing me.
“Why?” I was asking God, but to the man it sounded like I was asking him…
“Why are you doing this?” I couldn’t recover, but he thought he knew what I meant and answered me.
“My wife and I are Christians and feel like it’s our calling to provide good homes to good people.”
I had prayed for months for God to show me the path He wanted me to take. I was left with keys poking my palm and the overwhelming presence, thick with anticipation. The pressure pounding four words in my ears. …The expectant whisper screaming a question over the sound of my heartbeat:
“Do you see Me?”
God gave me a home. Pathway Properties. He gave me roots. He gave me a place to grow an overrun garden of grace.
He gave me a place to see Him. My life is an eternal nod, “Yes. I see you.”
Repentance is seeing Him. My sin is the only reason I know Him like I do. My sin removes any possibility for me to take any credit for my salvation. Undeniably undeserved. Overwhelming mercy. Crazy inexplicable grace.
My worship is only possible because of grace. Knowing that is repentance. My life’s purpose is to try to get others to see Him, too. I only knew what my purpose was because of my sin. Being able to say that is repentance. I can forgive myself and accept His grace because of what I learned through my sin. That’s repentance.
Salvation without regret. That’s repentance.
Read the definition of repentance at the beginning of this post again…
“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”…You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people— Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing, Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word, Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven. …Do you see how this story works?” -Jesus in Mark 4:9-13 MSG
I want to know… do you see Him?