Most people wonder how there could really be a joy of repentance. I think that is why confession of sin seems to be common in our day, but repentance of sin is rare. In many ways, the Body of Christ has forsaken the biblical mandate to repent, defining the process as negative and burdensome. The words sin and repentance have almost disappeared from our vocabulary. But in reality, sin produces a yoke of bondage and consequence, while repentance provides a roadway of reconciliation. Healing for individuals, families, churches, communities, and nations require a returning to God.
Renewal and revival is brought to the heart of believers through the work of repentance. Repentance is always present in true revival. Many, though, do not understand the positive work of repentance causing them to avoid discussion of and application of repentance to their lives. Negative attitudes for dealing with sin and repentance discourage believers from experiencing personal revival.
Repentance is Positive
Though sin truly is negative, repentance is the most positive word in the Bible. While the process of repentance is sometimes painful, the result of being back in fellowship with God brings great joy. Believers who make the wonderful discovery that repentance is a refreshing of the soul understand that joyful living is the result. We are simply a repentant prayer away from a restored and joyful relationship with God.
In the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament, Scripture states, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus’ first message stated, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). The last message from Jesus to His disciples before He ascended to the Father as stated in Luke 24:46-47 was, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Is there any doubt as to what was the main subject of Jesus’ message?
If a person could be relieved of the dangers that sin brings to life such as depression, discouragement, absence of peace, guilt, bitterness, and resentment, why would they choose to live with sin? Confession of sin brings relief to life, but only true repentance brings a cure to a sin problem.
Cure or Relief?
Consider the physician. As he diagnoses you, he has only one basic question: “What’s wrong?” This is certainly a negative approach!
If 99% of your body is in good health, your doctor is only interested in the 1% of your body that is not. If you have a pain in your abdomen and the rest of your body is in good health, he does not overlook the abdomen. Instead he examines it thoroughly, even if the examination brings you pain.
Why do you put up with such treatment? Because his objective is to restore your health. He eliminates pain and may save you from death by subjecting you to great pain on the operating table. It is positive to eliminate the negative. It is healthy to eliminate disease. It is good to eliminate evil.
A neighbor in apparent good health went to her physician because she developed a slight pain. Investigation revealed a tumor and abdominal surgery was called for. The doctor’s announcement of what was needed not only upset the woman, but her whole family. Why would a man want to subject this fine woman to such an ordeal? Why didn’t he give her a sedative to help her forget the pain? No one would have been upset. But instead of prescribing a painkiller, he sent her off to a hospital, where her surgery confined her for weeks.
Think of the effect of his diagnosis on the woman’s husband, children, and budget. But not a single person condemned the doctor. Quite the contrary, they were all grateful to him. They were appreciative of this person who had delivered such drastic, disturbing news and who had subjected her to the pain of surgery and her husband to great expense. He would have done her a disservice to have acted otherwise.
The diagnosis did not depend on the notions of the physician, but on the condition of the patient’s body. He could not be guided by what the patient wanted to hear; rather he had to follow the course of his findings. How does one make the announcement of the need for a major surgery a happy occasion? There is no way. The important thing is that the proper diagnosis is made and the patient is told the truth. The patient will get over the shock of the announcement. Then it was up to her whether she would submit to the prescribed treatment. She could have tried to ignore the pain, kept busy, and attempted to forget about her condition. She might have tried to kill the pain with medication. The other alternative was to accept surgery–which she did.
An accurate diagnosis of a physical ailment is a matter for the physician. But the patient’s future health is really his own decision.
To miss the mark of perfect health is common, but to deny that one is sick when he is, or to give up the quest for health, is foolish. Wisdom calls for trying to discover the cause of ill health.
To deal with one’s sin is painful but the outcome of repentance (turning from sin to righteousness) is positive. Be encouraged! Jesus came to save His people from their sin!
* Adapted from the book The Joy of Repentance Copyright 2006 All Rights Reserved