I owe this one to my dear husband : ) He mentioned at a small bible study we were having at our ‘home-office’ that there are two words in the Bible that are often confused for each other. The one is ‘remission’, the other is ‘repentance’.
Remission means the cancellation of a debt, charge or penalty.
Repentance(Wikipedia definition) is the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs, which is accompanied by commitment to change for the better.
Peter in his unforgettable speech after Jesus raised from the dead used both words. He said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
What a joyous word ‘remission’ is! The debt that we each owe our Creator was canceled because Jesus paid it for us on the cross! That truth takes a lifetime (and possibly more) to sink in, savor and exult over! However the question before me/us today is – can we take this immeasurably great gift and then carry on our merry old way?
What if a man had taken a massive bank loan that he hadn’t the resources to repay? And what if that loan that would’ve potentially cost him everything – his savings, his house, his car et al was then cancelled? Would he then go and check into a seven star hotel and spend lavishly on himself? If he did, we’d consider him to be deluded indeed! Why? For deep down we instinctively understand that remission and repentance go hand in hand. The grateful tears we shed in knowing that God has torn to shreds our collective ‘I owe you’s’ must turn our feet onto a new path – away from the old, tired one of the self-driven life!”
Unfortunately we tend to engage with God’s costly sacrifice as a large blotting paper that soaks up the guilt of personal sin and never truly come to terms with the need for a heartfelt decision to turn away from sin. And a decision it is! ( the decision to deny ourselves everyday, pick up our cross and follow Him) It doesn’t happen by default; we have to want to choose it.
It’s not that turning away from sin (and by sin, I mean the pursuit of ‘self’ which is the root of all sin) is totally ignored. It’s just that it is considered as optional – a good thing to do but not wholly necessary because after all Jesus paid for it all! Yet if we were to forgive someone who wronged us and if their following choices demonstrated little remorse or regret, we’d bristle at the thought of being so completely taken for granted! Then what about the King of the Universe? Would He sagely wave off our lack of demonstrated regret and say with a shrug of His shoulders, “it’s okay…I’ve paid for it all anyway”? Yes, it goes without saying that the motive for change should NOT be guilt, but there is every place for taking the God who redeemed our souls seriously!
Just before Peter invited his audience to “repent and receive remission for their sins”, he proclaimed,“let all Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!” (Acts 2:36) Jesus is the Christ (the Savior) – the one who saves us from our sins, but He is also the Lord, the One we must change our ways for. He is both..and the call is still towards both.
Down the ages the message has been clear. John the Baptist inaugurated the coming Kingdom, (God’s rule on earth), by saying,”Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. This was the message that Jesus preached ( Mathew 4:17) and it is this same message his disciples later carried forward.
It’s very important to consider here what makes repentance ‘doable’ in every aspect of our lives – the marvelous gift of the Holy Spirit. God has given us Himself, His very nature to empower us to walk in wholesome, life- giving ways. It is possible that we tend to overlook this mind-numbing gift or treasure as Paul refers to it (which is Christ in us) because we haven’t still properly felt the necessity to repent. If we see change as beneficial but not very necessary, then there’s no big urgency to engage with the only Power that makes change possible.
Let me end with another quote from one of Peter’s messages. This one spoken to the crowds that gathered around him just after he healed a beggar who was lame from birth. His words – “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19) . Oh! how we want these times of refreshing to come! Doesn’t it sound like the promise of a cool, moist breeze on a hot day? Well that’s the third ‘R”. The other two are pretty obvious by now – Repentance and Remission…but folks, there’s a third ‘R’ –Refreshing – which follows the first two!
The wiping of our sins and the turning of our faces towards God opens the window to heaven’s refreshing winds and invites it to gently blow across our lives! Could it be that the reason that we’ve not fully experienced this is that we’ve engaged with one ‘R” and bypassed the other?