Isaiah 30:15 says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." By letting go of your own ability to control people and situations, and resting in what Christ has accomplished through his death and resurrection, your spirit quietly trusts God to give you the strength to receive the gift of salvation in Christ. This is not a once and done event. It is an ever continuing occurrence that spawns growth in the depth of your relationship with God.
A verse struck me in a new way reading the first chapter of Mark this week. John the Baptist is described here as a forerunner for Jesus preaching the message that the Savior was about to appear on earth. "John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Mark 1:4). The word baptism caught my attention. Not only did John preach repentance, but he preached a baptism of repentance. A baptism of repentance speaks of an initiation, introduction, beginning, and launching into repentance. Not merely dabbling with repentance, but immersion into it, fully engulfed by it, and totally engaged, This is how Jesus is to be received (when he came to earth, or in your heart on a daily basis).
So what is repentance? One of the Webster's 1828 dictionary definitions states, "Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God." Some describe repentance as turning around to the opposite direction. Repentance is turning away from whatever takes us away from God, and turning toward the things that bring us closer to God. This is a journey of continually engaging God in worship and prayer, listening and watching for God's revelation on the path of life.
For our life in God to flourish, we must become aware of those things we do to offend Him, and turn away from them. We are much like Israel, the people of God in the Old Testament. In calling Israel to repentance, Isaiah (as God’s representative), demands that she forsake her thoughts and ways, because they are not His ways—which He sets over against theirs. Instead, God insists she must begin thinking His thoughts after Him and walking in His ways (Isaiah 55:9). These "higher" thoughts and ways have been revealed in the Bible (Isaiah 55:10-11). Repentance is turning from one's own sinful thoughts and ways to biblical truth and holiness. Acknowledging and confessing our sins to God releases His forgiveness. "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9).
In the similar manner that repentance and confession are keys in reconciling oneself to God, repentance and confession are critical in reconciliation with fellowman. Sorrow, remorse, and regret may accompany repentance, but neither can ever be equated with it. A weeping offender in the presence of an offended person does not necessarily identify true repentance. Repentance is not a feeling. A person may regret his words or actions, but not be repentant. Regret comes from many causes and may be mixed with true repentance, but real repentance comes only from the honest acknowledgment of wrong doing. Repentance is real when the offender feels more pain for the hurt he caused the offended than the inconvenience he inflicted on himself.
Some question whether repentance is necessary before forgiveness. To answer this, an important distinction must be made between receiving forgiveness and granting forgiveness. The issue of repentance is vitally important to an offender accepting the forgiveness of a victim (as part of reconciliation). Remember, as I explain in my book, Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart, reconciliation is not synonymous with forgiveness. An offended person granting forgiveness to an offender cannot place demands (such as repentance on the part of their offender) as conditions for obeying God and practicing forgiveness.
Sometimes the offended party must take the first step to restore a broken relationship. Repentance and confession (on the part of the offender) are necessary to receive forgiveness (from God). While at the same time they are not required prerequisites for granting forgiveness, from the perspective of an offended person needing to forgive an offense.
Although repentance is a necessary ingredient to experience God’s forgiveness, one should never forget that God has made all the first moves to bring about that reconciliation with His creatures. A Christian is saved by God's grace. A person is given the grace to repent and cannot claim glory for the ability to repent.
Nonetheless, repentance and forgiveness fit hand in glove in releasing an offender from his offense. The offended person’s willingness to take responsibility for any part he or she plays in causing the offense demonstrates a true heart of humility, shows the love of God, and opens the door for reconciliation in the proper timing.
Until we die, we all offend and are offended against. There's no escaping offense. Therefore, repentance as a lifestyle is a matter for growth and maturity as a disciple of Christ. As John prepared the way for Christ coming to earth, a baptism of repentance prepares our way for freedom in Christ.
Note: The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness. This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith) to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at http://bluerockbnb.com
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry