If God was a doctor and you came for a check-up, He might stick a thermometer in your ear, shine a light over your eyes, and use a popsicle stick to look in your mouth. But He would also use His stethoscope to listen to your heartbeat…how healthy would it sound?
Section VIII of the Nazarene Articles of Faith is Repentance. As I look through it, I agree with what it says, but I am also convicted by it. I have repented of my sins, but I often find myself obeying my own impulses rather than what God says is true. Repentance is not a one-time closed case – it is an ongoing part of a healthy relationship with God, and seeking a changed outlook on life. The Bible has a beautiful narrative of repentance.
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55)
Isaiah was a prophet to Israel who called them to come back to following God. Ezekiel called them to the same thing:
“32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18)
God would rather that people not suffer the consequences of sin, so He offers them the option to repent and be saved. He even promised that to Israel when they were dedicating the temple and He looked ahead to when they would wander away. He promised that in that time:
“…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7)
And Jesus came with the same message:
“14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”” (Mark 1)
Didn’t God kill people who were horrible sinners? the people asked.
” 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13)
“9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 18).
Am I the Pharisee or the Tax Collector? One looks good on the outside but it is the other one that sees the true state of his heart. The Holy Spirit helps us to come to this perspective:
“37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”” (Acts 2)
Will Jesus really come back? Does any of this really matter? Yes, Peter says:
“9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3)
How then will you live? David, a king of Israel had a heart mindset that God said reflected His own. He prayed,
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51)
“I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 32).