A Recipe for Renewal pt. 3

This is Pt. 3.

Pt. 1 can be found here.

Pt. 2 can be found here.

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There are two requisites for true repentance, which are two sides of the same coin.  Repentance means to turn away from evil AND to turn toward God and do good.  Both are implicit within the biblical understanding of sincere repentance.  Turn away from evil, turn to God and do good.  Jesus Himself points to this reality in a story He told about two sons.

The Parable of the Two Sons

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’  And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same.  And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. Andeven when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”
– Matthew 21:28-32, ESV

Although the first son said he wouldn’t do what his father asked, he later changed his mind and did it.  The second son initially told his father he’d do what was asked him, but he never did it.  The second son was praised for doing the will of his father.  Remember, repentance is not solely a turning away from evil (the first son’s flagrant refusal to obey), but it’s also turning to God and doing good (his later choice to do what was asked of him).  Jesus teases out this reality through His words in the book of Mark when He says,

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

– Mark 1:15, ESV

Jesus leans on the common understanding of repentance in his day and further enforces the fact that repentance is not simply turning away from bad behavior or evil, but a turning to God and choosing to do good.  Here, Jesus says, “repent and believe”.  The biblical understanding of belief is to act.  In our society today, it’s largely accepted that beliefs are inward ascents to one’s own personal reality.  This has never been true.  The writers of Scripture knew that to believe something meant to act on those beliefs, because our beliefs inform our behaviors.  Thats’ why you can tell what someone believes (or what you believe!) by what you do: how you use your time, invest your resources, and what you give your affections to.

I’ll finish by painting a vivid picture of true repentance from one of my favorite films – Braveheart.

While not a film for the youngest among us, it’s an inspiring story of the Scottish fight for freedom from the tyranny of the English.  The main character, William Wallace, had just fought an epic battle alongside the Scotland’s current royal leader, Robert the Bruce, who turned against him in that battle after being bribed by the English.  See Robert the Bruce’s change of heart after his ‘sin’.

What’s clear from God’s point of view is that our sincere repentance (change of mind/ways) initiates God’s all out plan to renew and restore the world, beginning with right where we live.  When confronted with the Truth, our willful recognition of our own perspectives and practices which are out of whack, and our decisions to align them with Truth revealed, come with a promise that will be kept.

“..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 7:14

May God grant us true sorrow for our sin – where we’ve introduced broken and pain into he world – and fill us the strong comfort of his mercy and loving-kindness in Christ Jesus.

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End Pt. 3.

Pt. 1 can be found here.

Pt. 2 can be found here.