1Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
We discussed above that it is salvation that Jesus talked about as being impossible for men, but possible with God. You may have tried in your own strength and wisdom to comprehend the Bible and even to live like a Christian and found yourself greatly discouraged and frustrated. Such was the case with me. You cannot rightly understand the gospel, nor respond to it, in and of your own desire or striving. It must be spiritually understood, and this can only be granted as a gift from God. Our lack of capability serves a glorious purpose: “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1Cor 1:29),”and “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1Cor 2:5).”
So God would ask that you pray throughout reading this for understanding and conviction regarding His truth the gospel of His Son. The next section is vitally important, because if you will not humble yourself then God will not cause you to spiritually understand and obey any of these calls. Therefore, pray even that He would work to humble you.
His Call For You To Humble Yourself as a Sinner
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).” Whoever is good and worthy in his own eyes, and exalts himself above the knowledge of God, is thereby excluded from Jesus Christ as long as they remain in that state. He will oppose them until by His grace they recognize their need of forgiveness. But He gives grace to the humble; He “lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with…the princes of his people (Psalm 113:7-8).” The one who mourns over his sin will be comforted by God (Matt 5:4), and the one who recognizes that he is “poor,” having no spiritual resources of his own, will be given the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 5:3).”
Jesus Christ said “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31).” If you are not a sinner, then the Lord Jesus Christ simply did not come for you. But the truth is that we are all sinners, because the Bible makes it clear that “no one is righteous (Romans 3:11).” God wants us to take a long, hard look at ourselves in the light of Him and of His standards, so that we will see as deeply as possible that we have fallen hopelessly short of the glory of God.
At this point some may think that God is not willing to forgive them because they have sinned so terribly much. If we all saw ourselves accurately, we would each confess that we do not deserve His love and mercy. We would cry out with Isaiah the prophet “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Is 6:5).” But grace means that God doesn’t give us what we do deserve: rejection, punishment, and hostility. Mercy means that God gives us what we don’t deserve: acceptance, forgiveness, and love. I was worthy of nothing other than the holy and righteous wrath of God, and yet God has chosen not to pour out wrath on me but rather on His own Son, dying in my place.
1John 4:18-19 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”
He loved us first and took away our punishment. If we come to know Him, being washed in His blood, we will have no more cause to fear His wrath or punishment. He will love us with a perfect love, and grant us a heart that loves Him in return. Do you have a heavy load of sins, so shameful you can barely lift your head? When onlookers scowled as a sinful woman washed Jesus feet with her tears, He responded:
“’Do you see this woman? I enteredyour house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven (Luke 7:44-48).’”
The greater your recognition of the magnitude of your sins and His worth, the more you will come to adore Him. This understanding should have made us flee far from Him, but in His mercy He loves for such humbled sinners to cast themselves at His feet. He can forgive the worst offender freely and completely. He loves them as His own little children. As far as the east is from the west, so far He can remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12)! And oh, how we will love Him for this with all of our hearts.
Acknowledge with your lips that you do not deserve this mercy, and nothing you could ever have done should inspire Christ to have died! All you or I had to offer Him was sin, and for that He died, and for us. Remember friends, He loved us while we were His enemies. Would you, this day, become a lover and worshiper of God with me? Humble yourself as a sinner before our gracious Saviour.
“Just as I am and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bids me “Come to Thee,” Oh Lamb of God I come, I come.” – Just As I Am
His Call For You To Repent of Your Sin
I hope you have become like the men whose eyes were opened after having walked and talked with the risen Jesus. When they realized who it was that had been with them they said “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures (Luke 24:32)?” I pray that as you have been reading the Lord Himself has been opening your eyes so that your heart would burn within you, and break over your sin and His glory. I pray you would be “cut to the heart (Acts 2:37)” as so many Israelites were when they realized their blame in crucifying the Christ. It was you and I as well who put Him there; it was our need of cleansing that required His blood. We truly repent when we really understand who the true God is, and we turn not only from our deeds but from our idolatrous and man serving thinking about who we vainly imagined that He was.
Unlike the culture’s god, the one true God calls all people everywhere to repent, and to do it now. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion (Hebrews 3:15).” Jesus Christ’s first message preached was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt 4:17).”
Whoever humbles Himself before God, must not only acknowledge his sin, but feel remorseful for having scorned the Lord. Psalm 51, the “Psalm of Repentance” says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (v 17).” Think about how lovely Jesus Christ is, and how majestic His creation. Wonder at how kind his works are towards the children of men, and how unspeakable his suffering in love on the cross is.
“God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)” and not to hard hearted presumption upon His mercy. Let the knowledge of Him lead you to turn away from sin.
2Corinthians 7:10 “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret whereas worldly grief produces death.” True repentance is born out of a godly grief like this.
Now what does it mean to repent? I think of repentance as a forsaking of lesser loves, for the gaining of the greatest and purest love. It is a shift in your appetites and desires. To different degrees we have all become like the prodigal son who had stooped so low in his sin that he was beginning to earnestly desire to be fed alongside the pigs. He had squandered his inheritance on reckless and foolish living and was left with nothing. His appetite had told him that sin would satisfy, and was worth getting whatever the cost, and no matter who he trampled over as he rushed towards it. Now left with nothing and hungry, he looked at the pigs that he tended to and envied them.
By the grace of God the prodigal son came to his senses (Luke 15:17), and the lifestyle that once looked to him like a precious pearl now appeared as what is really was: sand that blows away. He returned to his father with a prepared speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
What about you? Repentance is recognizing that the things which once dazzled us, held our cravings, and temporarily dampened our thirst, are nothing short of pig’s slop and even death in light of Jesus Christ. A person repents when the sin that once satisfied him, contorts before his eyes into the ugly, writhing, black and perilous pit that it truly is. As a song by Shane and Shane says “To see the Lord, the promised land, where ends all sin, pearly gates look bland, and what was once a pearl (is now) sand, that blows away in light of Him. Oh go away…in light of Him; Blow away, o waging war of sin.”
Like the prodigal son, we are not worthy to be called sons and daughters of God. But look at how the Father will respond to whoever repents before Him: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him (verse 20),” and the father planned a celebration saying “this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found (verse 24)!”
All of Heaven rejoices, not over the masses of people who are smug in their supposed righteousness, but over “one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).” God loves sinners. He is not reluctant or hesitant to save them. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).” “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God (1John 3:1).” For God is “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Peter 3:9).”
If you want to know our Father who is in Heaven, be forgiven through his Son and sealed for eternity by the Holy Spirit, then you must forsake your sin. There are the obvious sins- lying, stealing, premarital sex, cursing and the likes, but beyond this you must forsake your self-centered living. This thought we will come back to shortly.
His Call For You To Turn To Him and Trust Him Alone
So repentance is a heart attitude of willingness and dedication to turn away from the things that offend the Lord. It involves turning away from sin, but also turning towards something, rather someone. Jesus told Paul the target of his preaching was to: “open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:18).”
We turn away from darkness, but this only leads to forgiveness if we also turn to light. We can say that we do not follow Satan but this is only possible and leads to salvation if we turn away from Satan towards God.
So many people today think it is enough to live an outwardly moral life, relatively free from gross and notable sins. They may have even had a “transformation” and cleaned up their life considerably. Refer back to the section earlier regarding man’s belief that he can bribe God to forgive him on the basis of his good works. This way of thinking insults God’s perfect justice, which demands that every sin committed by man must be punished.
It is not enough to just try and “clean your life up.” All prior sins and sins to come are punishable by eternal death. Remember that God requires perfection to enter His kingdom, and we all fall terribly short. Jesus Christ took our punishment for sin and there is no other way or name under Heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12).
Repentance must be completed by trusting in Christ alone. 1Peter 2:24-25 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” He alone can “forgive… all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Col 2:13-14).” We can try to move on from our sins and “put them behind us,” but only Jesus Christ can wipe out the record of them completely before the Father.
What work can you add to his death on the cross? What tiniest measure can you contribute to help you gain salvation? The hymn “My Hope Is in the Lord” says it perfectly:
No merit of my own His anger to suppress.
My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.
And now for me He stands Before the Father’s throne.
He shows His wounded hands and names me as His own.
His grace has planned it all, ‘Tis mine but to believe,
And recognize His work of love and Christ receive.
Romans 4:5 “To the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Ephesians 2:9-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
So confess your sins, however many come to mind, before God. This you can do anytime, anywhere for “there is (only) one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1Tim 2:5).” Beyond just confession of individual deeds, repent of who you are inside and pray that rather you could be made like Christ. Cry aloud to Him from your heart and commit that you desire to forsake your sin this day! Put your faith in Jesus Christ alone, trusting that He paid for your sin, purchased you with His blood, and makes you a new creation. He alone is can be your righteousness, and the end of all your striving to be worthy of Heaven. I encourage you to learn this faith anchoring hymn, “Before the Throne Of God Above” and make it be your prayer. A portion of it is as follows:
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that well in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of my guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made and end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me.