Legalistic remorse says, “I broke God’s rules,” while real repentance says, “I broke God’s heart.” – TIMOTHY KELLER
Here are a series of quotes from one of our generation’s most theologically astute preachers, Timothy Keller. See if you can identify our theme for today!
- Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves.
- Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.
- Legalistic remorse says, “I broke God’s rules,”
- while real repentance says, “I broke God’s heart.”
- Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin … — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings.
- But repentance out of conviction … is really sorrow over … the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin.
- [True repentence] makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘this disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’
+ + +
You noticed today’s theme didn’t you? RePent.
If we are seeking to ReNew our faith, ReIgnite our passion, and ReInvigorate our journey – in any way – then maybe we ought to follow Jesus’ Spiritual Health ReStoration Plan from Revelation 2.
Do you remember this from yesterday … Our Revelation 2 diagnosis that Jesus gave to one of the seven churches was “You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Rev 2:4
In the next verse. Jesus’ treatment plan was to “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Rev 2:5 Or to put that in terms of our study …
- ReConsider how you have fallen.
- RePent of your sins.
- ReTurn to the things you did at first.
Three treatments … and because they’re from Jesus in the climatic book of Revelation, they ought to take on an urgency. Because Christ could come – or we could be hit by a bus – tomorrow, we need to be ready, stay “awake,” and keep “oil in our lamps.” We need to be ready to meet Christ at any time. Mt25
Yesterday, therefore, we focused on ReConsidering — how, why, and how far we have fallen. Today, we’ll turn to the second call: RePent.
+ + +
There is a powerful marriage counseling image in these words of Jesus. If ReStoring “the love you had at first” is the goal, then a frequent marital advice is to start over again. Start dating again! “Do the things you did at first.”
That’s the advice … if the goal is to ReNew the affection and ReKindle that spark.
Often in marriage counseling, though, something needs to happen first: We need to work on forgiving one another for all the big and little things that have systematically sucked the life out of the relationship.
And … we also need to take responsibility for our own part in the brokenness. We need to acknowledge, confess, and RePent of our sin.
- Acknowledging recognizes that “I myself” am part of the problem.
- Confessing is verbally admitting your transgression to another. (Apologies help here!)
- RePenting, then, is actually turning away from that sin. It’s a change of heart – which is the literal meaning of the Biblical word for RePentance. Metanoia means to change one’s (heart and) mind.
+ + +
To understand RePentance, let’s apply the quoted words of Timothy Keller first to marriage … and then back to our relationship with God.
Believing that true RePentance is a matter of love rather than legalism, Keller reminds us that, “Legalistic remorse says, ‘I broke [some] rules,’ while real repentance says, ‘I broke [my wife’s] heart.’”
Do you see the difference? Caring about another’s heart sparks a change within our own selfish, self-protective heart. It is a true grieving over the harm done in the relationship.
That’s why Keller says: “Repentance out of [legalistic duty] is sorrow for the consequences of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction is really sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin.”
+ + +
Melting hearts: We need that in marriages. We need that in our relationships with our kids, our parents and siblings, friends and neighbors. Likewise, we need our hearts to melt in love for God!
Therefore, true RePentance learns to grieve over what God grieves. True RePentance learns to develop a vile distaste for sin and division, and it spurs us to hunger for righteousness.
And it’s daily.
True RePentance is something that must happen again and again and again.
+ + +
Our Scriptural book for today is 2 Corinthians. Paul’s first letter to this church is the harshest in Scripture. They’re straying. He’s calling them away from immorality. He’s calling them back to God. He’s urging them to RePent.
Second Corinthians is partially calling God’s people back … and it’s partially Paul aiming to mend fences after the bluntness of the first letter! Paul is not denying any truth he’s proclaimed – hard or not – rather, he’s encouraging those who took his hard words seriously!
He says, “Now I ReJoice … because your grief led to RePentance; for you felt a godly grief … For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal…! For godly grief produces a RePentance that leads to salvation…” 2 Cor 7:9-11
Should we link this gift of salvation to the most famous verse in 2 Corintians? The Apostle says, “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things are new and all this is from God who reconciles us to himself.” 2 Cor 5:17
New life and joy are the fruit of RePentance!
The key ReLationship in your life is not with family or friends; it should be the one with God. When this divine ReLationship is blossoming, it tends to grow sweeter fruit in all our other ReLationships. To bless your ReLationship with God, take time today to RePent:
- Acknowledge Acknowledge the specific ways you sin and acknowledge even your taste for sin. Acknowledge how you hurt others and grieve God. Acknowledge how your excuses and compromises undermine your own life.
- Confess Confess your sins against God. Confess your transgressions against others … perhaps to them. Try also discovering the blessing of verbally confessing your sins against God to another person. (There’s a power in bringing darkness into the light and hearing the assurance of God’s love.)
- RePent Pray for God to change your heart – quelling sinful desires and removing harmful habits that hurt God, yourself, and others. Make practical plans for how to daily avoid your repeated sins.
Read today, as you are able, 2 Corinthians 5