Repentance – isn’t that rather an old-fashioned word? We don’t seem to hear much about it these days. But recently God has challenged us to pray for a spirit of repentance to wash over us.
Repentance was the primary word used in calling people to God. Repent and believe the gospel. But it did not loom large in my becoming a Christian. After all, I was a good girl – probably because I was too much of a coward to be naughty.
It was when I heard that if no one else had sinned, Jesus would still have gone to Calvary for me that, by faith, I knelt in surrender to him. He came into my life and, wonderfully, began to change me. I read the verse in Isaiah that ‘we all have turned to our own way, and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ I knew this ‘all’ included me. It is not so much individual sins but a life in which self is on the throne which is rebellion against God. Yes, we need to repent and believe the Gospel, to turn away from our old life and live this wonderful new life with Jesus.But then came a time when I had a very unpleasant experience. It shook me and I became very afraid. I forgave the one and thought it was all over but my peace and relationship with Jesus was not restored. It was then that He came near to bring me to repentance. He showed me that I had been concerned about someone else’s sin or motives, but gently he showed me that it was all the wrong thoughts and suspicions in my mind which were grieving the Holy Spirit and that I needed to repent. Now at
last I had peace and joy restored to me as I confessed my sins to God and turned away from this wrong thinking too.
In the Bible it says ‘God raised up Jesus, a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins.’ One said, ‘As a prince he gives repentance.’ Repentance certainly became a gift in my life, and one which constantly needs to be renewed.
I have been taking assemblies in our local schools. A favourite lesson concerns God’s measuring stick. We have fun is realising that even the younger children can consider themselves tall if they stand beside someone shorter than themselves. But if we really want to know how tall we are, then we need a measure. I produce a measuring stick, way over our heads. We all come short.
Likewise, I explain, we can all think we are good if we compare ourselves with others. We don’t throw stones, say bad words perhaps, but God has given us his measuring stick, the commandments. The only One who comes up to God’s measure is Jesus. And none of us can compare with him, for the Bible says ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’
So back for the best part of the lesson. Suppose we had to reach way above six feet to be allowed into God’s house? None of us could go in. Now hopefully I find a nice tall teacher who will take a little child in his arms or on his shoulders and thus demonstrate that he/she can reach the measure and go in, with his help.
Even so, none of us are good enough, - able to keep all of his laws, to reach up to God’s measure. But God has given us Jesus. If we will come to him he will lift us up. In Christ alone we reach to God’s standard. We are accepted in the Beloved.
As we pray for God’s spirit of repentance to wash over us this picture is of inestimable comfort to me. No, I don’t have much scope to be ‘naughty’ in my old age, but there is that continual warfare against wrong thoughts and attitudes, and oh, what a comfort to know that the Saviour is close by, ever ready to take me afresh in his arms, to raise me up and clothe me in his righteousness.
I love the old hymn,
‘Jesus, the name to sinners dear, The name to sinners given. It scatters all our guilty fear, It turns our hell to heaven.’
Let’s pray for this spirit of repentance to wash over us and make us ever more dependent on the mercy and grace of our wonderful Saviour. Didn’t the angel say, ‘Call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’?