“Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Luke 3:8 (KJV, emphasis mine)
As we continue to capture the concrete call of repentance; yes, that word that Jesus was not afraid to say, I would like you to march with me down memory lane. March you say? Yes, march, because that is where we will discover some insight into the word repentance.
When I was a freshman in 1976 at Griffin High School (GO GOLDEN BEARS!) we were all required to participate in the school’s ROTC program. This elective had to be completed in order to get your High School Diploma.
The program mandated discipline, work ethic a healthy sense of pride, personal responsibility, leadership, accountability, and respect for authority, teamwork and positive ambition. We also received instruction in first aid, marksmanship, map reading and marching drills. In addition, we were required to wear our uniform three times a week. We had to undergo uniform inspections which were a staple of accountability. I still can smell the Brasso (a solution we used to shine our Brass insignia) and the old school black shoe polish paste that came in a round can. If a cadet were in violation of uniform code he or she would receive a demerit. Promotion was based on a merit system and there were plenty opportunities for advancement. I remember when we were being trained to stand in formation as well as march. We frequently heard commands like: ATTENTION! PARADE REST! ABOUT FACE!
When we were marching in one direction and we needed an abrupt or immediate change of direction, the command would come from our platoon leader: REAR MARCH! And everyone would turn simultaneously and go in the opposition direction.
Repentance calls every soul to REAR MARCH! That is to change direction in the following three domains of your being: mind (what I think about God), heart (my love and desires) and will (His will or purposes over all others especially my very own).
The Word of God also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of action.
“Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:8-14 (KJV)
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19 (KJV)
“But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Acts 26:20 (KJV)
As we consider repentance, let me emphasize two things that biblical repentance is not.
- Repentance is not just a resolve to do better. Everyone who has ever made New Year's resolution knows how easily human willpower can be walked over and walked away from.
- Repentance certainly is not penance, an activity performed to try to compensate for one's own crimes against God.
In closing, I submit to you four dynamics of true repentance. Biblical repentance consists of:
- An authentic apprehension about one's own guilt and sinfulness;
- An accurate apprehension of God's mercy in Christ;
- An actual abhorrence of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and reverently rotating turning from rebellion to God; and
- An audacious attitude that seeks to apprehend a holy life in a walking in the will of God and the way of His word.
Have you obeyed the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords command to REAR MARCH?
For the Glory of God,