Monday, November 16, 2015

Biblical Examples of Repentance in Conversion

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Biblical Examples of Repentance in Conversion
The first aspect of a genuine conversion experience is to comprehend who we are before God and what we have done that deserves God’s condemnation of our souls.  There are three parables in Luke chapter fifteen detailing the importance of repentance to God.  The parables are taught as a response to the questioning of the “Pharisees and scribes” (Luke 15:2) of why Christ “receiveth sinners.”  We need only read Matthew chapter twenty-three to find out Christ’s evaluation of the scribes and Pharisees as self-righteous hypocrites.  Therefore, it is easy to see that the purpose of these three parables in Luke chapter fifteen is to deal with the inability of the self-righteous moralist to see himself as a sinner before God and to see himself just as condemned as the worst of sinners.

“11And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (Luke 15:11-20).

The prodigal son’s change of mind resulted in a change of action that corresponded with his new evaluation of himself.  He no longer came to the father based upon what he deserved.  In repentance, he came to the father solely on the basis of grace and making an appeal to his grace.  The father responds in grace.  The picture before us is one of genuine salvation.
We are told in Luke 15:17 that the prodigal son “came to himself.”  This is critically essential in a genuine conversion experience.  Often people rescue those in the midst of the consequences of their sins before those people come to see their sins as the cause of their life disasters.  Cognizance of sin is the recognition that sin has temporal and eternal consequences connected to these actions.  Such cognizance of our sins brings the sinner to make a biblical evaluation of his character that has brought him to the situation in which he now exists.  It is not enough to want to merely escape the situation caused by his depravity.  Genuine repentance wants to escape the depravity that caused the situation.  If we miss this point, we fail to understand genuine repentance.  Such a person will soon be back drinking from that same old corrupting fountain.
This is why it is so difficult for the self-righteous religionists to come to repentance.  The self-righteous religionist views himself as a morally good person.  Jesus dealt with this failure in the mindset of the Jews often.  In Matthew chapter nineteen, Jesus has a conversation with a very rich “young man.”  The “young man” comes to Jesus and acknowledges Jesus as a “master,” or a teaching rabbi, that has understanding of the will of God.  His question is found in Matthew 19:16, “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”  At first, Jesus bypasses his question and addresses the root of his problem.  The “young man” addressed Jesus as “Good {agathos} Master.”  Herein lies the first necessity in genuine repentance.  Jesus responds to the young man’s statement with a remarkable truth that confronted the very heart and soul of the misconceptions of thinking in the self-righteous religionists to coming to repentance.  Jesus says, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17).  Only God is morally good all the time and all the time is the singular qualification for being self-righteous.  Only God is self-righteous.  Everyone else is a sinner because no one else but God is good all the time.
Jesus then exemplifies what moral goodness does in Matthew 19:21; “If thou wilt be perfect {teleios; morally complete}, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”  This exemplifies God’s moral perfection in God’s grace.  The “poor” were viewed by the self-righteous Jews as being sinners living in the consequences of their sin.  In other words, the Pharisees believed people were poor because they lived in sin, broke the Law, and were under God’s chastisement.  This was due to a misunderstanding of the “blessing and a curse” promise of God to the nation of Israel in the Mosaic Covenant.  The Jews applied the “blessing and a curse” promise of God to individuals.

“26 Behold, I set before you {plural, refers to all of the nation of Israel} this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse {removal or withdrawal of blessings}, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. 29 And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal. 30 Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign {the sterile vally of Jordan} over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh? 31 For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein. 32 And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day” (Deuteronomy 11:26-32). 

Therefore, when Jesus told the young man to sacrifice all of his earthly treasures to acquire the heavenly treasure of eternal life, the young man started to choke to death on his self-righteousness.  Christ Jesus was telling him that a change of mind about his wealth would result in using that wealth to exemplify God’s loving grace to the undeserving sinner.  This required more than just a change of thinking, but rather a change of mind that was accompanied by actually giving his wealth to benefit the poor.  Of course, doing so would bring him into poverty and total dependence upon God for his own sustenance.  This would require that he see himself in the degradation of his own spiritual poverty before God even in his temporal wealth.  This is why Jesus said to the disciples in the next few verses of Matthew 19:23 and 24, “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly {duskolos; with great or extreme difficulty} enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God {get saved}.”

Jesus was exemplifying how this false notion of self-righteousness, and the false interpretation of wealth as a blessing upon self-righteousness, would keep the Moralist from seeing his true sinfulness before God and repent of the sin of self-righteousness.  The first point of genuine repentance is to understand “there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17).

Certainly we can see this repentance in the life of the Apostle Paul.  Paul reflects a completely different opinion of himself after he is “born again.”  Paul calls himself the chief “sinner” in I Timothy 1:15.  Paul stated his previous perverted opinion of himself and his false understanding of the Law in Philippians 3:4-6.

“4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6).

Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:4-8 reflects the dark blindness of self-righteousness of just how far short even these (man-kind righteousness) come from the glory of God (Romans 3:23; God-kind righteousness).  After salvation, Paul makes a statement regarding all truly repentant believers in their evaluation of themselves before God; “For we are the {true spiritual} circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). 

Self-righteousness is incapable of sanctifying anyone before God.  Self-righteousness will bring nothing but God’s loathing condemnation.  Paul understood this because this was the substance of his very first conversation with the resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus on the Damascus road when he got saved.  Paul rehearsed his conversion as he spoke to King Agrippa in Acts chapter twenty-six.  After which Paul was committed to the same message and the same repentance that brought about his own conversion.

“12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may {condition upon their turning; not just a change of mind} receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. 19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 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 {comparable to; or living which aligns with their} repentance (Acts 26:12-20).

Certainly, the text reveals that genuine repentance is always expected to reflect a genuine change of life, not just a change of mind.  Genuine repentance involves turning “from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18), not just a change of mind.  Action is involved in genuine repentance.  In other words, a change in direction is the outcome of genuine repentance.

We also know that this repentance text is not referring to merely turning away from trust in the “works of the Law” (Moralism and ritualism Sacerdotalism) because the text is referring to the Gentiles (Acts 26:20).  The Gentiles were not trusting in the “works of the Law” for their standing before God.  The Gentiles needed to repent of idolatry and the licentious, fornicating lifestyles that accompanied idolatry.

The word fornication often simply meant the practices of idolatry.  The Greek word translated “fornication” in the New Testament books is the word porneia (por-ni’-ah).  The word often simply means to practice the licentious, lustful sexual perversions of idolatry.  Turning completely away from this lifestyle and its practices was included in Gentile repentance.  These practices had become common in Israel prior to the Babylonian captivity.  God’s chastisement of the nation of Israel in the Babylonian captivity was intended to bring them to repentance and return them to pure worship of Jehovah and obedience to Him.  This is the biblical context of repentance of sin.  Repentance is a turning “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18).  The Greek word translated “turn” in Acts 26:18 is epistrepho (ep-ee-stref’-o).  This same Greek word is often translated “converted” as it is in Acts 3:19.

In Acts 3:19, the subject of repentance to conversion is about the Person and redemptive work Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection/glorification.  This text addresses the Jews and their rejection of the Person and work of their promised Messiah. 

“12 And when Peter saw it {the wonder at the healing of the man lame from birth}, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? 13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. 14 But ye {plural} denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. 16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. 17 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 19 Repent {metanoeo} ye therefore, and be converted {epistrepho}, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing {recovery of breath; the implication is spiritually revived from death} shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ {the second coming}, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution {the spiritual reconstruction of national Israel and the restoration of dominion to humanity through the last Adam, which is Christ Jesus} of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began {Genesis 3:15}. 22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers {Deuteronomy 18:18}, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. 23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. 24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. 25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away {apostrepho; to turn away or turn around} every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:12-26).

Again, the pattern in Scripture is that biblical repentance always results in turning away from sin.  Biblical repentance is not merely a change of mind, but also a change of direction.  If a person’s life has no change of direction, repentance is not genuine and conversion has not taken place.

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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