Were I to ask you what the word “Repent” means, you would probably be able to easily give an answer. It would probably consist of feeling sorrow for a sin, asking for forgiveness and not having the intent to do it again. And this would be correct.
But there is another aspect of “Repent” that I want to discuss today, that to repent means to turn away, to make a change, to change course. Certainly if we have sin, we need to make a change. Perhaps you feel like me – I am not sinless by any measure, but as I survey my life, “big” sins have been dealt with, leaving a lot of what I would consider “maintenance” sins, or those things that quickly rise up, like occasional anger, pride or lust. But I want to focus on “Repent” as it pertains to change.
Ezekiel 18:27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
28 Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
This phrase “turneth away” is that aspect of “Repent” I want to discuss, but maybe not in the way you would expect me to. All of life is about change, the process of refining ourselves. This requires a frequent examination for the purpose of repenting – making a change.
By way of explanation, consider 2 passages where it speaks of God repenting. We should not assume God committed some sin which needed to be repented of, but that He made a change of direction for some valid reason.
First, we read in 1 Chronicles 21 that David allowed his pride to bring him to number the people of his kingdom. Basically, he wanted to know just how extensive his power, authority and influence went. God was displeased with this and sent a prophet to offer 3 options of punishment, David chose the option of pestilence. A pestilence swept the land, killing 70,000 men of Israel. Verse 14-15 tells us:
“So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.
And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
Again, this isn’t to say that God was committing an evil which needed to be repented of, but rather that He made a change in His intent. The following verse describes that David was in sackcloth with the elders of Israel as this was going on, which may be why the Lord caused the pestilence to cease.
Another example is in Jeremiah 26:13
“Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.”
This, like the previous scripture reading, speaks of God changing the consequences that were due. I bring these scriptures up to show that the word “Repent” is also regarding a changing of mind, direction or course.
We rightly put emphasis on funerals. Like me, you have probably been to a funeral where it was standing room only. That departed loved one had such an effect that many came to remember and show respect. But we also hope that through this, people are touched with the need to repent – to consider how that departed one touched their life, what their characteristics were etc., and choose to make a change, or repent. Conversely, if their life was not well lived, it may put the emphasis to choose to live differently.
Trials should also have this effect upon us, to cause us to consider our ways, how we respond to the trial, and consider if we may need to change course.
We are forced to consider this wacky year, 2020, and everything surrounding it. Throughout Christianity, not just our church, there is a call for people to repent. I want to give some things in this article I have been brought to consider – my actions, thoughts and opinions, and the need that I have to make a change, to repent.
- I have found myself pretty disappointed in how quickly I am able to be factioned. There have been many things that I have allowed to contribute to my attitude. My business had been going very well, we were making good money again and breathing a sigh of relief. With several good contracts in front of us, with one strike of a pen our governor shut us down, and all my contracts dried up, leaving me without work for 3 months. I was in a college class preparing me for new job opportunities, which immediately shut down. Several job processes I had advanced in were shut down, and even now haven’t opened again. And our ability to meet together, which has been part of the glue that has held our family together through difficult times, was interrupted. These things caused me, as I am sure it caused many of you, a lot of frustration.
I probably see this virus the same as some of you and much different than others. In efforts to have voices heard, needs met, the inevitable factioning took hold. I am not the only one. We have all been involved in this in one way or another over this virus.
We were in a group study after dinner and were discussing a subject, when we read a scripture. As we read it, I was overwhelmed by the Spirit that convicted me that I needed to repent of how willing I had been to faction.
Galatians 5:15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Let’s not be disingenuous as we read that scripture. Its fair to say we all in one way or another have allowed this virus to cause us to be frustrated with our brothers and sisters. And it probably hasn’t been intentional. We have been guided by our beliefs and concerns for ourselves and others. But the effect has been felt throughout our church. I was led to consider this: if we bite and devour one another, and consume each other, will there be anything left of us?
Throughout my life I have heard sermons, testimonies, admonitions concerning unity. Folks, if you are frustrated about lack of unity in our church because you think we should all see things the same, you will always be frustrated, because it won’t happen. Even Paul and Peter didn’t see eye to eye. But they were united in purpose, there was no factioning of their dedication and purpose in the Gospel.
So, consider this first point as I had to. If you, as I did, found yourself using the words “us” and “them” about your brothers and sisters, repent and make a change.
- We need to repent, make a change, in how readily we bear witness of God and of our beliefs. As a result of this wacky year, I have found that a door has been opened for me to speak with people about God, and it isn’t forced or unnatural.
In my business I go into people’s homes, often when there is just one person there, I am an imposing figure and can be intimidating and I am taking thousands and thousands of people’s dollars. So, as I try to help people know and be comfortable with me, I always tell them I am a Christian, a minister, an assistant pastor in the church. This year, as I have shared that, the questions seem to come rapid fire from people looking for understanding, answers and comfort. Why? Because they have seen the failures and shortcomings of where they have traditionally gone for understanding of what is going on. Because social media, Hollywood, governments and news outlets are unable to bring a sense of comfort, understanding or hope, but they have an expectation that God can. Many just don’t know how to access that comfort from God.
So you must ask yourself a two-part question: are you ready to give some answer and are you looking for those opportunities? Now is the time! People are looking and you possess something of tremendous value!
Mosiah 9:38-40 speaks of the commitment when you are baptized. One thing it states plainly is that we are to be a witness of God at all times, wherever you are and in whatever circumstance.
1 Peter 3:15 tells us:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
So, if you aren’t looking for opportunity in this, if you aren’t prepared, ready, or willing: repent. Make a change. Something I would have you consider is that it is hard to do this, to be a witness, if you aren’t available. People looking for hope are out there in the world, which means we need to be willing to go out into it. I understand health concerns, I understand caution. But if you, like me, see more and more that God is behind the things are going on right now, is there any reason to fear?
- I have seen two pretty broad ways people have been acting in this time of virus. First, people who are still friendly, happy and acting as close to the old normal as possible. Second, people who appear frightened, standoffish, avoiding others, maybe even rude (how many fist fights have we seen or heard of over masks?). I have seen people walking with their heads down, not even looking up, avoiding people in aisles. Masked and gloved and disinfected head to toe, their concern and worry are palpable. This isn’t to make light of it. We are in a time that is strange and uncertain.
I hope as a follower of Christ that you are intentionally interacting with people. One brother told me the other day that when walking in the store he tells people that he is smiling under his mask, just trying to make a difference. There are some real psychological effects to a society that can’t see each other’s faces, it causes diminishing of communication and increases avoidance. I hope this isn’t you, and if it is, repent. I hope you strike up conversations when there is opportunity, I hope you see this time as one that is primed for the follower of Christ to have an effect every day.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
This is one way we will be identified, how we interact with people. Examine this and if you are falling short, make a change. Repent.
- We are seeing some of the foundations of our society being uncovered and exposed. Things that were once in darkness are being shouted from the rooftops. We are watching Hollywood lose its influence. I read an article on the BBC the other day about the dying celebrity culture. There are no red carpets. No latest fashion trend (aside from masks!). The new title of “influencer” has been diminished to nearly nothing. Movies aren’t being made, or released. Movie theaters are on the verge of bankruptcy. People who happen to have found fame as a part of a family, or on social media are without a venue, without a voice.
Nahum 3:1 Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;
2 The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.
3 The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses:
4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.
5 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.
6 And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock.
Nahum was prophesying to Nineveh, the city Jonah had prophesied to. A place that was notable, in size, in industry, and based on this scripture, in sin. God said He was going to show the nations Nineveh’s nakedness and shame. In other words, He was going to expose what they were.
We are seeing this with our entertainment industry. Big names have been brought out for abominable sexual sins, many more plausibly associated with them. Celebrities are turning on each other. Professional sports are losing viewership, some of it certainly due to political messaging and movements athletes are supporting that at their core are untrue and destructive.
I hope we are seeing a need to repent, to make a change, with how we spend our time and gain our entertainment. Philippians 4:8 speaks of spending our time with things are true and honest, of good report. I can be honest and say that I have spent too much time with things that don’t measure up. My family and I recently spent a couple days in the woods, unplugged. I was amazed that it took effort to relearn how to be around each other without electronics.
Ephesians 5:15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Redeeming is gaining back, taking full advantage of, making full use of. Folks, time goes fast. The days are evil, they are full of things to waste our time.
You must consider this point yourself and determine to what level, if at all, my thoughts are valid. But you should consider it. And if you have found that your life is intrenched in this world of media and social media, consider if you have a need to repent, to make a change.
- We are seeing the failures and inabilities of systems we have come to rely upon. Guidance for this virus has varied from day to day, often contradictory. Health systems, science, research, governments at a local, state, national and international levels- they have no clue. Politics have taken hold, which means I believe nothing that comes out. It all has a spin, a point to make.
We look to governments to solve things. Our government was supposed to offer some financial stability. As a small business owner, I applied for some of the help my taxes over the years had paid for. I applied two days after legislation was passed, four months later I finally got a reply. This isn’t about political parties – they’ve all failed.
We look to healthcare to heal us. How many of us wouldn’t be alive without modern medicine, many are literally being kept alive daily with medicines and procedures of modern medicine. And yet, with all the medical minds, research and science, there has been no clear answers or cures.
We have an election coming up, there are conversations about which party, which candidate is going to guide us through this crisis, who will do it best, who will do it worst. And yet all sides thus far have failed.
Consider this scripture, speaking of Christ:
Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
There isn’t a financial system, health system, political system or legal system that exists without the will of Christ. There isn’t any one of them that operate around Him, before Him or unknown to Him.
And now consider why. We read throughout the Old Testament prophets that God continually speaks to His people about idols.
Isaiah 48:5 I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.
God told us these things, He shows us His power and ability so we can never say, “my government helped me,” or “our medical system saved me.” Right now, some of you may be holding out for a vaccine to come from our greatest medical minds. Folks, lets be honest that in many ways, this is an idol. God is in control. He holds all this in His hand.
I hope that you look and consider where your expectation has been for help, relief, guidance in this time. I’m not trying to be offensive, but if ever there was a time for a people to lean upon the promised of God alone, this is it!
My life has changed so much in 3 years. Things happened that defied logic and precedent. Sure things vanished. Uncertainty about jobs, future, finances – man, I’ve been there. I consider what my time as a police officer was and what it evolved into. I worshipped it. It was the bringer of money, the bringer of status, the bringer of a stable future, the bringer of satisfaction. All that went away and I had to learn not to have faith (a belief that God is able) which I had, but to have trust (to allow Him to do His will). This meant throwing away some idols I had in my heart, because department policy, union representatives, attorneys, or even precedent were not able to help, defying all logic.
We all know the familiar verses in the Sermon on the Mount. God even cares for the birds, aren’t you of more value? God clothes the fields, aren’t you of more value? Our hope, our trust must be in God, in the pursuit of His kingdom, and everything we need will be cared for.
I finally fully experienced this. It was a painful process to get to. I had to repent, make a change, so many times.
Christ asked His disciples a question before He was taken. He reminded them of when He sent them to preach, without money, food, changes of clothing. He then asked them if they lacked anything. Their answer was, Nothing. This is what my experience has been.
So, consider to what extent you look to the systems of man, of society, of the United States of America. To what level do you rely upon them? Do you have a need to repent, to make a change?
The call of the day is to repent. It is to be willing to change course. Will our nation do this, that is pretty hard to say. But will you? Examine yourself. Are you invested, tied to something that God has said is destined to fall? Where is your hope? Are you sharing it? How are you showing Christ in your life, are you keeping it to yourself?
God bless us with courage, strength, wisdom, discernment and love.