Would I be off-base in thinking that, in general, repentance isn’t something that most of us — believer or not — view too favorably? While some may see no reason for it at all, is it a stretch that even for those who know repentance needs to be a thing, it’s more likely grudgingly viewed as something I have to do rather than gratefully viewed as something I get to do? That too often it’s more like being forced to bow the knee rather than the freedom to run to the cross? I’m thinkin’ . . .
Two words in my 2 Peter reading this morning have me thinking about repentance. A unique translation to the ESV, not found in the other versions. But a translation that has me in awe and adoration for the gift of repentance.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
(2Peter 3:9 ESV)
Reach repentance. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning. The other translations render it “come to repentance.” Same idea, but isn’t there a nuance presented by the ESV? I think “come to” as in “come to my senses.” Truth in that. After all that’s the wording used for the prodigal son (Lk. 15:17). But reaching repentance sounds a little less like me finally being broken and dealing with the undeniable reality of my sin, and little more like actualizing the gift provided of being able to align my mind with God’s and appropriate the remedy for my rebellion. Does that make sense?
I think repentance can be so hard because pride continues to so prevail. If nothing else, when the Spirit does daily battle with the flesh (Gal. 5:17) the way of the kingdom is at war with the way of the ego. The Seal of God in our lives, guaranteeing what is to come (Eph. 1:13b-14), is guarding the throne of our lives, to be occupied by Jesus only, against the pull of our lives to exalt self and re-take the throne. It’s our pride which justifies our temptations. It’s our pride which compares ourselves to others around us who are “less holy” so that we can view ourselves more highly than we ought. It’s our pride that so often needs to be battled, turned back, and forced to its knees before we’ll concede we need to repent. Thank God, for the battle.
But as the mind of Christ grows in us, shouldn’t our awareness of the ever-present assault by the flesh also increase? As we abide in His presence more and more, our imperfections are exposed more and more. As we abide in God’s living word, the sword which pierces and divides soul and spirit discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12), it reveals the lingering sin which continues to rear its ugly head in our lives. But we know how to deal with the sin. We get to repent. The Spirit of Christ imparting the mind of Christ compelling us to run to the cross of Christ confessing our transgression before Christ and desire to turn again and embrace the way of Christ for the glory of Christ. That’s reaching repentance. Or, as Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) puts it, passing on to reformation.
Repentance is a gift. The gift that leads, again and again and as often as necessary, to the finished work of Christ. The gift that unlocks the door of forgiveness and restoration when we’re once more tripped up by transgression. The key that unlocks the fountain of the blood of Christ, sufficient to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Repentance is a gift, because God’s word says it’s a gift.
We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man — you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself — that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
(Romans 2:2-4 ESV)
In my flesh, I have to repent. In the Spirit, praise God, I get to repent.
For my good. By His grace. All to God’s glory.