What the Bible says about
Repentance as Change
(From Forerunner Commentary)
When David saw the enormity of his sin, he realized he had hurt God and His purpose. His sorrow, chagrin, and remorse reached deeply into his heart, mind, and entire being. Our opposition to God should create a similar deep emotional response in us, for we have all played major roles in our Savior's death. He died for our sins. Emotional sorrow alone is not the answer, however. Paul says godly sorrow produces repentance (change) toward salvation, while worldly sorrow is like saying, "I'm sorry I got caught. I'll be more careful next time I sin."
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance
The prophet Isaiah is saying the same thing in more detail as what Peter says in Acts 3:19: "Repent." That is how the breach, the separation, between God and man will be healed. That is how atonement is made. Atonement is not all something that Christ does. There will never be oneness with God until man does something with his free-moral agency.
The problem in Isaiah 1 is a hypocritical people just going through the motions. They were observing the rituals: burning incense, making the sacrifices. Yet, at the same time, their daily lives were filled with all kinds of unlawful acts—business shenanigans—that, according to God's law, is taking advantage of others. They were lying about the weights and balances, selling shoddy products, and as a rule, not conducting business in an upright way. They were murdering one another's reputations through gossip, and lying to one another using charm and deceit. God is saying that their lives were full of hypocrisy.
In the same way, people who today claim to be children of God, who attend Sabbath services and holy days yet have a heart full of greed, covetousness, anger, hatred, bitterness, envy, and so on, are simply hypocrites.
As it pertains to us, what we see in Isaiah is that there must be a relationship between worshipping God and our character in its practical aspect out on the streets, in our homes, in the way that we conduct business. We might say our character away from church, out of the eyesight of God's people, must reflect what we profess to believe. How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, and revenge, do those things through the week and then come to church services before God, thinking that somehow or another they are not separated from Him? Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." That is quite plain.
Because of all these things, God treated His people Israel in the same way as pagan idols treated their worshippers. Remember, the idols are not alive; they do not have ears that can hear, eyes that can see, or mouths that enable them to speak. So idol worshippers made their lamentations, their prayers, and their praises to their idols, and the idol never responded. God says, "I am going to be just like an idol to you. When you talk to me, I am not going to talk to you, and when you look at me, I am not going to look back at you. I am not going to see you." So in this way, He became as one who is dumb and deaf. He did not respond to their prayers.
It is essential to note that God, in His wisdom, knew before creating mankind that mankind would sin. If there were to be both reconciliation and character building, He would have to provide a means that would not only satisfy the legal requirements, but also contain within it the moral and spiritual influences that would motivate a man to cooperate on his own.
We play a major part in this because God has given us free-moral agency. By and large, the Protestant world has convinced Americans, Canadians, and Western Europeans that Christ did it all for us. It is a bald-faced lie! But sometimes, we who know better act as though it all depended on God. God gave us free-moral agency so that we can respond to Him, put His Word into practice, and exemplify before others what God is like.
It would be nice to say that we live lives like Christ so much that we could say of ourselves what Christ said: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). There is a Person who was really at one with God.
What God is trying to do with the things that He has provided—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit—is to motivate man to repent—to change, to turn to God, to resist the desire to continue in sin—to work at building character and learn to live by faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement
2 Corinthians 7:9-11
There is nothing difficult to understand about what repent means. It simply means "to change one's mind." In biblical usage, it implies changing one's mind in relation to God and His way of life. Repentance, though, is invariably preceded by something else, usually a deeply felt sense of concern, arising from guilt that one has done wrong. It can also be fear for one's life or reputation, or it may be sorrow over the horrible mess one has created.
We must understand that concern, unease, guilt, fear, or sorrow is not repentance. However, these feelings can lead to repentance, the change of mind that contains the resolve never to repeat whatever made us feel uncomfortable about our relationship with God.
Paul had, in effect, chewed them out in a previous letter, and it set off a chain of reactions: It produced the sorrow that leads to repentance, the change of mind in relation to God. That, in turn, produced a change of conduct because they set their wills never to allow their unrighteousness to be the cause of breaking their relationship with Him again. If a person changes his mind in relation to God rather than merely because of the pain that his conduct caused himself and others, it opens the door to making real change in attitude and conduct.
A number of factors always work to keep us from admitting responsibility for the destructive conditions surrounding us. First, sometimes we simply do not "get" it! It sometimes takes a while to understand that, by our own conduct, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and hurting our loved ones besides. In human nature, the tendency always exists to blame others before ourselves.
Second, sometimes we are so unfeeling, so unconcerned, and so self-centered that we just do not care! This attitude is dangerously destructive—in fact, biblically suicidal. This attitude is similar to what occurs to people in the grip of a drug, whether it is alcohol, a chemical like heroin, cocaine, or the nicotine in a cigarette.
The third reason is more subtle and difficult to grasp, and it resides at the foundation of a great deal of our failure to repent and change. Because of our tendency to think we are nothing, we cannot seem to get it through our minds that what we do matters! Are we not only one of billions of people on earth? Or, are we not only an insignificant member of community, family, club, or church?
It is a careless but nonetheless strong inclination to believe that nothing we do has any effect whatever on the improvement of life for anybody else. Do we realize that almost everybody else also carelessly feels the same way? Thus, the whole family or nation continues its violent, heartbreaking, pell-mell rush into the pit and on to oblivion!
The same beliefs confronted Amos as he preached to the people of Israel more than seven hundred years before Christ was born. They also confronted Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the other prophets, as well as Jesus and the apostles! Isaiah lamented with all his heart, "Lord, who has believed our report?" (Isaiah 53:1). They are the ministry's challenge to this very day.
It is also where our relationship with God becomes so vital to the quality of our lives. We cannot afford to let ourselves be lulled into thinking that our attitudes and our conduct do not matter—that they do not contribute to the disaster that is this world.
The drought that the Charlotte area endured in the past provides an interesting illustration in this regard. In 2001, voluntary water-use restrictions were imposed, producing a 23 percent water savings. in 2007, in the second-worst drought in Charlotte history, mandatory restrictions produced 30 percent savings, a modest seven-point increase. Why was a higher percentage of water not saved during a far more serious drought?
Measurements reveal that 50 percent of the water drawn from Charlotte's reservoirs goes to home consumption. The reason for the modest increase, then, largely comes down to the attitude in each individual's human nature that says, "What I do doesn't matter."
But to the Christian, it does matter! Why? Because watching our response to governments and circumstances that God has established is, in an overall sense, what He is judging most closely. In each of His regenerated children, He wants to see whether we really do perceive Him to be sovereign over His creation and will submit to Him by faith. He wants to see whether we will look to Him beyond the human government He ultimately installed; beyond what everybody else is doing; beyond our cynicism, distrust, and skepticism; and beyond our feelings of being of no consequence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity and Personal Responsibility
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