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Repentance From Dead Works (2)


In our last broadcast, we stated that repentance is a turning away from a course of action which you were pursuing, but which you are now convinced is wrong; and as a result, you are now engaged in the right course of action. We also said that repentance is much more than an apology for a wrong done; it requires action which proves that such a change has indeed taken place. Thus, we noted that John the Baptist, in Matthew 3:8, urged those who came to his baptism of repentance to bear fruit worthy of repentance We noted, therefore, that if for example, a person who had obtained a certificate fraudulently repents, he would have to inform his employers or the school authorities of the institution where he is a student, as the case may be, that he used fake certificates to obtain the job or admission; and would have to leave the job or school. Repentance is, therefore, not just about words of remorse spoken (which is nonetheless important)indeed, it is important to say, Im sorry, I will not do it again; but importantly also, genuine repentance also involves making things right, as much as possible, and, living henceforth in a manner that proves that a person has indeed turned away from ones wrong path in life! Hence, the bible says in many parts of the New Testament, that those who have come to Christ in repentance should put off the old sinful nature, and put on the new nature which after God is created in holiness and righteousness.

We began also to look at what some people classify as repentance, which really is no repentance. We noted that some people believe that all that is needed to lay claims to being a child of God, or a Christian for that matter, is regular church attendance, and praying a number of times a day. Such people have never really repented in any form or shape, yet they believe that by being baptized in water, they are right with God. We saw from the bible examples of people who did not repent when confronted with their sins or faults, but displayed certain behaviours, which is no repentance at all. Such behaviour or attitude include, blaming others for your own actions, saying things like, The devil made me do it.; denying that you did anything wrong, when in fact you didthis is the same thing as blatantly lying about your role in wrong-doing; getting angry at those sent by God to point out your faults or sin; and, never turning to God, but trying to work things out or patch things up, on your own. If you have been attending church meetings, and yet manifest any one of these behaviours, we counsel you to fall on your knees, even this instant, and seek Gods forgiveness, as you bring words meet for repentance, and make up your mind that with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will no longer engage in sinful acts.

Today, we shall press on with looking at another kind of attitude which some people consider as being repentance, but which really is not true repentance. Some people, for instance, feel that the shedding of tears, or the shaking of the head in regret, are signs of repentance. While one would not consider a person who laughs while apologizing on a very serious matter, as repentant; tears or expressions of regret, may well just be momentary expressions of ones emotions, which may have been aroused by remembrance of an event momentarily, and which will not endure beyond that experience. For example, there are people who are willing to repent and turn to God at the funeral of a departed friend, more out of fear that death could come to them and they dont know what would happen to them thereafter: but when conditions are that of celebrations, they forget whatever words of repentance they may have spoken! Many thieves have begged for forgiveness, and promised not to steal again when they are caught. They may in fact keep from stealing, but only for a time. But when the effect of the shame and the ridicule of being caught wears out, they resume their stealing, and learn how not to get caught again. No! This is not true repentance; this is false or fake repentance! Let us turn to the bible to see examples of such false or fake repentance.

In Exodus 8:1-15, the bible tells the story of how God had told Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to let Gods people gopeople who Pharaoh had held captive; but Pharaoh who had stubbornly refused to let Gods people go in previous times, on this particular occasion, remained adamant still. So, God sent a plague of an infestation of frogs on the land of Egypt. Also, Pharaohs magicians, wanting to prove that God was not superior to them and their magical art, conjured up more frogs through their enchantment. So now, there were frogs everywhere. However, the magicians of Egypt could not remove the frogs, so, Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them in v. 8, Entreat the LORD that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go that they may sacrifice to the LORD. So, Moses entreated God and the frogs were cleared from the land of Egypt. But in v. 15, the bible records Pharaohs conduct after the frogs had been cleared from the land thus: But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

Pharaohs repentance speech in v. 8 which included a promise to let Gods people go, was clearly at variance with his stance in v. 15. Indeed, it was because of the infestation of the frogs and the nuisance these frogs were causing in the land that made Pharaoh give his repentance speech; so, the moment that matter was dealt with, or like the bible puts it: the moment there was relief, Pharaoh hardened his heart and went back to his usual stubborn self. This kind of repentance is false or fake, and is made in the first place, only because there is discomfort, which the individual is seeking relief for; hence, the moment the relief comes, he forgets all about the discomfort or hardship, and returns to his usual ways.

In Exodus 9:22-35, Pharaoh, again repents before God, when Egypt was struck with hail which killed people and animals, and destroyed plants and trees. In v. 27 & 28, Pharaoh said, I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the LORD that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer. If we examine Pharaohs statement of repentance on the surface, it seems to be more touching than the first one we discussed in Chapter 8; and one may conclude that Pharaoh was this time truly repentant. He used words like, I have sinned and The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. But if you take a deeper look at Pharaohs statement of repentance, you will see the insincerity therein. For instance he said, I have sinned this time. In other words, he had not sinned before now? This was clearly a false and deceptive statement! And when he asked that Moses entreat God for him, it was not that he should be forgiven or that he would not sin again; rather, it was so that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail. The truth is that Pharaoh only wanted relief from the plagues; he had no intention whatsoever of changing his stance about letting Gods people go!

Many people who claim to have repented do so only because they want relief from a severe conditionfor instance, a long standing illness, an unpayable debt, the shame of an unwanted pregnancy by an unmarried girl or woman, and so on. A man who owes so much money that he will not be able to pay up, even if he sold everything he had, goes to church and hears a message in the course of the service telling him that God can get him out of debt, if he would surrender to God through Jesus Christ. This debtor then comes to the altar to receive Gods offer of salvation, ostensibly; but in reality, what he really wants is for his debt to be paid. And once this mans debt is paid, he is very likely to resume the lifestyle that led him into debt in the first place. If, on the other hand, his debt is not paid, after a while, he gets disillusioned with the church, and may say something like, This whole Christianity thing is not working., and may even turn to other means of debt relief like stealing, cheating, bribe-taking, going to the native doctor, etc. This mans repentance was never genuine in the first place; it was just a means to an enddebt payment! He never intended to change his ways, neither did he surrender his life to God, otherwise, he would have remained where God wants him to stay; debt payment or not!

An illustration will give further illumination on this issue of repentance for the sole purpose of relief. One Friday evening, a man began feeling pain in his mouth. On investigating, he discovered that the pain was from a decaying tooth in his mouth. He tried everything he could to get rid of the pain, but none of the pain killers he ingested deadened the pain for long. He even crushed the pain killers and applied the powder directly to the region of the pain, but that did not work either. By the next day, Saturday, he was in unbearable pain and could not even eat any of his delightful favourite meals which had lots of meat in them. By Sunday, the situation had gotten so bad, that he even tried to use a pair of pliers to pull the tooth out by himself. For this man, it was a very long weekend. He had endured the pain of the toothache and all he could think of was, Monday morning and Dentist.

Come Monday morning, he dashed off to the dentist, and got there while they were still cleaning the clinic. By the time the dentist came in, he was eager to jump into the dentists chair, but discovered that there were patients who already had appointments from previous visits. After what seemed like eternity, he finally found himself in the dentists chair. But after the dentist had inspected the tooth, he (the dentist) announced, much to the mans disappointment that the tooth could not be extracted at that time. However, he gave the man some drugs which would prepare him for the tooth extraction within a few days. So, he was sent home to take the drugs prescribed, and to return in a few days. But when the man took the drugs, he discovered that the pain was gone. On the day appointed for the tooth extraction, the man completely forgot about the appointment, because he was now enjoying a pain-free mouth, and was even able to enjoy his favourite meaty meals. In fact, he never went near the dental clinic again, until one day, several weeks later, the pain again began, and yep, it was on a Friday evening!

For this man, as long as he had relief from pain, he was okay. He did not even remember the dentist. It was not until the pain again began, that it dawned on him that he had a problem which was festering in his mouth, and which was again going to bring him an unbearable weekend.

The story of this man mirrors the story of some people who are in church, and even some who are not in church. Whenever these people are in trouble or facing some difficulty in life, they would do anything, and go anywhere to get a solution. They really dont mind where that solution comes from, provided they can get respite from the difficulty and challenge, and as long as they would not be required to change their lifestyle or even deny themselves of leaving their usual ungodly lifestyle behind them, they would repent. And so, their repentance is false and fakethey are not willing to change their lifestyle in anyway. They only remember God and repent when things are not going well for them. They are serial repenters (if ever there is a phrase like that), looking sullen when things are not going well for them; but off once there is relief from the challenge they are facing. They would fast and pray; they would be in church for every service; they would do whatever they are asked to do, in the hope that they would get the relief they want. They would even repent, as many times, and as often as they think they have to, if they feel that it would give them that relief. These people are among those who answer altar calls from church to church, believing that that is the way to obtaining the relief they need from the problems their sinful lifestyle have caused. A godly lifestyle is far from their thoughtsall they want is to have things working for them again, regardless of their lifestyle. If this is how you came to become a Christian, then your claim, my friend, is bogus!

Next week well look at another type of false or fake repentance, but at this time, let us state that if your experience of repentance was about getting a relief, rather than about leaving behind a life of sin, you need to come to terms with the reality of your situationyou have not really repented; you only wanted relief from your troubles. The good news though, is that if you make up your mind to come clean before God, even this instant, and are willing to turn away from the ungodly lifestyle you are living, God is ready to forgive your sins and save your soul, which means that you stand a chance to live eternally with God. This is not about getting relief from some sin-laden or sin-induced problem; this is about recognizing that you are a sinner who needs the salvation of God through Jesus Christ, and who wants to henceforth, live a godly life in this world; and in the next, eternal life. This, my friend, is genuine repentance, which leads to the salvation of God, and a personal relationship with God!

Let us pray!