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Repentance From Dead Works (3)


Last week, we began to look at some of what constitutes false or fake repentance, and noted that one of such is the act of going through the motion of repentance, but only because the person repenting wants relief from an unpleasant condition. We saw how Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, would repent each time the severe conditions of the plagues God sent upon Egypt would take its stinging effect, but afterwards, would renege on all promises made during such repentance once the plague is lifted. We saw that there are many people today, who would repent at the slightest hint of a problem, but would return to their usual sinful lifestyle once the unpleasant condition is over. We termed such people as serial repenters, noting that these people are quick to repent and can do so every Sunday, and in every church they visit, just because they want relief; but shortly after the relief kicks in, they would continue with their usual sin-ladden lifestyle. Such people will do anything, provided it would bring them relief without them having to change their lifestyle: they would fast and pray; they would be in church as many times as there are services; and they would do whatever they are asked to do; all in the hope that they would get the relief they want, without them having to live a godly lifestyle. They would even go to places that really are not churches, as long as they can get the relief they seek without having to change their way of life. For instance, there are people who would be in church on Sunday morning praying and crying to God, and be in the herbalists hut in the evening, to obtain a concoction or have an incantation recited over their heads so that they can get relief. For these people, living a godly lifestyle is far from their thoughts; all they want is to have things working for them again, irrespective of how they are living. If this is the case with you, the good news is that the doors of genuine repentance are still wide open to you; however, you must note that repentance is not about getting relief from an unpleasant condition; indeed, repentance is about leaving behind a life of sin, and turning to a life of godliness and to God! And this, you can do, even now, as we speak!

Today, we will be looking at another example of false repentance, as documented in Joshua 7:1-26. This is the story of a man called Achan, who had taken what he shouldnt havesomething which God had said the children of Israel should not take, when they conquered Jericho. God had told the children of Israel to completely destroy the city of Jericho, and everything that was within itboth living things and inanimate objects; but Achan saw and took a garment, some silver and gold coins, and hid them in his tent. Now, because of this action of Achan, the nation of Israel suffered defeat against a much smaller nationthe nation of Ai; prompting Joshua, the leader of Israel at the time, to seek Gods face (how one wishes that Mayors, Local Government Chairmen, Governors, and Presidents all around the world would learn this lesson, and fall on their faces to seek Gods counsel, especially, with the state of insecurity, and socio-economic upheavals in this land, and in the nations of the world)! While Joshua sought the face of God as to why Israel had suffered such defeat in battle, God told Joshua that there was iniquity among the Israelites, and that the culprit should be fished out and executed before Israel could again be victorious in battle. Let us take the story from v. 13-15 of Joshua 7, as God was speaking to Joshua, the leader of the nation of Israel at the time: Get up sanctify the people and say, Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you. In the morning, therefore, you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes shall come according to families; and the family which the LORD takes shall come by households; and the household which the LORD takes shall come man by man. Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel. With such explicit instructions, together with the grave sentence awaiting the culprit when he is fished out, and the elaborate but sombre preparations, one would have thought that Achan would have owned up there and then, if, at least, only to save everyone the trouble of going through the elaborate ceremony of fishing out the culprit; but he did nothing of the sort! Instead, Achan allowed the whole process to go through, until he was finally fished out as the culprit.

Then, from v. 19-22, the bible documents the happenings after Achan had been singled out by God as the culprit: Now Joshua said to Achan, My son, I beg you, give glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me. And Achan answered Joshua and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it. Unfortunately, when sentence was passed on Achan, it also affected othershis sons, his daughters, his oxen, and all that he possessed, including the accursed thing he had taken, were all taken to a place, where the living things were stoned to death and they were burnt with fire, along with the inanimate objects.

When one looks at this story on the surface, it is easy to want to conclude that the punishment on Achan was harsh; Afterall, you may be thinking, he confessed! Indeed, Achans confession was a detailed account of his guilt and one would be tempted to say: Let us forgive him and commute his sentence to a lesser one. But if you take the whole incident into account, you will note that even though the consequence of being fished out was gravea death penalty to the culprit and to his familyAchan did not own up of his own accord. In fact, the entire nation went through a personal sanctification process before the fishing out took place. The process of sanctification was a process of purification in which people would prepare themselves to meet with God, and during such times of preparation, they would be expected to make any confessions of wrong done before God. In the course of this sanctification, Achan should have owned up, if he indeed went through the sanctification process as he should have, not as a mere ritual; but he did not! And then, when they were picking out tribe, then family, then household; and even though everything was pointing to the fact that he would eventually be found out as they were getting closer to him by each elimination, he still kept silent. It is possible that Achan was hoping that someone else would be apprehended, and not him. Isnt it funny how we do not own up to something we have done wrong, even when we know that we would be found out eventually? For some ungodly reason, we always hope and surprisingly, pray that someone else would own up, or would take the fall for what we have done wrong! Even after Achan was apprehended, he still did not own up voluntarily, and this prompted Joshua to say to him, My son, I beg you, give glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done. In other words, Joshua was telling Achan, Tell us what you have done wrong. Let us know that God has indeed fished out the right person. Achans repentance was not made voluntarily, and was not made until after he was caught. His repentance was therefore not genuine. It was possible that, having been found out, and realizing the reality of the punishment which was shortly to be visited upon him, Achan, may have been hoping for, not just a commuting of the sentence, but indeed a very minimal sentencesomething like a warning to go and not do so again. He was badly mistaken!

There are people who never own up to anything until they have been caught. And even then, they will still try to wriggle out of it by blaming others or something. A person who repents only because he is just trying to avoid the consequence of his actions, and not because he is truly convinced and sorry for what he has done, has repented falsely; his repentance is fake! For if he hadnt been caught, he most likely would continue to engage in his despicable acts! The armed robber continues to rob people of their possessions, and even takes lives. And though he knows within himself that he would be killed if he is caught, he still keeps on committing this despicable crime. But when he is finally caught, he takes on a sober look, and begins to tell his captors how sorry he is. Sometimes, an arrested armed robber would even go as far as blame society for his crimes. This is not how someone who is truly repentant behaves. Today, many people, either in church or outside of church, hear of the condemnation that will come upon all those who refuse to accept Gods offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, and yet, they go right on living a life of sin, as they have always lived. Somehow in their minds they hope that when they stand before God, they would be able to say that they were not convinced of the veracity of what they were hearing because the preachers were themselves hypocritessaying one thing, and doing another. These people believe, albeit erroneously, that they would be able to get away with repenting after-the-fact. The truth is that there will be no room for such repentance! The bible says in Hebrews 9:27, it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. In other words, there is a time when a person can repent, and that is while a person is still alive. But once a person dies, there is only one thing awaiting the person who had not repented before that time, and that is, Gods judgment!

In Genesis 25:29-34, the bible gives us the account of a transaction which took place between twin brothersEsau and Jacob, thus: Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was very weary. And Esau said to Jacob, Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary. Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, Sell me your birthright as of this day. And Esau said, Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me? Then Jacob said, Swear to me as of this day. So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils (or beans); then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. In this story, we see how a transaction was concludedthere was no written document; no receipt; no witnesses on earth; but heaven had noted what had taken place. In fact, if we consider the transaction in some detail, we would see that Esau actually got more than he asked forJacob threw into the bargain, bread and drinks. After eating and drinking, Esau went his way, but had made an unequal exchange in the process. These are significant comments, for the bible tells us in Hebrews 12:15-17 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. Esau had exchanged his birthright for food, and when it was time to enter into the blessings of his birthright, he was denied; all because he had traded it for food! And when he tried to get his birthright back through repentance, the bible records that he found no place for repentance. In other words, it was too late to repent; just as it was too late for Achan to repent! It is not that you may not be able to say Im sorry; it just will not be worth anything by the time you are making the statement. Achans repentance was worth nothing by the time he made it, because he made it after he had been found outafter-the-fact! It was too late for Achan to repent; all that was left for him was judgment! Unfortunately, there are many people who are making unequal exchanges every day, and hoping that they will be able to make amends through repentance. These people trade life in eternity, for the pleasures of life here on earth; they trade an inheritance with God, for a life of sin; they trade a life in the courts of God, for the lure of the things of this world. These people plan to repent at the eleventh hour, but find out that it is too late, for they find themselves faced with the reality of death, and Gods judgment at quarter to eleven!

Are you one of those planning on repenting at the eleventh hour? You may be shocked that the opportunity may just not come. Are you planning on repenting after-the-fact? When you are standing before Gods judgment throne? Friend, if this is your plan; let us disabuse your mind of any such plans, for the time of Gods judgment is a time when sentence is passed, not a time for pleas or appeals! The bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. Friend, there is a time when you can be heard and helped by God, and that time is now! Dont wait another hour, for it may be too late by then. Dont plan a false repentance, rather, repent now and be saved! The bible also says in Hebrews 3:7-8, Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts Friend, this is God calling you to repent now; not tomorrow, not later, but now! God is also saying to you not to harden your heart and refuse His invitation. He is calling you to repent genuinely nowthis very instant!

Let us pray!