Transformational Repentance Causes Personal Redemption

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The word repentance is the English translation of the Greek word metanoia. It is defined as a change of mind or purpose. In Scripture, it is a change from dependence on oneself to dependence on God. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says: “Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” From this verse we know that repentance is not just feeling sorry or guilty for something we believe was wrong.

James 4:6-10 describes the process of repentance: “But He gives more grace. For this reason it says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

This passage sounds rather depressing, but it has the ingredients for moving us from a dependence on ourselves to a dependence on God for our overall well-being. It is telling us to stop relying on our own escapes and distractions for lifting ourselves out of whatever bothers us and instead rely on God to lift us.

God can do a much better job than we can. This is because our willpower is weak and compromised because of the law of sin that Paul describes in Romans 7:14-8:2. In this passage, he describes it as the human weakness that we all share. This is what makes us perform our sin actions. The law of sin is not caused by our sin actions. We are born predisposed to it as descendents of Adam and Eve. Other religions do not acknowledge the law of sin, so their spiritual practices do not recognize that we are too weak to be overcomers on our own strength. Our willpower is insufficient to push out thoughts and desires we don’t want. They have to be dealt with indirectly. The help of the Holy Spirit we have in Christ is the major difference between Christianity and other religions.

Humility toward God is what lifts us; but what does that mean? My working definition of humility is found in 1 Peter 5:5-7: “Likewise you younger ones, submit yourselves to the elders. Yes, all of you be submissive one to another and clothe yourselves with humility, because ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.

Notice the similarity between this passage and the one in James. This one, though, adds the casting of all of our care on God as the specific act of humility that exalts us. This is unconditional trust because we cast all of it; you can’t try to do it piecemeal. Dare to take it literally. The words “lift” and “exalt” in these passages are both from the same Greek word hypsoo, which means “to lift up on high.”

A common misunderstanding is that this reduces us to inaction in our lives. The point is that it alleviates the stress associated with our actions. We still do what needs to be done. Titus 2:14 speaks of Christ “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for Himself a special people, zealous of good works.” Repentance is embedded in the first great commandment. The second naturally follows from the first; otherwise, our good works don’t profit us.

So far I have outlined our part in the process of repentance. Christ’s Spirit is what actually lifts us and exalts us. Christ set the stage for this to happen by His crucifixion and resurrection. It wouldn’t be possible without Him and the shedding of His blood. This is why we humble ourselves toward Him—so that we can receive His Spirit. If He was not alive, this would not be possible. If He was not God, this would not be allowed. He then channels the graces for our exaltation through His humanity. His human faith and trust in the Father appropriate the graces for Himself; and then by our faith in Christ, He shares them with us by His Spirit when it is within us. This is how Jesus Christ’s justification by faith gets transferred to us. We can’t have it without His Spirit within us. This is why our faith has to be directed towards Jesus Christ Himself. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29).

The fruit of the Spirit is the transformation that occurs through the Spirit of Christ. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control; against such there is no law. Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts” (Gal. 5:22-24). Notice that these are all personal qualities. This is what sanctification looks like. These are the qualities that counteract the law of sin. Temperance is the one that specifically deals with our human weakness. It is translated “self-control” in newer translations of the Bible. The fruit of the Spirit is what produces the moderation of the Spirit. It is the rest that comes from resting in Christ. This isn’t something that we can get from nature walks or by moving to another location. The location of our hearts is what is important.

Thus says the Lord, stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths where the good way is and walk in it, and you shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). {eoa}

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