What comes to mind when you hear the word repentance?
When the Bible talks about repentance it refers to a change of heart leading to a change in the direction of one’s life. Both are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. Until we become followers of Jesus we are going in the wrong direction—away from God. We are lost, but we do not know it. We are lost because our internal GPS is defective. We are going the wrong way. We put more trust in our sense of direction than in Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are listening to our heart when we should be listening to God.
Before we can put our trust in Christ, the Holy Spirit must change our heart and renew our mind. We must repent, or turn away from our old way of life and turn toward God to begin a new way of life. Repentance involves a radical transformation of thought, attitude, and lifestyle. Repentance is the decisive act of turning away from sin and toward God. However, repentance is more than a one-time act. Repentance is a lifestyle characterized by a lifelong obedience to Jesus Christ under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Repentance requires wisdom and humility. It requires wisdom to realize you are, in fact, going in the wrong way. It requires humility in that the moment you realize you are going the wrong way, you must do the unthinkable—especially if you are a man. You must stop and ask for directions. And you must follow them. You must turn around and start going in the right direction. Repentance is doing what it takes not only to start going in the right direction but to keep on going in the right direction.
Repentance is possible because of what Jesus did for us by His life, death and resurrection. Because of Jesus we are a new creation and live the new life. The new life is a life of repentance. Repentance is characterized by a lifestyle of daily surrender to the mercy of God. That said there are two kinds of repentance: religious repentance and gospel repentance.
People who practice religious repentance believe they are saved by grace but kept by works. The goal of religious repentance is to keep God happy so He will continue being good to us and answer our prayers. Religious repentance draws attention to what we do for God. It is essentially self-focused, self-justifying self-improvement layered with just enough spiritual vocabulary to make us look good. Think about the tax-collector in Jesus’ parable. People who practice religious repentance believe God owes them for their trust. They present God with a worksheet of their religious activity expecting Him to reward them for their hard work and good behavior.
In contrast, people who practice gospel repentance believe they are saved by grace and kept by grace. The goal of gospel repentance is to seek the help of the Spirit in order to practice daily what Jesus preaches. Gospel repentance is motivated by what God has done for us in Christ. It is the daily presentation of ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Gospel repentance is the overflow of a changed heart leading to a changed lifestyle: a lifestyle rooted and grounded in a faith-relationship with Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3.13-14, our theme text, gives us a good picture of what gospel repentance looks like.
…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Gospel repentance focuses on forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.
Gospel repentance is focuses on trusting the Spirit to help us press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Gospel repentance is all about living repentantly.
Gospel repentance says I will live repentantly by placing more value on following Jesus than on following my heart.
When I live repentantly I trust God to finish what He started,
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Let’s be clear about this: God and God alone is responsible for transforming our lives by leading us to repentance. He does this by what is called the work of regeneration. Regeneration is that moment when the Holy Spirit changes us from people who are spiritually dead into people who are spiritually alive. Until the Spirit gives us life we are the walking dead. But the moment He breathes into us we are revived. We are able to respond to the gospel. We are able to repent. We are able to confess faith in Jesus Christ. We are able to practice what He preaches. More importantly, we want to practice what Jesus preaches.
Knowing this, Paul is confident God will continue His good work of saving us until Christ comes back. The day of Christ Jesus refers to the time when Jesus returns for His church: salvation is finally completed and everything we have done is examined and rewarded. God will bring His work to completion. Nothing in this life or after death will prevent the successful accomplishment of God’s good work in every follower of Jesus Christ.
Although Paul rejoiced in the Philippians’ generosity and spiritual growth, his joyful confidence did not rest ultimately on the Philippians’ gospel repentance, but on God, who would keep them and empower them to reach the goal. The key to living repentantly is trusting God to finish what He started. He has promised to continue His work of saving us until Jesus comes back. Only then will our salvation be complete. Until then, we must put our trust in Him.
Knowing this encourages me to live repentantly. Living repentantly is all about leaning on the everlasting arms of the God who revealed Himself as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. It’s about trusting God to finish what He started. It’s about trusting Jesus to be the Author and Finisher of our faith. God not only initiates our salvation, He guarantees its perfect ending.
When I live repentantly I trust God to transform adversity into opportunity to advance the gospel.
I want you know brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.
What had happened to Paul is that he was put in prison for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. His opening, “I want you to know,” introduces an important claim. His recent imprisonment actually helped advance the gospel. Rather than complain about being in prison, Paul chose to live repentantly. He chose to trust God to transform his adversity into an opportunity to advance the gospel despite adverse circumstances.
By choosing to live repentantly, Paul saw God using his adversity to accomplish two things.
First, God made the reason for Paul’s imprisonment public knowledge throughout the whole palace guard. Paul was in prison for Christ. During the first century, prisoners who were sent to Rome from the provinces in cases of appeal were placed in the custody of the praefectus praetorio. So over time, as more and more guards were assigned in succession to Paul, his imprisonment provided him the clear opportunity to share the gospel with his guards. Paul may have been in prison, but the gospel cannot be chained. Instead of falling into self-pity, Paul chose to live repentantly. His adversity was an opportunity to share the gospel.
Second, God used Paul’s adversity to inspire other Christians. Rather than discourage the church’s zeal to share the gospel, Paul’s imprisonment encouraged the believers in Rome to share the gospel with greater boldness and bravery. And this was not a temporary campaign. It was still going on when Paul wrote his letter. Obviously, Paul’s own attitude about his imprisonment contributed to their courage. If he had become depressed by his chains, the effect on others would have been far different. By choosing to live repentantly, Paul allowed the Spirit to cast his circumstances as a fresh opportunity to spread the Word of God that encouraged the Christians in Rome to do likewise.
When I live repentantly I consider others as more important than myself.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others more significant than yourselves.
Paul exhorted the Philippians to complete his joy by paying attention to the same thing he did. He was already experiencing joy because of his connection to the Philippian church. However, there was one thing still needed to complete his joy. They needed to be “like-minded”(literally, paying attention to the same thing). Please note, this was not a command for unity at the expense of truth. Paul assumes that the same thing is also the right thing. They will complete his joy by choosing to live repentantly.
First, they will live repentantly by having the same love. Inasmuch as it is assumed that all were believers indwelt by the same Spirit, the love that is the fruit of the Spirit ought to be demonstrated in every Life.
Second, they will live repentantly by being in full accord and one mind. Paul is urging unity not unanimity. The gospel works best in an environment where every believer puts the needs of others ahead of their own. Paul is urging their unity be based on the intentional consideration of others as more significant than themselves.
Third, they will live repentantly by avoiding selfish ambition and conceit. Paul had experienced negative results from this sort of selfish ambition among some disreputable preachers at Rome. Persons who seek to advance themselves usually enjoy glorying in their success, but all such glory is conceit. The Christian attitude should reveal itself in humility.
As believers we are called to live humbly. We are a spiritual fellowship whose ultimate example of humility and obedience is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul instructed his readers to practice humility by learning to count others more significant than yourselves. Humility encourages us to have a sane estimate of our own capabilities especially in comparison with others. Humility also prevents adopting any sense of moral superiority. When we live repentantly we will put the needs of others ahead of our own. This will be very helpful with respect to eliminating conflict.
By choosing to live repentantly, I avoid a self-centeredness that considers only my rights, agenda, and needs. By choosing to live repentantly, I seek a broader perspective—one that includes the needs of others. It’s not that I completely ignore my own needs only that I include the needs of others when making my plans. By choosing to live repentantly, I am reminded that I am part of a larger community—one that includes my family as well as my brothers and sisters in Christ.
By choosing to live repentantly, each member of the Christian community exercises this mutual concern, problems of disunity quickly disappear.
When I live repentantly I experience what it means to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
Paul is not shy about the fact he needed money. And although he was grateful to the Philippians for meeting this need, this is not his primary concern. His primary concern is to stress the fact he had learned to be content with whatever God provided, regardless of circumstances. We should be encouraged by the discovery that Paul had to learn this virtue. Contentment is not natural to us. Paul learned to find his satisfaction in Christ by trusting in Christ and Christ alone. He learned to be content by trusting his heavenly Father to give him his daily bread. When we trust in Christ and Christ alone our Father gives us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
Paul understood what it was not to have nothing but lint in his pockets. He also knew what it meant to have a pocketful of cash. Here’s the lesson: whether poor or flush, Paul learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Paul did not learn this secret by looking inside himself for some inner strength that would enable him to endure cheerfully whatever life brought him. On the contrary, he learned this secret by looking outside himself.
That Secret is now public knowledge: in poverty and in wealth, in sickness and in health, Paul kept his resolution to live repentantly by following Jesus Christ through whom and by whose strength Paul claimed the ability to do all things.
If we truly desire to live repentantly, we would be wise to follow his example.
You think about that.