One of God’s Greatest (and Most Overlooked) Gifts

repentOne evening a few weeks ago I called our Men’s Director. “Phil, I have absolutely no interest in running a rehab. God did not call me to provide temporary housing for drug addicts and alcoholics who simply want to dry out and clean up.”

I was venting.

Earlier that day I had interacted with a few men in our program who expressed little desire for spiritual transformation in their lives. At least, that is what their attitudes and actions were communicating to me. They seemed content “doing time” so long as a few personally disruptive vices were removed from their lives.

I began to begrudge them. Words such as “ungrateful,” “irresponsible,” and “foolish” started swirling around in my head.

Then I began muttering, “Life Challenge Ministries is not some kind of shelter or rescue mission. We’re not here to give people ‘3 hots and a cot.’ We’re not here to help people who don’t want help. We exist to point men and women to the cross and persuade them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”

Now I was feeling good about myself. After all, nothing like a little zeal of the Lord!

Then the Holy Spirit began convicting me. He reminded me that, barring His merciful intervention in my life, I, too, would have no greater ambition than satisfying my own selfish lusts. Without His saving grace, I, too, would be lost in my sin and dead to the glory of God.

So what made the difference? What turned me towards God? What moves anyone towards Him?

Repentance.

Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning towards God. It is predicated upon having a change of mind and heart. And it is just as much a gift as forgiveness is.

Consider these words from the Apostle Paul. “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Paul is not saying merely that forgiveness is a gift of God. He is saying that the very requirements for forgiveness and salvation are also a gift.

Jesus put it like this, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (i.e., attract, bring, pull, move) him” (Jn. 6:44). In other words, without His drawing, there is no coming. We are not able to choose God on our own.

The reason any of us has come to Jesus is not because we are smarter or more open or more virtuous than those who have not, but solely because God overcame our resistance, our opposition, and drew us to Christ.

When a man hears, “Repent and come to Christ,” he can choose to resist that call. He can disobey. He can say, “No, I will not.” But if God gives him repentance—a broken heart, a contrite spirit, the desire and determination to turn away from sin—he cannot resist because God has made his heart agreeable and willing. Resistance to repentance is replaced by the gift of repentance. That is how all of us come to repent.

God used those men to expose my arrogance. What I thought was righteous indignation was nothing more than my own sense of moral superiority and disdain for those not like me. Yuck.

But for the grace of God, I would be no different.

If you have repented of your sins, may your heart overflow with thankfulness and joy at the gift of God’s forgiveness. More, may your heart overflow with deepest gratitude at the awareness of how miraculous and amazing is your repentance. That, too, is a gift!

“God exalted him (Jesus) to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that
he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (Acts 5:31)

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10 Comments

  1. I know what you mean, Pastor. I’ve been feeling the same way, but like the Holy Spirit said, without Him we would be just as empty as they are. Thank you for reminding me that repentance is a grace-gift, not an effort on our part.

  2. Stephanie Anderzak

    Thank you for proclaiming the true gospel! Thank you for being transparent. Great article! I was dead in my trespasses and sin and God granted me repentance and raised me to life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. He did this at Life Challenge! Thank you Jesus for Life Challenge!

  3. Great article Pastor Jeff!!

  4. We are shown in John 5 that some people indeed, do not want help. Some have become comfortable in their sickness and try to make excuses for it. But in his loving kindness, Jesus often has pity on them and commands from to pick up their mat and walk regardless. It is in these times, I was most blessed as a Staff Member because I saw those who didn’t want help, and those who some thought couldn’t be helped miraculously changed.

  5. Wow, this is some good stuff, my brother!

  6. Diane Bryngelson

    Awesome article pastor. You have no idea how grateful we are for you and your ministry. We thank God for you and for Life challenge. May God continue to bless you. Thank you.

  7. Thank you Jeff. Wonderful article. I believe it is one of the best you have written. Sometimes we all need to step back and remember to be thankful for God’s forgiveness.

    • Thank you Brenda. May He be praised! “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).

      • Good morning Pastor Jeff, was thinking about you this morning over the morning dishes. Reflecting on your article and the spirit share with me something to share with you. Sometimes we only get to plant the seed and we don’t get to harvest the crop. Love everything you do at Life Challenge. Miss you all.
        Have a very blessed day.

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