One 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 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)