Saturday, 12 September 2015

Space to Repent

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?   (Romans 2:4)

Sixteen centuries ago the great church leader Augustine was commenting on the story of the penitent thief, who died beside Jesus Christ: he warned, “There is one case of death-bed repentance recorded, in order that no one should despair, but only one in order that no one should presume.”

The situation addressed at this point in the letter to the Romans concerned those who were counting on God’s apparent forbearance as an excuse to live their own self-pleasing lives.  But whether it was the 400-year delay before judgment came upon the perversity of the Amorites (Genesis 15:16) or the 100 years of grace that was given the wicked city of Nineveh before its final overthrow (Jonah 2:10; Nahum 1:14), the pattern of the Bible is that for both communities and individuals, space is constantly given to repent. 

And true repentance has not all that much to do with ‘feeling sorry.’  The basic question is not, ‘Are you feeling sorry?’ but rather ‘Do you intend to stop doing it?’  And the bottom-line issue is, ‘Who is going to be your God?’

It is more than a single, one-off decision – though true and personal belief certainly begins with a conscious ‘About-Turn’ – away from the unworthy past, and towards a relationship of obedient trust. 

But repentance is a daily way of life as well.  When this happens on a big scale, we could have a world-wide revival that can still save the world ...  Let it begin with you … and me!