Since posting “Choices”, I’ve been pondering the nature of repentance, particularly since with every election, Christians renew the call for America to repent. Asked to elaborate, most cite abortion and homosexuality as their primary complaints. War, divorce, removing prayer from schools, and pornography are also cited, though typically with less revulsion than is reserved for abortion and homosexuality.
How I wish I could claim I’ve never been caught up in one of Christianity’s campaigns to stamp out sin in the world. Frankly, the world has every right to sin; a right granted by the Father. But when has scripture – the Word of Truth – ever stopped a religious person who was hell bent on doing a vain religious work? Certainly scripture never stopped me when I was headstrong to carry out some self-righteous work “for God”.
Let the one who does what is evil continue to do what is evil. Let the filthy person continue to be filthy. Let the righteous person continue to do what is right. And let the holy person continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:11 ISV)
The operative words above? “Let them.” Regretfully, my youthful zeal was easily exploited by those who rail against sin and one day I found myself parroting the rants I’d heard, only to learn after venting them to a friend, that she’d had an abortion before coming to Christ. How terrible she must have felt on account of my ignorance, insensitivity and big mouth. Had I known the grace of God then like I do now, I’d have considered my own sins past and present before speaking, and would have held my tongue in keeping with that sage old advice about “people in glass houses …”.
My regret? A tirade I’m ashamed of and would gladly take back if I could because of the hurt I caused. I effectively pronounced “unclean” and “unredeemable” someone whom the Lord Himself forgave, washed clean and saved. She was a new creation, raised up to life in Christ, but I dug up and reminded her of her old, dead self.
In hindsight, what few times I ever railed against sin and sinners had everything to do with my own self-righteous indignation and not a thing to do with introducing sinners to the Savior. Their sin offended me and I wanted them to STOP! But my job has never been to rail against sin; rather, He has left me in this world to learn and grow, and show the love of Christ to sinners. Conviction of sin has always been the job of the Holy Spirit.
Which brings me to the subject of this post.
When I was new in the faith, I had a childish view of repentance. My approach to sin was “lenten” like, wherein I would “give it up for God” who hates sin. Smoking, drinking and cussing – all these were sins I targeted for repentance but failed miserably to eradicate. So I dialed it back a notch and simply resolved not to smoke, drink or cuss while at church. Not consciously of course, but that was the result. A divided life. It worked fine until I started doing concerts at churches where the frustrations of unloading sound equipment, setting up, tearing down and loading it up again was always good for a few unwholesome words to escape my mouth. Nothing however tops the time when an hour before the concert, I reached for the Bible to read a passage of scripture and my brother snatched it from me and played keep away with it. No one gets my goat like my younger brother does. “Give me the DAMN Bible” I barked at Dan while the pastor who was listening to us warm up stared at me, drop-jawed.
I figure if ever there’s a rapture, my tongue will be left behind.
As I matured in the faith and the Holy Spirit continued to teach and lead me, repentance began to look less like giving up a bunch of bad habits and more like simply obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit. For me, repentance has meant:
- Cease tithing;
- Do not read books;
- Leave the institutional church;
- Renounce the teachings of men;
- Give and serve the gospel freely whatever form the message or service takes;
I don’t claim these for everyone; rather, I believe the Holy Spirit must call a person to repent and instruct them specifically HOW to repent. Still, there’s a part of me that raises an eyebrow and scoffs at evangelicals, even whole churches and denominations, whenever they call upon America to “repent”, because from my perspective, they have a mountain of sin and disobedience to repent of themselves.
Everything the Spirit has called me to repent of, He has shown me from Scripture the Truth of it. Repentance is, from my perspective, simply obeying the Spirit and His teaching from the Word.
Take for example the Spirit’s leading for me to “cease reading books” and to “renounce the teachings of men”. I understood from the get go, by word of wisdom, it had to do with eliminating “pharisee yeast” from my Spiritual diet. To help keep me on course, the Spirit began souring me for the teachings of men. As often as I’d hear a man “preach”, there would come a moment in the message where there was a “twist” to drive home the preacher’s agenda, which typically meant give or serve mother church. In a word, the twist amounted to manipulation, which is the essence of witchcraft. As soon as I heard the “twist”, my stomach soured and I grew nauseous. The obvious solution for my indigestion? Stop submitting to the teachings of men, whether by preaching or in print, and submit only to the Holy Spirit and His teaching.
Consider the implications of the Spirit’s call for me to repent. No more going to church and listening to a man preach. No more Christian TV and radio. No more Christian books or browsing the wares in Christian book stores. All peddle the yeast-laden teachings of men for profit.
It wasn’t until several years later that the Spirit showed me from scripture, the confirmation of His instruction:
But as for you, Christ has poured out his Spirit on you. As long as his Spirit remains in you, you do not need anyone to teach you. For his Spirit teaches you about everything, and what he teaches is true, not false. Obey the Spirit’s teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ. (1 John 2:27 GNB)
The passage is loaded with meaning, not to mention consequence if the reader is willing to give it due consideration. For example, consider man’s institutional church. Every Sunday morning, millions of believers flock to sit at the feet of a teacher they do not need (1 John 2:27), in a building where God does not live (Matthew 23:38, Acts 7:48, 17:24), from which they are dispatched to carry out the vain works of men (Hebrews 6:1-2), all the while paying the Church, Inc® for a twisted self-serving version of the Gospel Yeshua said to freely give (Matthew 10:8), etc.
Is it any wonder Christendom is in disarray and disunity, with greed at the helm and where shameless men usurp the position and authority of the Good Shepherd over the sheep of His pasture (John 10). Only by submitting to the Holy Spirit as teacher and obeying His teachings, are believers ever unified in Christ (1 John 2:27).
With regard to evangelical Christianity calling upon America to repent, shouldn’t they instead be asking what “repentance” would look like for evangelical Christianity? For all of “Christendom” and man’s “institutional church”?
And why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, and not notice the beam which is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3 WNT)
That the call for repentance originates from an organization steeped in sin (disobedience), an entity that long ago left their first love and embraced instead the way of Balaam, is it any wonder America not only turns a deaf ear but even now seeks to silence the noisy gong and clashing cymbal that is Christendom?
Dare I say it? From my perspective, voluntary repentance for Christendom looks like DISMANTLING. Better that than the involuntary DESTRUCTION appointed for it (Revelation 18).