Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.
- Jeremiah 15:19
Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall!
- Hosea 14:1
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
- Mark 1:15
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
- Acts 2:38-39
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- John 3:16
Repentance is not an option. It may become a lifelong quest, and none of us will be perfect. But optional is not part of the deal.
The only requirement for salvation that God makes is what is stated in John 3:16. The Greek word that is commonly used for “believe” also means “trust.” If we trust in God, then we trust in His program. If Jesus is in our hearts, we will have an overwhelming desire to please and honor God. This does not mean that repentance of all sins is instantaneous and perfect, but our desire changes. We may have some sin in our lives that we are not aware of. And I have heard about many God-fearing people who had temptations that continued the rest of their lives. It takes time to learn how to overcome such things, and God provides the courage and the strength to do so.
But let me make this clear: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)”
But that being said, the process of sanctification occurs at that point, and we will desire to repent. I have had people say that it was an eye opener when they realized that you can come to God as you are. God wants the relationship with you and then He even gives you the power to resist temptation and repent. You can never clean up your act before going to God. That strength must come from Him.
That being said, we must repent.
The photo above has my scouter shirt pictured. Over my left pocket are seven knot badges. Six of them are square knots. It is easy to recognize the square knots. These are embroidered patches, but it looks like two ropes of different colors, tied together in a square knot fashion. It is easy to recognize, even if you do not watch the person tying the knot. The patches are significant of three earned awards as a scout and three awards earned as an adult leader. The seventh knot, the overhand knot in silver on a navy blue background, is the district award of merit, awarded by a committee, but boy how I had earned that one (camp director, on the district commissioner’s staff, cubmaster, and child protection instructor for several scout camps-as those protocols had just been established).
The point is that square knots should be easily recognizable, but sometimes Christians are not that easily recognizable. C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity about two people who become a Christian. The “good guy” may not look any different, not growing in faith hardly at all, but he might look more like a Christian than the “bad girl” that struggles to overcome bad habits. The “bad girl” grows in the faith, repenting from many, many things, but she still has rough edges, while the “good guy” started with basically no “rough edges” at all and never grew as a Christian, or at least not much.
I have written about how my mother berated me in front of everyone at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor because I became an Eagle Scout in four months more than the minimum time. While the scoutmaster praised me for finishing in such a short time, she demanded a detailed, legitimate reason for those four months. At the time, I could not remember why. Later remembering that three of the four months were outside my control (not enough nights of camping when I went on every campout, a three-month stretch where we had no service project to volunteer on, etc. – not knowing this was a race…) I was the honoree at the soiree with a lot of friends and their parents attending and politicians shaking hands, and I was trying to find a crack in the floor where I could hide.
But as I thought of it afterward, the first of those four months was my first month. The lowest rank in scouting, when I was in, was the tenderfoot, but you could not be a tenderfoot unless you could do the five basic knots and have certain things memorized. Since I joined after my thirteenth birthday, I was expected to tie knots the way any thirteen-year-old who had been tying them for over two years would tie a square knot. Mine were sloppy, and I was asked to do better by the next month. My square knots were square knots, but because I did not present the knot in the desired fashion, the stiff ropes twisted a bit. It was still a square knot – just sloppy. The eleven-year-olds with even sloppier square knots became tenderfeet, but I did not.
We become saved, born-again, eligible to enter heaven and stay there forever, when we believe and trust in Jesus Christ, but our square knot may not look like a square knot until we have been sanctified for a while. With a sloppy square knot, we may not look like a Christian but that does not change the fact that God has already erased our sins from the ledger.
So, when you struggle, know that others have struggled and gotten to the other side. It might be possible to not struggle by not even trying and hoping God will not notice you never repented. Just the act of struggling shows your desire to become more like Jesus every day. But we must never weigh ourselves down with guilt. To do that makes a mockery of God’s forgiveness of us. He forgave us, and we should forgive ourselves also. Square knots that are sloppy or square knots that do not look like square knots, hardly at all.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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