Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 44. Faith follows repentance
Acts 20:21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
We have moved on from the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11, and are now picking up specific issues pertaining to faith. We have seen how you can be weak in faith or strong in faith, how you can have little faith, we have seen how faith opens the way for great things to happen, but we’ve also seen how guilt hinders faith, and we have seen how faith needs to be focused on Jesus and lastly we saw how faith becomes ‘visible’. The thing I often find about doing these studies is that the more you do the more they open up other avenues for consideration, things that are often very obvious.
It is to one of these that we now turn and in many ways it is very obvious except as we ponder on it I believe we are going to see things that are not quite so obvious. Our verse above comes from the apostle Paul speaking about how he has preached the Gospel and for it to ‘work’ there are two aspects of it that must come about. The first is repenting and then the second is having faith in Jesus. Now we recently spent a whole study in considering the second aspect, that of focusing our faith on Jesus. I suspect that few of us when we turn to Christ see it as fully as the fourfold layout I provided there but instead we see Jesus in two ways I did not emphasise there – that he must be both Saviour and Lord.
Let’s just pause up with that for a moment or two. For us to receive and enter into the salvation that God has provided for us we must accept Jesus as Saviour otherwise we won’t even get out of the starting gate, so to speak. The whole point is that we are and were sinners who needed saving. We first needed saving because we were guilty and we deserved punishment. We needed Jesus to be our Saviour who takes our punishment on the Cross. But we also needed saving out of the power of sin and we needed help to get free from that and live new lives, and because Jesus took our guilt and punishment the Father could then impart the Holy Spirit or Spirit of Jesus to indwell us to deliver us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His Son (Col 1:13)
Jesus saves us from destruction into a new life as a child of God, adopted into God’s family but if we are to know how we are to live and what God wants for us in the years of life we have left on this earth, we also need Jesus to be Lord, the one who guides, directs, teaches and directs us. We cannot fully enter into all He has for us unless we submit to and let Jesus lead us into His will for our individual lives.
Now both those two things are, we said, the second aspect of the two things that are necessary for our lives to ‘work’ as we receive the salvation God offers us through Jesus. The first aspect we said was repentance. Now why is that so important?
Well, the thing about repentance is that it is
- first of all recognising that we have fallen short of God’s standards, and we were godless, having little or no knowledge of Him because we were self-centred,
- second, that we are helpless to free ourselves from our state, we have no power to change ourselves to become selfless and godly,
- third, that without help we are hopeless, we have no future beyond what we now know (because we are helpless to set ourselves free) and
- fourth, only God can set us free
- fifth, that we recognise this with sorrow so that
- sixth, we cry out to Him to forgive us and change us, and
- seventh, throw ourselves on His mercy to do all these things.
Repentance means all of these things and if we have seen or done less than all of these we will not have fully appreciated Jesus as Saviour and Lord, partly because we have not seen the need and partly because we have not been utterly sincere. Put in a nutshell, so to speak, repentance is the doorway to a life of faith because it is relying on God and not my old life. When there is true conviction and true repentance each one of us will come to God in a measure of desperation; it is a crisis moment when we reject our old life and its self-centered and godless ways and cry out to God for deliverance. When we did that, He steps in, declares us forgiven, declares us adopted as His children, and puts His Holy Spirit within us to be our new power and direction source…. and so it begins!
Yes, that is just be beginning. The apostle Paul, speaking about his ministry said it was “to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Rom 1:5) We’ve seen above how making Jesus Lord of your life means submitting to his leadership, i.e. being obedient to all he says, and that is faith and flows from faith. Along the way, there will be time and time again when we recognize that for faith to flow we need to repent – reject the path of godless self-centredness and let go again and let him lead the way. I think it was Mother Basilea Schlink, leader of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Germany, who wrote a book, ‘Repentance – The Joy-Filled Life’ which suggests that repentance is an ongoing part of the Christian life. It is what we just said, that rejecting the path of godless self-centredness and turning it all over to Jesus to save us and lead us as ongoing Saviour and Lord – and that is an ongoing life of faith.