Be Holy/Part 2
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2000|
|When Jesus tells us to “be holy as I am holy,” what does he mean, and how does he empower us to obey that? Dr. Ankerberg examines those questions.|
“Be Holy—Part Two
Last time we looked at the first of three important questions a Christian should ask: “How does God motivate us to progress in holiness?” Now we come to the next question: “What is true repentance, and why is repentance so important for us in living the Christian life?”
The word repent comes from the Greek word metanoia. It emphasizes a change of mind and attitude. To repent is to make a decision that changes the total direction of one’s life. When Jesus preached, He issued a call to repentance which was a call to people to change their mind about Him and to make a personal commitment to Him. Repentance is an abandonment of those courses of action in which we once defied God and embraced those things which God dislikes and forbids. The Hebrew word for repent signifies a turning away from sin to God, or a returning to God. The New Testament Greek word carries the sense of changing one’s mind so that one changes one’s ways. Full repentance means altering one’s habits of thought, one’s attitudes, outlook, policy, direction and behavior just as fully as is needed go get one’s life out of the wrong shape and into the right one.
But changing in this way is only possible for Christians, believers who have been set free from sin’s dominion and made alive to God. Repentance comes as a result of putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance flows out of true faith. It is the fruit of faith and as such, is a gift of God, according to Acts 11:18. Repentance is not that which saves, but it is the opposite side of the same coin as faith. One cannot have true faith unless one turns away from believing in himself and turns to believe in Christ alone to save, forgive and empower him to change.
Once again, true repentance is only possible for Christians because it’s only the Christian who in relationship with God starts to have God pull off the blinders of his life. The Bible tells us we do not even know how self-deceived we are about our sins, according to James 1:22 and 1 John 1:8. So once we place our faith in Christ, bit by bit God shows us that our deeds, our lifestyle, our thinking, our acts have offended Him. This awareness that we have offended a holy God is the basis or the seed bed from which repentance grows all during our life. True repentance includes a contrite heart, sorrow and remorse in having dishonored God’s goodness and love to us. The kind of repentance that is a false repentance is that which shows only regret for sin prompted by fear for oneself, not love for God. Repentance brings on our reverent request of God’s pardon, cleansing of conscience and help not to lapse into the same sin again.
In his book, Rediscovering Holiness, J. I. Packer says repentance is 1) a person discerning the perversity, folly and guilt of the sin he or she has done; 2) the desire to find forgiveness, and the willingness to abandon the sin and live a God-pleasing life from now on; 3) deciding to ask God for forgiveness and power to change, and then actually talking to God; 4) demonstrating, whether by testimony, confession, or by changed behavior that one has left one’s sins behind.
Martin Luther taught all of life was to be repentance toward God. That is, as we walk with God, He will reveal to us things about ourselves that we didn’t know—sins and habits which need to be abandoned.
Such recurring repentance is the life of the adult disciple. Keep in mind that when you put your faith in Jesus Christ, He gave you a new heart that desires to obey God. You will only be happy and joyful when those things that offend God are turned away from and you’ve asked God to forgive you and to cleanse you.
Paradoxically, such action brings more joy because God draws closer to you and you experience more of Him. You can refuse to repent. But you should know that you will run the risk of being disciplined by God. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. God disciplines His children because He loves us and He won’t stand by and allow us to ruin our lives.
This leads, then, to our third important question: “Why is totally surrendering our lives to God the only way to really live and experience life to the fullest?”
Proverbs 3:5,6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
Well, you and I both know we have a lot of decisions to make about our future. We have a lot of decisions that we must make today to get through this day. God says He wants to lead and direct you moment by moment. Of course, you can always depend just on your own intellect and experience.
But if I were to ask you this question, “Who is smarter, you or God? Who knows more about the future, you or God?”
When put that way, we would all say, “Of course, God is smarter than I am. He knows everything—even the future. He’s God.”
Well then, why don’t you allow Him to lead you in the decisions that you need to make concerning the future, concerning the decisions you need to make today? Can you trust Him? That question is almost blasphemous to ask.
If you need proof that you can trust God and that He loves you dearly, just draw a picture in your mind of Jesus dying on the cross, shedding His blood, and ask yourself, “Why was He there?”
The answer will come back, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” God loved you and made your salvation possible before you ever knew Him. He didn’t have to do it. He gave it to you as a gift. If He went that far to show you that He loved you, don’t you think you can trust Him and surrender your life to Him so that He can love you even more by guiding you with His great wisdom and care?
So let’s summarize. God has called us to Himself by convicting us of sin. One day we responded and placed our faith in Jesus Christ and God gave us His gift of salvation. God’s gift included complete forgiveness of our sin and the status of being righteous and holy before Him. From the moment we believed, we positionally stand before God just like this pure glass of water. We have no sin and are clothed in Christ’s righteousness.
But we’ve also seen that experientially, God calls us to live holy, to purify ourselves. In brief, we are asked by God to separate ourselves unto His personal use. Ultimate experiential holiness will not be achieved until we go to glory.
Then we saw that true repentance is daily for the Christian. It includes being open to God, allowing His Spirit to show us anything that might displease Him. We are to bring that to Him, confess it as sin, and to leave it, abandon it. As we do so, God will draw closer to us and bring us great joy and contentment. We will experience God’s dynamic, living presence all day long.
And finally, why should we totally surrender our lives to God? It’s because He is the One who knows what’s best for us. He loves us more than anyone else. All the real blessings of life are in His hand. He gave us our bodies and our talents and abilities and knows just how to use them if we will surrender them to Him. To the extent that we are lazy and undisciplined and keep God from certain parts of our life, we will do this to our own detriment. But God gives us that choice. It’s part of the learning process as Christians. Remember, He gave us a spirit, a heart that loves to obey Him, wants to be with Him, and so when we sin, we are really going against our true nature, what our heart really desires.
Right now, in light of all of these things God has done for you, would you say, “Lord, help me to live a holy life. Lord, the sins of my life that I know about that you’ve shown me, I have offended you, please forgive me and cleanse me. And Lord, I totally surrender my life to you. I love you. Use me as you see fit. Let me not miss out on any part of the adventure that you have for me.”