by Rayola Kelley
I have been doing a series of articles involving discipleship. As Christians, we have been commissioned to preach the Gospel and make disciples or followers of Jesus. We have developed many methods to preach the Gospel, but discipleship is greatly lacking. As a result, many Christians have been left to try and figure out what it means to truly follow Jesus.
It is hard for people to understand what real discipleship entails. For example, when you go to a discipleship class at a church, it may consist of teaching people the doctrines of the church. This may be informative, but it is not discipleship.
Discipleship entails an investment that can take place in a group setting, but it also proves to be very affective when it takes place one-on-one. The main goal of true discipleship is to make a person familiar with the character and ways of God. It is from this premise that people are able to properly discern spiritual matters and to grow up in the ways of God. Therefore, one cannot properly disciple a person if he or she does not know the God of the Bible.
If people do not know the character and ways of God, they will fail to properly see or understand Scriptural instructions. For example, people do not understand the devastation of sin because they do not have a proper perspective of God’s holiness. Therefore, it is vital that Christians be challenged and led into knowledge of the true God of heaven.
It is in light of understanding God’s character that one can begin to understand his or her scriptural responsibilities. One of our first and main responsibilities throughout our walk is repentance. Repentance from dead works is the first doctrine mentioned in the principledoctrine of Christ in Hebrews 6:1-2.
This brings us to a very important consideration. How would repentance from dead works translate into our lives? To me, John the Baptist brings this into focus. In Mark 1:4 we are given this insight: “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” First of all, John pointed to the fact that repentance is a type of baptism in the sense that one must totally be immersed in this act to ensure that sins are remitted.
In Luke 3, it is recorded that John warned people to flee from the wrath to come, and that they were to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. In other words, flee from the destructive path you are on, and prove you have repented by obvious changes in attitude and practices. When John was asked by people as to what they should do to produce such fruits, John told them to be benevolent towards the needs of others, honorable in their practices, and to not abuse position, power or status at the expense of those less fortunate. Clearly, as those who were truly repentant fled from the old, they were to embrace that which represented the opposite of their old way of doing. Jesus explained what people were to embrace in their repentance: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
We know that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Therefore, the main reason we repent of the old is to embrace God’s salvation. When John the Baptist hit the scene, repentance was the main emphasis of his preaching. After all, people had to first repent from their old ways to ensure that their sins would be remitted, allowing them to properly embrace the reality of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:4). Jesus summarized the necessity of repentance in this simple way: “I tell you, Nay, But, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). This explains why repentance is necessary. You cannot embrace the kingdom of God and be saved unless you first repent.
Repent or perish puts into perspective the need for all of us to come to true repentance from that which is dead, doomed and destructive. The command to repent in order to avoid perishing in our sins seems simple enough. However, I have found that repentance can prove to be an impossible feat unless the inward environment of man is right.
One of the things that is fascinating to me is watching people moan and cry over their sins, failures and spiritual condition, but once the tears dry up, the people go on their way without any sign of change. Keep in mind, repentance is all about change, but not just change in what a person is doing, but change in his or her attitude about matters, as well as transformation of the mind and disposition. In other words, repentance involves a complete change of the inward man that will manifest itself in one’s attitude and lifestyle.
Such a change involves changing direction to not only face the light of Jesus at the point of redemption and the forgiveness of sins, but to come into agreement with God as to what constitutes righteousness, and to begin to walk in the light, ensuring inward cleansing from all sin and spiritual reconciliation (1 John 1:3-9; 3:4-10).
However, there must be a right environment to ensure true repentance. A person must be prepared to come to the place of repentance (Hebrews 12:17). When you study the place of repentance, you realize that it is humility. There is no real repentance without coming in humility to God. Such a place means that one is able to truly repent. Such repentance involves a right heart condition, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and a willingness to change perception, attitude and conduct. Without heart change and the conviction of the Spirit, people will not be prepared to be broken over the devastation that sin has wrought in their lives and in their relationship with God.
It is important to point out that people may feel sorry about sin, but if they are not broken by it, true repentance will be missing from the equation. Remorse and repentance are two different responses. Paul speaks of both in 2 Corinthians 7:10. Remorse is worldly sorrow that will lead to destruction, while true repentance is godly, and will lead to salvation. Remorse may show tears, but it serves as a cloak that hides the person’s prideful resistance in agreeing with God about his or her wicked attitude or action. True repentance recognizes that the person has offended God, and must take the appropriate responsibility to seek the necessary forgiveness.
Worldly remorse not only hides behind four major disguises, but it has the ability to delude the person who cannot discern the real spirit behind his or her outward display of remorse. The first disguise that worldly remorse hides behind is that of compliance. This is where a person appears to comply by quickly agreeing with the wrong that has been done or is being done. These people give the appearance of being wise in their compliance, but sadly there is no real fruit of repentance that confirms that the inner man of the person has been transformed. This type of individual continues on with their same attitudes and behavior.
Keep in mind, the intent of repentance is to truly change one’s lifestyle. Changing lifestyle requires change in understanding, attitude, approach, and behavior. This process of changing begins with coming to a real understanding of a matter. In order to do this, we must understand the intent of something. For example, we must see sin for what it is, and understand that it results in some type of death to the quality of life or in relationships. Such understanding means we will not just know of a matter, or about a matter, we will know it as a reality. When something becomes a reality, we are able to adjust our behavior according to it, thereby changing our attitude and approach towards it.
When one complies, he or she usually agrees for the sake of peace or fake nobility making him or her appear as being wise. But, such an individual lacks the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit to change his or her mind and attitude; therefore, operating in the same destructive cycles. These individuals will not truly repent by giving up their right to the way they think. This type of person simply resists changing his or her perception to truly come to a place of repentance.
There are those who reform outwardly by adjusting to the perception of others, but inwardly resist casting their emotional sentiment aside in order to discipline their behavior and change their stubborn attitude about something. They hold on to their right to feel a certain way, as they resist being vulnerable. But, each person must first become transparent if he or she is going to come into a place of complete agreement with God about a matter, ensuring godly repentance.
Some people perform to give an impression that there has been some change. However, behind the image is a fierce resistance to submit to any terms other than theirs. Nor will these people admit there is any wrong that must be confronted in their way of doing. In a way, this performance becomes a clever game in which this type of individual sees whether he or she can entice others to agree with his or her particular take on reality.
Finally, you have people who will conform outwardly in order to control their environment. They basically throw you a bone, while maintaining their right to resist any change outside of their particular understanding about a matter. The bone is to silence you as they continue down the same path.
When these different types of people are faced with consequences for their inward resistance against that which is honorable, righteous, real, and true, they can only express worldly remorse. Clearly, they have not come to humility in order to properly repent. The remorse is simply an outward show revealing that the person lacks any real intent of changing how he or she approaches something. Sadly, these four ways of expressing worldly remorse represent the ways of death.
We need to know how to discern ourselves. Because of pride, we can believe we are repenting, when in fact we are resisting coming to our Lord in humility and brokenness. In such a state, we will run around the gate, claiming we want to do what is right, but we refuse to enter the narrow gate of repentance. Therefore, nothing changes in our inner man. Granted, we may convince ourselves we want change, but we want circumstances, environments, people, and reality to change or adjust around us, but we do not want to change. In essence, we do not want to face the depths of our sin and be broken by it as we come into a state of humility. Such humility will bring us to a place of transparency and true repentance.
What about you? Are you still operating according to an appearance of repentance, or have you established a place of true repentance in the spirit of humility, where you can immediately come, seeking to find forgiveness for your sins, reconciliation with the Father, and restoration of heart, soul and mind?