Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life (Acts
THE GOSPEL is a summons not only to faith, but also to
repentance. There are certain responses that man must make to God, such as
faith, repentance, and obedience, without which he cannot become a
Christian. These he is responsible for. All of them are of equal
"As for the times of ignorance, God has
overlooked them; but now he commands mankind, all men everywhere, to
repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world
judged." (Acts 1 7:30, N.E.B.).
The design of Christ is to save His people from their
sins and reconcile man to God. All the knowledge of God and His plan of
redemption is futile unless it leads to an adequate response. Both faith
and repentance are closely related in the Christianís response to God.
In the previous chapter we found that faith involves the person with
Christ and His claims upon the human heart. More specifically repentance
identifies the Christian with the mind of Christ in relation and reaction
to sin. There is such a thing as a lifetime of both faith and repentance.
Both involve identification with the mind of Christ. Both require the
total response to Christís purpose and will.
Consider the emphasis that John the Baptist, Jesus, and
His disciples placed on manís need to repent. In preparing the Jewish
nation for the coming of Christ, John the Baptist appeared as a preacher
in the Judean wilderness. His theme was: ĎĎRepent: for the kingdom of
heaven is upon you" (Matt. 4:17, N.E.B.). "I came not to call
the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). When Pentecost
came, like John the Baptist and Christ before them, the disciples went
forth with power and called on men to repent. Men were compelled by the
Spirit to cry out: What must I do to be saved?
Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a
Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins
Repentance is a beautiful word. The repentance of
sinners is the occasion for great rejoicing in heaven.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one
sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons,
which need no repentance (Luke 15:7).
Christ never toned down the nature of response that man
must make. What is involved in repentance is the tension of a great moral
and spiritual decision. Two powers are in deadly conflict: Christ and
Satan, the world of God and the world of evil. Christís preaching and
teaching on earth is vibrant with meaning and a crucial decision. God
claims the lives of men since He redeemed them. A great transforming
possibility must become actual in man. The kingdom of God is at hand.
There is no time to waste.
Meaning of Repentance
The English word repentance comes from the
Latin, not from the Greek. The New Testament word is metanoia. It
is a combination of meta, a preposition meaning "after,"
and nous, meaning mind." Literally, the
"after-mind," meaning a change of mind, a mind that has entered
upon an entirely new path. The word metanoia is one of the great
words and truths of the Bible. It occurs fifty-six times in the New
Testament. It describes a revolutionary change of mind that is decisive
for the whole personality. Every faculty is enlightened, the intellect
convicted, every feeling inspired and brought to contrition, and the will
decided for Christ. Change your mind first is the cry that rings through
the New Testament from beginning to end. Bring your mind into harmony with
God. That is the initial call of the gospel. Make a complete turn from
self and sin back to God.
Repentance consists essentially in change of heart
and mind and will. The change of heart and mind and will principally
respects four things: it is a change of mind respecting God,
respecting ourselves, respecting sin, and respecting righteousnessóJOHN
MURRAY, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (Grand
Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans, 1955), p. 114.
The English word to repent comes from the Latin repoenitere
from which we get "penance," doing penance for past sins.
Emphasis is placed upon an emotional experience, remorse, grief over past
sins, rather than the basic change of mind and purpose. Where the Greek
calls for a change in the total attitude and motivation, the English or
Latin word stresses abasement of self for sins committed. Thus the Latin
word has distorted the original Greek meaning. When Christ called on men
to repent, He was not looking simply for the expression of grief and
lamentation over past sins, but a basic change of the whole mind.
Emotional grief lasts only for a short time.
God has in mind the changing of the mental patterns in
order to secure a transformation of the whole life. Without new mental
patterns, human behavior and character are not changed. Life is changed
only when the dominant attitudes of people are changed. This is the reason
why repentance is so important. It goes to the root of life and behavior.
The sinful viewpoint of life is forsaken. The true righteous viewpoint of
life in Christ is accepted. Repentance includes the idea of sorrow for
sin, but this is not its main thrust.
Actually the Greek uses another word to express
"regret" or a change of feelings.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance (Metanoia) to
salvation not to be repented of (metamelomaióregretted); but the
sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Cor. 7:10).
Metanoein means a change of heart either generally
or in respect of a specific sin, whereas metamelesthai means to
experience remorse. Metanoein implies that one has later arrived at a
different view of something, . . .Metamelesthai that one has a
different feeling about it.óGERHARD KITTEL, Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Win. B.
Eerdmans, 1967), Volume IV, p. 626.
In studying the Bible on this topic, it is desirable to
read a version that renders the use of these two words with discrimination
in order to avoid confusing their meanings.
In this passage Paul argues that the sorrow of the
world is regret, a temporary emotional reaction with no basic change of
mind. But genuine repentance is a change of attitude that man never
regrets having made. The change is permanent. Judas repented in the sense
of regret, but with no real change of mind. With "metamelomai"
nothing is really faced in life. "Metanoia" refers to that
change that makes a man a Christian. "Metamelomai" leaves a man
emotionally in anguish for a short time. True repentance always has in
mind a turning from sin to God, which involves the whole self. It is with
this in mind that Paul writes in Romans:
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;
but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be
carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and
peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not
subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Rom. 8:5-7).
Because many revivals have emphasized emotional
reactions and "hitting the sawdust trail," Christianity has
suffered at the hands of men. There is a temporary emotional reaction
usually because of the sad results of some wrongdoing. The penitential
revivals of some religions have taught people to do penance with the hope
of paying for their sins by manifesting an exaggerated grief. People
should not be frightened into feeling sorry for their sins. Any appeal to
fear in order to secure manís response is not a healthy thing to do.
Both Greek words involve the element of sin, but with a
different reaction. Repentance meaning regret is a temporary thing. "Metanoia,"
repentance or change of mind, is a turning from a life of self and sin,
with a full understanding of what it means to bring oneís whole life
into line with God.
A man may be very sorry about his sin, but that
brings no salvation. It may result only in death. Paul ascribes no
particular merit to grieving over sin. A man may be very regretful in
the way we call remorse. This involves depth of grief, but no decisive
break with sin, no determined putting away of sin. . . . The repentant
sinner is not only sorry about his sin, but by the grace of God he
does something about it. He makes a clear break with it. . . .
Repentance is forward looking as well as backward looking. It points
to a life lived in the power of God whereby sin will be forsaken and
overcome as well as grieved overóLEON MORRIS, The Cross
in the New Testament, p. 261.
In calling upon men to repent the New Testament never has in mind a
shallow emotional outburst but the highest creative activity of the mind
and personality. There is great peril in making so light and superficial a
response that it represents nothing more than a passing feeling, an
emotional release following grief.
Pharaoh, when confronted with the tragedy and the
pressure of the plagues, confessed to Moses: "I have sinned"
(Ex. 10:16). His response was due to fear. There was no change of mind
that brought him into harmony with God and with His will. Human character
cannot be changed by some temporary emotional concern. Sorrow for past
sins is only a small part of the total experience of repentance. Judas
repented in the sense of regret. He experienced such agony that it led him
to suicide. His regret did not suffice to lead him to change his whole
life and accept the mind of Christ.
Unfortunately, revivalists have often called for
emotional reactions rather than a turning of the whole life away from sin
and back to God. Morbid self-scorn and depreciation can be an unwholesome
mood. Repentance is not self-impeachment and recrimination that weaken the
mind. There is no advantage in beating oneís breast, in attempting to
punish oneself by an exaggerated self-humiliation. Repentance unto life
does not aim at the dominance of dark moods, but genuine forgiveness. Long
hours of self-reproach and the bearing of guilt are signs of a defective
trust in the love of God. When sin becomes more distressful than men can
bear, they should remember the promise of God:
O my God, my soul is cast down within me.... Yet
the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the
night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my
life. I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go
I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? . . . Why art thou
cast down, 0 my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou
in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my
countenance, and my God (Ps. 42:6-1 1).
We do need a fuller and a keener consciousness of the
sinfulness of sin, but we are not to let this overwhelm us. Christianity
is not a religion of melancholy. With Godís forgiveness come peace and
strength for new life. Repentance unto life purges one of guilt and sin.
It does not increase it.
God requires repentance, not to provide impunity for
sin or to escape the penalty, but to turn men from sin to righteousness.
Often men rejoice in the fact that God in Christ has done it all. However,
any idea that manís part is some easy routine is contrary to the kind of
response that God expects man to make. The Bible calls on men to trust
Christ as Saviour and enthrone Him as Lord. This involves a sincere and
firm resolve to renounce all sin, to regard no iniquity in the heart, and
to follow Christ come what may.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will
come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow
me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will
lose his life for my sake shall find it (Matt. 16:24, 25).
Repentance is the most costly business in the world. It
cost God everything to forgive men. It costs men everything to be
reconciled to God.
True repentance is such an uncomfortable experience
that sinners naturally shun it. They will adopt all kinds of
subterfuges to hide from themselves and from others their need of it,
and they will engage in all manner of activities in substitution for
it. It requires a special gift from God before they realize the
necessity for it. This is all the more so in that there are sins of
which a man must repent which do not appear to the natural man to be
sins at all. Thus in his pride he does not recognize pride as pride,
but acts in a spirit of self righteousness. It takes a complete
revolution in the soul, a divine work of recreation before a man can
see that repentance is needed for a whole way of life.óMORRIS, op.
cit., p. 262.
Every person of sincere understanding knows what a
serious act of the mind is. It needs little or no definition. The man who
is determined to repent of his sins does not rest satisfied with the
knowledge that Christ has completed manís redemption at the cross. He
must take a stand with Christ and put his whole life under Godís
direction and control. He has that fixed purpose to be devoted wholly to
God. The way of Christ is the main business of his life. He is that
serious. This is how it was with all the great men of faith in the Bible.
The modern conscience is easy on sin. Any idea that one
can casually drift into the kingdom of God is not true. This very attitude
misunderstands the cost of divine forgiveness. The cross affirms that God
cannot take sin lightly. It reveals there can be no escape from divine
judgment on sin. Someone must bear that judgment. The infinite love of God
in Christ did just that. This alone makes forgiveness possible. Manís
right attitude and response toward sin and righteousness is the
recognition that only the atonement of Jesus Christ can provide the
Many religious revivals seem to have developed the
concept that God is love to the fashionable point where no radical change
in man is necessary. Nothing is so delusive as the shifting of personal
responsibility from a genuine repentance to an easy use of the name
"Jesus." Such self-deception only accentuates the real nature of
the sinful self. Repentance is a continual thing in the life that requires
the Christian to apply the whole truth to practical everyday living.
Basic changes in perspective never occur easily,
because such a change involves the whole self. It is never merely an
intellectual matter, but a shift in oneís basic moorings. At times it
involves a terrific struggle and soul-searching, the crucifixion of self.
The Christian faith is a way of looking at the whole of life and
experience in the light of Jesus Christ.
The fact that man understands the meaning of repentance
does not mean that he can repent. Repentance requires that men seek
personal integration on a level of life away from self and sin and toward
God. That is why repentance as emotional grief is unavoidably superficial.
Only when the whole self moves into agreement with the mind of Christ does
man repent and change his perspective and sense of values.
Repentance means a decided preference for Godís way
of thought and life. It means a decided break with everything that God
calls sin and transgression. The repentant believer places himself on the
side of God without reservation. That cannot be realized with a divided
mind and heart. Therefore repentance under the Holy Spirit is manís
personal responsibility to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
How Do Men Repent?
Genuine repentance is the result of the action and
influence upon the mind by the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God. The
natural man has no power to make the change unless God brings it about.
The capacity for freedom from guilt and the power of sin does not reside
naturally within the individual.
Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and
forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God
leadeth thee to repentance (Rom. 2:3).
The Holy Spirit places a powerful impetus upon man to
repent. He stirs the conscience to cry out: What must I do to be saved? No
man can understand the nature of his sinfulness unless the Spirit brings
conviction. It is of little use to call upon people to repent, so long as
they lack the insight as to the nature of themselves as sinners before
God. Man cannot shift his mind and heart into harmony with God by his own
strivings. He cannot breast-beat himself into submission.
So long as men are satisfied with their own good works,
their abilities, and their moral achievements, no repentance can come. No
man can confess to God what he is either unable or refuses to acknowledgeóthe
sinfulness of his heart. Hence manís need for the convicting power of
the Holy Spirit. When men do not see that self is an idol, how can they
repent of it? If man refuses to acknowledge that self, not God, is the
center of his life, how can he repent?
When self and sin are viewed in the light of the
supreme sacrifice made by the Godhead, then the goodness of God leads men
to repentance. The means and the price of forgiveness is so costly and the
problem of getting men to return wholly to God is so eternally crucial
that forgiveness is never granted apart from the sacrifice of the Son of
God. There is no halfway house in repentance.
When fundamental convictions and basic motivations are
changed, it is much like changing oneís job or moving to another
country. To understand and feel the force of Godís appeal to repent goes
much further than sorrow for past sin.
After Peter denied his Lord he went out and wept
bitterly. Peterís sorrow was genuine. It produced the right change in
his whole mind and personality. His repentance was permanent, as shown by
his subsequent conduct and change of life.
Both the law and the gospel seek to awaken an to his
need to turn back to God. Men, for the most part, have departed from the
law of God and consider the Ten Commandments a code man that needs
adjustment from age to age. They forget that violation of the law puts man
under divine judgment. Neither will men repent unless they see the danger
of perishing and take seriously the judgment of God on sin. For if man not
in danger of perishing, if there is little chance that he will suffer
eternal separation from God and from life, why should he repent? Why get
serious about Christís bearing manís sins, and is call to repent, if
man is not in danger of being eternally lost?
How much urgency is there in rescuing a man from a
mountain if he can easily climb down by himself? The law and the gospel
should both be proclaimed together. For no sooner is the law of God
proclaimed than the sinfulness of sin becomes apparent, and "the
wages of sin is death." God addresses man in both the law and the
gospel. men are to repent they must hear what the law God says. Both law
and gospel constitute the word of God to man. They must be taken
seriously. To lose the deep sense of the sinfulness of sin is to lose the
need for repentance and the need for transformation of life.
God so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life (John 3:16).
The text speaks both of everlasting life and perishing.
Both are eternal possibilities. The word "perish" must be taken
as seriously as the words "eternal life." Repentance is that
Repentance and Time
If repentance is concerned with sins already committed,
then the chief time reference is to the past. But if repentance includes
manís identification with Godís attitude towards sin, the primary time
reference is to the present and the future. The believer now appraises his
life and motives before he has actually committed the sin itself. His
adoption of the mind of Christ leads him to confront present situations
and temptations that are freighted with sinful possibilities.
Repentance aims to deal with the "now"
situation. The believer comes to see his sinful tendencies as they are in
the present, with a view to their possible future manifestation and power.
Because he has adjusted his thinking to the spiritual realities and truths
of God, he judges the very seeds of sin before they have produced the
Sin is not simply an act but also an attitude. Sin is
lust; repentance is the judgment on lust in terms of its end product,
adultery. Sin is hatred; repentance is the reaction of the mind to hatred
as though it were murder. Sin is deceit; repentance is the rejection of
crooked thinking as though it were dishonesty and embezzlement.
Thus repentance requires that state of mind which can
see that the seed of murder is already involved in the envy and the
hostility, and adultery is already in the experience of lust. Manís
response to God must begin here. Repentance does not wait until men have
actually committed the overt acts of murder and adultery.
The time for Cain to repent was when hate arose in his
heart against his brother, not after he had killed him. The time for Esau
to repent was when he gave priority to carnal things, not after he had
sold his birthright and met all the evil consequences of that transaction.
The time for Pharaoh to repent was when he resisted the Lord, not when his
first-born son was slain. The time for Judas to repent was when he began
to doubt Jesus and give way to his proud and avaricious desires, not when
the Jewish leaders refused to accept the return of the thirty pieces of
God intends that repentance will lead a man to regard
his wrong attitudes and react to such attitudes as he would react to the
evil deeds themselves. This is the only solution to many s inner problems.
Repentance requires the integration of the mind of man with the mind of
The Christian does not live retrospectively in the
past, sorrowing over sins committed and lost opportunities. He lives now,
in the present. Repentance conditions his mind with the insight and
judgment that discerns between right and wrong before such thoughts are
manifested in deeds. Christís call to repent is the call to think like
Christ on moral and spiritual issues, always with the sincere desire to
live in harmony with God.
Thus this change of attitude will lead the believer
into a more genuine type of Christian experience. It is never wise to wait
to repent until evil thoughts have brought forth a harvest of evil deeds.
Repentance gives to the Christian a sensitivity to sin, with a
determination to live according to the mind of Christ.
The Church at Laodicea
You say, "How rich I am! And how well I have
done! I have everything I want in the world." In fact, though you
do not know it, you are the most pitiful wretch, poor, blind, and
naked.... All whom I love I reprove and discipline. Be on your mettle
therefore and repent. (Rev. 3:17-19, N.E.B.).
The apostle John wrote the book of Revelation to the
seven churches and to those facing similar life situations that have
existed in every church since that day. He states their excellencies and
defects, their victories and failures. John is not denying the existence
of true believers in these churches.
Laodicea was a luxurious city, the wealthiest of the
seven. It had everything that a city could wish for: libraries, baths,
sports arenas, temples, art centers, a rich commerce, progressive
industry, a medical school among the best of that day. From a material,
educational, and cultural point of view, it had need of nothing. The city
offered to its citizens everything that the heart could desire. It had
every justification for self-esteem and self-exaltation.
As is often the case the Laodicean church had absorbed
the cityís spirit of self-sufficiency. Self-esteem and self-exaltation
are difficult to condemn and hard to reject, especially when one can give
good reasons for feeling this way. After all, one does not wish to
suppress self-realization and personal fulfillment. Psychologically and
socially much can be said in favor of a self-sustained way of life.
The Laodicean today is about the same as it has always
been. The world is in love with itself. The aim of life is comfortable
living and personal achievement in every field of endeavor. There is
nothing immoral about that. But so much of this kind of living is attached
Modern man is being changed in interests, desires,
values derived from secular progress. The full benefit of all the
advancement of modern science is available for manís blessing and
satisfaction. It tends to make the Christian more secular-minded than
spiritual when the abundant life is thought of in terms of earthly values.
In the enjoyment of all the benefits of modern civilization, men easily
become indifferent in their religion. Man is faced with a mentality and a
way of life that have grown superficial and trivial.
"As things were in Noahís days, so will they
be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate and drank and married,
until the day that Noah went into the ark and the flood came and made
an end of them all. As things were in Lotís days, also: they ate and
drank; they bought and sold; they planted and built; but the day that
Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and
made an end of them allóit will be like that on the day when the Son
of Man is revealed" (Luke 17:26-30, N.E.B.).
For the Laodicean church, all this presents a
challenge. The Christian must get his meaning for life from God, not from
things; from spiritual realities, not from the secular. The Scripture
states that the church of Laodicea had imbibed the worldís spirit. The
church felt no need, since it was rich and increased with goods and in
need of nothing. Outwardly the church had prospered.
The spirit of self-sufficiency and self-esteem are so
prone to lend themselves to false conclusions. There lurks the peril of
forgetting that men need to live daily in total dependence on God and
continually affirm their need for Jesus Christ. A self-sufficient,
self-satisfied Christian is hard to approach, especially with respect to
anything that lessens self-esteem. Such men feel little or no
responsibility to anyone but themselves. Those who by education, culture,
and the abundance of food, achieve within themselves a laudable way of
life are in the greatest danger of centering life in self rather than in
God. Men draw from all these achievements their own inspiration. Every
serious attempt to call men to repentance finds its most serious stumbling
block in man s pride and self-exaltation. The self-centered life is the
most perilous way a man can take.
Today we face a crisis both in the world and in the
church by virtue of manís dependence upon himself. This age is the
culmination of manís own career, the maturity of his awful sin: to try
to be like God without God. The world is in mortal danger. Men need to be
saved from their own self-dependence and self-seeking.
It is hard to refuse the charm of the secular life, the
recognition that comes to the wealthy, the educated, and the powerful, the
deference given to men of distinction. No man falls at the foot of the
cross so long as he is rich, increased in goods, and in need of nothing.
One of the singular things about self-sufficiency and self-exaltation is
that nobody wins. It comes down to this: Men find it hard to realize that
the great things of the Holy Spirit can offer anything better than what
they already have. Faith in God is inadvertently replaced by faith in man,
his power, his accomplishments.
Why is ours a materialistic, secular age? It is easy to
put the blame on science, on education, on culture. But none of these
satisfies the question. Nearer to the truth is that men have become lovers
of their own selves more than lovers of God. Here is the heart of the
The same temptation to self-sufficiency and exaltation
exists in religion as it does anywhere else. The craving for religious
superiority is the same expression of human pride. Laodicea claims to be
rich enough to need nothing. No position is harder to deal with. One
cannot reason with this position because people do not see it for what it
is in the sight of God.
For any religious body to assume the designation of
being the church of Laodicea is no compliment. "Rich, increased in
goods, and have need of nothing." Herein is the radical character of
manís sin: "Ye shall be as gods." The more men have, the more
brilliant they are, the higher they go in their profession, the more
importance men attach to themselves. To the degree that man exalts himself
and considers himself self-sufficient, to that degree he feels no need of
Laodiceaís problem is self-sufficiency. It is
difficult to let Christ reign when this attitude prevails. Sins of this
type are more dangerous and more subtle than the sins of the flesh. In
education men tend towards being credit hunters and degree worshipers. The
pursuit of excellence in the academic world is not to be despised;
however, there is always the temptation to seek for a doctorate simply for
its own sakeóto fix attention on the search for recognition rather than
on solid achievement.
True Christian greatness, either in the academic world
or in the church, will be recognized for what it is, whether or not
certain alphabetical fragments trail after a manís name. Education and
culture may provide a man with a certain surface polish that enables him
to pass muster in society. But genuine unselfishness, love for others,
complete dedication to the kingdom of God and His righteousness can never
grow in a selfish heart. These are the fruits born of the Holy Spirit.
The church has caught the commercial spirit, the idea
that success is related to the amount of money raised. Inadvertently
emphasis is placed on catering to the importance of men and worshiping
self. There is need of spiritual insight here. In our age we like
everything reduced to exact figures. It is the age of quantitative
analysis, of charts and graphs. Such figures and statistics that tell us
of what man has done may not lie, but they may encourage the wrong
inferences. Data gathered and numbers tabulated tell us very little about
the spiritual growth of the church. Men easily rely overmuch upon numbersóthe
increase in tithe and offerings, the numbers baptized, the religious
material distributed. But who can reduce to percentages the spirituality
Granted that the church must of necessity have its
material side, its organization. These things cannot be avoided. They
contribute to the high purpose of the kingdom of God. But they become a
hindrance when they become objects of our chief interest and concern, when
the means are mistaken for the end. Men are easily concerned with the
externals of religion. It seems easy to lay emphasis on the wrong things
that encourage the self-sufficient attitude.
To belong to the remnant church must come to mean that
members find themselves in touch with those spiritual forces that change
lives, to give to Godís work because He has really commissioned us. Then
we will find all other attractions and fascinations dim beside the steady
flame that burns within our hearts.
Men need salvation from their own self-dependence and
self-seeking. God is intensely opposed to any attitude that centers a man
in himself, to those idolatrous loyalties that run competition with Jesus
Christ. The thing that makes religion superficial is not necessarily a
lack of ability and knowledge, but a lack of seeing and doing all things
to the glory of God. There are some problems that never seem to be solved.
One of these is a concern for personal prestige and power.
In the church, administrative excellence is not
necessarily synonymous with spirituality and with communion with God. The
peril is that men may become obsessed with the notion that organization
counts more than the spiritual effects upon men and women who wait for
guidance. Men easily come to enjoy looking at the splendor of their own
achievements in the field of religion. But unless the Christian minister
and worker finds Christ at the center of his life, he will undoubtedly
discover himself as the center of power and authority. And when man
worships himself, he cannot worship God.
From the text in Revelation, Laodiceaís sin is not a
willful known violation of Godís commandments. We are dedicated to
keeping the Ten Commandments. We know when we willfully violate them. But
the Scripture says that Laodicea "knows not that she is miserable,
poor, blind, and naked." Consequently, the churchís problem is not
obvious or easily understood.
Self-sufficiency and self-exaltation are hard to detect
and deal with. Men do not repent of things that they do not understand or
acknowledge. The limits of repentance depend upon the limits of our
willingness and ability to see ourselves before God. The Pharisees were
not willing to see themselves in the light of Jesus Christ. Therefore they
could not and would not acknowledge the terrible nature of their sin,
pride and self-exaltation. What, they asked, could possibly be wrong? What
could they have to repent of? Their own superiority complex made
The blinding nature of self-centeredness is that we sin
without the awareness of it. We exalt ourselves without any pangs of
guilt. Our faces are not flushed with crimson when our ego prevails. The
self-centered man, the self-willed man, the self-exalted man in the
message to the Laodiceans has not stolen anything, killed anyone, or
betrayed his family. He has done nothing that startles and shocks the
If God is going to be our Lord and we are going to be
Spirit-filled, we must disavow the worship of man and his abilities that
puts human achievements before spiritual power. The message to the
Laodiceans finds Christ standing at the door calling upon us to repent. If
we believe that Godís loving interest in His people is so great that He
not only has redeemed us but has commissioned us with the final message
for the world prior to Christís return, then the obvious thing to do is
to enter fully into a vital relationship with God and a complete
dependence upon Him. Only transformed men can transform the world.
The world is on the verge of one of the greatest
spiritual awakenings, the latter rain of the Holy Spirit. There is an
upsurge of spiritual craving throughout the world. A Spirit-led,
Spirit-filled church will find adequate power for the tasks that confront
it. God has a true remnant, the unseen and unobtrusive "seven
thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Only God knows who
they are. We have intelligence. We have brilliance in education, in
organization. We have promotion. Religion was never better advertised than
it is today. But living the third angelís message, the everlasting
gospel, should surpass any mere attempt to promote it.
An honest dealing with the fact as God states it in the
message to the Laodiceans does not put truth or spirituality in peril. The
very conditions that prevail have in them the possibility of strengthening
faith and character, provided that the truth about ourselves is really
faced as behooves sincere Christians. The Laodicean church is called to be
a peculiar people. The message can be advanced in every community by
genuine Christian witnesses. We must relate ourselves to the things we
own, as stewards of the kingdom of God. Life with Christ must become a
beacon light in the midst of a hard and money-grabbing world.
Where do we get the impulse toward reformation and
repentance, righteousness and regeneration? Through prayer and the study
of the Word of God we make an effort of will to establish and maintain
dependence on God alone. We cannot fully turn from self-sufficiency
without a diligent seeking after God. Personal communion with God needs to
become far more real.
Repentance unto life is offered to those who discover
that until they do repent and experience Godís forgiveness and
regenerating power, they cannot proceed any further in life. The
understanding of oneself can be seen only in the presence of Christ. Job
came to see that when he said: "I have heard of thee by the hearing
of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and
repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42: 5, 6).
Man cannot attain to a knowledge of himself from within
himself. He can only do that within the circle of Godís presence and
love. Never will man make a more important discovery than when, under the
presence and love of God, he sees clearly the horrible nature of
self-sufficiency and self-exaltation. The believer has the strongest
motives for coming to Christ who loves him. The repentant sinner may
submit himself with confidence and depend with joy upon the One whose love
is an everlasting love and whose power to save is to the uttermost.
This is an individual matter. This is a way of Godís
saying to us: "If you are really serious in your resolve to belong
entirely to Christ, I hereby promise you that in the sight of all heaven
there are no obstacles that stand in your way that cannot be overcome or
overpowered." God will take upon Himself to banish those things that
rise up to hold you back. Let a man, hearing the call of Christ and the
voice of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, resolve to turn his mind
and heart to Christ. To such a man we say in the name of Christ: Let
nothing dishearten you or distract you from your soulís intention. Make
bold to say to God that with all your heart and mind you choose to follow
Him, come what may.