The American church has assiduously endeavored to corner God’s grace from its pulpits. Pastors preach on it and preach on it and preach on it…then preach on it some more, sauté it, marinate it, and then preach on it once more. When it comes to the Gospel, grace is no more than a half-step behind, and I can attest to its remarkable work when I think of despondent life I would live without it.
Though, what always puzzled me is how often the church manages to gloss over grace’s twin brother—repentance. The Gospel I read about in the New Testament was never without its closer, Repentance, the ecclesiastical caboose—largely forgotten but critical to full function. Repentance is the proper response to grace, for Grace stamps us with a New-Creation-in-Christ card, while Repentance recalibrates our attitudes and actions.
Repentance isn’t simply as delightful as grace. We glory in the opportunity to hear about all the undeserved favor we’re due for, yet squirm awkwardly when Pastor calls us to confess and depart from our wickedness.
To put it frankly, when we hear the call to repent, we also catch the word rebuke clanging in our conscience. We imagine a bitter, hypocritical old man wagging a bony finger in our faces, crowing about our wealth of iniquity.
This kind of reaction to repentance chronically comes to mind due to our shifting lenses of who Jesus is. We pair Jesus and grace together, and we’ve got everyone’s fitting description of a Messiah. All of sudden, when Jesus and repentance are stood side-by-side, everyone takes a moment to take off their glasses and wonder what happened to their beloved Messiah.
Here’s the diagnosis: we don’t like correction, especially when someone tells us that fact. A sizable portion of Jesus’ disciples didn’t like it much either, and kicked their tires all the way back to Galilee. Despite that, Jesus never pandered to a crowd in order to preserve their pride.
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ ” -Matthew 4:17
Jesus was the best talk radio show host before there ever was such a thing. We all endear ourselves to the guy who “tells it like it is” unless he decides to pin us to the wall when necessary. Our Messiah never gave the prescription without the diagnosis, and this is why grace is rightly followed by repentance, a change of the heart, will, and action.
David knew repentance well. Nathan the prophet rung his bell after he rendezvoused with Bathsheba and knocked off Uriah. However, we forget that David repented and yielded to God. This commitment to repentance allowed him to be restored and corrected
“Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.”
Far from being anti-grace, repentance is the course correction after the cleansing. It’s not God’s way of laying the wood on us as a way of paying Him back for the grace He’s graciously lavished us with.
Rather, we become more Christlike when we decide to acknowledge that our testimony is pockmarked with present sin, and as a result, welcome the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Your “Christian reputation” should not cross swords with repentance and attempt to avoid correction.
In fact, repentance is really a form of grace. Our Messiah’s blood not only bought us redemptive grace for eternity but also the grace to repent and walk with Him during our short time on earth. While you can, get yourself a relationship with Christ that both values grace and repentance. You won’t be sorry with the results!
Kevin Cochrane is a writer with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with exposed ears to the original testimony of Jesus Christ. Want to read more? Check him out at themajestysmen.com/author/kevincochrane, a friendship and mentoring community for Christian males. For updates on his latest blog posts here at restandrefuge.wordpress.com (views are my own), you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email. To contact, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.