Tuesday, August 06, 2013

“Confession and Repentance: The Conditions of Revival”

Third Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Confession and Repentance: The Conditions of Revival”
For the week of Aug. 10, 2013

     The confession of faith may precede repentance, but the confession of sin follows repentance.  What then is repentance? It includes both sorrow for and turning away from sin. It is both a duty and a gift. The duty to repent is given in the commands of Jesus. When He began His public ministry He gave two imperatives: 1) “repent” and 2) “believe” as He proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The time element referred to Daniel’s final week of his seventy-week prophecy which outlined the timetable for the coming of “Messiah [the Anointed One] the Prince” and for His crucifixion (Dan 9:25-27). The time element mentioned by Jesus was the beginning of the seventieth week.  When He was baptized by John’s baptism of repentance He was anointed by the Holy Spirit as Representative and Head of the fallen human race. More on this later.

     Repentance is produced in at least three ways: 1) by the command of God; 2) through the goodness of God; and 3) by judgments.

     It must always be remembered that “In every command and in every promise of the word of God is the power, the very life of God, by which the command may be fulfilled and the promise realized.”1 So the command to repent has in it the very life of God by which it may be fulfilled.

     Not only is repentance a duty. It is also a gift of God (Acts 5:31). Repentance comes from a realization of God’s goodness (Rom 2:4). When Christ is seen on the cross bearing a person’s sin and guilt something happens within the heart and mind of that person. Either he/she will realize true sorrow for sin accompanied by a turning away from it or he will rise up against the gospel, the goodness of God, and repentance. Two examples follow, both of which involve the cross. The first occurred on the day of Pentecost as Peter was preaching Christ and Him crucified:

“Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 2:36–38).

     “Three thousand souls” responded, repented, believed and were baptized (Acts 2:41).In contrast, on another occasion, Peter preached Christ crucified along with the gifts of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. But instead of repentance there was a refusal resulting in a murderous plot against the apostles on the part of those who heard but rejected the gospel:

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.” (Acts 5:30–33).

     Repentance sometimes comes as the result of judgments. One example of this is that which occurred in the time of Elijah. Through judgments the hardened hearts of Israel were brought to repentance. God commissioned Elijah to speak for Him. Elijah made no apology for his abrupt appearance before king Ahab. He told the king, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1). It took three and a half years of drought to bring Israel to repentance. 

     There are two kinds of repentance – godly sorrow and worldly sorrow (2 Cor 7:9-11).  Worldly sorrow comes because of consequences of being caught or because of suffering, but with no true mourning for the sin itself. A person may sorrow for his sins while at the same time refusing to turn from them. Esau is an example of this. He sold his birthright inheritance for a bowl of legume soup. Later he wanted that inheritance. But this was after it was too late. He “was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Heb 12:16–17). His sorrow was because of the consequences of his sin, not because of the sin itself. Four other examples are Cain, Pharaoh, Balaam and Judas each of whom felt sorrow because of the consequences of their sin, but not because of the sin itself.

     On the other hand, David’s sorrow for his sin is an example of true repentance. He did not cloak, or conceal, his sin by excuses and apologies. He saw the enormity of his sin and the defilement it caused within his mind and heart. Not only did he confess his sin, but he prayed for purity of heart. He prayed for the removal of the underlying sin and not merely for the consequences of his sin. He longed for the communion he previously enjoyed with God (see Psa 51).

     Let’s return to the baptism of Jesus and its deep significance. John’s baptism was one of repentance. Those who were baptized were to give evidence of repentance accompanied with their confession of sin. As the Representative of the race, Jesus repented, confessed the sin of the world as His own, and was baptized. Psalm 69 prophesied of the steps in conversion Jesus took in order to redeem us. There it was stated, “Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it” (Psa 69:4). Here is the picture of Jesus as our Surety. A surety is like today’s bondsman who puts up bail for someone awaiting trial in a court of law. If the accused refuses to show up for his trial the bondsman loses everything he put up in behalf of the accused. The bondsman becomes responsible for the accused man’s failure to show up for his court hearing. Likewise with Jesus. Although innocent, He assumed our failure and paid the supreme price.

     In the next verse we hear Jesus confessing sin. “O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You” (Psa 69:5). Here He confesses your sins and mine. Jesus had no personal sins to confess, for He was sinless in behavior, but He took your sin and mine. He became responsible for them. He took them as though he had committed them. He repented for them and He confessed them. His repentance and confession were perfect. There are times when you and I, although we have repented and confessed our sins and doing so to the best of our ability, may still feel that these are not good enough. Then it is that we need to claim Christ’s perfect confession and His perfect repentance on our behalf. Ours must come under the umbrella of His perfect repentance and confession. In closing, consider the following insights:

Christ came not confessing his own sins; but guilt was imputed to him as the sinner's substitute. He came not to repent on his own account; but in behalf of the sinner…. Christ honored the ordinance of baptism by submitting to this rite. In this act he identified himself with his people as their representative and head. As their substitute, he takes upon him their sins, numbering himself with the transgressors, taking the steps the sinner is required to take, and doing the work the sinner must do.2

He took upon himself our nature, that he might teach us how to live. In the steps which the sinner must take in conversion,--repentance, faith, and baptism,--he led the way. He did not repent for himself, for he was sinless, but in behalf of man.3  

And then when He came up out of the water He heard the voice of God saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). This is the word of God speaking to you, to me, and to every individual of the fallen race. God speaks to us in Jesus our Representative and Head.

And what do these words say to us, to every member of the human family, whatever our country or position? To every one of us they are words of hope and mercy. Through faith in the provision God has made in the behalf of man, you are accepted in the Beloved,--accepted through the merits of Jesus.

Many who read this account fail to comprehend its significance. It means that in behalf of humanity the prayer of Christ cleaved its way through the hellish shadow of Satan, and reached to the very sanctuary, the very throne of God. That prayer was for us; the answer was for us, it testifies that you are accepted in the Beloved.4

     Revival yes. But it will never come apart from repentance. The closer we come to Jesus, our repentance will not be less and less but more and more.

The nearer we come to Jesus, and the more clearly we discern the purity of His character, the more clearly shall we see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the less shall we feel like exalting ourselves. There will be a continual reaching out of the soul after God, a continual, earnest, heartbreaking confession of sin and humbling of the heart before Him. At every advance step in our Christian experience our repentance will deepen. We shall know that our sufficiency is in Christ alone and shall make the apostle's confession our own: “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Romans 7:18; Galatians 6:14.5

Christ Object Lessons, p. 38.
RH, January 21, 1873.
ST, July 31, 1884.
Bible Echo, Novermber 12, 1894.
AA 561.