“Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—…” Psalm 51:1-4……………………..
“Repeat these words after me,” they essentially used to tell me. “I renounce this. I rebuke this. I cast out this. Forgive me for this.” And on and on. Then more. “Now say this. I renounce this and that, this and the other, and that over there,” they effectively would tell me. “And Father forgive me for such and such, and this also.”
I would repeat the words after them. Sigh. Relief. I was doing a good job. After all, I was saying the exact words they gave me to say. I was doing remarkably well considering what a mess my life was. I was doing well at the method they were using to get God to forgive and heal me. To get God to get my life cleaned up. To get me on the “right path”, so to speak. I was a good follower. Of what they were telling me. And a good leader. At ultimately trying to get other people to do the same. “Repeat these words after me,” I would say. Just like I had been taught. Was there any repentance in this?
“Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God,” a preacher essentially said to a man so the man could repeat the words after him. “Forgive me for my sins,” the preacher continued so the man could repeat the words. Yes, another “repeat these words after me.” I listened. I watched. I caught on. So when it was my turn, I did the same. “Repeat these words after me,” I would tell someone else. “Dear God, I want to be saved.” Or some such thing. So the person, if the person did a good job, would repeat the words after me. Was there any repentance in this?
This was long ago, and it all seemed so right. It all looked fine on the surface. But ultimately the Holy Spirit of God revealed the truth to me, through His Word, through some solid Bible teachers, through some strong biblically sound books. Most of all, by Himself. By His Spirit. Through His Word. Showing me what was wrong. What was so very, very wrong.
The ONLY way to a forever relationship with God is by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, by repenting of one’s sins and a lifestyle of sinful living and believing He is the Son of God, and is Lord, that He came to this earth as a man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins which is forever apart from God in hell and the lake of fire, and was raised from the dead, genuinely turning one’s life over to Him, choosing to live for God according to God’s ways. Rest assured there will be NO relationship with God not now on this earth nor forever in heaven without repentance. Without the remorseful acknowledgement that we are sinners against a holy God with a wholesale decision to turn away from our wickedness and the ways of this world and to sincerely turn to God and to godly living from henceforth. Not perfectly, for we are imperfect by our human nature, not without stumbling and falling at times, but true repentance involves a genuine change in heart and direction, turning from a lifestyle pleasing to the devil and in accordance with the world’s wicked ways and standards, to a lifestyle pleasing to God, a very way of life that brings God praise and glory.
Repentance must involve true godly sorrow, repentance must involve a new direction, coming onto the pathway of God, of Christ, of God’s Word, led by God’s Spirit, repentance is brought about by God, and specifically His goodness, by His Spirit’s leading, repentance when it is real will produce fruit (Mt. 3:8) that shows a changed heart and direction, repentance becoming ongoing as we still have our falls after giving our lives to Christ such that we need to repent again as the Lord leads, continually purging from our hearts and lives what displeases God as we grow in His image, and repentance cannot be forced, pressured, contrived, manipulated, controlled, etc., by humans IF IT IS TO BE REAL AND GENUINE AND SINCERE and honoring to God and answered by God with His love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness!
What was wrong all those years ago? My friends, beloved and precious as they were, as well-meaning as they were, were part of a so-called movement, movement being a word I am ever careful of when it comes to Christ as I wonder are these movements man-made or God-crafted, a movement in which we humans were taught that we should take control of another person’s need to become saved and healed and whole and to tell them what to say and how to say it and when to say it so God would answer and bring about what we believed needed to be brought about.
What was the problem in this given we truly all need godly sorrow and repentance, forgiveness, and salvation and such? The problem was this. My heart was NOT behind my words. I was not repenting! I did not have true godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10). I was following the dictates of a human who loved and cared for me, but the conversation wasn’t between me and almighty God, but between me and the person “leading” me. Where was the Spirit of God in this? Perhaps my friends might have said the Spirit of God was leading them to lead me. Perhaps this was the case. Perhaps not. But the problem was my heart wasn’t in what I was doing. I was simply trying to be a “good girl” and repeat the words as I was told to do.
The truth is I don’t recall a time back then when someone sat down and explained to me the Gospel message, of why repentance is needed, of what exactly Jesus Christ did on the cross for me, of why He was raised from the dead, of how I could and could not have a relationship with God, of what following Christ really entails, of how I would have to learn how to die to self and live for Christ, etc.
I am quite certain my friends had no malicious intentions whatsoever. They had incredible love for me, and it was clear and evident. I believe they were not understanding as I was not understanding back then. And though pieces and parts of what they told and taught me were probably accurate, the foundation of it, in my estimate, when measured against the Word of God, the Bible, was not.
The Lord sees and knows our hearts. We can say all the “right” words repeated after someone else in the world and still end up spending forever apart from God in hell and the lake of fire, not to mention missing out on the greatest blessing we can have on this earth, a rock solid relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior. Why? Repentance needs to be real. And we can say all the “right” words to someone else and tell that person to “repeat after me,” but we may well be pointing them to forever apart from God in hell and the lake of fire if we do not convey to them what repentance really is, what salvation is, what being a Christ follower truly entails, and entrust to the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin and lead them to repentance and salvation instead of in our fleshly nature, filled with worry, pride, or any other sin for that matter, convincing ourselves that we are the ones to save people when in truth only the Lord can – by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8-9), with real repentance involved.
Is yours? Is your repentance real? Have you truly sought God’s forgiveness through faith in Christ as Lord because you are genuinely sorry over your sins, with a real commitment followed by action day by day to live according to God’s ways with the utmost goal being to love and worship and bring Him glory? May this be so, my friend, may this be so! And may your repentance be ongoing, as the Spirit of God leads you so!