“Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities”
(Acts 3:26, KJV).
Many times, when we think about repentance, we think about a heavy burden we carry to try and make ourselves better. “I’m going to change,” becomes our motto. We tell God that. We tell ourselves that, hoping that maybe if God sees that we’re trying hard enough, He’ll forgive us, even if deep in our hearts we know we won’t change. And so we carry that big weight around for as long as we can. And then we fall into temptation, we fail, we act just like we used to. We hurt ourselves. We hurt others. We feel ashamed, depressed, defeated, unclean, and unworthy of God’s forgiveness. So, then what do we do? Most likely, we come back to God promising that we’ll do better next time, hoping to win His forgiveness and favor. What actually happens? The same thing that happened last time. And the cycle continues on and on…
I wonder how many people have strayed from the faith of Jesus for this very reason. How many people have worn themselves out, knowing they need to change, genuinely try to, get mad at God for requiring so much of them, and then give up? Or maybe worse, how many just accept that sin in their life is something they’ll never escape from, and choose to embrace a life of bondage?
I bet God knew we were going to face this issue. I wonder what He has to say about it. In the book of Romans, Paul writes “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (7:18-23, NKJV).
So, here’s the situation: I find a law that says “This is bad. Don’t do it.” I say, “I agree, I don’t want to do that. I want to do good.” But I don’t do the good that I want to do. Not only that, but the bad things I don’t want to do, those are the things I practice habitually. But I still want to follow God and revere Him. Then I find out His Word says that there’s evil in me, my flesh, that keeps me from doing good. And guess what? My life proves it. But what can I do about it?
God’s people, Israel, had the same problem in Old Testament times. In fact, the whole history of Israel is a proverb of dealing with this sin issue in our relationship to God. After He delivered Israel from the captivity of Egypt, they wanted to know Him and follow Him. So God gave them His Law, or the Torah, God’s guidelines and boundaries established from heaven just for them. So basically, you do these good things, you live. You do these bad things, and you die. Simple, right? Only one problem. Nobody ever did good altogether. Everybody did bad. Everybody failed. Things would be good for awhile, and then Israel would turn away from God, sin abundantly, and they would be back into slavery to another nation. Then, when it got bad enough, they would cry out to God, and He would deliver them, and things would be great! For awhile… Until they forgot about God again and sinned… Wash, lather, rinse, repeat.
The Bible says the purpose for the Law is “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). And why? So that God could pierce through our fat hearts this one truth: “You can’t do it on your own. You can’t change your nature, no matter how good you appear to men. Stop trying to do what only I can do. You need to let Me to give you a new heart.”
So, the answer to this whole issue: “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26, KJV). The most destructive force in the entire universe: Sin. And what is the only solution strong enough to clean it, and wipe it out utterly? “God raised up Jesus and blessed you.” The first thing we see about repentance is 1: It’s an act of Jesus Christ; and 2: It’s His blessing. “An act of God? A blessing? I thought repentance meant that I was just supposed to try really hard to act nicer,” you say. Nope. You see, sin is not your burden to bear. It was Jesus’ burden He bore for you. When He died on the cross for your sins, went to hell, took on all the punishment you rightly deserved, and rose from death to glory, He did it to utterly take away and condemn all those things that destroyed your life, and kept you from being the son or daughter you were created to be. Why? Because He loved you and saw your true value, even when you were a sinner. Even when you weren’t good enough, didn’t try enough, didn’t care enough, didn’t love enough. He did it to give you love, to give you freedom, to give you power, and self-control. They’re gifts. They’re not something you can do enough to earn. The Holy Spirit distributes them to you. Freedom, and a new life, given freely.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NKJV). Do you want true freedom, rest, peace? Take off all the other yokes, the addictions, lusts, pride, jealousy, fear, whatever it may be, cry to Jesus, shout if you need to, just get them off of you and give them to who they belong to – Jesus, who took them for you. And accept His yoke. Walk in obedience with Him. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). For “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). This is the gift of repentance, and we need it. Beloved, it’s time to put off the baggage, and receive it.