There is one word that has been reviled by man since its inception as a meme into history. For it’s exposure of the soul before a Holy God it has caused fight and flight. This single word pierces the sheer facade of humanity exposing the heart of all. It calls out to the believer and brute, it shows no favoritism for the sinner or the saint. The most hated word and yet our most precious gift of the Holy Spirit is repentance.
It is the repulsion of the penitent Spirit, that has destroyed heavenly beings, perfect gardens, kings and kingdoms, world authorities and religious leaders. Even the modern religious institutions hate the word. Having studied they’ve convinced themselves that, ‘their hearts really are toward God’ disregarding the blunt fact that “No one seeks God”.
Repentance escapes us for many reasons. We’ve been told and want to believe repentance is a one time thing.
We’ve checked that one off the list, haven’t we?
We’ve got that covered, right?
No need to schedule repentance.
The itching ears of men don’t want to respond to the Holy Spirit’s continual call of humility, surrender and submission born of repentance. It doesn’t fit nicely into our grab bag of grace as we run off to feed our flesh with our entertainments, idolatrous indulgences and other acceptable sins.
We’ve been told repentance is just for sinners, with the unspoken presumption that, ‘we’re not them’. The previous paragraph and five of the seven churches in Asia Minor notwithstanding, we must be of Smyrna or Philadelphia? Contempt for the most hated word acts as an insulator between us and them and subsequently between God and us as those 5 churches learned. Given a grain of repentance we can plainly see that the one who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands has a different view of His grace than we do.
Repentance gets in the way of our pride in exegeses, and eschatology. Having studied Greek and Hebrew and some of antiquities best Bible commentators, we glory in our deciphering of Arminius and Calvin. But God requires a broken and contrite heart, not head knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and True knowledge is a rarity throughout history precisely because the daily blip of repentance is missed on our radar. Maybe because we don’t really pray, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done as we rise from our Earthen slumber.
This is why we are baffled as we read prophets like Jeremiah telling those rebellious Israelite sinners that they need to repent or they will be taken into captivity. We read and say, “Why didn’t they get it?”
Is there no concurrent parallel?
Wasn’t the captivity already present before Babylon?
We seem to forget that God has said, “I do not change”. The summons to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand was the root of ministry for Jesus. His Spirit maintains the continuity of the triune God even now in the pressing whispers of constant contrition before a Holy God. I give you the keys to the Kingdom, I am The Way, the Truth and the Life, He said.
We don’t like to say, repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand because, that puts us in the same boat as the unwashed! No, instead, we like to feed them ‘their separation from God’. Repentance is ‘their requirement’ because ‘we’re in’, ‘we did that already’. Jesus alluded to this problem as he spoke one day to some ‘insiders’, it was something about the inside and the outside of a cup.
To say our hearts are turned to God is to lie to God and ourselves. We are turned to God •only• as we incline our ears to Him, to hear as if to follow. We don’t initiate or arrive under our own impetus or understanding, we are drawn. As we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading into repentance we receive our daily dose of medication and healing for what truly ails us, us. This is the will of God and we resist. Thinking, ‘we’re doing it’, ‘nailing it down’, ‘getting it right’ or ‘gaining knowledge’ when in fact the gift is given as we lay down our lives. No wonder that word makes our skin crawl.
Like manna on the journey to the promised land, repentance is provided by God as a means to feed us the Bread of Life. Maybe one day we heard His voice and held repentance in our heart as we left the captivity of Egypt, but sure as there was a new sunrise, it was gone the next. Like the manna, God intends for us to go to our closet and collect fresh repentance every morning, never to be stored as if to say, ‘I’ve got enough now’.
Admittedly, this dull poke in the eye is everyone’s log being used against them. It would be to the benefit of all that we would see the deaf and blind souls we are. But resistance is our nature. It’s an attenuating factor in our opportunity to hear and desire to follow God. The most hated word is offensive to the proud and the arrogant and those who boast of ‘their’ knowledge. It will cause the self-righteous to squirm, quoting all kinds of scriptures to try and refute it’s continual necessity, instead of saying, amen. As it was with Jeremiah many do not hear today. Their captivity is a self absorbed gospel and they will be taken captive. Many are missing out on our most treasured gift, the Holy Spirit’s call and ability to be repentant. A broken and contrite heart before a Holy God is the gift of God and this not of ourselves.
Just imagine what God would do if we united in repentance before Him. Throwing off our theologies and denominational divisions that we proudly, dare it be said arrogantly, love to stand behind? How might our acquaintances react to broken humility and a hunger for His presence rather than the insiders club, ‘learn the rules’, ‘pay the dues’ affront to the gift of freedom to the captives? Might it bind up the broken hearted if we were to daily come forward with hearts of repentance honoring the holiness of God for His redemption through the blood of Christ? What will it look like when the Bride of Christ embraces the most hated word and invites all to join in as we submit to the Holy Spirit and repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand?