True Repentance

by Jim Easterly

The purpose of this discussion is to prompt self-examination, leading to repentance and the new birth. It is my belief that some that have not yet responded from their heart still have a brief window of opportunity to obtain oil in their lamps. Recent services, where the emphasis of the Spirit has been to get into the ark before the door is permanently closed appear to bear out this line of thinking. Jesus Christ is sending forth a call to the last of the elect, saying, “Come; for all things are now ready.”

While repentance is defined in many ways in many different contexts, only a few will be addressed for the purpose of our discussion here. One definition is a determination to do better; another is to think differently in the future; another is “reversal.” It is my conviction that many individuals repent to the extent that they determine to do better, but not to the extent that there is a true reversal or a genuine ability to think differently. In terms of the new birth, determining to do better would simply be dealing with symptoms. What is critical at this point is to be made aware of the underlying cause of the symptoms, which is the need for salvation or the new birth (fruits of the flesh versus fruits of the Spirit).

True repentance and the new birth (salvation) are so intertwined that they are virtually inseparable. To believe that one occurs without the other would be tantamount to saying that a human body could function and live without a cardiovascular system. You might with medical science be able to keep cells alive, but that particular body would never function as a human being.

Some people are able to fellowship God’s people, learn all the buzz words, enter in to a degree in praise and worship services, but wither quickly when left to themselves for a short time. Many are overtaken again and again in the same weaknesses, never coming to rest, never able to trust God with the issues of life. This is because there is no living water inside, springing up into everlasting life. Christ is not inside. It is almost as though they are a diseased person, temporarily on life support, who weakens immediately when artificial support is removed. A condition exists that precludes them from living the normal Christian life of the true believer.

True repentance is an inseparable part of the new birth and vice versa. You cannot truly repent for eternity without the new birth. Observation seasoned with God-given discernment indicates that repentance is not evident in many cases where individuals verbalize that the new birth has occurred. Many talk in the Spirit, but they do not walk in the Spirit.

In Deuteronomy, chapter 8, the scriptures spell out why a host of events, many miraculous in nature, occurred. The reason these events were orchestrated in the lives of those God was among is clearly revealed here: “that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”

For an individual to truly live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, an intimate continuing relationship with Christ is absolutely essential. It involves learning a new way of thinking. It involves the type of surrender of will that Jesus demonstrated in the garden, when the final outcome was “nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt.” An ever-increasing degree of spiritual fruit, spiritual growth and edification naturally follow repentance and the new birth. Jesus Christ is referred to as “the author and finisher” of our faith because He is fully equipped, and well able to supply our every need at every step of our walk with Him. It does not matter at what point in your life here on earth you first hear His call. He knows you and He has a perfect plan for you. It is our lot to surrender to Him when He reveals Himself to us. Remember that Samuel was called to serve God from a very young age, but the thief on the cross received revelation much later in life, but both will spend eternity with the Lord.

The record in scripture indicates that most of the generation alive in Israel at the time that Jesus walked the earth knew all about the coming Messiah, but were not able recognize Him come in the flesh. They simply could not receive what he said as coming from God the Father. Do you know all about what your church believes and what you think everyone else should do, but have trouble submitting yourself when corrected or counseled?

Individuals who do not progress in this fashion, and are truly born again, become miserable. This is in part what is meant by “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 30.) A truly repentant born again believer is not comfortable in their heart in this situation. His or her conscience will not allow him or her to be at rest until this is corrected, and a proper relationship with God is established. A proper relationship with God puts you in the receiving mode and God in the speaking or leading mode through members of the body that He chooses to use. In most instances those that God chooses to use in this capacity are not the ones that you would choose. I’m sure the Pharisees felt the same way about Jesus. Until Paul’s conversion he felt the same way, or worse, about those who were Christians.

Most experiences referred to as repentance result in the type of change that manifests the same spirit shown in Isaiah, chapter 4. “We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” This type of repentance leaves a person free to arrive at their own doctrine (bread) and trust in their own righteousness (apparel). It does not result in the same spirit being manifest that operated in Christ in the garden referred to above.

Apart from genuine repentance accompanied by the new birth, no human being can ever “know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John, chapter 7, verse 17.) Only true repentance and the new birth actually result in a person becoming willing to do God’s will in place of doing their own will. A person can become extremely religious and yet continue to do their own will and not God’s will. Jesus stated: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

In Matthew, chapter 3, verse 8, John the Baptist said to a very religious group of people: “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” It is my desire to address the issue of repentance and the fruits of repentance for this reason: it is my heartfelt conviction that in this hour there are some who can be shown their need of true repentance and the new birth in time for them to have oil in their lamps at the bridegroom’s soon coming. This is to shock or wake some of us up to the fact that we are presently trusting in a foundation that we are not actually standing on. It is always in order to examine ourselves. There is still time to go for ourselves and buy from those that sell so that we will have this oil (Holy Spirit) at the bridegroom’s soon appearing.

When John addressed those with whom he was speaking, their response was to point to their religious organization and it’s background or history (their heritage and ancestry). Today many would phrase this response in more modern terms. Some of those responses would be that the people are Baptist, Presbyterian, or members of one of the churches affiliated with the Midnight Cry Ministries.

We must realize that there is no church affiliation, no level of participation, no position bestowed by man that in and of itself guarantees true repentance has occurred. We have to be brought to the place where we realize not only what Christ’s sacrifice obtained, but that this sacrifice was absolutely necessary for us personally. We have to come to a complete and total trust in Jesus Christ for all that we need for both here and eternity.

Paul the Apostle is a good example of the difficulties associated with converting those who are religious and zealous. Paul’s conversion should give us hope. Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Paul was one of the most convinced men of his time that he was doing the right thing and serving God. He probably had as intimate a knowledge of scripture as any one in his day. His zeal and knowledge of the scriptures led directly to his participation in the murder of Stephen.

After his conversion, Paul clearly stressed being led of the spirit of God, and not relying on our own intellectual knowledge. Paul was willing to obey rather than figure out his own answers. Paul’s conversion proves that no matter how bad a condition you are in religiously speaking, God can help, God can reach you and He can prove Himself to you.

My Own Experience

Many events have occurred in my life up to this point. My response prior to repentance was considerably different than my response following repentance. It is my experience that before repenting I became quite religious. I even became quite involved in church activity and in some cases, various aspects of ministry. Even when it was possible to physically obey the Lord, there were reservations in my heart. Even after relocating geographically, which I believe the Lord instructed me to do, I still harbored hope that I could one day justify moving somewhere more appealing to me personally.

There had been a degree of desire to please the Lord, but a total sell-off of all things in order to purchase the field wherein lay the treasure had not occurred. I wanted to surrender my life for the ministry, or surrender my life for the mission field or surrender my life for something else, it just went on and on. True repentance finally involved total surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. The surrender had to be total and complete. It had to be without reservation.

Ananias and Sapphira could not totally surrender. They had to hold back enough to get away and start over if this thing that Peter preached did not work out. (Acts, chapter 5.) The young rich man referred to in Matthew, chapter 19, went away sorrowful when Jesus told him to sell all that he had, give the proceeds away and come follow him. Repentance requires surrender, not conditional surrender, but total and unconditional surrender.

This sounds dangerous, and it is. It requires faith and trust. How do you know that you are surrendering to the right thing? How do you know it is not a cult or a fanatical despot with delusions of grandeur that you are casting your lot with? God promises this: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 13.) He did not say, “if you are smart enough,” or “if you are religious enough,” or “if anything else.” He said that you would find him. If you will seek Him with all your heart, I guarantee you that you will. Again, God says “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah chapter 33 verse 3) It is my personal testimony that God is faithful to His Word. He has kept this promise to me and He will keep it to you. He has proven Himself in this area to me.

Jesus stated “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John, chapter 6, verse 44.) If you become convicted in your heart, stirred, and begin to realize you need help beyond yourself to establish an eternal relationship with God the Father, you are indeed most blessed. This means that you are being drawn. This means that what is referred to in Romans, chapter 2, verse 4 is occurring in your life. God in His goodness is leading you to repentance.

When this occurs, it doesn’t matter how long you have been a church member, it doesn’t matter whether you are a free man or an inmate in a maximum security prison, you simply seek God with all your heart right then. You simply seek God with all your heart and leave the rest up to Him. He will not leave a true seeker unfulfilled.

Ask Him to lead you, and He will. He will invariably lead you to a body of believers where you can be helped, instructed, fed and everything you need spiritually will be supplied. He will enable you to continue in His word. He will provide one way or another all that you need to fulfil Christ’s instruction in John, chapter 8, verses 31 and 32. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed: and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

God has provided everything necessary to bring all the elect into fellowship with his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Simply surrender your life, your way, your ambitions and plans and begin to partake of life more abundantly than you have ever imagined.

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