Monday, August 5, 2013

“Confession and Repentance: The Conditions of Revival”

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 6: "Confession and Repentance: The Conditions of Revival"
Can anyone tell how confession and repentance are God's part 100% without even 1% works from man? Confession and repentance are not exercises we perform from an egocentric motivation. In no way do they merit salvation. According to Ephesians 2:8, 9, none of us will ever say in eternity, "I am here partly because I confessed and repented!" There would be some of self in that.
Confession and repentance in reality are identical to what we read in Genesis 15:6 of Abram--"he believed in the Lord." Confession and repentance are an honest human heart response to what God has done 100% for our salvation. If you are drowning and a Life Guard saves you, you can't claim that you saved yourself even 1%. True, throughout eternity the saved will be thankful that they "confessed and repented," but they will praise God for His grace that alone (100%) enabled them to respond.
The Holy Spirit Gives RepentanceIf we do not resist the love of Christ revealed at His cross, we will be drawn to Him. The Holy Spirit will give us the precious gift of repentance, a true heart sorrow for sin itself. God has exalted Christ with "His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31).
It is only "the goodness of God [that] leads you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4). This is illustrated in a man who committed crime after crime in an effort to cover up his first mistake. Worst of all, he did nothing to prevent an innocent man from being sent to prison when he himself should have been the one jailed. As so often happens to a criminal, he lost his sense of fairness and kindness, and his wife and children left him. His home was ruined. Yet that hard-hearted man would not repent. He insisted: "I cannot, I will not, I dare not, I must not!"
Finally the innocent man who was wrongfully in prison did an unusual thing. He wrote the hard-hearted man a letter, forgiving him for all the wrong he had done to him. Can you imagine? That letter broke the heart of that evil man and brought him to repentance and confession of his crimes. He said, "All the troubles that came to me failed to bring me to repentance; but when I was forgiven, I repented." Fear can never drive you to be a better person, but realizing that you are forgiven--that does it.
The gospel idea is that you will find it impossible not to serve Lord enthusiastically if you comprehend and appreciate the significance of the cross of Christ--what it cost Him to save you. This idea of the constraint of God's agape permeates Paul's writings. Consider the following: "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).
His idea is that God is not standing back, as many conceive of Him with His divine arms folded in disinterested unconcern while we wallow in our lost condition. He is not saying, "Well, I made the sacrifice two thousand years ago; I've done My part--it's up to you now. You must take the initiative. If you want to come, come; and if it seems hard to you, you just don't have what it takes to be a Christian. I have somebody else waiting to take your crown."
How many millions of people feel that way about God! And some shy and timid ones feel, "God does have plenty of people ready to take my crown--He doesn't need me, and I'm not really sure He wants me." In contrast, Ellet J. Waggoner emphasizes the seeking, persistent love of God toward "every man." It is He who takes the initiative, a radically different idea than our usual one:
"And we need not try to improve on the Scriptures, and say that the goodness of God tends to lead men to repentance. The Bible says that it does[emphasis supplied] lead them to repentance, and we may be sure that it is so. Every man is being led toward repentance as surely as God is good." [1]
How Close Jesus Came to UsJesus asked for baptism because He genuinely identified Himself with sinners. If Adam represents the entire human race, Jesus became the "last Adam," taking upon Himself the guilt of humanity's sin. Not that He sinned, but He felt how the guilty sinner feels. He put Himself fully in our place. He put His arms around us as He knelt down beside us on the banks of the Jordan, asking His Father to let Him be the Lamb of God. His submission to baptism indicates that "the Lord, laid on Him the iniquity of us all." His baptism therefore becomes an injection of healing repentance for sin into the body of humanity. Peter says that His identity with our sins was deep, not superficial, for "His own self bare our sins in His own body" (Isa. 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24). Christ bore the crushing weight of our guilt. So close did He come to us that He felt as if our sins were His own. His agony in Gethsemane and on Calvary was real.
The "How" of Jesus' Power to Reach HeartsWhen Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20), he meant that he identified himself with Christ. In the same way we identify ourselves with Christ's repentance in behalf of the human race; the path to corporate repentance is the footsteps of Christ. The true dimensions of our sin begin to become apparent in the light of Christ's cross. Note how an inspired comment clearly discloses our ultimate sin, for which we can "individually repent":
"In the day of final judgment, every lost soul will understand the nature of his own rejection of truth. The cross will be presented, and its real bearing will be seen. ... Before the vision of Calvary with its mysterious Victim, sinners will stand condemned. ... Human apostasy will appear in its heinous character." [2]
"We are still in a world where Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected and crucified. ... Unless we individually repent toward ... our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the world has rejected, we shall lie under the full condemnation that the action of choosing Barabbas instead of Christ merited. The whole world stands charged today with the deliberate rejection and murder of the Son of God. ... Jews and Gentiles, kings, governors, ministers, priests, and people--all classes and sects who reveal the same spirit of envy, hatred, prejudice, and unbelief, manifested by those who put to death the Son of God--would act the same part, were the opportunity granted, as did the Jews and people of the time of Christ. They would be partakers of the same spirit that demanded the death of the Son of God." [3]
These statements deserve a second look: (a) Even "ministers" and church members partake of this guilt of crucifying Christ. Apart from the grace of God manifested through personal repentance, every sinner shares it. (b) Without this grace, "every sinner" would repeat the sin of Christ's murderers if given enough time and opportunity. (c) The sin of Calvary is an outcropping of sinful alienation of which we are not aware, except by enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. At Calvary, every one's sin is fully unmasked. (d) In a real sense we were each one at Calvary, not through pre-existence or pre-incarnation, but through corporate identity "in Adam." If it is true that "upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God," Adam likewise partakes of that guilt equally with us today. His sin in Eden was to Calvary what the acorn is to the oak.
(e) The "righteous" in their own eyes, including "ministers" and "priests" of "all. ... sects," are potentially capable of revealing "the same spirit" as was manifested by those who actually crucified Christ. This must of course include our own denomination, except for the grace of repentance. The little acorn of our "carnal mind" needs only enough time and opportunity to grow into the full oak of the sin of Calvary. This is the lesson of all history.
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes:[1] Signs of the Times, Nov. 21, 1895.
[2] The Desire of Ages, p. 58.
[3] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 38.
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