Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Repentance – How Does It Happen?

In my last blog post, I (and emergent leader Rob Bell) discussed whether or not there is any value of street witnessing where the objective of the witness is to ensure that the people know that they are sinners. The characterization is a Guy with a Bull-Horn who does not talk to people but loudly proclaims everyone's sinfulness. The purpose of this post is to look at some Scriptures that make clear that God is the sole source of repentance, and perhaps also showing that the technique used by the Bull-Horn God is not the best method for leading people to repentance. But first, let me share my first encounter with a 'Bull-Horn' Guy. This was done at the University of Minnesota. His name was Brother Jed and Sister Cindy helped him, and sat outside Coffman Union to dozens of students yelling and screaming about all of us being fornicators and we are damned to hell! I was a violent agnostic at the time, but I enjoyed listening to him mainly to hear how other people used Bible verses to show points where he was wrong. But I felt at the time that it wasn't very effective, and I still don't see much benefit to this kind of witness encounter.


But let's start by looking at some Bible verses on repentance. The best place to start is with God's command of repentance to ALL people: God commands everyone to repent (Acts 17:30), but also desires that everyone should repent (1 Peter 3:9). This seems contradictory to me, but let's leave this off to the side for now. The Source of Repentance is Jesus Christ – Acts 5:31. And the way that God causes people to repent is through His Holy Spirit: And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8, I love this verse - a GREAT verse!). And it appears that the Triune God is the one who determines whether or not to give out repentance (Acts 11:18) - When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.


But one verse stands above the others in teaching us about repentance. Turn with me (OK, look with me) at the verse that follows. Romans 2:4:


Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?


So Romans 2:4 says that it is God's kindness in sending His only begotten Son as a sacrifice on Calvary that is meant to lead people to repentance. So if this is true, doesn't it call into further question the value of those like the Bull-Horn Guy whose entire focus is to tell people about our sinfulness? Rather shouldn't Christ and He Crucified be our only focus in helping others to repent? That God's amazing gift of Grace through God's sending of His Son to pay the full punishment for the world's sin, shows His colossal love for everyone, including you and me. And it is God's design that this love He has shown through the death of Jesus on the Cross that is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4, above). Shouldn't this be enough? I hope you will tell me what you think.


Dad said...

I have tried several times to post, but it does not go???

You never did get back to your aside...

Clearly you meant 2 Peter 3:9 not 1 Peter 3:9???

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

This raises some interesting questions that we won't get answered till we meet the Lord face to face...


Bryan & Meggan said...

Hey Tom,

I think it is about balance. People clearly need to understand their sinfulness before they can understand God's kindness in the crucified Christ. Even then, only an elementary understanding of sin is needed to understand the vastness of that kindness. One thing I find in sanctification is an always-growing awareness of the sinfulness of my sin.

That being said, a presentation of sin apart from grace is only a partial Gospel, and a partial Gospel is worse than no Gospel because it deceives people (Gal 1:6ff).

And Papa,

I agree. I would just add one of my favorite verses: Deut 29:29.


tom wolff said...

Thanks Dad and Bryan for keeping me on the right track when discussing evangelism and the importance of repentance as part of the whole Good News message.

Bryan, you hit it right on the head by saying that the full Gospel/Good News needs to be preached. Let me add a verse to support your conclusion, which says that its the Gospel message that is the power of God for salvation:

Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...

Anonymous said...

Hi Dad,

And yes, you have the correct Bible verse - God's desire for everyone to repent is contained in 2 Peter 3:9, and not 1 Peter 3:9 as I originally wrote. Thanks for double-checking me. /s/tom

Peggy said...

Bla, bla, bla...lets hear more about how wonderful *I am. LOL
Babes are you proud of me? I finally got on and read your blogs!
I am glad you have all these intellegent men in your life who share your same love and passion. It is awesome to have a place to get away and discuss things.
I love you!