Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.  For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.

 
 
 

Going to Jesus

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Thought for the Evening
8-06

Repentance: Come Or Go?

"I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but I showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."
Paul, on trial before King Agrippa
Acts 26:19-20

If God sends a man to preach repentance, he will not tell people, "Come and repent", but "Go and repent!" John the Baptizer was sent by God to warn Israel that they must "bring forth fruit worthy of repentance" (Lk. 3:8; Mt. 3:8). When the common people asked John for details, he told them to go treat their neighbors in a manner that demonstrated before God their repentance (Lk. 3:10-11). When the tax collectors asked John what to do, he told them to go and be honest with their accounting practices (Lk. 3:12-13). When some soldiers were convicted of their sins by John's preaching and asked him what to do, he told them to go and do no harm to anyone, and to be content with their wages (Lk. 3:14). All these people were told things they had to do in order to repent. John's giving different instructions to people from various walks of life shows that the repentance that one person is required to perform may differ greatly from another's repentance; however, a sincere attitude of repentance is required of all who repent, regardless of the details of their repentance.

Whatever God requires a transgressor to do is what he must do in order to truly repent and be forgiven, but only what God demands of a person is what he must do. Religious men sometimes require things of those who have erred that God does not require. Then again, other religious men often declare that an errant soul is forgiven, before God actually forgives them, for their doctrine requires less of sinners than God demands. Admittedly, an attitude of humility and submission is the substance of true repentance; nevertheless, repentance itself is action, not talk.

Repentance is not a feeling. Remorse for sins is not repentance. Desire to do right is not repentance. Talking with others about wanting to live right is not repentance. All those things may be good in their place, but repentance is action; it is something that is done. Repentance is the deeds that make right what we previously have done wrong.

"Come" or "Go"?

False teachers call men to come to them for forgiveness. They say, "Come repent!" (In church religion, it is often phrased as something like this: "Come to the altar and repent!") Then, they lead those who respond to their invitation through a little ceremony, after which they pronounce those people forgiven by God and "born again". This message of "Come repent!" and the ritual following is of the Devil and will save no one. It is a lie. This is why it is impossible to find a single instance in the Bible of a man of God pleading with sinners to "Come repent!" God's servants have always been sent to tell sinners to "Go repent!" If you have stolen ten dollars from your neighbor, or if you have caused him ten dollars worth of damage without recompensing him, the only way you can repent of that wrong is to go to your neighbor and give him his ten dollars back. That is why true men of God tell sinners to "Go do works meet for repentance!" Men moved by the Spirit of God know (1) that God forgives sins by washing unclean souls with the holy Ghost baptism and that (2) He will not give that baptism to those who fail to perform the deeds of repentance that He requires of them.

God could demand that we "Come repent" because all sin is, at heart, against Him. He is the one wronged by any transgression. When Potiphar's wife tried to lure young Joseph into sin, he answered, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9). Still, although it is against Him that all sin is really committed, He tells us to go to the humans we have wronged and make amends if we really want His forgiveness. He does this for at least two reasons. First, He loves people and He wants us to love them as He does. He was hurt for the person we wronged, and He wants their loss restored. Secondly, He wants us to learn how to walk in love toward our neighbors.

Now, if the living God does not call us to come to Him to do our repentance, although He justly could do so, who is any man that he should say to the guilty, "Come and repent!" Such a man puts himself in God's place and, being out of place, he then fails to do as God does.

There are wrongs that we have done in the past that we can never make right. In those cases, God will still forgive if He sees that we would make them right if we could. But concerning wrongs that are in our power to make right, we are required by the love of God for people to do so.

"Go repent!" and "Come repent!" The words are very small and the sentences are very short. But the spirits behind those two phrases are as different as could possibly be. One is of God, pure and loving and true. The other is of Satan, full of envy and pride and darkness.

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